Senior year is finally here! Time for all those final things. Last high school classes, last prom, final IEA competitions, last horse shows, and of course, equestrian senior pictures.
Now, I know, you’re thinking, “Wait! I can have my senior pictures with my horse? Seriously? That’s a thing?!
Yes! Equestrian senior portraits are a specialty of mine.
Just imagine senior pictures where both you and your horse look amazing.
Something where he doesn’t look like a giant head with tiny little stick legs and a long skinny body.
(Hello, cell phone snapshots! I see you.)
You can have something So. Much. Better. Than. a. Cell. Phone. Snapshot.
The horse girl in me would have killed to have the option of having equestrian senior pictures.
But…It wasn’t to be for me.
You, on the other hand, have landed at the right place!
Here’s where we are going to answer all the questions about equestrian senior pictures in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area.
Location: High School Cafeteria
When: Saturday morning
Time: 7 am
Who: Entire Senior Class
There we were. Lined up to take turns sitting in front of a galaxy-looking background.
While the photographer had us stare off longingly off into the distance for some reason.
While smelling day-old fish sticks and old cooking oil.
A Note to Parents of High School Equestrians…
Equestrian senior parents are probably thinking…hold on, a hot second…
Do I really want a horse in all my kid’s senior pictures?
Do senior photographers photograph horses?
Would we have to do these at a barn?
What’s involved if we are doing senior portraits with a horse?
Does that mean we can’t have things like her band instrument in the photos?
And really, who has the time to figure all this out?
So to the high school parents of equestrians who are reading this, take a deep breath.
It’s all going to be ok. I know you are busy – any mom of teenagers is! You’re juggling a million things.
I get it. I get you. Why? Because I am you! I’m juggling a million things also.
In fact, I have not one but two seniors this year. But, no worries! Because I am going to walk you through everything you need to know about equestrian senior pictures in the Chattanooga, Tennessee and north Georgia area.
You’ve got questions? All the answers are below. And, if at the end of the Ultimate Guide to Equestrian Senior Pictures, you have more questions, shoot me a message. I’m happy to help you in any way I can.
Are you ready? Let’s talk Equestrian Senior Pictures!
Contents: What You Will Learn in this Guide
I’m Betsy, a horse and equestrian senior photographer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Most days you can find me doing insane things to make horses look at me. Clearly, I’m desperate for attention.
When I’m not hanging out with horses, you can find me glued to my computer, jamming out to what I can only describe as the best Spotify playlist ever while I am creating amazing photographic art for my clients.
Unless you’re already questioning what decision made you stop at this page, you can find out more about me here.
What is Equestrian Senior Photography?
In the United States, the senior photography industry is huge. It has exploded over the last decade.
But, being able to have your horse in your senior pictures is huge for equestrians.
After all, who was there to see you through all the ups and downs of high school? Your horse, of course!
What’s the Difference between a Senior Photographer and an Equestrian Senior Photographer?
The best horse photographers are, without a doubt, horse people FIRST and photographers second.
There are a few reasons why when considering senior pictures with a horse you want to work with an equestrian senior photographer vs. a typical senior photographer.
First and foremost, an equestrian senior photographer has skills, knowledge, and training in both the senior photography world and also the horse photography world.
Horse photographers understand horses as well as camera gear.
They know what the horse represents, the bond between the horse and his equestrian, and how to showcase his horsey assets.
Great horse photographers:
- Study Horse Behavior and Safety
- Recognize the Signs of a Stressed or Anxious Horse
- Understand Horse Conformation
- Understand how to safely work with horses and camera equipment such as lighting
- Study the Movement and Fluidity of Horses
- Know the bond equestrians have with their horses is like no other
- Know how to capture the horse accurately in camera
- Use the horse as an active participant in the photography session
And great equestrian senior photographers do all of the above…and speak horse girl!
To learn more about this, you might enjoy my post: Why You Should Hire A Horse Photographer
Is an Equestrian Senior Photographer Right for Me?
So, how do you go about deciding if an equestrian senior photographer is the right fit for your situation?
Here are a few comments from some of the seniors I have photographed recently. I asked them why they chose to include their horse(s) in their senior pictures.
“Eventing is my world. Someone else may play an instrument in the high school band. I event with my horse. She is in so many of my high school memories. It only makes sense to include her in my senior pics.”
