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  • Writer's pictureJessica Atkins

From Dreams to Fairytale Frames:

Shannon Smith's Journey in Equine Photography



Embarking on an ethereal journey through the lens of Shannon Smith, the visionary behind Labellavita Photography.

In this heartfelt interview, Shannon opens up about her beginnings, her profound connection with horses, the challenges she faces, and the joy she finds in capturing their beauty. So, grab a cup of tea and join us as we delve into the enchanting realm of Labellavita.

The Birth of a Passion:

Picture a young Shannon, her walls adorned with equine posters, dreaming of owning a horse stud. Little did she know that her destiny would intertwine with photography. Starting as a self-taught photographer, Shannon's love for horses guided her lens towards these majestical creatures. What began as a focus on capturing babies and families soon evolved into a deep desire to freeze moments shared between horses and their riders.

The Captivating Power of Horses:

For Shannon, horses hold an unrivalled allure. Their elegant movements, commanding presence, and even their distinctive smell inspire her endlessly. Every day spent photographing horses is an adventure filled with awe and wonder.

The Fairytale Approach:

Step into Shannon's enchanting world, where her photography style has been described as fairytale-like and whimsical. As a child, Shannon was captivated not only by horses but also by the world of fairies. Her images reflect a subconscious blend of these two magical elements, transporting viewers into a realm of wonder and imagination.

Memorable Moments:

Shannon shares a tale of a particularly memorable (albeit challenging) experience during a shoot. While experimenting with smoke cartridges, she accidentally set fire to the very paddock they were working in. Quick thinking and the sacrifice of a blanket were necessary to extinguish the unexpected blaze. It's moments like these that make for unforgettable stories, a healthy dose of laughter and some added wisdom for next time.

The Tools of the Trade:

Curious about the gear behind Shannon's breathtaking imagery? She relies on the Canon R5 and Canon R6 cameras, along with her beloved Canon 70-200 f2.8 lens. These tools help her capture the intricate details that bring her equine portraits to life. Yet, Shannon emphasises the importance of relying on her creative eye and capturing the perfect shot in-camera, minimising the need for extensive post-processing.

Inspiring Breeds and Unique Features:

Although Shannon is based in an area with limited exotic breeds, she finds inspiration in horses with extraordinary qualities. Whether it's a Haflinger with a flowing mane, a proud Friesian, a charming Gypsy Cob, or a horse adorned with captivating markings and eyes, these unique features fuel her creativity and spark her imagination.

Crafting the Perfect Image:

When it comes to post-processing and editing, Shannon is committed to preserving the authenticity of her photographs. Striving to achieve the best possible result directly from the camera. Her background in film photography instills in her a desire to get things right in-camera, keeping post-processing to a minimum. This dedication allows her to provide clients with stunning galleries in a timely manner.

Advice for Aspiring Equine Photographers:

To the budding equine photographers out there, Shannon offers heartfelt guidance: Shoot from your heart and embrace your unique vision. Standing out from the crowd requires authenticity and a genuine expression of your creative self. Embrace your individuality, and let it shine through your work.

Influences and Artistic Heroes:

In her early days, Shannon found inspiration in the work of awe-inspiring photographers from around the world. Names like April Visel left an indelible mark on her artistic journey. However, Shannon now consciously limits external influences, allowing her distinctive style to flourish without unintentionally replicating the work of others.

Ethics and Responsibility:

Ethical considerations are paramount when photographing horses. Shannon takes pride in her ethical approach and ensures the safety and well-being of the horses throughout the entire process. Her commitment to their welfare shines through in her work, capturing their beauty with compassion and respect.

Balancing Beauty and Technicality:

The delicate balance between capturing the sheer beauty of horses and mastering the technical aspects of photography is a dance Shannon embraces. She shoots abundantly to allow for variations but always centers her shots around the play of light. For her, light is the true essence that brings a photograph to life.

Building Connections in the Equine Photography Industry:

Navigating the equine photography industry can be a solitary endeavor. Yet, Shannon has been fortunate to find trusted photography friends with whom she can exchange ideas and speak candidly. However, she acknowledges that finding a tribe takes time and perseverance.

Dispelling Misconceptions:

One common misconception Shannon often encounters is the belief that any photographer can fully capture the essence of horses. She has witnessed images taken by photographers lacking equine knowledge, and the difference is stark. The true potential of equine photography can only be unlocked by those who understand and appreciate the intricacies of working with horses.

Impact of Technological Advancements:

Advancements in technology, especially in programs like Photoshop, have revolutionised the industry. While these tools offer new avenues for image manipulation, Shannon remains steadfast in valuing authenticity and the power of capturing a great image in-camera. She reflects on the bittersweet reality that audiences often question the believability of images, from wings to smoke, due to the pervasive nature of digital manipulation.

Drawing Inspiration and Motivation:

To stay inspired and motivated, Shannon keeps her eyes open to the world around her. Whether it's a scene from a movie, a music video, or a simple piece of clothing, inspiration can strike at any moment, sparking a creative vision that unfolds before her very eyes.

The Intrinsic Reward:

For Shannon, the most rewarding aspect of being an equine photographer lies in capturing that elusive shot. When she conquers a challenge that initially felt insurmountable, an indescribable sense of accomplishment washes over her. It's the magic of freezing a moment in time, forever preserving the beauty of horses.

Balancing Personal Vision and Industry Expectations:

Finding equilibrium between personal creative vision and meeting client expectations can be a delicate act. Shannon finds solace in collaborating on personal creative projects that allow her to indulge her own desires, often finding that clients are drawn to similar concepts. It's about showcasing what people want while staying true to her artistic integrity.

Raising the Bar:

To elevate the industry's standards, Shannon proposes that all equine photography businesses should be registered and insured. Establishing a baseline of professionalism and accountability would help maintain the integrity of the craft, especially when working with horses.

Through our conversation with Shannon Smith, we've gained profound insights into the world of equine photography. Her passion, dedication, and unyielding pursuit of capturing the essence of horses have shone through. As we come to the conclusion to this captivating discussion, we're reminded that equine photography is not merely about capturing images—it's about breathing life into dreams, revealing the enchantment that exists between horses and humans.


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