Aperture and Horse Photography

Aperture and Horse Photography

I have said shutter speed is key for horse photography and it absolutely is because if you use too slow a shutter speed your image can only be blurred and not recoverable.

This does not mean your aperture is not important as it is!

Aperture is important to control how much of your image is in focus (Depth of Field) and the best way to remember this is the smaller the number then less of the surrounding background will be in focus (F/2.8 Portrait Photography) and the larger the number more of your background will be in focus (f/16 Landscape photography)

Small Number (f/3.2) Less in Focus


Large Number (f/16) more in focus


When on a photoshoot the first question i ask myself is how fast a shutter speed do I need to freeze the motion of the horse or achieve the effect i am looking for.

I then ask myself how much of the image do I want in focus surrounding the horse and rider.

If the image is going to be a portrait shot of horse and rider then I would need a smaller aperture number such as f/3.2 – f/5.0 or if the horse and rider are within a landscape setting that i would like to clearly show in the final image then i would require a larger aperture number such as f/11 – f/16?

You can see from the two images above that one is a portrait image where I used a small aperture number fo f/3.2, which has put the immediate trees in the background out of focus (or depth of field) and the other shows the rider jumping a cross country jump in a stunning landscape environment so I used an aperture number of f/16 for this image so that i could bring the rolling hills in the background into focus as well.

Some key considerations!

Medium Aperture Numbers of around f/5.0 – f/7.1 – Helps to keep horse & rider in focus when straight on.

Smaller Aperture Numbers can be used of around f/2.8 – f/4.0 – If the rider is side on or at a 45 degrees angle.

There are a few considerations you should take into account when deciding on the right aperture to use for your image.

Firstly there is a big difference in capturing images of a horse and rider where you need to keep both in focus. There can be nothing worse than setting up a great image to find you have used too small an aperture number and have either the horses head in focus but the rider is out of focus or the other way round.

If the horse and rider are straight on then you need to consider the distance between the horses head and the rider and that this will require a larger aperture number to get them both in focus, where as if a rider is 45 – 90 degrees on you can use a smaller aperture number as you are only concerned with the width of the horse.

When starting out I would recommended a beginner uses and aperture of f/5.0 – f7.1 to make sure you have both horses and rider in focus. Once you are comfortable with this you can then play around with seeing what different aperture numbers offer you for your style of image.

Where as when you are capturing images of a horse at liberty as long as the horses eye is tack sharp or the first horse in a line then the rest is down to creative interpretation!

If you are capturing images of a horse at liberty then you can aim for an aperture of f/2.8-f/4.0 and as above when you are comfortable with this you can play with other settings to see what you like.

Aperture of f/2.8

Aperture of F/16.0

If you compare the two images above of the ponies at liberty, the first image taken is at F/2.8 and the second image is at f/16.0 you will see that it is less important for all the ponies to be clearly in focus when no riders are with them. If you had a rider it would be important to make sure they were in focus in the image.

The distance you are from your subject and the focal length of your lens can play a key part to depth of field and I will discuss this in more detail later in the year.

Happy playing with apertures and what works well for your style and camera equipment.