“If it wasn’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have survived high school. She was always waiting for me when I had a bad day. Having my senior pictures with her was the best because she is such a big part of my high school experience.”
“He’s my best friend and I will miss him so much next year since I can’t take him to college with me. I wanted to have some beautiful pictures of him and of the two of us to take with me and have in my dorm room.”
If any of the above comments make you think of you and your horse, then an equestrian senior photographer might be the right fit for you.
Still not convinced?
You might like to read this article: 5 Good Reasons to take Pictures with your Horse.
Or perhaps this one: Why You Should Take Professional Pictures with Your Horse
How to Find the Right Equestrian Senior Photographer in Chattanooga, TN for You
So here is the thing.
If you look around, you can find a photographer out there for every style and budget. In fact, I might not be the perfect photographer for you.
Because of this, it makes it super important that you ask questions of prospective photographers to make sure you get the right fit for you.
After all, imagine putting in all the time and effort – and money – and ending up disappointed with the result!
Before you start researching photographers for your equestrian senior pictures, ask yourself a few questions.
These questions can help guide you to what you are looking for:
- Do I need an equestrian senior photographer or am I happy with a photographer who does many types of photography or a more typical senior photographer?
- What type of images does this photographer produce? Visit their portfolio, Facebook, or Instagram to get an idea.
- What level of service and end products do you want?
- Do you think your personalities would mesh? Would you enjoy the experience of working with this photographer? Hint: When looking at a photographer’s website, you can get a good idea of their personality by checking out their “FAQs” and “About Me” pages.
Well, I’m already here, I’ll just hire Betsy
So, you might be thinking. “Well, I’m here on Ride the Sky Equine’s website so I’ll just hire you.”
Before you pat yourself on the back and move on to the next item on your to-do list, here’s the thing.
I might not be the right photographer for you.
I frequently turn away people that I talk to because I am not what they are looking for.
And, here’s the truth.
I want you to have some great images of your horses that you love.
I want you to have the photography experience you want.
I want you to enjoy working with your photographer.
And, I want you to be happy with the final products.
EVEN IF I AM NOT THE PHOTOGRAPHER TO GIVE IT TO YOU.
Take a look at the list of things that my clients have in common.
If you read that and you think, “It’s ME! She’s talking to ME!” Then by all means reach out.
Ride the Sky Clients:
Love, love, love their horses
Want a photographer who loves their horse too
Want a long-term relationship with their photographer
Want to tell the story of their horse and their bond
Want imagery that will last and that they can enjoy every time they see it
Realize life is too short not to be having fun and laughs
Don’t know what they want but a thumb drive of images languishing in a drawer isn’t it
Want to enjoy the photography experience instead of being stressed
Need help knowing what to wear, how to pose, and what to do with those ever awkward hands…
Questions to Ask an Equestrian Senior Photographer BEFORE you Book
If you want to be successful with finding the right equestrian senior photographer for your situation, there are several questions you need to ask a potential photographer BEFORE you book.
While some of these questions are questions you should ask ANY photographer you hire, some are specific questions relating to the fact that you will be having horses in your portrait session.
That’s right, horses – and other animals – require you to ask some additional questions.
In fact, there are about 16 questions that are critical to ask your potential photographer.
Here are a few examples: Are you a licensed and insured business?
Do you have experience working with horses? Are you knowledgeable of horse behavior?
If you want to know all the questions – AND the answers as to why it’s important to know this information. You can read it here: Questions to Ask a Horse Photographer Before Booking
Or if you want to skip reading, I created a free downloadable guide that walks you through the questions. It also gives you space to jot down notes as you speak to prospective photographers.
How Much do Equestrian Senior Photos Cost in Chattanooga, TN?
“How much does an equestrian senior photography session cost?”
“What’s your price?”
This is a super common question for any photographer no matter what the type of session involved. But, here’s the thing. There really isn’t a standard answer to that question.
In general, photography in the area can cost between $50 to upwards of $4,000.
Yeah, I know. I know. That’s a huge range!
But, every photographer has a different cost of doing business. Here are a few other factors to consider:
Level of Service
Do you just want someone who shows up, snaps some quick pictures, drops them in an online gallery and you never hear from them again?
