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How to take great photos at events

There’s no doubt that eventing takes us to some of the most beautiful spots in the UK and provides some incredible sporting action perfect for inspiring photography. And for 2019 British Eventing are launching a brand new calendar which will host beautiful images each month alongside all of next year's BE fixtures, and you could have your very own photography featured on the front cover! To help we've got a few pointers with advice from equestrian photographer Kit Houghton.

When taking photos, there are a few basic rules you can follow to make your images really stand out and capture the best of the moment.
 

COMPOSITION TECHNIQUES 

The rule of thirds: Imagine that your image is divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines. To achieve good composition, you should position the important elements in your image along these lines or at the points where they meet. Some cameras have an option to show a rule of thirds grid on screen.

Depth: You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background.

Leading lines: When we look at a photo, our eye is naturally drawn along its lines. Think about how you place lines because these pull us into the picture, towards the subject or through a scene.

Kit’s tip: Look at shooting from different angles and don’t always take the 45-degree angle to the fence, which many people try to do at first. Planning is crucial, so walk around the course, pick the fences you want to shoot and look for an appropriate vantage point.
 

CREATIVITY 

Backgrounds: Think about what you want to include in your picture; the background may be distracting. Zoom in and capture facial expressions instead.

Fun angles: Don’t always shoot from a standing position; put your camera on the floor, or hold the camera up high or at unusual angles.

Shoot activities: You need to select Sport or Action mode for this. As people move about, you need the camera to follow them and focus (called continuous focusing) so the images aren’t blurred. In this mode, the camera will automatically shoot multiple bursts of images while continually focusing. All you need to do is pick your favourite shot.

Candid camera: Natural shots of people caught unaware can be wonderful. Hold back from the crowd a bit, keep your eyes peeled and use your camera’s zoom.

Kit’s tip: Learn to take general sport pictures (such as at football matches or other events where the action is fast) before specialising in equestrian photography and master the skills of capturing action. Be aware of the light – note how it falls on the horses and use the light to your advantage.
 

THE CAMERA 

Although modern mobile phones can produce a great quality image at the click of a button, modern digital compact cameras will pick up where your mobile will let you down. These cameras are equipped with a digital and manual zoom, allowing you to get closer to your subject without being intrusive.

A DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera is capable of capturing near instant images without shutter lag or start up delays. This is essential when capturing sports and action images.

Modern cameras also feature aperture priority (seen as AV or A on most cameras), which allows you to control the ‘f’ number – this is the depth of field or background blur. 

The good thing about aperture priority is you select how much blur you want – the lower the f number, the more blur you get, i.e. f2.8 provides more blur or greater depth of field than f8. With aperture priority your camera is in part automatic, so it will choose your shutter speeds, making this a great option for changing situations. Using the low aperture allows the subject to be isolated in the images and all detail is seen sharp in the photo.

Kit’s tip: Get a decent SLR camera rather than a basic point-and-shoot model and a 80-200mm lens is the most practical as it gives the range and focal length you need. Do not stand too close to the fences and stay still – running around distracts the horses and annoys other photographers!

Now you've polished your photography skills, why not enter our competition to win a Canon camera and have your image featured on the cover of the British Eventing calendar for 2019? Find out more.