Every craft requires the right tools. Canine and Equine photography is no exception. In this post I walk though 5 of my must-have pieces I bring to every session. In this field of photography it's about being prepared, ensuring my subjects are comfortable and safe. So this article covers not just camera equipment but other essentials as well. I should disclaim that my camera is not included in this list below as it is just a given that I would have a camera. 😉
1. 70-200mm 2.8 lens
My absolute favorite lens to use for canine and equine photography. This lens is truly a powerhouse and allows me to capture quick motion of horses or dogs running or just moving around. With an f stop of 2.8 it produces beautiful soft bokeh. And because its such a large lens, I can be further away when shooting to ensure my subjects don't feel threatened by me and my camera.
2. Equine Photo Halter
This is an absolute game changer for my equine work! This halter designed by Emme Emerelle is truly perfect. Horse halters in general tend to be a bit bulky and cover up a fair amount of a horses face and head, making it difficult to remove when editing images. However, this wonderful tool is very thin and shows up on the horses face only minimally and not at all on its mane so that it can be easily removed in post. It is immensely strong and almost every owner I've worked with has been impressed by this simple tool. I absolutely love this thing!
3. The Squeaky Ball
I don't think I would get nearly half the beautiful images I do without this little guy, the squeaky ball.
Almost every dog I've seen cannot resist the sound of a squeaky ball! They instinctively look where ever the sound is coming from. This makes controlling where they look much easier. Now not every dog is squeak obsessed, younger puppies for example don't seem to have that drive developed yet. And some older dogs, don't seem as interested. However, I can typically get all dogs to react at least once to the squeaky ball. Talking with the owners before using the ball is also key to knowing how a dog will react to the sound. In general this is a great tool to get split second alert reactions from your canine friend. And at the end of the session, the dog gets the ball to take home (and the balls I use smell like bacon too!)
4. Yoga Mat
I know you may think this is a very odd thing to count, but its one of my essentials for all my canine sessions and sometimes my equine session too. When you are shooting dogs or small animals, its imperative that you get on their level to see the world from their perspective. So I alway shoot low. So low that I lay flat on the ground on my stomach. And because I'm on the ground the majority of the time and I'm typically in the woods or in grassy fields, having a mat to lie on helps keep me from laying on ant hills, ticks, or sharp rocks, sticks etc...It also helps keep me dry when the ground is wet or covered in snow and ice. This simple piece of equipment keeps me focused on the task at hand and not so much about worrying if I just laid down in dog poo.
5. Photography Scrim
A photography scrim or scrim, is a piece of material that filters light. You may have seen photographers using big flat round circles to reflect light onto their subjects before. This looks similar but has a different purpose. While I have used a reflector from time to time. I find most of the time I'm using my scrim to soften light. Being an outdoor photographer I am at the mercy of nature and the sun is my lighting. I exclusively shoot in golden hour because it creates such a soft golden color. But occasionally I have to meet a client when the sun is still quite high in the sky. Having harsh sun on your subjects doesn't look great and often causes highlights to be blown out. This creates, very unattractive images. By using a scrim, I can soften that harsh light. The sunlight passes through the scrim and the scrim diffuses is it as it passes through. So it's not blocking the light but altering it before it hits the subject. I don't use this all the time, but I always have it with me which is why I'm including it in list.
These are my 5 essential equipment for canine and equine photography. I try to keep things simple and uncomplicated. And yes, every photographer is different and has a different style and therefore my equipment list will look different from other photographers. My goal in writing this blog is to provide a glimpse into my process and what I found successful on my photographic journey. I have a variety of other gear with me when I shoot as well. Every session is a little different and requires tweaks to what is needed. But I never leave home without these 5 pieces of gear. If you are a photographer, what are your essentials? Leave a comment below.