Do you need someone who will walk you through a process from planning, to creating, to photographing, to designing wall art, to delivery?
A quick mini-session with an online gallery by a newer photographer will be on the lower end when it comes to price. Photographers who create custom client experiences or offer custom artwork will be towards the higher end in pricing.
Do you care if your photographer has training and education when it comes to photographing horses or safety around horses?
I attend photography conferences, workshops, classes, and lectures on photography, entrepreneurship, horses, and a whole bunch of other things.
To me, these things are important as they help me deliver a one-of-a-kind experience to my clients.
But other people, those who aren’t my clients, may not care.
This is just another example of why it’s important to ask questions of your photographer so you make sure you get the photographer and the experience you want for your equestrian senior pictures.
Make sure to read the section on Questions to Ask a Horse Photographer before you Book – or just jump to my post about it here.
The End Results
A photographer who provides a tangible item, such as prints, wall art, or albums will have a higher cost of goods than someone who delivers digital files in an online gallery.
And those costs have to be factored into the price for your session.
I, personally, choose to work with top-notch professional photography labs based in Europe and the United States.
I offer artisan craftsmanship and high-quality products that will last a lifetime.
All that to say…
When it comes to cost, it’s a wide range. You need to consider what you want to get out of your equestrian portrait experience.
What type of photographer is best for you and your horse?
Make sure to read the section on How to find the best horse photographer for you in this article.
What do you get when you Book an Equestrian Senior Photographer in Chattanooga, TN?
Well, as you can tell from the previous sections, what you get from your session is going to depend on:
- Option to use credit cards, cash, checks, or payment plans
- Receive an 18-page Style Guide to guide them in choosing their outfits
- Have access to the RTS Style Closet for fun outfits, accessories, and more
- Receive a 16-page Artwork Guide to help plan out what to do with the final images
- Enjoy a complimentary in-person planning session before the shoot
- Receive a Jam-Packed Welcome Kit
- And more!
Planning your Equestrian Senior Pictures
One thing I have discovered -and that I love – about working with high school senior equestrians in planning their senior pictures with their horses, is that they take that VERY seriously.
In fact, they are probably the biggest bunch of planners I work with out of all my clients.
During my busiest times of year, you can frequently find me on the couch reviewing text messages of outfits that my seniors have sent me for input.
Below are a few things to consider when planning an equestrian portrait session.
What do I wear for Senior Pictures with my Horse?
Obviously, when it comes to equestrian senior pictures, you will definitely plan on being in the images too!
In fact, you will be in some of them without your horse. Yes, I know, just you! The horror!
So, since you will be in the images what to wear is going to be something that requires some forethought.
That being said, it’s important to remember that you – and your horse – are the main subjects of your photographs, not your clothes.
Equestrian seniors need to pick outfits that coordinate with their horses, the season, and their personal coloring.
(Don’t worry, Ride the Sky clients, I help you with this!)
Secondly, when it comes to choosing your outfits, you want to make sure it’s something you feel comfortable in.
While it can be fun to play dress-up sometimes, if you spend the entire session feeling itchy, or uncomfortable, it’s going to show in your images.
So it’s important to pick outfits that you feel confident, pretty, and comfortable in.
And lastly, your clothing should always make sense with the location.
For example, if you are dying to wear a floral print prom dress, then standing in a fall field of orange, brown, and yellow isn’t going to work.
But that same dress might look amazing in a spring flower field, or in an urban setting.
Ride the Sky clients receive personalized guidance for outfits. I’ll help you find outfits that you feel confident in, coordinate with your horse, and photograph well.
Want more tips for making sure your equestrian senior portrait outfits work?
You might enjoy this post: 6 Tips for Planning Outfits for Equestrian Senior Portraits
Or take a peek at this article: How to Style your Equestrian Senior Portraits and make you and your horse look good!
Don’t Forget the Details when it comes to Equestrian Senior Portrait Sessions
Don’t forget the details! They can really make or break it for you when it comes to senior pictures.
Here are 4 quick tips:
Tip 1: Nude is Good
If you are wearing a light-colored top or bottoms, make sure that your underwear is a nude/skin-toned color.
If you choose a patterned or dark bra and panties under something lighter colored, you might be looking at extra costs in editing by your photographer to make those disappear.
