Have you ever scrolled through social media and seen the most jaw-dropping photo of a horse with its neck so perfectly arched, ears pricked forward, standing nice and square, in what looks like a professional studio set with a black background? Did you think A) I want photos of my horse like that!! B) who is that horse and can I have it, or C) how did they even do that? I know I have – so when my trainer told me she was getting a photographer out to do portraits of her herd, I knew I had to jump on the opportunity.
These black background equine portraits are a beautiful way to capture your noble steed forever. Skilled photographers know how to make horses look their best and the black background puts the horse at the forefront, capturing their “best selves”. Best part is, they can do it at your barn at almost any time of day – a lot of magic happens in the editing!
I got my horse’s portraits done by Sara Shier, a young entrepreneur and professional photographer with a fiery passion to do what she loves. This passion shows through in her talent for capturing horses – I couldn’t be happier with my photos. I asked Sara some questions to learn a little bit more about her and her business – check it out below!
Tell me a little bit about your background.
SARA SHIER: My story into the equine media realm started long ago in a mystical land called YouTube. I started leasing who would be my first horse, Marco, in 2007. As our bond grew and we continued to have success in the arena, I realized all I wanted to do was share our story with those who mattered most to me. Back then, YouTube was the platform of choice for the equestrian community and I quickly became a “master” film and editing wizard creating videos of mine and Marco’s successes and relationship. He became quite the “YouTube famous horse!” When Instagram started growing in popularity, the community quickly switched platforms and so did my photography skills.
I realized going into college that media was something I wanted to pursue, but I wasn’t exactly sure in what way. I went to Long Island University Brooklyn in New York and received my degree in Media Arts with a minor in Journalism. I dabbled in everything from Television Production, Music Production, as well as photography. Looking back, I kick myself in the butt for not studying business or marketing in some form. Although I enjoyed my classes and time in college I didn’t feel like I really perfected my craft as I already had a good grasp of what was being taught. Upon graduating I realized when it comes to the art, passion is going to be your greatest teacher.
What’s the best and worst thing about being your own boss?
SS: Best thing is most days my work uniform is no make up, a messy bun, and yoga pants. Worst thing is working from home. I have trouble staying on task some days because A) the kitchen is right behind my desk #alwayshungry and B) I live with my boyfriend so there is always something to clean.
A lot of people dream of running their own business because of the flexibility it does give you, which I am so thankful for going into the holidays this year, but many struggle with the aspects of streamlining their business in a way that allows them to do that and not allow the extra brain wave of “hustle” take over.
What techniques have you tried for getting the horse’s attention and what have you found works best? What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to get a good shot?
SS: I’ll use anything and everything, but more times then often I rely on the All Ears App to get their attention as I’m shooting by myself most of the time. I had an assistance use a swim noodle before… I’ve also just flat out jumped from rocks or thrown a dirt pile [laughs].
How does photographing horses differ from photographing humans?
SS: The biggest thing I educate my clients on and definitely use as my selling point is that I know horses. When I teach workshops on photographing horses I always recommend that they learn some type of horsemanship, either at a local barn or from a friend that might have them. We can’t tell horses to stop, smile, and say cheese, so we have to be able to not only read what they’re comfortable with, but realize horses have good and bad sides too and adjust them accordingly. Oh, and don’t forget you have a human subject in there too that you have to direct around what their horse is doing!
Why do you think it’s important to get your horses photographed?
SS: After all the ribbons have been won, the miles of trails that have been conquered, the fields have been raced through, and the late night hang outs in their stall are over, you want to be certain you will never forget your best friend- the horse that changed your life. Photographs are a way to ensure these memories will live on forever.
Just as anything, the unexpected can happen at anytime as the universe has its plans on this journey we call life; the same goes with our equine partners. I’ve photographed my horses for years and as my boys grow older and older I feel so blessed knowing I have so many moments captured of our journey and relationship that I can share even when he’s gone. My horse Marco will be part of my family for generations.
Do you have any dream photoshoots?
SS: I have about a million. I want to photograph horses in the snow, I’d love to do a cattle drive in New Zealand and document the whole experience. I’m big on story telling and capturing moments when it comes to my horse and rider pairs. Although it might be great to have a ton of people look at a photo and say “Wow that is beautiful,” I’d much rather have my client say, “This completely tells our story.”
What is your advice to any aspiring equine photographers?
SS: Build a brand, not a business. People need to buy into YOU and not just your work. Really take the time to develop exactly how you want to make people feel, what your brand can offer the universe, and marketing to your IDEAL client. Really hone in on the aspects of your business and it will carry you further then you know!
Check out more of Sara’s portfolio here.
Follow Sara on Instagram here.