Written by Sue Weakley
Jonna J. Koellhoffer is an equine videographer with years of experience shooting video in conjunction with her partner, equine photographer Sue Stickle. Jonna’s filmed and edited video of horses at the top levels of international sport as well as snapped still photographs of horses all over the world. Read on as she shares some tips on how to take video of your horse so you can put him in the best possible light.
1. Make your video no longer than three to five minutes. Less is more, as far as the length of the tape goes. “The only reason to have a longer video is if you have one of the horse competing,” she said. “A show video is fantastic. That’s five or six minutes but if you are doing a video on your own, you need to show three gaits in both directions and anything else the horse can do. That’s it.”
2. Make sure you show the movements you advertise. “Can he do shoulder-in, haunches-in, flying changes, piaffe, passage? If you advertise your horse is schooling Prix St. Georges and all you show is walk, trot and canter with no half pass or flying change, people won’t believe you,” Jonna said. “Plan your presentation ahead of time to showcase your horse’s movements and to avoid having to make too many cuts. Too many cuts will have people wondering why. Your video needs to flow smoothly.”
3. Show the transitions. “You don’t just want to show a horse cantering. How did he get there? How did he stop? Transitions are very important.”
4. Use a tripod or stabilize the camera so that the video isn’t shaky. If you don’t have a tripod, use a fence post to hold the camera or to help keep your arm steady. “If it’s a shaky tape, people lose interest quickly.”
5. You want to zoom in so that you can see the horse, but you don’t want to zoom in so much that you lose the perspective of the arena. You want to make sure that you have the horse in the center of the frame, or maybe leave a little bit of space in front of it because you want to see where the horse is going.” This is called looking room and there should be a little MORE room on the side the horse is going toward. You are giving the horse—quite literally—space to look.
6. Be careful of zooming in and out too quickly or too often to avoid making the viewer queasy with motion sickness.
7. Consider your lighting. The best time of day to reduce shadows is early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low. Keep your back to the sun and avoid the time of day when the sun is at its brightest. Overcast days can actually provide the best and softest lighting. And, if you have a choice between shooting indoor or outdoor, always choose outdoor. Indoor photography, even in a covered arena, is challenging at best.
8. You want to make sure your horse is well schooled and that whomever is schooling your horse is the one who is going to ride it in the video. “You don’t take a horse that has been schooled by the same rider for six weeks and then decide on the day of the video shoot that you’ll put the trainer onboard,” she said. “Things won’t go as smoothly if the horse is not used to his rider.
9. Pay attention to the background. If you have a barn or horses in the background and it’s not too busy, that’s fine. But if you have a lot of construction equipment near your arena or a horse being lunged in the background or a dog running in and out of the shot, it takes away from what you are trying to sell−the horse.”
10. Make sure you and your horse are shown at your best. “Wear a helmet,” she emphasized. “You don’t want to make a sale video without a helmet on. All they’ll see is the lack of the rider’s helmet and they won’t even see the horse. You don’t want anything to distract from the horse. You want to make sure your tack is clean, your saddle pad is clean, your boots are clean, your clothes are clean. If you have dirty polo wraps on your horse, people can see that. If there are pieces of bedding in his tail, people will notice. If you’re going to have a conformation shot in the video, don’t have a frayed lead line. Little things make a difference.”