Today we live in a selfie world. Gone are the days when the only picture you could take of your ride was the scenery framed neatly between your horse’s ears. Now you, the horse and the scenery can all get into the picture, even when you’re riding alone.
I think of selfies as falling into three broad categories with plenty of crossover between them. The following categories give you a summary of the styles and some tips for making your photos even better.
The Obvious Selfie
You’re staring down the lens and mugging for the camera; the whole world knows it is a selfie and we are cool with it. It’s a selfie as it should be, in its purest state.
Tips for Improving the Obvious Selfie
- Experiment by holding the camera both horizontally and vertically to see which one gives you a better image; don’t fall into a routine of always holding it in just one direction.
- Try juxtaposition. This means putting one subject in front with a second subject that you want to create a connection to further in the background. For example, you could create a close-up of you and your horse with the cupola of the barn towering high above. This not only tells the viewer who it is, but where you are.
- Photobomb on purpose. Experiment with taking a nice portrait of your horse with yourself photobombing in the background. Humorous photos always get a lot of likes on Facebook.
- Create flattering angles by holding your camera arm higher than your shoulder.
- Get a more attractive, wide-eyed look by looking just above the camera. A common mistake is to look at the center of the screen, and the result can be an unflattering, sleepy expression.
The Subtle Selfie
It isn’t clear if this is, or isn’t, a selfie. The subtle selfie is designed to look as if you’re unaware of the camera. The beauty of creating this type of image is that you can share a moment with your horse without feeling self-conscious that a photographer is watching.
Top Tips for Improving the Subtle Selfie
- Never look directly at the camera. The idea is to fool the viewer into thinking that you didn’t know the camera was there. Try looking at your horse, or off to the side or into the distance, or just close your eyes and bond.
- Be aware of keeping the camera position level; this is difficult to do when you are purposely not looking at the camera.
- Look for mood lighting to accentuate the feelings you have for your horse, such as sun-bathed doorways, silhouettes just after the sun goes down, or late afternoon shadows.
- Try different expressions. One person can have dozens of smiles that convey different feelings.
- Interact with your horse. This selfie is about creating a feeling, and in order to do that, you need to touch, bond, lean, kiss and hug. Use physical contact to help show your emotional connection.
- If you’re working in low light conditions, try to find something you can steady your hand on, like leaning it against a wall or resting it on something like the ledge of a stall door.
The Creative Selfie
It’s you without being obvious. Perhaps it’s your shadow or reflection. The key ingredient is pushing the limits of your creativity.
Top Tips for Improving the Creative Selfie
- Break the standard photography rules. You never know what works for a creative image until you try it—like aiming into the sun for a bit of solar flare.
- Look for places to capture your full shadow as you ride by, like on snow or the side of a barn in the late afternoon.
- Capture yourself in the reflection of a pond or in the mirrors of an indoor arena.
It used to be that selfies were restricted by the length of your arm or the width of a wide angle lens on your camera, but not anymore. We have entered the age of the selfie stick! The stick is an extendable device with a remote trigger. The telescoping style of the selfie stick allows you to extend your reach by up to 3.5 feet, opening the door to creativity even wider.
Hold it over your head and look skyward to create a bird’s eye view of you and your horse. Hold it extended out to the side and capture an action image of yourself riding, with the wind rippling through your horse’s mane. If you are filming while you ride, the stick is moving with you, so the camera will capture a sharp image of you and may let the background blur, which will create a sense of speed.
Do you want to create a group shot of you and your friends and your horses? This is easy with the selfie stick—you can extend it out and get group shots like never before! It telescopes down to a small enough size that you can put it in your saddle pack and take it with you on your ride.
As a final word of advice: save your selfies! If they are good enough to post online then back them up somewhere, like an external hard drive or a printed photo. The best ones are the moments you will want to remember forever, and if you lose your phone and don’t have them saved somewhere, they’re gone forever. Don’t depend on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to preserve them for you. Download and back them up, or go old school and make yourself a scrapbook.
While some might say we are a self-absorbed society, I think we just appreciate the fact that we can capture memories in ways that other generations could not. I grew up riding in an era before cell phones and only have distant memories of my early riding adventures, but now the selfie gives us proof of the life we lead with our horse on a daily basis.
DUSTY PERIN is a equine freelance photographer based in Maine.
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe.