Preparing for Perfect Portraits: Your Equestrian Photos Clothing and Grooming Guide


Having equestrian portraits made is a momentous occasion. It involves an investment of both time and money, and the results are sure to follow you for long after on both your Facebook and bedroom wall!

So how do you get ready for your special shoot? Here are a few tips and tricks to make your portrait session the best it can be!

Julieann looks right at home among the Ocala oaks in classic equestrian attire. Photo © Britt Gillis Design

For You

Sometimes deciding what to wear is the hardest decision! But fear not, I’ve got some ideas to help you out. First of all, unless you are going for a very specific look, I really recommend avoiding all white- unless slime magnet is the look you’re going for! Neutrals or earth tones are great go-to’s for outdoor portraits, because they are sure to make you seem part of the setting, rather than an addition. But if you’re looking for more concrete color advice, check out some of these suggestions.

Then there are fabrics to consider. Matte textures (think cottons, chiffons, lace vs satin) tend to be more flattering no matter what your body type.  And don’t forget the weather! When making plans, be sure to check the forecast. If you know that you’re a winter weenie and it looks like a cold day, don’t try to wear your favorite sundress! Simply put, it’s hard to be relaxed and even attempt to be elegant when covered in goosebumps. Be kind to yourself, and wear something weather appropriate.

Dylan’s cozy-chic outfit is perfect for her fall portrait session. Photo © Britt Gillis Design

No matter what you wear on your big day, just remember –  above all else, be yourself! You want to feel confident in front of the camera. That’s the most important of all!

For Your Horse

Then there’s your horse! I recommend you think about him just like you would yourself. For instance, if you’re going formal, maybe he should be braided and groomed as if he were ready to show. If you’re looking for a laid-back look, then au natural could be the way to go. Do some research around what grooming practices are appropriate for your discipline. Banged tails, trimmed whiskers, etc all vary from ring to ring, and it’s those little details that can sometimes push a picture from great to outstanding!

Adora is the perfect example of a beautifully turned out horse. Photo © Britt Gillis Design

More than anything though, and I can’t stress this enough, be sure your horse and your equipment are clean! Take extra care to clean nosebands and bits, maybe even more than you would for a show! If you’re doing any sort of full-body portrait, hoof oil is an absolute must- particularly for those gorgeous black background photos!

It’s the details that count. Bellamy’s sparkling tack and polished toes complete the picture. Photo © Britt Gillis Design

In terms of going the extra mile, here are a couple tips for grooming. Bring out the baby powder, and rub a little into any white socks or stockings. But don’t use it for your horse’s coat – you don’t want to be covered in powder yourself! When it comes to baby oil… leave that one in the nursery. It doesn’t translate well in sporthorse photos.

For greys or pintos, if you run out of whitening shampoo use this old groom’s trick- add a little (think, just a dabber full – really!) Blue Lotion (the liquid wound dressing) to a bucket full of water, turning the water purple. Sponge the water onto any white bits- including mane and tail- and scrape off the excess water. You’ll get that gorgeous silver white you’ve always dreamed of! Don’t go overboard though, as a little goes a long way.

Weather definitely affects your horse too, so don’t forget to plan ahead. Have fly spray on hand in the summer, and in the winter, try to keep any wooly coats under control by keeping the blanket on until the last moment. That will help keep the hair down and smooth.

In the End

Your photographer can definitely help you make any decisions about what to wear, or how to prepare for your session, so be sure to ask if you have any doubts getting ready. Communication is key in any relationship, and the person behind the camera wants you to look good just as much as you do- I promise. With a little extra preparation, you and your horse will be thrilled with the experience, and are sure to love the results for years to come.

Britt Gillis started photographing horses at the age of 8, and her obsession with equine photography has only grown. After acquiring a degree in Photography in 2010, she started Britt Gillis Design in Raleigh, NC, specializing in horse and rider portraits. When not tossing grass or crinkling peppermint wrappers to get that perfect expression, Britt spends her time eventing her German Sporthorse gelding, Jack. Check out more of Britt’s work at or on Instagram @brittgillisdesign.