Photography Tips for Show Jumping and Eventing
There are no magic settings or tricks that will enable a great photo every time and the photographer is encouraged to use these as a guidelines and put their own creative flare into their own work.
Be safe: never enter the showjumping ring or get too close to horses. Always be polite and follow any instruction by jump judges and officials.
Look at the light: Sunlight is your friend and you should ideally have it behind you for the best shots. The sunlight will light up your subject and enable you to shoot with a faster shutter speed. The sunlight also helps accentuate the horse and rider from the darker background.
Know the course: Study the course to see which way the horse will jump over the jumps. Most good shots have the horse jumping towards or side onto the photographer. See which jumps have the right light on them and try and get as many within your line of sight.
Know which level of rider you are photographing: You will need to know this information to name your album properly. Classes may be called EvA95 or 1 Star, etc. Feel free to ask the judge and also any spectators. Write down the class that you are shooting or take a photo of the ring number. When a class finishes take a couple of photos of the sky so you know, when you’re looking through the photos later, which ones belong to which rider level.
Try and stay for a whole class so you can upload all photos from that class.
"Noise" behind the jump: try and position yourself to minimise the noise (trees, cars, poles, other jumps, etc.) in your shot.
Get close: Fill the frame with the horse and rider by getting as close as possible to the jump without entering the ring. This will enable your zoom to be most effective on as many jumps as possible. A rider should easily be able to recognise themselves in the photo.
Review your photos: There is nothing worse than getting home and all your photos are out of focus or the shutter speed was too low. After you have got yourself set up take some test photos and as each rider comes round have a look at a few of the photos on the back of your camera. Zoom into the photo on the back of your camera and think is there anyway you could improve the photo.
Doing this regularly will ensure you leave with the best shots you can.
Please see videos on the Camera settings about how to set up your camera and preparing for an event.
I nearly always shoot in JPEG (medium resolution) giving an output
file size of around 3MB from the camera. I almost never crop photos at home, I try as much as possible to get the photo right in the camera. It's a personal choice.
Many photographers like to shoot in RAW and edit photos at home.
I try and minimise post-processing time so I can get the photos to the riders more quickly.
Get low, review your surroundings
Get into a low position to shoot from lower jumps (60cm) this gives a
better perspective. Take multiple shots of each rider as riders do do buy
multiple shots also note in the limited "noise" in the background and rider
looking our way.
When shooting showjumping try and get as low as possible for the lower grades as it make the jumping look better.
Try and take a few shots in quick succession and upload a couple of
them going over the fence... riders do buy multiple shots if they are available.
Preferably have them looking in my direction for their next jump
have sunlight on the correct side of horse and rider
Try and angle the jumps so that there is minimal stuff in the background (like cars, etc.) as this is distracting.... I know this is hard!
Try and take forward slightly forward of the jump (no bum shots!) and
also try to shoot multiple jumps from one place.
If you get 2 or 3 good photos from 2 or 3 jumps per riders that's probably enough.
The water jumps, although spectacular may not be the best jump on the
course. In addition there are always lots of photographers covering the
I tend to walk around the course and look for a fence that (a) I can
get close to and be able to shoot straight or up to (not down as this
diminishes the jump) (b) offers good light on the horse and rider (c)
preferably has them looking in my direction for their next jump (d) has a
good clear background.
Have fun, be safe and get some great shots of riders and their horses. It's a great sport and people deserve great memories of their achievements.