The World of Living with Horses

Horse photographer Julie Patton, a longtime horse owner, has a degree in equine science and was breeding manager on a farm for several years. Here she shares memorable moments in her career and lessons for photographing your horse.

How did you start in this business?
When we moved to Colorado to raise our kids in a more rural lifestyle, I needed to find something to do that didn’t force me to spend summers in the barn and away from my kids. Photography was my second calling and it was a natural transition for me to photograph horses. Knowing horses makes me uniquely suited to photograph them. It enables me to capture horses at their best. Being able to read the horses, to know how they’re going to react, what they’re going to like or not like and what keeps them happy is important. Understanding conformation, breed attributes and personalities helps me make each shoot successful.

What is your greatest challenge?
Working within the parameters that nature provides and working within the capacity of the horse. It’s a balancing act. I like to use a lot of back-lighting in my shots and it can be hard waiting for the right light — that treasured “golden hour.”


What is your favorite environment in which to work?
One where I’m respected and anticipated; where the horses and people are ready and they have enough help. The best environment is one where people are mindful of my time and what we need to accomplish.

One of my favorite things to photograph is women with their horses. Everyone has win pictures from center ring. Why not have an amazing image of you and your horse where you both look great? I want the image to be romantic and beautiful and capture bond between the woman and her horse.

What type of equipment do you use?
Canon 5d MarkII with a 70-200mm F2.8 IS (image stabilization) lens. It enables me to get a crisp, accurate shot, while being able to maneuver around a horse. It’s also a rugged lens — important for shooting in the field.

What is your one unforgettable moment or image?

The first shoot I did with the Arabian stallion KM Bugatti and his owner, Kristi Waters. Kristi had owned Bugatti since he was a yearling and had seen him through numerous national champion titles. She recently moved him to a private barn and took him out of training. This was the first time she had done a shoot preparing and handling her own horse. She did it all herself and the results were incredible. The bond between that stallion and his owner is so magnetic and palpable; it really resonated through the images.


What would you say to someone just starting out?
Learn as much as much as you can and be as good as you can. There are way too many mediocre photographers out there; you’ve got to set yourself apart from the rest, set yourself up legitimately, charge for what you do and own it. I went through the process to be a Certified Professional Photographer. It’s a long, grueling process. You have to pass an extensive, 3-hour exam and submit a gallery of images to a panel of judges. All the images have to be approved. It was important to me, because I then had that seal of approval and knew that I had the knowledge and the skill set to back it up. I’m hoping that more people will recognize that designation and will gravitate towards those of us who are certified.


What is your one best piece of advice when photographing horses?
Know horses in general before you start. Be able to read each horse; know how hard you can push to get the look you want without creating fear. I don’t like it when horses look scared; I don’t think owners want that either. Just like with people, keep horses happy.

ACAD invites our readers to discuss your photography experiences and to ask Julie about any challenges you may have when capturing horses with your camera. Please post your comments to this interview. You can also contact Julie on Facebook:

More on Julie Patton:

Born across the pond in London, England, Julie was raised in the southwest deserts of New Mexico and Arizona. Always having a passion for horses, she studied equine science at Colorado State University and naturally moved on in the industry to work in the field of equine reproduction for 10 years. After getting married and having two boys, she decided to expand her field of vision and talents to encompass photographing the horses she was always so passionate about. She has been a successful professional photographer for 3 years, becoming certified in January of 2011. She currently resides in Loveland, CO with her family in addition to 3 horses, 4 dogs and a cat. And if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she still relishes her spare time and interests which include cuisine, travel and antiques. You can learn more by visiting her website at: or on facebook at:


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My passion for photography started at an early age. I have traveled the world photographing wildlife for the past 28 years and in 2000 I started my photography business, Living Images by Carol Walker, focusing specifically on photographing horses. I teach workshops for amateur photographers on equine photography.  My commercial work can be found in leading horse magazines and catalogues covers. I have written several books, one of which, “Wild Hoofbeats and Horse Photography”, focuses on photographing wild horses.  It can be found at One of my passions is saving our vanishing wild horses, if you would like to learn more please visit my website .

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As a professional photographer, what is it about horses that made them your area of focus? 

I have always loved horses as a little girl and I’ve owned horses since I was 12. I’ve done a lot of things in my life from being a psychologist to an owner of a boarding facility.  Twelve years ago I started photographing horses professionally. I chose to focus on horses because I am familiar with them & I have been around them my whole life.