Tip 2: Steam It
Make sure to steam or iron wrinkled clothing in advance of your portraits.
You will be happier with the final images and your photographer will thank you for not having to edit all the wrinkles!
Don’t have a steamer? Hang your clothes in the bathroom while you shower!
Tip 3: Avoid Writing
Avoid shirts with writing, logos, or sayings on them.
Those things tend to go out of style quickly and equestrian senior portraits are something that you want to age well. You know you will be showing these pictures to future generations.
Plus, logos on your clothing can distract the viewer’s eye from your horse and you.
Tip 4: Complement, Don’t Compete
If your horse is a paint, roan, appaloosa, or other patterned coat, think twice when it comes to patterns and stripes.
After all, your goal is to complement your horse, not compete.
Do I need Props for my Equestrian Senior Pictures?
Let’s take a second to talk about props as this is a super common question when it comes to equestrian senior pictures.
After all, it’s not uncommon for high schoolers to be involved in multiple activities.
So, first, let me say that your horse IS NOT a prop. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see photographers making. Your horse is an active participant in your photoshoot. He is not a prop.
Outside of your horse though, props in your equestrian senior photoshoot can really help to tell the story of you in high school.
Here are some ideas:
- Clothing/Pennants from your High School
- Clothing/Pennants for your upcoming college
- Sports Equipment from other high school sports
- Your Best Friend
- Your Dog or other pets (also not a prop but can be a great addition to your session)
- A truck or car
- Band Instruments/Sheet Music that you played
- Cap and Gown
What’s your Equestrian Vibe?
Think about you personally for a minute.
What would you define your personal style as? By that I mean, what makes you feel comfortable.
What do you surround yourself with in your bedroom at home? What color do you want your walls to be?
What type of makeup do you use? Do you gravitate towards a natural look? Goth? Glam?
Are you most comfortable in a t-shirt and leggings? Spring dresses? Button-down shirts and tailored pants?
Or do you lean more toward leather jackets, motorcycle boots, and jeans?
You can then take those answers and translate them into the feel of your equestrian senior portraits.
Here are a few quick examples off the top of my head of what I mean:
Are you a preppy equestrian? All polos, breeches, belts, and high boots? Consider an elegant equestrian shoot with a classic feel.
Do you like a casual look? Are you all jeans and a cute top? Consider having your equestrian senior pictures in a beautiful field.
Are you all about the black leather jacket, dramatic makeup, and motorcycle boots? Consider an urban location with concrete, roads, or graffiti.
How to Prepare for Senior Pictures with your Horse
Have a Plan for the Day
When you have to prep a horse (or more than one) and yourself for a photo shoot, you are going to have a busy day!
If it’s overwhelming to do all the prep work by yourself, consider outsourcing. You could hire someone to help out or consider trading services with your best equestrian buddy.
If you are both having senior portraits done, trade-off prepping each other’s horses on photoshoot day.
When it comes to Outfits
Here are a few quick tips:
If you have a favorite outfit, make sure to try it on well in advance. The last thing you want to do is discover on the day of your photoshoot that you have lost or gained weight and your outfit doesn’t fit like you expect it to.
If you are shopping online for your outfits or accessories, make sure to give yourself enough time for anything ordered to arrive.
If you have searched your closet and don’t like anything you found, no worries.
There is a shopping resource list available for Ride the Sky clients. It includes stores and websites where you can find nice quality clothing that photograph well.
Ride the Sky clients also have access to the RTS Style Closet which has outfits, accessories, and more available for use.
Hair & Nails Details
Don’t wait until the last minute when it comes to haircuts or color. Schedule your cut or color for 5-7 days in advance of your shoot.
I always shoot images that involve your hands. Dirt is going to end up under the nails when it comes to horse girls. So make sure to have clean nails.
When putting polish on your nails, opt for a french, nude, or neutral color. The last thing you want is a close-up with your hands with hot pink nails clashing with the color of your horse’s muzzle.
Essentials to Bring with You
Drinks. We are in the south after all and this heat and humidity is a killer. Take it from someone who has had heat exhaustion more than once.
Makeup for touchups. It’s a good idea to bring your lipstick and other makeup with you in case we need to do a light touchup during your portrait session.
Clean hand towel. It’s horses. There’s slobber, nose boogies, and eye gunk. Enough said.
