There is a horse photographer out there for every budget, every style, and every photography experience. So how the heck do you figure out the right one for you? By asking questions! Here are the questions to ask a horse photographer before you book.

You might be thinking, why bother?

One horse photographer is the same as another, right?

What’s the big deal?

Well, I’m here to tell you that there are a lot of differences between equine photographers.

And by knowing what questions to ask a horse photographer before you book you can save yourself from being unpleasantly surprised during the process.

To make it easy for you, I have created a free guide that you can download.

It covers all this information and it has sections where you can make notes as you talk to your potential photographers as you go through the process to find the right photographer for you.

Well, I’m Here, I’ll Just Hire You…


So, you might be thinking. Well, I’m here on Ride the Sky Equine’s website so I’ll just hire you.

Problem solved!

Before you pat yourself on the back for this masterful decision, 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.

I want you to have the photography experience you want.

I want you to enjoy working with your photographer.

I want you to be happy with the final products.


But, if you look over this list of things my clients have in common and you think, “It’s ME! She’s talking to ME!”  then by all means reach out and let’s get our chat on!

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…

Read on to Know All the Questions to Ask a Horse Photographer Before you Book…


So, now that we got that out of the way, it’s time to look at all the questions you really should ask.

Read on to find out all the important questions to ask a horse photographer before you book

High School Senior and her Mustang Horse


Do you have a Contract?


This is probably the number one most important question you can ask a photographer.

Contracts are designed to protect both the photographer and the client. A contract will spell out exactly what is expected of both parties and by when.

As the person being photographed, the contract spells out for you what money is owed when, what is legally allowed for you to do with your images, what the photographer is responsible for, and what the timeline is for when you should expect things to happen.

A contract is a legal way of spelling out in exact details who does what when so that all parties know what is expected of them. If you contact a photographer and they don’t use a contract, I would suggest continuing to look for one who does for your own protection.

How Long Have you Been in Business and Photographing Horses?


This is important because someone could have a lot of experience with photography but no idea how to work with horses. Horse photography is a different beast than say, studio newborn photography.

With studio newborn photography you are working with studio lighting, props, and backdrops, and with a small infant.

In horse photography, you are usually, though definitely not always, working outside in natural light with a 1200-pound beast with a mind of its own.

This is not to say that horse photography is harder than newborn photography.

This is just to say that these are both difficult but in different ways.

Additionally, someone who doesn’t understand horse conformation will have a harder time ensuring that the horse is correctly positioned or not suffering from distorted issues.

Great Horse Photographers:

understand how to work safely around horses with cameras and lighting gear

have knowledge of breed standards and conformation

recognize signs of a horse in distress


You don’t want a photographer who is scared of horses. That’s why a lot of the best horse photographers are horse people FIRST; photographers second.

And you definitely don’t want a photographer who can’t recognize the signs of a horse in distress. Not knowing the signals a horse is giving off can end up with someone being injured or equipment being damaged.

Why Should you Hire a Horse Photographer?

Do you have Insurance?



This is another huge one. Let’s take a minute and consider that we are talking about photographers who work with large animals who have a mind of their own.

Animals that could bolt, shy, bite, kick someone, break something, break their leg or more.

And while we in the equine industry go into each horse activity with the best of intentions and with an eye on safety, it doesn’t stop accidents from happening.

Insurance can give peace of mind to both the client and the photographer by providing protection against legal actions that arise from injuries, accidents, and other claims.

Pro Tip: Many locations do not allow you to photograph at their locations without insurance so make sure that your photographer has the required coverage to shoot at a specific location.

framed print of girl kissing muzzle of horse


How Much of a Retainer is Required and When is it Due?


Each photographer works differently when it comes to retainers.

It’s important to find out how much your retainer is and what you will receive for that money.

Some photographers use the retainer to just hold your spot on their calendar, some use it to pay for their time, talent, and/or travel, and some have that money cover the receiving of some or all goods.

Make sure you know what the retainer covers and when it is due to the photographer.


Want to Work with Me?


If you are interested in learning more about working with Ride the Sky Equine Photography, take a peek at the pages below to learn more, or just shoot me a message here.

