Marketing Your Miniature Horse
-Making the Most of Photography-

Today's Miniature Horse business is by no means a small one. In the last decade, the American Miniature Horse Association has seen the second largest increase (50 percent) of all breeds in annual foal registrations.

What does this mean for the average AMHA owner/breeder? Business is thriving. And so is competition. Promotion is essential to remain a competitive, successful force in the industry, whether it is the promotion of a stallion, breeding program, or individual's show performance. And, when print advertising is the primary medium, success often translates into quality, professional photography.

True, other influences contribute to a horse's marketability such as training and performance; yet, it is the viewer's initial contact with that horse via a photograph that will form the first opinion. Clever adspeak may persuade to a point, but photographs, both good and bad, can mean the difference between people marking the page or turning it.

Perhaps professional Miniature Horse photographer Stuart Vesty said it best, "After you consider the costs of owning, training, showing, and promoting a horse, the money spent on professional photographs is often insignificant in comparison, but can be important as anything when it comes to another's opinion of him." (*Arabian Horse Times, Marketing Guide 1999, page P)

Making the Move to Pro
Professional photography is not an option for every business. But, for those who are considering the investment here are some tips:
Budget - Create a budget. Realistically determine what dollars you have to invest in photography.
Research - Ask around. People who have had a positive and successful experience with a photographer are never close-lipped about it.
     Note photographer names on ads that have made an impression on you.
     Determine what style would best showcase your stallion, breeding program, or individual's show performance and find the photographer who specializes in it (free movement, halter, performance, etc.).
Plan - Plan Ahead. Professional photographers schedule months and even up to a year in advance.

Giving it a Go - Professional photography not in your budget? Not a problem. For those who must operate on a smaller budget here are some tips on how to get the best photos on your own:

HORSE: Professional or novice, the same rules apply for preparing your horse. Groom as necessary, paying close attention to white areas and make-up. Do not overuse sheens or gels.
SETTING: Again, the same rules apply. Make sure the scenery is uncluttered and prepared. Flora and fauna are nice but not if they overwhelm and distract from the main focus, the horse. Make sure stationary objects are at least 20-35 feet away from the horse.
EQUIPMENT: Know your film. Follow the manufacturer's advice for film speed usage. Always use a reputable photo developer.

Film Speed Tips
100 -
Best when used outdoors in bright light conditions; recommended for still photographs.
200 - All-purpose film for general shots, light action, and bright outdoor light.
300 - Best when used for action shots and for inside photographs that require a flash.

If using a digital camera, check with your publication to make sure your camera meets their mechanical standards. (i.e. Miniature Horse World requires 300 dpi (dots per inch) on digital photography)

Lighting - Avoid shooting outdoors during the middle of the day since overhead sun creates harsh, dark shadows. Early morning and late afternoon sunlight will reduce harsh shadows and make colors and lines stand out. Use a flash when necessary, especially indoor and even outdoors if there are shadows.

Always remember that it could take several pictures, even several rolls of film to get that "perfect shot" - keep shooting.

AMHA Official Registration Pictures
-How to Avoid Problems With Your Paperwork-

One of the major problems the AMHA Registration Department faces when trying to complete a registration, transfer of ownership or status chance is the lack of or poor quality of photographs submitted. Ill-suited photographs cannot be used for registration purposes and force AMHA to place the document in a pending file until new photographs can be obtained. No photographs, not enough photographs, and poor photographs keep you from receiving your paperwork in a timely manner.
     So, whether this is your first or umpteenth set of photographs submitted for registration, transfers of ownership, or status change, here are a few quick guidelines to make sure your photographs are as registration-proof as possible:
     All applications for registration, transfers of ownership, and temporary to permanent status must be accompanies by:
Option 1: Four current color photographs showing all head, leg, and body markings.
   Photo 1: Left side with all four feet visible.
   Photo 2: Right side with all four feet visible.
   Photo 3 & 4: Head facing into the camera with entire flat of the face visible and forelock pulled completely aside.
OR Option 2: Two current color photographs showing all head, leg, and body markings.
   Photo 1: Left side with all four feet visible and head facing into the camera with entire flat of face visible and forelock pulled completely to the side.
   Photo 2: Right side with all four feet visible and head facing into the camera with entire flat of face visible and forelock pulled completely to the side.

AMHA Registration Photo Checklist
Photos should be no smaller than three by three inches (3x3). Horse's image must be 80 percent (80%) of the photo. Horse's image should be limited to only that specific horse (no groupings). Do not trim photographs.
QUALITY - Avoid these common mistakes: 
- Submitting photo of foal nursing, with its head down grazing, in a feed bucket, or standing in hay, a field or pasture.
- Photos that clearly show all four feet are best.
- Avoid photographs that are too light or too dark.
- AMHA needs good clear photographs of the horse's color during different stages.
- Digital photographs are only accepted IF printed on photographic paper.
TRANSFER NOTE - ALWAYS compare very carefully the horse your are purchasing with the photograph of the horse on the certificate. ALWAYS make sure to include photographs of all markings when sending in transfers of ownership.


About the Miniature Horse

Miniature Horses Today
Miniature Horses Facts
The Future of the Miniature
History of the Miniature Horse
The Standard of Perfection
General Care of Miniatures
Choosing the Right Miniature

Showing Your Miniature Horse

Local Show Schedule

Educational Features

Tips From Photographer Liz McMillan

Horse Hints:
Make sure to clip your horse at least one week in advance to get his true color.

Reclip head, ears, and neck the day of the photo shoot if taking head shots.

-Bathe as necessary to present your horse's best, pay close attention to white areas

-Less means more regarding make-up, a light dusting with a sheen produce and a damp rag will go a long way.

Tactful Tack:
-Make sure all equipment is clean and well fitted.

-A show halter is best when taking head and neck shots.

-Don't discount the power a free movement photo (taken in enclosed area without tack) might have for your horse.

Background Checks:
-Select a background that is relatively simple, as this will focus the attention on the horse not the scenery.

-Make sure background area is prepared (fences painted, lawn mowed, etc.)

Handling and Gimmicks
-The fewer number of people involved, the better as too many people will distract the horse.

-Know the props/gimmicks that will get the expression you need from your horse and have them handy (i.e. mirrors, trash bags, rattles, another horse)


Horses with black tones in their coats such as blacks, bays, blue roans, and grays photograph better in the morning hours? And, the afternoon hours are a better time to photograph horses with red tones in their coats such as sorrels, chestnuts, and red roans?