As your interest in photo model horse shows grows, you may want to explore creating dioramas and realistic backgrounds for your photo show set-ups. A good background adds to the lifelike quality of a photo show scene that can make the difference between so-so images and blue ribbon photography. On the other hand, a poorly constructed scene detracts from the appearance of your horse models and can actually hurt your chances of winning in photo shows. Moving from a simple cloth backdrop to a realistic scenic backdrop adds another creative level to your hobby pursuits.
Choose a Theme
The first step in making a realistic backdrop is to choose a theme. You'll find many themes popular among collectors including:
- Barn scenes - These may include actual stable buildings, fences, barnyard animals, and props such as hay bales. One person even made miniature manure piles. Now that's the ultimate in realism!
- Horse show arena - Many collectors create elaborate backdrops that mimic a real horse show. These may include bleachers or just a scenic background with an appropriate show ring fence. Some create to-scale signs and sponsor banners just as you'd see at real horse shows advertising Nutrena feed products, horse associations, and more.
- Natural scenes - Woodlands, mountains, horses at liberty in their paddocks all call for natural scenes as photo show backdrops. Beach scenes are popular, and desert scenes are popular for Arabian horses.
- Historic or culturally appropriate scenes - Some of the most interesting and engaging scenic backdrops create cultural or historical settings appropriate to the horse's breed. These may include Arabian or Middle Eastern backgrounds for Arabian horses or the famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna for Andalusian models.
What else can you think of? Whatever you can dream up, you can probably create. No one style tends to do better in the show ring. It's really the entire presentation that pulls your photograph up in the show rankings or pushes it down.
Finding Scenic Backgrounds
Scenic backgrounds can be created from a variety of materials.
- Original photographs: Using your digital camera, you can take any scenic background you wish, and adjust the size of the image so that it is in the appropriate scale for the model horse. Print it onto good quality paper, mount it on a cardboard of wooden backdrop, and your background is complete.
- Stock photography: Stock photography refers to images taken by professional or amateur photographers and offered through photography services. Some sites such as Morguefile.com offer the images at no charge, although many photographers ask that you either give them credit or email them to let them know when you've used their pictures. Others such as istockphoto.com charge a small fee, typically $1 to $5 each, to download an image, but offer more sizing and quality options.
- Calendar photographs: Old calendars offer very inexpensive backdrop images. Some collectors haunt after-Christmas sales when stores put calendars on sale at a steep discount. Depending on the size, calendar images work best with small-scale models.
- Posters: Posters depicting beach scenes, forests, fields and other vistas offer larger images that may be closer to Classic or Traditional Breyer horse model scale. Look for discounted posters online, at thrift shops or yard sales.
The Best Model Horse Photos Are in the Proper Scale
It's worth repeating that the very best model horse photos for photo shows use backgrounds and props that are in the proper scale for the model being photographed. How do you know if the background image is in the right scale? Compare your setup to photos of real horses. Note the actual size of objects such as fences in comparison to a full-grown horse. A typical show ring fence stands approximately 3 feet high, which comes up to the horse at chest height or slightly higher. A fence that towers over the horse or barely comes up to his knees is out of proportion and detracts from the overall presentation. If you're not sure, share your photos with fellow collectors on some of the hobby bulletin boards; model horse hobbyists love to critique and share insights and tips.