The Ultimate Guide to Horse Photography

The Ultimate Guide to Equestrian Senior Pictures

Commercial & Equestrian Brand Photography

Woman in red dress with horse on beach


What Forms of Payment do you Accept?


Depending on your photographer, the acceptable forms of payment will vary.

There are photographers that only accept checks, others take checks and credit cards. Some photographers accept cash, credit cards, checks, and online payments such as PayPal.

Certain photographers even offer payment plans.

Make sure you are clear on what options you have to pay for your photographic services.

Nothing like showing up for your session with only a credit card to discover your photographer only takes checks and your bank account has $54 to last you until payday.

If your photographer offers payment plans, make sure to verify the terms of the payment plan.

How many months do you have to pay off your balance? Does interest accrue? When do you receive your products? And any other questions that come to mind.

Also, make sure you know when payment is expected. Before the session, at the session, or when you place your order?

woman sitting on jump with horse


Is Photography your Career or Side Hustle?


It is also important to know if your photographer is a full-time photographer or if it is something that they do on the side.

Not that there is anything wrong with either way but it’s important to know how a photographer would handle a situation.

For example, what happens if a situation comes up with their 9-5 job that causes a delay with their side gig.

You would need to know how it might affect your session or your timeline for receiving your images.

Fine Art Portrait of Gypsy Vanner Horse at Liberty in the Field in Fall


How Many Hours of Coverage do I get During my Session?


There are some photographers who show up at the start time, set a timer for one hour, and when that timer goes off, they are done.

There are other photographers who will show up and stay, stay, stay, long after they have gotten what they need.

Ask your photographer how they schedule their sessions.

Do they schedule only one a day? Do they schedule sessions back-to-back?

What happens if your horse acts up during your session?

What happens if you are late for your session?


Girl in Green Dress with Haflinger in equestrian portrait session


Do you Shoot on Location or in a Studio? Who handles the paperwork?


This is sort of a two-part question.

First, make sure to do your due diligence about your selected photographer’s style of shooting before you book them.

If you love studio photography with bright backgrounds and studio lights, you are going to be disappointed if you hire a photographer who only shoots natural lighting outdoors.

It’s easy to do research on a photographer you are considering.

Check out their website, and visit their social media pages. Especially Instagram as that is a visually-driven social media platform.  You can also look at their Facebook page.

And, if you still aren’t sure, make sure to discuss it with your potential photographer.


Who Handles all the Paperwork?


Secondly, ask your photographer about location requirements.

If you are taking your horse off-location to a new place, many locations, such as wedding venues, farms, parks, and beaches, require advanced proof of insurance or special permits to do photography sessions, especially ones that include animals.

You may also need to supply health certificates (if crossing state lines) and Coggins test results.

You need to know who, the client or the photographer, is responsible for getting each type of certain paperwork together.

portrait of paint horse and thoroughbred touching noses


How would you describe your Photographic Style?


This one kind of goes along with the question about if you shoot on location or in a studio.

Knowing your photographer’s style means that you have a much better chance of not being disappointed by the end results.

If I am expecting studio-style headshots with bright colored backgrounds, I’m going to be sorely disappointed if the photographer comes back with natural light headshots with lots of trees and grass in the background.

Also, many photographers develop a specific look to their images.

Some photographers prefer a light and airy look, while others like a dark and moody look.

Some, like me, prefer a timeless and classic look.

I want to make sure that my images stand the test of time as my end products are frequently hanging on walls for years.

Make sure you know what you are going to be seeing before you book.

Pro Tip: You can get a feel for what a photographer produces by checking out their websiteInstagram, and Facebook accounts, as well as other social media they might have. 


Make Sure that your Horse Photographer Specializes in What you Want


In addition to their style, the horse photography genre is actually pretty large. Many photographers have specialties within the category.

Some horse photographers photograph nothing but events. Others specialize in equine portraits or commercial work.

My point is that you want to make sure you are picking the right type of horse photographer for you.

If you want to know more about how to pick the right horse photographer for you, take a peek at The Ultimate Guide to Horse Photography.

Black Background Portrait of Palomino horse in Bosal


Do you have References or Reviews from People who have worked with you?


