BY JESS CLAWSON
No matter what level you ride at or what ring you compete in, all equestrians love photos of our horses. We especially value those perfectly composed, well lit, edited professional photos that underscore the beauty of the horse and our relationship with them. Photographer Evelyn Szczepanek understands how priceless those perfect photos are. She has built her career on ensuring that horse owners have their photography dreams come true.
Evelyn grew up riding when she could. “My mother loved horses and got me in lessons, but my dad wasn’t totally into it because it’s so expensive,” she explained. “But he would go to shows and always supported me emotionally, especially when I got into it more in college.”
Though her father wasn’t initially thrilled about horses, he had everything to do with getting her into photography. Sharing his hobby with his daughter, he gave Evelyn a DSLR when she was a senior in high school. “He was very good. He did landscape and wildlife photography, and really knew what he was doing,” Evelyn said. “He got busy with other hobbies and passed it along to me.” Under her father’s tutelage, she began to match his enthusiasm for the camera. “I loved taking pictures right from the beginning—of flowers, animals, anything.”
In college, Evelyn rode on the IHSA team for Penn State. “I started in the walk/trot division, and was two points away from classing into the open division when I graduated,” she said. Moving that high up in the divisions during a collegiate career is quite the accomplishment. “I would have been one of the first to achieve that, but I missed one show,” she explained. IHSA really pushed Evelyn’s riding forward and introduced her to showing—something she didn’t have access to previously.
While in college, she was given her first horse, Lincoln, a 17.3hh flea bitten grey thoroughbred. With a beautiful new horse to adore, her love of photography began to mesh even more with horses. She worked as a barn manager to pay the bills, but began to branch out more into her art. “After my daughter was born, I really took pictures of everything,” Evelyn laughed.
It took a deep loss for Evelyn to realize she had to pursue what she really loved in life. After her mother passed away in 2014, she dove into photography. “I invested in high end equipment so I could really make a go of it in the business,” she said. Since then, she has kept herself very busy shooting weddings and horses. By 2018, she was able to quit her barn manager job to do photography full time.
Only a year after losing her mother, she lost her horse, and realized the true emotional importance of having good professional photos taken while she had the chance. She asked another photographer friend to shoot a goodbye session with her and Lincoln, and she treasures those photos to this day: “I’ll never regret spending the money for that. We can always get more money, but we can’t get more time with our horse.”
It’s a lesson she wants to share with all equestrians so they don’t have to learn the hard way. “I want to implore people to not wait if they want to get photos taken of their horse, because we don’t really know how long we’ll have them,” she said. “When people call to ask me to do a goodbye session like I had with Lincoln, I’ll be right there. We’ll figure out the details later. It’s that important.”
Pushing past basic horse photos, Evelyn loves to think creatively and especially enjoys photography unusual looking horses. She’s recently started to experiment with using glitter in her shoots, which she will be offering to all of her clients beginning in September. Through creative lighting, props and overall artistry, Evelyn captures the special relationship between horses and their humans.
Clients who work with Evelyn say that she’s patient and generous with her time. “Sometimes a shoot that was scheduled for an hour ends up taking two, and I’m okay with that,” she said. “Sometimes horses that are saints every other day of the year are having a bad day on our day. I just make it fun, tell the owners horror stories of how it could be worse, and make light of it. I want it to be a good experience for everyone involved.”
The best shoots are the ones for which the client has really prepared the horse to look their best. The photos are an investment meant to last a lifetime, so taking the time to really groom the horse and get them looking A-show ready is worth it for the quality of the outcome. “No one wants to remember their horse dirty,” Evelyn laughed.
Two weeks after a shoot, Evelyn does the reveal session with the client. “I love seeing their jaws drop when they look at their photos,” she said. After the big reveal, she goes over print options and albums so the client gets their perfect horse photos as soon as possible.
Evelyn’s prints are guaranteed for life, so in the event of a flood or house fire, print photos and albums will be replaced at no charge. “Everyone says if they had to save one thing from their house it would be their photo albums, so I keep all the files and proofs, and so does the printing company, so they will always be able to be replaced.”
Evelyn is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and travels everywhere she can to photograph horses. She’s giving back to the equine photography community by organizing a conference to be held in Wellington in March 2020, complete with big name speakers in the horse photography world and many learning opportunities. “Wedding photographers have been doing conferences like this forever,” she explained. “Equine photography needs something similar. There’s so much to learn.”
She is also planning trips to photograph wild horse herds in the United States and around the world. Evelyn loves to travel and meet new people. “I’ll hop on a plane at the drop of a hat,” she emphasized. “I want to travel all over the country and the world photographing horses.” She is currently booking for fall and spring, including trips to Wellington and Ocala.
Evelyn built ES Equine Photography to ensure that all of her clients have the photos of their horses that will mean the most to them, whether it’s black or white background, a horse and rider portrait session, or a new creative idea. “It’s about capturing the bond, and the beauty of the horse.”
You can find ES Equine Photography at esequinephotography.com. She is booking Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 photo shoots now.