Chapter 20 – How do you take adequate and accurate pictures for review and for records?

Proper pictures are not difficult to take once you get the hang of it. It’s often times harder to explain it in written terms than it is to understand after seeing just one set of pictures being taken. An awful lot of information can be derived from a set of properly taken photographs. There is a photo guideline book available, should you be interested. The book is called “Equine Hoof Photography 101”. There is a lot of valuable information listed in the book, both in pictures and in written text. The very basics of proper hoof photography will be listed here for your convenience.

First, the ideal camera to use is a good quality digital camera. They are self focusing and the pictures can easily be taken, deleted and taken again as need be. They can also be stored on your computer for record-keeping purposes and emailed to anyone you wish.
The pictures should be captured in a small enough size as not to use up too much memory for a single picture. An ideal file size for pictures for emailing and file storage is between 50 and 100k. You may consider sizes of 100 to 300k if there will be a need to zoom in on specific details of the hoof. Anything larger is nice for clarity, but is harder to handle when sending in emails and is wasteful of computer storage space.

Second, it is of great value to have a clean, flat, nicely lit location when taking pictures. A location where there is intermittent light and dark is usually not good. The subject in the light is too light and the parts in the dark are too dark. Direct sunlight is usually not a good idea either. The subject tends to get washed out and is too bright to see detail. You’re better off in solid shade, but still with good, ambient light. If you must shoot in the sunlight, try to create shade over the foot being photographed and over the camera. Be careful of areas with too much darkness, too. Not enough detail can be seen.

Third, insure the feet are as clean as possible. Wash them off first if necessary, but make sure they are clean. Dirty pictures provide little valuable detail.

Forth, make sure the horse is standing on smooth, firm, level ground. Taking pictures of feet standing in grass or in sand again will provide little valuable information. Parts of the feet will be buried or hidden from view.

Fifth, make sure the horse is standing as squared up as you can possible get him. You want to try to get as close to a halter horse stance as you can get for the pictures. Weight must be equally distributed between all feet, or at least equal between each of the two sets of feet. If weight is not distributed evenly, false information will be captured. Put another way, one foot will be overloaded while the other will be under loaded. Taking pictures of either situation will result in inaccurate data.

Sixth, take pictures of the shoulders, spine and hips. Full chest and full rear end shots are also useful for determining balance and structure issues. The horse has to be squared up in all four feet and standing relaxed and looking dead ahead for these shots to be of value. This almost always requires two people to accomplish. The shots will need to be taken from the rear end of the horse and shot in line with the spine. Sometimes standing on a milk crate, a bucket or a mounting block will give you a good height advantage. But be careful. Know your horse before attempting this. Some horses spook when something is held above their backs in such a manner. Give them a minute or two to become accustomed to the view. Most horses are no trouble to take pictures of this way, but always be on your toes. Safety first!