In the world of Google and Facebook, reviews are readily available online for the most part. Many photographers also have testimonials listed on their websites.

However, it’s always good to ask your photographer for a list of references. This allows you to speak with people in person about their experiences.

It will also give you a good idea of what the process of working with that photographer is really like.


Friesian standing in field of yellow grass


What Happens if there is Bad Weather? What if my Horse is Ill or Injured? 


First, a lot of this information is – or should be – covered in your contract.

If your photographer has been in business for any length of time, they are probably familiar with the common weather patterns of the area and try to have a plan in place just in case weather is an issue.

Most likely, if they are a photographer who shoots outdoors much of the time, they will keep dates near your original date available for rescheduling due to weather.

Secondly, accidents happen when it comes to dealing with animals.

Most photographers will be understanding about injuries and illnesses coming up. After all, you want your horse to look its best for his or her photos!

Most photographers will have a policy in place to address this issue.

You can see some of the common questions I get asked here: Common Questions about Ride the Sky Equine Photography and Common Questions about Equestrian Portrait Sessions.


When and How can I see Photos?


This question sort of goes along with a previous question about finished products.

Each photographer is different. Some photographers use online galleries for you to view your images.

Other photographers meet with you in person and go through your images with you, and work with you to help you to decide what image is going to look best for the end products you want.

It really comes down to what type of experience you wish to have with your photographer.

Cowboy and Horse on Ridge in Silhouette


Will the Images be Retouched or Edited before I see them?


Once again, this varies from photographer to photographer.

Some photographers will cull the images, edit and touch up everything before you ever see the images.

Some photographers will cull the images and then will edit one or two to give you an idea of what the finished product will look like but will only edit after you make your image selections.

And still, other photographers will show you images straight out of the camera and not edit anything until you have made your selections.

Many times, the way the photographer handles this is based on the time involved. Editing and retouching can be a time suck depending on the photographer’s style and process.

Be sure to know what you are getting in advance, so you aren’t surprised by what you see.

girl on beach with thoroughbred horse


Who Owns the Copyright?


Copyright, copyright, copyright. This is a subject that confuses so many people.

According to the Professional Photographers of America, “The Copyright Act protects photographers by giving the creator of the photograph the exclusive rights to copy, edit and distribute the image by sale or transfer. These exclusive rights make it illegal to copy, scan, edit or share photographic prints and digital media without the photographer’s permission. Violators of this Federal Law will be subject to its civil and criminal penalties.”

So, what does that mean to you?

It means that from the moment the photographer clicks the shutter, that artwork belongs to them unless they sign that right away.

It also means that the photographer is the only person who can alter that work.

Since the photographer’s name is associated with the image, they want – and should – have complete control over what that end product looks like.


Copyright vs. Print Release


In truth, when many people talk about wanting the copyright, what they are actually wanting is a print release.

Photographers vary on what they allow and don’t allow when it comes to print releases.

Print releases give individuals permission to reproduce images for their own personal use.  The key to this is that a print release only allows for personal use.

So, while a print release allows you to print an image to hang on your wall, it does not allow you to take that image and submit it to a magazine or a contest.

You can’t use the images for commercial gain, claim them as your own work, or edit or alter them in any way.

If you want to delve a little deeper into the whole copyright vs. print release explanation, visit The Law Tog which has some great information on copyrights and print releases.

Child giving friesian horse an apple


Are there Restrictions for Sharing the Images Online?


Each photographer is different when it comes to sharing online.

Though the majority will probably say that you are only allowed to share without editing or altering the images.

After all, those images represent the artist/photographer and when you use an Instagram filter or crop their image, it alters the artwork.

So, if you are all about Instagram filters, make sure to ask what you are and aren’t allowed to do online.



What Type of Finished Products do you Provide?


Again, this varies by photographer and it’s important to know going into your photography experience what your result will be.

In general, there are two major groups of photographers.

One group is commonly called Shoot & Burn Photographers (S&B). These photographers usually shoot a session, put the images into an online gallery, a thumb drive, or in Dropbox or another file-sharing program, and let you download them.

The end product is your images in digital form and a print release for personal use.  You would then take your images to a consumer lab for personal use printing as you wish.