Wild horses are my main area of focus. I have adopted three wild horses which I have been photographing since they were very young.  As a professional photographer I believe it is important to have an area of expertise. I feel that a person that spends six months in Kenya is going to have better photos of Kenya than I would.

Of the places you’ve traveled, what was your favorite shooting experience and why?

Antarctica. It was the trip of a lifetime. I loved the penguins! The land is very dramatic and beautiful. This past year I traveled through CO, WY and MT photographing wild horses.

What is your favorite environment to shoot in? You’ve done portraits, wildlife, followed herds, etc.:

I love shooting in the snow. I love horses running in the snow. One of my favorite things to capture in a shot is a domestic horse running free, with no tack, no rider…I just love that.

How do you spend your time between shooting, editing & related activities?

I spend a lot of time working on the Internet and getting prints sent out. About 15% of my time is spent shooting which is not a lot and it’s my favorite part, spending time with the horses and photography. As a photographer, you have to be flexible &  be able to do many things. I create fine art prints, sell stock photographs, a yearly horse calendar, portraits of people and their horses as well as publish books. I love creating books which you can find on my site

You take a lot of photos – how do you manage the editing process? What do you look for in the “perfect” photo that ends up on a book or on your site?

After I download and look at everything I ask myself: Is that what I want to be in focus? How does the light look? Does the horse look beautiful or does it look awkward? Sometimes you luck out and you get an outstanding image. I probably only ever market 1-2% of my work as fine art prints. If it’s a “good” image I’ll use it in a book or as stock photography.

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Why did you start doing photography workshops?

I started giving talks at Equine Affair, a tradeshow in Massachusetts, about how to do  amateur horse photography.

Horses are hard to photograph. You can end up with some really funky pictures. So I thought: “What are some basic tips I can give the average person?” I decided to do ½ day workshops and now I’m also offering 3 to 4-day workshops. Some of the things I teach are how to get set up with a horse? What’s the best time of day to shoot? What size lens is best? Anyone can buy a digital camera, that doesn’t mean they can use it. I’m very hands-on. I coach as I go. There is some classroom work afterwards, and I can critique the students and talk about how to edit, how to sell their work, etc. I also do private coaching at my home with my mustangs.

What is your biggest challenge in shooting unpredictable animals?

The owner. If the owner can’t handle the horse properly and get them set up for the shot it’s hard to get a good picture. If the owner is a good handler you can get a good shot.

Background is another challenge. If the background is ugly, it can be hard.  But there are things you can do. Shooting a horse in front of the barn makes an “ugly” background nice. Clients in Colorado want mountains in the background and I have to get them up early when the sun is in the right place.

What is one piece of advice you’d give someone looking to improve their horse photography skills who isn’t going to make a career out of it?

Don’t use a short lens close to the horse because you end up with an enormous head. Use a longer lens at least 100mm and step back then the horse is in proportion.


Any other tips or tricks?

Learning about horses’ behavior helps so much. If you know about horses, you’re going to have a much easier time photographing them than a photographer who has a lot of experience but doesn’t know a thing about horses.  Some horses are nervous or bored so you have to learn how to put them at ease or figure out what excites them before they’ll look pretty.

Also, think of the horse’s size. If you have a tall horse, you want to shoot from higher up. If you have a smaller horse you want to get down lower. Sometimes I’m shooting on my knees or even my belly for minis or foals.

Time of day is also important. I tell my students early morning or late afternoons are the best times to photograph.


Visit Carol’s website:


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Our horse Ellie just lay there and allowed our kids to play on her back.

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Star Liana York

Star York and Horse

My name is Star Liana York, and I have been sculpting professionally for more than 30 years. Although I have always favored figurative subjects, my interests have taken me in different directions, exploring different styles as a way to remain fresh and creative. That I would sculpt equines, then, was inevitable, given my passion for riding, as well as for breeding and training horses. That I would discover varied approaches to sculpting them, depending on the aspect I wish to express, has been an artistic adventure.

Horses carry such strong iconic symbolism for humankind, perhaps because their domestication profoundly affected cultures the world over. When sculpting horses inspired by the first equine paintings during the Paleolithic era 30,000 years ago, I have preferred a more stylized approach.

Exploring artists’ perspectives on horses historically has inspired me to experiment, to stretch my own skills as a sculptor and, in this way, to challenge viewers of my work.

by Star Liana York

Mares of the Ice Age

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