Equine Photography - Which camera/lens kit will do the job?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by goattobekidding, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. goattobekidding

    goattobekidding TPF Noob!

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    Hey all. I'm brand new and happy to be here. I look forward to all of your advice, as I know I'm exactly where I ought to be.

    Here's the situation: I am looking to get into professional equine photography. I've owned and worked with horses majority of my life, have taken a few photography courses, and already do commissions for graphic design -- so, I'm really excited to try and expand in order to combine several of these hobbies. This means I am in desperate need of a new device and lens suggestions for said device.

    I will be photographing very large, rapidly-moving subjects. Stills will be a given on occasion, but every client always wants a crystal-clear portrait of their galloping horse. I need a fast frame-per-second and shutter, quick buffering, something that doesn't weigh 1000lbs as I'll be hiking with it in-hand, and I would love a camera that preforms well in low-light. Beyond that, I'm hesitant to make any concrete decisions just yet.

    I was initially looking into the Nikon D4, but it looks fairly hard to get your hands on and appears to also be bank-breaking. This has lead me to exploring options like the D810 (Under $5000 with 24-120mm Lens Kit), Nikon D750, and Canon 5D Mark III. I'm finding it fairly difficult to compare them with the sort of close-up/action shots I want to do in mind. There are a few reviews out there, but mostly for birds -- so, I have no idea whether or not horses will produce a remotely-similar product. Do any of you guys have other suggestions entirely? Experiences? I'm open to hearing it all and am super grateful for whatever you can provide me with.

    Good device/lens combinations would be fantastic, as well. I don't have much experience in looking for lenses.

    Thank you so much!


     
  2. robbins.photo

    robbins.photo Yup, It's The Zoo Guy Supporting Member

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    So if your going to be shooting professional equine, I'm assuming you'll be looking at shooting at indoor arenas on occasion?
     
  3. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Any of the Nikon X or XXX bodies; the advantage in going to a D4, 4s or 5 basically the best of everything. AF, buffer, frame-rate, low-light/high-ISO performance, etc, etc. That said, an 810 or 750 will be perfectly adequate, and it really is the lens selection which will be MUCH more critical. I would go with the 24-70 and 70-200. The 24-120 is a mediocre performer at best in terms of AF speed, has more distortion at the ends of the range, and nowhere near the build quality. I would also invest in TWO bodies so that you don't have to switch lenses.
     
  4. robbins.photo

    robbins.photo Yup, It's The Zoo Guy Supporting Member

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    Assuming your looking at shooting indoor/arenas, I'd say Tiredirons recommendations are spot on. If it were me I'd probably lean towards the D750, combined with a 70-200mm 2.8 lens. If budget allows a second body with a 24-70 would be a great addition as well since you will be shooting professionally.
     
  5. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Have you photographed any sort of horse event yet? with whatever you already have? Your background sounds like you have the passion for it which is a big help. I've done mostly hockey which is fast, and a lot of shooting sports is knowing the sport and where to be and to anticipate where the action will go and what will happen next.

    And you seem to have some related design experience and have taken photography classes to have some good background starting out. So get out there and do it! with whatever you have to work with for now. At whatever event you can attend and where you're allowed to take pictures.

    Before you get into a lot of expense and a lot of expensive equipment (although used might be a good starting point) get some experience first. See how you like it and get in lots and lots of practice. I used to go to whatever local practices or training camps that I could. Then see if it's something that could develop into a photography business.

    You're not going to be shooting professionally right away. Go try it, learn how to do it, learn what will be involved in a photography business, and work your way toward it.
     
  6. PaulWog

    PaulWog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nikon D500 and 70-200 f2.8 vr-ii.
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    A few thoughts:

    1 You need a 70-200mm f2.8 or similarly fast lenses of a roughly similar focal range and aperture. If you only shoot outside you might get away with f4 or thereabouts; but otherwise if you're indoor or in the early morning or evening (as many horse events can easily go all day for every hour of light there is - and then some if they've got floodlights) then you will want that f2.8 aperture.
    Note a 70-200mm f2.8 can appear huge and heavy at first notice - however with regular use its a weight most can get accustomed to easily. And if not then you can always add a monopod to your setup or even a tripod (depending how mobile you are during shoots).

    F2.8 - possibly f2 is about as wide as you can practically go aperture wise; any wider and the depth of field becomes very thin and; whilst not impossible; would certainly present a significant challenge for a moving subject (even even a still subject is tricky enough).

    2) Fullframe bodies with high performance ISO is the next important element; again for that light gathering and ability to work in low light conditions.
    I would also say you want some good noise reduction software (lightroom+photoshop on account form adobe) and some practice with that. High ISO noise is a different beast to work with and one you will experience a lot of in this genre of photography (again unless you only ever get to work outside in good light).

    3) 24-70mm can work; but remember if you're going for portraits and close up action you want a longer focal length otherwise a horse easily gets perspective distortion (areas closer get larger than those further away from the lens). Of course wider angle shots combined with a wider angle of view (ergo being further away from the subject) work great; but expect something like the 70-200mm to be your workhorse (pun intended).