What Can you do with your Senior Pictures with your Horse?
You planned and photographed your senior portraits with your horse.
And, now, at long last, it’s time to figure out what the heck to do with all these amazing images.
When it comes to equestrian senior portraits, here are some ideas of how my clients have used their final images:
- Create a Wall Collage of favorite images for your bedroom
- Metal and framed prints for walls
- Blankets (this is a FAVORITE with my seniors)
- A medium Scale Statement piece for their college dorm room/apartment
- Custom Folio Boxes
- Social Media & Email Sharing
For Parents & Grandparents:
- Museum Quality Large Scale Statement Piece Canvas Gallery Wraps & Framed Canvas
- Large Scale Statement Piece Framed or Unframed Metal Prints
- Holiday Ornaments
- Custom Albums
- Personalized Jewelry
- Holiday or Everyday Cards
- Social Media & Email Sharing
Great Locations for Equestrian Senior Portraits in the Chattanooga Area
North Georgia and East Tennessee are beautiful. The Scenic City itself offers so many options for equestrian senior pictures – and horse photography in general. We can always find a great location.
The truth is that most horse barns, stables, and private property have wonderful spots to photograph you and your horse. So, you don’t necessarily have to look elsewhere to find the perfect location.
If you are thinking about maybe going off property, here are a few things to consider:
is your horse used to going off-property?
When it comes to photographing horses, it’s critical to account for the comfort level of the horse.
After all, if your horse is stressed, crow-hopping, and panicking, it will show in the images.
Plus, if your horse is jumping around and nervous, your stress levels go up.
All of this means that your photographer is now fighting a dancing horse and a stressed and tense owner which is going to show in your images.
are you willing to pay to use a property?
If you are considering an off-property location, make sure that you and your photographer are fully aware of any needed permits, fees, and insurance requirements by venues and locations. Those costs would be in addition to the cost of the photographer.
The last thing you want is to have an accident with your horse and be facing lots of fees or, heaven forbid a lawsuit.
Over the years I have developed relationships with many beautiful location managers in the north Georgia and eastern Tennessee areas.
what do you dream of when it comes to your portraits?
Do you dream of beautiful images that feature the connection and bond you have with your horse?
Do you dream of images that show your partnership with your horse when you compete?
Do you dream of an epic sunset where you and your horse are just one part of the image?
Locations to Consider for Senior Pictures with your Horse
When deciding on a outdoor location, much will depend on what equestrian vibe you are going for and your horse’s suitability to being off-property.
But, you should consider places such as:
- Boarding barn, Stable, or personal property
- Riding trails
- Lakes, Rivers, Oceans, Beaches
- Flower Fields
- Exteriors of Cool Buildings
If the idea of a classic, preppy equestrian look appeals to you, then studio portraits might be the right fit. I frequently bring the studio to the stable. It works well for everything from an elegant equestrian look to fine-art equine portraits.
A Final Thought on Location Planning…
Always remember that your location helps to tell the story of you and your horse.
For Ride the Sky Equine Photography clients looking to head off-property, don’t worry! I’ve got a resource list for you that includes fees, permits, and other requirements that locations may have.
Resources for High School Equestrians in Chattanooga, Tennessee
I have teens myself who are currently dealing with everything that comes along with high school and college. It’s very overwhelming now compared to what it was when I went to college.
Here are a few resources to help high school equestrians on their journey.
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Betsy Bird of Ride the Sky Equine Photography spends her days doing insane things to make horses look at her. Clearly, she’s desperate for attention. Outside of acting like a total weirdo, she invests time and energy into growing her business, hanging with her favorite dog, Nitro, dealing with her teenagers’ angst, and planning her next big wheels-up adventure. Betsy is a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) with the organization Professional Photographers of America (PPA). The CPP designation is held by fewer than 2,500 photographers nationwide and is a hallmark of consistency, technical skill, artistry, and professionalism. Betsy specializes in creating storytelling magicial photography for horse girls of all ages. In other words, she enjoys working with fun-spirited clients who need horse portrait photography, equestrian senior photography, and equestrian brand photography. She even throws in some dogs for variety because what true horse girl doesn’t love a great pup too. Based in Chattanooga, TN, Ride the Sky Equine Photography works on location in Tennessee, North Georgia, and beyond.