The other type of photographer works with professional imaging labs to produce your images into many different end products.

These can include wall art, such as framed art prints, acrylics, metals or canvas, custom albums, folio boxes, and more.

These photographers usually also have digital files and print releases as well.

But, the main point of using this type of photographer is they create a piece of artwork that all you have to do is hang on the wall or put on your coffee table. No stress, no worries.


Which Type is Right for Me?


You need to decide what type of photographer you would like to work with, and what type of experience you would like to have with your photographer.

In most, but not all, scenarios, a S&B photographer will have less interaction with the client outside of the actual shooting time.

Whereas, the second type of photographer tends to be a more boutique experience with more one-on-one time with your photographer as they guide you through the process of designing your session and your end products.

Fine Art Portrait of Gypsy Vanner Horse at Liberty in the Field in Fall


How Long to get the Finished Products?


When it comes to getting end products, the time will also vary.

For example, if you are getting digital files with a print release, those can easily be downloaded from an online gallery or given on a thumb drive immediately after editing.

If your photographer is ordering your artwork from a professional printing lab, it will take longer depending on the products ordered.

Some products can take up to 4 – 12 weeks to arrive due to the nature of the products and where they are coming from.


Some Examples


I work with a phenomenal canvas company that does handcrafted museum-quality canvas.

Because of the handcrafting of the product, the process to produce each piece, and then shipping, it can take 8-12 weeks to receive the product even though they are based in the United States.

If you ask any of my clients who have ordered this canvas, it is well worth the wait and then some. It’s not like any other canvas out there.

I also work with several European professional printing labs to produce things like custom albums and folio boxes.

These items are custom crafted at the time of order and then have to ship overseas. Again, they take a while to arrive but they too are worth the wait.


My Point…


My point is, that each photographer is going to have specific products that they sell.

It might be digital files or it might be handcrafted premium quality canvases.

Knowing what your photographer is producing will help you make sure that they are the right fit for you. 

If you are in a time crunch because you want to have an image for a graduation announcement and it’s a week before graduation, you might need to choose a photographer that offers online galleries and print releases.

If you are wanting a lasting piece of archival quality art for your wall, then the second photographer would be the way to go.

Portrait of middle aged Woman with her palomino horse


How Far in Advance do I Need to Book?


Depending on the photographer, you might need to book far in advance.

Each photographer’s schedule is determined by the photographer and many factors can go into that decision.

When dealing with animals like horses, the seasons will probably play into how far in advance you need to book.

Fall is an especially popular time of year for images as most horses look gorgeous with the beautiful autumn colors.

So, if you are planning for fall, it’s best to contact your selected photographer several months in advance in order to get on their schedule.


Ride the Sky Equine Photography Booking Schedule


For example, Ride the Sky Equine Photography usually books 5-6 months in advance. Except for fall where we usually book anywhere between 6-9 months out.

In the last few years, due to Covid, I have had clients who have booked a year and two years out in the hopes of being through the pandemic by then.

Covid has also made it so that people get moved from season to season on the schedule due to illness. So occasionally I’m able to swap a client to an early spot to and move someone who is ill back.

I assume the Covid trends are going to settle down though so don’t think you have to book that far out.


Volume vs. Boutique


Some photographers base their business on volume. They bring in client after client and turn them out quickly.

Others build their business in a more boutique style and only work with a few clients a month, walking each client through the entire process from start to finish.

Then, of course, you need to consider that your photographer is a person just like you and has personal and family obligations just like you.

Pro Tip: As a general rule of thumb, the more time you can book in advance the better.

High School Senior and her Mustang horse photographed at Kensington Cove Farm


A Few Final Thoughts…


And, there you have it,

All the questions to ask a horse photographer before you book!

All this to say that doing your research in advance and having a conversation (I know, I know, you might have to talk to them on the phone Eek!) will go a long way to making sure that you get what you want how you want it.

If you would like more information on Horse Photography in Chattanooga, take a peek at this post: The Ultimate Guide to Horse Photography in Chattanooga, TN

If you are ready to talk about all these questions with me and see if I am the right photographer for you, click here to send a message.

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 magic 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.

These photos are copyrighted by their respective owners. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.