    4) Some arenas are bigger or you might be more limited on how close or what position you can get into. Thus you might also look at some options like a 300mm, or even 400mm. Although those lenses in f2.8 flavour tend to be very expensive; but its something to consider. Of course hand in hand with prime lenses like that you'd also want a second body as you won't have time to change lenses*
    Note if you opt for a prime approach instead of say a 70-200mm you might want to look at two camera bodies and two varying primes. A 135mm f2 and 200mm f2 for example would be a good combo but would necessitate two bodies to work.


    Generally speaking if the camera and lens can do birds it can most certainly do horses and with high quality. The main elements will be you the operator and the light. I also encourage you, as the others have and as I'm sure you are going to do already; to get some practice. If you're already well into the horsey world then find a friend who's doing some practice or the like and go watch and get some shooting in. Sure it might not be a show but you can muck around and work out things.

    Also be prepared to be disappointed with backgrounds.
    A lot of the time finding a really good background for a jump is hard; really hard. Because jumps are not setup for you; they are setup for the horses and judges. As a result sometimes you're going to get some bad backgrounds; busy content; distracting elements etc... This highlights the importance of movement. Consider attending a few shows at sites you're going to work at unpaid or treating your early shoots less strictly in termso f staying put and instead move around a lot. Try different angles and see what works - you might just find a golden spot or two hidden out there that give great results.
    Of course networking also comes into play; you might well find good networking might allow you to convince the layout designers to position a jump or two in good spots for photos. And of course good networking means you might get increased access to the arena itself instead of being encamped on the viewing stand/area. Again this will open up chances to get shots that you otherwise might not get.

    Ps = as a tip - 1/640sec is the slowest shutterspeed you can go to to get a sharp shot of a showjumping horse. 1/500sec and you'll see hooves and mane/tail blurring. Faster is, of course good, but I've shot indoor at f2.8 (widest aperture) 12500 ISO (highest the camera goes to) and at 1/640sec and been underexposing the photos by at least a stop. So sometimes you just won't get the luxury of blazing fast shutter speeds. Experiment and find your limits of course


    *Actually you "can" I have done it with a horse going around a series of jumps. But you will find it taxing and rushed and you will work more than twice as hard for an increased chance of failure (and it somewhat requires the first and last jumps to be your target jumps). Two bodies is far easier.
     
  8. jaomul

    jaomul Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You want fast autofocus, fast frames per second and good high iso capabilities.

    All pro sports people get cameras circa 10 fps, but with a large animal like a horse and more predictable movement I'd bet 6 fps is enough ( overread may correct me here, he's the expert). I'd look at a Nikon d750 or a Canon 5d3 (but leaning Nikon). You need good lenses, decide your body first, but if you are charging money you'd really need at the very least a crop camera of same brand as your main, for backup, ease of use and in case one dies, a Canon 7d2 or Nikon d7200 likely ideal but other options are there also
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm far from an expert; but in general if you practice a simple burst of 3shots or so should be all you need for a jump. Unless you want a full take off to landing sequence. Again your available light will be a bigger factor than the camera. Of course the more light the faster the series of shots and thus the tighter the moment of events you'll capture - again this is an area where it gets easier if you can shoot faster but where many times you won't get that option.
     
  10. PaulWog

    PaulWog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A friend of mine does equine photography. A high buffer and a good burst rate is important to them. In particular with professional equine photography, the horse's leg, or something else, might be perfect in one shot, and not in 9 other shots, within a 10fps burst.

    I still vote for the D500. The other options just don't cut it for sustained burst, and burst speed.
     
  11. beagle100

    beagle100 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'd vote for a 1Dx, 1DxII or 5D3 or even a used 1DsIII and 70-200 2.8 II
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2016
  12. goattobekidding

    goattobekidding TPF Noob!

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    Thank you all!

    To clarify, I do have a fair bit of practice with the device I have! I do as good as I can with my Canon Powershot SX10, and have spent a few years casually photographing horses in their natural element with it. Like I mentioned, I've been around horses my entire life; I ride, train, start, and operate a facility of my own currently. I'm good at predicting movement, reading the animals, and know their good angles.. That has definitely come in handy, in using a camera where most of the settings are fairly concrete. We have a few wild herds around here, and a few free-range ranches as well which have been super helpful and appreciate the photos of their stock.

    A lot of my shots would be in arena/competitive/rodeo settings - but majority will be photoshoots in natural (and constantly changing) light with private clients. It's a huge market out this way so I'm hoping to get into that niche if I can!

    I've been using my little canon ever since I was out of school (they provided me with the better, more capable cameras - oh, how I miss them!) but I'm really excited about getting my hands on something that will take me where I want to go.

    I appreciate all of the opinions more than you know! I think I'm leaning towards Nikon at this time.

    These are a few of my samples with the SX10 (be kind to me, lol):

    Click One!

    Click Two!

    Click Three!

    Click Four!
     

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