Thursday, May 28, 2015

Never Apologize: Phone Photography for the Horse Blogger

took this. on my phone. 
I'm kind of known for going on and on about how it's ok to be an amateur and we shouldn't expect to be professional riders when we just plain aren't.

But that doesn't just apply to riding.

I always think it's kind of funny when people post pictures of their horses and then say "It's just a crappy phone photo".


best ears. yes edited.
1) It's 2015. My crappy phone photos are FREAKING AMAZING compared to what a picture from a "real" camera would have been even ten years ago.

2) No one (not even me or Wendy) has a professional photographer follow them around and shoot their every move. Most of our pictures (well, mine) are going to be screen shots from a video or ears pics on my phone or headshots of my horse standing still.

3) You can actually take pretty damn good phone pictures if you put a little work into it.

I mean. I'm not an expert. Or an artist. Or a photographer. I'm not educated about photography and the truth is, aside from Lauren's fantastic series on taking horse pictures, I'm not likely to ever take a class.

But in 2015, the technology is available, accessible, and cheap.

thank you burst mode
90% of the photos on my blog are shot on my phone (iphone 5s). 85% of them are then run through a photo editor (also on my phone) in a sequence that takes under a minute. Here are some (REALLY REALLY) basic guidelines:

1) timing is your friend. You know that awkward moment in the trot where it looks like the horse only has two legs? No one wants to see that. Most phones have a "burst mode" option. On my phone, you literally hold down the camera button and get like 47 photos. Choose the one that doesn't suck. Delete the rest. Magic.

from this
OR. (this is best if someone is taking pictures of you and their timing maybe isn't fantastic or the lighting is less than ideal.) Have them take a video. Pause. Screenshot. Voila! Exactly the moment you wanted.

2) Cropping is your friend. You know how to make a shitty off center picture into reasonably decent blog fodder? CROP THAT BITCH.

to this
Seriously. You don't even need an app for that. Center the horse (more or less) in the frame. Zoom in as much as possible without pixelating the image.


Your photo is 75% better already. It took you less than 10 seconds.

emphasis by Redheadlins
Noted: I generally leave a little more space in front of the horse than behind if the horse is going forward. I leave more sky if the sky is pretty or more grass if the footing is nice. If both sky and footing are unremarkable, there's no reason for them to be in the picture. Just highlight what you want to emphasize.

Also noted: instagram likes square pictures. Blogger likes rectangles. On my more motivated days, I make different edits for different mediums. That is not every day.

what my phone looks like before edits
3) Apps are nice. I started with "afterlight" (go to the app store. It's either free or 99 cents). It's a fantastic basic editing program. There are four settings I use all the time--contrast (more or less), saturation (BRIGHT COLORS Y'ALL), brightness (summer in Idaho is a bitch), and... that other one.

There are plenty of other options, but these are just simple, basic things that can drastically improve the visual impact of your photos and take almost no time.

If you're all fancy and cool, you can get pricier apps. I just upgraded to "phototoaster" ($2.99 in the app store) and it has all kinds of bells and whistles and widgets. Part of me knows I'm not technical enough to capitalize on all this, but the other part is determined to make it happen.

kitten <3
If you're on an android platform, I hear rave reviews of Pixlr.

There are roughly a billion photo editing apps out there and you can get REALLY FREAKING FANCY if you want to. I'll admit I got phototoaster after reading this article. While there are some great tips there, that person works a HELL of a lot harder than I do at photo editing. Also they sound like they have a clue about art, which I definitely do not.

yup. phone. 
I mean, if photos aren't your jam, I totally understand. I'll never pretend to have the art chops that Niamh and Lauren do.

But I see no need to apologize for a phone picture. They can be pretty rocking with just a very little amount of work.


  1. YES!! I also often edit on my Mac in iPhoto - super SUPER easy to use and can make an 'ok' picture look really great. I mean I'm also married to a photographer, so I've learned a lot about the editing process from him and can look at a photo and figure out what it needs to look the way I want it to, but it's honestly something that's SO easy to teach yourself. The only thing I haven't mastered is the iPhone-on-a-fence self video technique. I don't understand how you get it to stay there and stay at the right angle..!?

    1. Alli! I wedge my phone in between the rail and a the vertical post so it holds it there while I ride! Works like a charm!

    2. I don't know if I can do that with PVC fencing... HMMMM...

    3. I kind of want a gorillapod. Google it.

    4. OOOOH! Those are really cool and not super expensive! I was thinking they'd be super pricy but no!

  2. Great post! I'll have to try the photo editing apps that you suggested. I also like Camera+, it's free on the Apple app store :)

  3. 99% of my photos on my blog are with my phone (although, I will admit to being a slightly better than average phone-photo-composer) -- being a photographer, I rarely have the opportunity to have anyone shoot ME, so I have to make the best of what I can do with my phone. I don't use a lot of apps, but I do like VCSOcam which has some great basic features but also some tools for pros. For what it's worth, most pros take A LOT of photos to get the ones that are really good... it's timing, technique (good lighting never hurts) and a little bit of luck too.

  4. So glad you posted this. I'm still trying to figure out how to use my iphone 6 after having a giant chunky flip phone my entire life. Off to go look for editing apps!

  5. I have exactly 12 days before I can upgrade my iphone. The 4 really does not take good pics. But the new ones are amazing - most of the good photos on my blog are from Ethan's iphone 6. Unless of course Dom decides to take some pics of me, because she is magic and makes us look incredible.

  6. I take a ton of iphone photos too, although you can usually almost always tell :)

  7. Yeah, I totally take iPhone photos a lot too. Although, I can usually make Sam come out and take photos every couple months and if I space them out on the blog, I'm okay, haha

  8. haha i love this post. the photos on my blog are almost exclusively cell phone pics - and actually, more often than not they're video stills. sure some of the details can be fuzzy but imo it's way better than nothing. i'm a very visual person so seeing pics of myself riding really helps me identify what needs work and what's ok.

    i also recently read another tutorial (from a non-horsey blog) on how to improve the pictures for blog posts - and while it means a couple extra (quick) steps before posting, i think it makes a big difference in the overall visual effect

  9. Yes. Agree fully. When I remember to take pictures it's with my iphone. I'll have to look into the editing apps. I didn't know that there was such a thing.

  10. Excited to try some of these editing apps! I usually send the pic to myself and work off my desktop.

  11. I like cell phone pics sometimes, but I really prefer photos from my Canon. You just don't get the quality and clarity sometimes!

  12. Heck I'm just happy to have any kind of photo, no one takes pictures at my barn. I seriously need to invent a camera that follows me around and takes pictures and video.

  13. Yes! Most of mine are iPhone or iPad, and I never feel the need to apologize because most are pretty decent. Every time I upload photos onto my Mac, a program called iPhoto opens up, giving me the option to edit. I also use Photoshop.

  14. I don't have a smart phone, so my crappy phone photos really are crappy. Haha. I am guilty of apologizing for them (especially since I am lucky enough to have people take nice photos of me regularly, and I AM a photographer!)

  15. LOVE this post, I'm a hge fan of editing, snapseed is my go to!


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