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The Bigger Picture: photographing your sale horse

Sami McGuire took her turn on the other side of the camera. Photo courtesy of Ryan Noble

Before a horse steps into the ring, sale images set the standard by showcasing their value. Numerous causes contribute to the changes within the horse market, but one that cannot be avoided is the revolutionary photography and videography that has been introduced to the horse sale industry. Sale photos, without a doubt, have been influential in the evolution of horse sales.

Vaughn Warken’s Rancho Rio 2023 horse, JT Risin Sensation
Photo courtesy of Sami McGuire of High Call Media

The images set the standards, becoming a deciding factor when the horse arrives in the ring. Equine marketing specialists and their skills have become highly valued. A number of businesses have emerged, embracing the demand for novel marketing strategies. Their role in advertising is crucial, along with their understanding of horses and ability to capture details that even the greatest iPhone cameras miss.

Sami McGuire, owner of High Call Media, is familiar with the ins and outs of the process prior to the sale. Her background equipped her with an eye to picture sale horses. Since beginning her career in media, doors have been opened for McGuire to capture sharp equine athletes owned by Wilson Cattle Company and horses sliding through the ring at the Rancho Rio Sale. One of her favorites has been shooting at The Palomino and Rancho Bar 7 in Wickenburg, Arizona. Sale photos exhibit value, according to McGuire.

“It shows that the owner believes the horse is worth enough to take sale photos. It isn’t necessarily the cheapest route, but they can showcase how much they value the horse,” McGuire said.

Immense dedication goes into preparing horses for a sale, whether that be a performance horse, ranch horse or hobby horse. The caliber of horse is determined at home but exemplified through the manner it is advertised to the public. When neither party, the seller nor the photographer, compromises on quality, the return investment can be great.

Bee Silva’s mixture of photography expertise and involvement in the horse market shapes his perspective on promoting horses through photos.

“Nowadays everybody is stepping up their game. There are so many horses, there’s so many sales, there are so many ways to sell a horse—both on the internet and in actual sales,” Silva said. “If a horse has a good picture anywhere, in the catalog, on the internet, Facebook, people are going to look at that horse. They’re going to make their decision…people sometimes decide if they’re going to mess with that horse, right there.”

A sale photo is frequently the first stage in the decision-making process to purchase a horse. Just as marketing campaigns are designed to draw attention, professional photos promoting a horse for sale have a comparable affect. The presentation catches the eye of viewers, making it critical that all aspects are set in place when Silva says the person in front of the horse is almost more important than the photographer. Standing the horse with its ears forward, legs in place, and head in proper position so that it looks appealing falls on the shoulders of both the photographers and the one with the lead. Lacking a “correct” image may result in diminishing respect across the board.

Once the perfect photo is taken, posting it on social media greatly expands the audience. The impact of social media has fundamentally altered the reach of advertisements. Consider the impression sale ads made several years ago compared to now. With platforms like Facebook, Tik Tok and Instagram, horses are brought into the lens of the vast majority.

“It really puts horses into some people’s view that we wouldn’t ever even think of. Apps and social media have really showcased how cool these events and horses are,” McGuire said.

Importantly, the great web puts horses for sale on more people’s radar. One detail to note is that the amount invested into marketing horses is the benefit received after the sale has been made. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Representing high caliber horses professionally through photography and videography is instrumental in determining their value.

Silva took responsibility, saying “I know that horses are worth a lot of money and people put a lot of expectations on their horses. So making them look professional is my job.”

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