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Photo Tips for Foal Season

FP01 OneGunxSheisthechecktocashThe 2015 winner of the QHN Foal Photo contest captured a lovely foal moment that our staffers just couldn’t resist.

Spring is in the air! Well, at least it is here in Texas. The QHN team is gearing up for foal photos! As we have the past few years, we will start publishing foal photos starting with our May 1st issue and right up to the Foals issue in July 1st.

Last year we provided a few tips to help you take better photos of your babies. We thought a little refresher would be nice.

I’ll break this down between two methods, using either a DSLR (digital) camera or a smart phone camera (iPhone or Android).

DSLR (digital) Camera

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When you’re looking to print photos for yourself or publish them in a magazine, photos taken with a DSLR camera really is the way to go. I recommend it above any smart phone imagery. We can make smart phone images work, however they never look as nice as the DSLR images. If we were simply posting images to the Internet smart phone images would be fine. The beauty of using a DSLR is that you have images for all types of production print and web.

1. If you’re not sure what you’re doing with your DSLR camera, start by setting it to one of the auto modes – Portrait or Sports/Action are usually good options. The auto settings take care of all the details – ISO, white balance, shutter speed, f-stops and focus. While all you need to concentrate on is your composition. If you’re not sure how to change the mode, give the operating manual a quick read. There’s usually a “get started quick” guide at the beginning.

2. Try photographing during the “Golden Hour” – either the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset. There’s just something magical about the quality of light you get during these times of the day. There’s even a website (http://www.golden-hour.com) to help you figure out when your Golden Hours will happen.

3. Avoid shooting during the middle of the day in bright sunlight. It makes for dark, harsh shadows. High-noon sun on a cloudless day will make your photos look bad.

4. Cloudy days can be your friend. Light overcast days are ideal for shooting during the day. They filter the light and allow for even, soft shadows. Images shot on a cloudy day will be better than a full-sun day, but not as pretty as Golden Hour photos.

5. To catch your foals running across the pasture or leaping in the air, try the Shutter Priority Mode (S or TV on your camera). The faster your shutter speed is, the more frozen and defined your subject will be. The Sport/Action auto mode of your camera will do this, as well.

6. Keep an eye on background elements and try to avoid busy backgrounds. Most pastures lend themselves well to clutter-free shots, but beware of fence posts. Your foal might end up looking like he has a pole or tree growing out of his head. Don’t be afraid to get close and fill the frame.

7. Sit still. I’ve found an easy way to photograph animals that move around is to find a comfortable spot and sit there. Staying stationary will be less of a distraction for the animal, especially if you have skittish or nervous horses There’s something about a big black camera that bothers some animals. Make yourself as unthreatening as possible. Follow the action of the animal through your camera and snap away. Understanding how to read an animal’s body language can help you capture a nice pose or fun action.

8. File format. Most digital cameras come out of the box ready to shoot images in a “jpg” format. This is the easiest format to use when e-mailing files. If you are shooting in auto mode, send the image that comes right out of the camera. Some cameras allow upload to computers through WiFi, while others require the user to plug the card into a reader or plug the entire camera into a computer. Either way you can simply email your photo as the jpg file.

Smart Phone Camera (iPhone or Android)

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Practically everyone has a smart phone these days. Even people who use digital cameras usually have their phone on them first. Smart phone cameras are increasing in quality, and the images they produce are wonderful for sharing on social media and websites. In some cases, they can even be used for printing. I don’t recommend using a smart phone for your foal photos, but if it’s your only option keep these tips in mind:

1. Use the same basic tips noted above about on what time of the day to shoot. Also, take your time, just like you would with a real camera. If you’re serious about getting a good photo you will stop and consider the environment and what you think you’d like to capture. 

lightingsidexsideComparison of the difference in harsh mid day sun (left) and the evening’s golden hour (right).

2. Hold your smart phone horizontal rather than vertical, and as steady as possible. Keep your arms pulled in with your elbows bent. Holding your hands out to try and get closer will only cause instability and blurry photos. You’re basically turning yourself into a tripod. If you’re so inclined, there are tripods on the market for phones http://joby.com/griptight-gorillapod-stand.

3. Avoid zooming in. Smart Phone cameras produce very noisy and grainy images when the zoom features are used. If you want to fill the frame, take the shot and crop it later. Another trick I’ve learned, (and this works on iPhones and Android phones), is to set the camera to video and press record. There is a small white button (iPhone) or a “capture” button (Andriod) off to the side that allows you to take still shots as you record video. Maintain a steady tripod stance, any camera shake and even your still shots will be blurry. Plus you end up with a nice little keep sake video of your foal playing along with photos.

4. If you want to get serious about your smart phone photography, there’s a product called Olloclip https://www.olloclip.com They are small lenses that can be easily attached to your smart phone and allow much more control and creativity to your phone’s camera.

5. Avoid any excessive editing effects (No filters). They’re fun for Instagram or when you’re trying to create some personal fine art, but we just want to see your babies and how cute they are naturally. There are some very nice apps available that can help with basic needs, such as exposure, sharpening, brightness etc. Just don’t over do it. I personally have an iPhone and use a couple of apps for photography, Camera+ and Aviary. Any search for photo apps in your app store will give you lots of options. A general Google search will provide many sites with tips for better smart phone photography. I found this site particularly easy to read through http://photographyconcentrate.com/introduction-to-smartphone-photography/

4. Send the original photo to Quarter Horse News. This is the most important tip for smart phone photos. When you are ready to send us the photos, e-mail them directly from the phone that took them. If and when your phone asks you what size to send (iPhones do this), choose “Actual Size.” This will provide us with the best-quality image to use in the magazine.

Email your foal photos to [email protected] If you need to mail prints, make sure they are at least 5” x 7” in size (8” x 10” is preferred) and mail them to Cowboy Publishing Group, Attention: Teri Lee, 2112 Montgomery St., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Most importantly, have fun with your photography, and your new foals!