Crafts-Hobbies Vivian | 23 Jun 2011 08:39 am

5 Keys to Winning Photo Contests With Breyer Horse Toys

Model horse photo contests are based on achieving the most realistic looking photo. It sounds like a simple task. How hard can it be to take a picture of a Breyer horse?

Actually, it can be pretty tough. Some of the best photos look so much like photos of real horses it is hard to tell you are looking at model horse toys. That level of realism is not easy to achieve. It requires a lot of thought, planning and preparation. Here are 5 keys to winning photo contests with model horse toys.

1. Use good, natural light, and focus carefully. If you shoot outdoors, the lighting is almost always good and you do not need to invest in special studio equipment. You should however, use a camera that allows you manual control over shutter speed and f-stop and focus. Even very basic digital cameras these days offer some manual controls. Focus is usually automatic, unfortunately, except on high-end SLR versions. You want an f-stop of about 4, so as to sharpen the model and dull the background slightly. Carefully hold your model up to the light and turn it in different directions to determine which light angle appears best. Set it up on the footing at this angle.

2. Be sure the footing and any props are fully in proportion. Anything out-of scale significantly mars the photo. Although you are shooting outdoors, avoid sitting the horse on a surface that will betray its small size, such as real grass, or a picnic table top. Sandy or bare soil is usually a good option for a Breyer horse in a halter photograph, with a bit of green fading off in the background ok. You can carry your own personal bag of footing with you. This could be sand. Or some brands of fine kitty litter work nicely as well. Once you’ve chosen a good location for the shot, pour down a nice layer of footing and place your horse. Once you are done with the shoot, simply scoop the footing back into your bag and you are good to go.

3. Be sure the horse completely fills the frame, so that viewers can appreciate the details. Allow a very small margin around the edges just so nothing is cut off and the picture looks nice. But a very close-cropped shot is more impressive. With a digital camera, if you shoot too wide, often you can crop the photo afterwards and still have a nice result. It is recommended to shoot on a high enough resolution so it won’t get blurry later if you need to do some editing.

4. Even though you are working with horse toys, you want to shoot at the horse’s level to achieve a life-sized impression. Set the horse on a table or yourself on the ground so that the camera is on level with his elbow or withers. This creates the illusion of realism the judges are looking for.

5. Avoid distracting backgrounds. Judges are looking for a clear, crisp outline of the horse’s silhouette. Look for a solid color that contrasts with the horse’s body color. If you can position the model horse toys so the blue sky functions as the background, that’s perfect. Otherwise, choose something that is as solid as possible. Man-made objects such as cars and buildings can be a problem, mostly because they destroy the illusion the model is life-sized. A distant car that appears very tiny can be permissible, if it looks like it belongs and is the same scale as the horse.

A great place to get started photographing your Breyer horse toys is taking halter photographs. This means the horse is alone with no props, or that he’s photographed with only the halter and lead. Of course, these tactics will work with any model horse brand. We recommend Breyer horse toys because of their quality, availability and overwhelming popularity among hobbyists.

Keeping these tips carefully in mind as you work should put you in the running for a contest placement or perhaps even a winner. With practice and persistence, you can take the blue ribbon!

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