Horse photography

Another in our series of photography jobs. Hope you are enjoying these interviews.

What is your name? Judy Wood

What is your business name? Judy Wood Art/Photography

How long have you been doing photography?

Several decades, originally as reference shots (film camera) for my artwork created in other media, then seriously as an end in itself since I got my first digital SLR about ten years ago. On the art side I’ve gone from using photos as reference material for art created in other media, to creating and marketing photographs and photo-based images, now I’m evolving back to using photo elements in digitally created art images and in one of a kind artworks via image transfer and collage techniques. On the “straight photography for clients” side, I’ve been doing customer packages and individual shoots for about eight years.

How did you get started?

I was doing stained glass art and had horse owners wanting original design stained glass horse art. I was a novice rider and horse owner in those days, and began doing horse photography as the basis for my glass designs. The photography gradually became my main interest, and I stopped doing glass work about seven years ago when I got seriously into Photoshop work with my images. It’s been a long and ongoing learning curve, since I am totally self-taught when it comes to photography and Photoshop. I did start with the advantage of a basic art education, which has helped immeasurably with my “eye” for composition and design.

Why have you chosen the particular type of photography you do?

Horses have always been a passion/obsession, long before I learned to ride or owned one, which didn’t happen until I was in my mid 30s. Once I became part of “barn culture” as a rider and owner, it was logical that my art and photography would reflect and complement this great aspect of my life. As many others have said, your love for, and knowledge of, your subject matter is reflected in your work, so it makes sense to follow your heart when possible to create true and authentically felt images. To this day, it still warms my heart to have a horse person look at my equine images and say “you really know horses”.

Do you have any favourite shoots you’ve done? Or perhaps you want to share on one that was a disaster?

Any day out in the field with horses is by definition a good one. My favourites are when I get a shoot with good backgrounds (always a bonus), decent or dramatic light, and a nice herd in action. One I particularly remember was at the farm of a Friesian and Drum Horse breeder about an hour or so from where I live. They had only recently purchased their farm and didn’t have all their cross-fencing yet installed, so I had a lovely big open prairie field with a huge sky as the backdrop. The owner was happy to get the herd moving for action shots, and the sight of a mixed herd of galloping Friesian and Clyde mares, accompanied by the little Gypsy cob stallion, is a memory that still makes me smile. The main “disaster” scenarios are when I’m doing shots for clients in the pouring rain or the muddy aftermath at outdoor shows. That said, one of my favourite images came about when I had pretty well given up getting decent over-fences shots at a mud-fest, and decided that “you work with what’s in front of you”, which in this case was water and mud. I have a wonderful tight crop image of a pair of muddy legs splashing through the slop as a result of that change of focus on my part.

Do you have any hints or tips you’d like to other to budding photographers for your field?

Never stop working and learning. These days there are so many ways to do that with with photographer’s forums online, access to tutorials on any subject you might want to learn about, and with digital cameras allowing for endless experimentation and instant feedback. You can plug in to your “tribe” wherever you live, and learn from a variety of people with different worlds of experience. None of us is born knowing these things, and it can all be learned, but you have to be dedicated to the process and be willing to hang in there for the long haul. I’ve never been a traditional style show photographer, having evolved my own way of working with my show clients, but I understand that there is a big shift going on in that world with all the “Mom-tographers” out there now, so it is imperative that aspiring pros stay flexible in their approaches and be willing to adapt their ways of working to the changing times.

Please provide your website address so that I can encourage readers to visit your site.

Do you recommend this vocation to our readers, as a great way to earn a living?

Making a fulltime career out of horse photography is a tough job, but it can be done. I have been fortunate in that I have not needed to rely on my income as a photographer/artist in order to keep the roof over my (and my horse’s) head. I believe that with a lot of lateral thinking, creative approaches to business, and working the niche aspects of the market, it is possible to build a career out of horse photography. You do have to have an intimate working knowledge of the horse end of things as well as the photography and business aspects. You can be an excellent photographer, but if you don’t know the riding discipline you are shooting, and what the ideal moment is to capture the horse and rider, you are going to be out of luck. I still struggle with aspects of this myself, as often the artist in me will really like an image, but the rider in me knows it is one that no horse person would want to pay for, and vice versa. For me it’s always a balancing act trying to capture the shot that will work to satisfy both parts of my life as a photographer/artist.