As a Columbus Family Photographer, I am constantly brainstorming new “mini session” ideas that will excite my smallest clients and keep them engaged while we delve into their imagination! About six months ago I had a vision. A vision of a full-sized, white unicorn standing in the middle of a forest. I dreamt about my clients walking through a wooded path and discovering this majestic creature. What is it about unicorns that makes childhood so magical? To adults, this mythical fairy tale creature doesn’t incite the same excitement as it does in the eyes of a child. I turned this vision into a reality in June 2021 when I set up a magical unicorn photoshoot experience! And I am going to share all of the details with you, on how I made it all happen, in the blog post below!
Not just any white horse will do though! This horse has to be gentle, and great with children! I personally feel that a full-size horse is so much more magical and majestic. But, many photographers choose to work with a miniature horse for unicorn photos. This is, of course, totally fine too! But I wanted to provide my clients and their children with something special, that would make more of an impact on their photos and memories. If you are thinking about creating a real-life unicorn photoshoot experience, Google is your friend in finding the right size horse! Once you find the perfect horse, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and meet your horse and handler ahead of time. If the horse is skittish and uncomfortable around small children, your photos will be anything but magical so it’s up to you to find the right fit for the best experience.
You can’t just take a horse anywhere, now can you? And, believe it or not, most farms are not wooded. So keeping the horse on the owner’s property was not an option when organizing this shoot. Initially, I planned to host the sessions at a local metro park that has a horseback riding trail. Perfect, right? Horses are already regular visitors to this area so there was ample trailer parking and lots of space for photos. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that hosting my sessions there would require a permit and the park still could not guarantee they would allow it. Purely for liability reasons. So, I was back to square one with scouting a location. After a few stressful days of scrambling to find an alternate location, a family friend offered me their property – for FREE! How gracious and thoughtful is that?! I was very lucky in this aspect, and there it was my perfect location!
I tend to be a plain jane when it comes to, well, pretty much everything in life. I knew I wanted a traditional white horn with white flowers around the base. Quick tip! The flowers help camouflage the base of the horn and the clip that attaches it to the horse! This was ideal for my older children who were very suspicious about the unicorn being real. I ended up purchasing the horn from “Baby Birdie Boutique” in St. Petersburg, Florida. Katy Bjork is the owner and primarily sells through her Etsy shop “babybirdieboutique“. She was wonderful to work with and created the horn exactly the way that I envisioned it! She also offers shop credits if you allow her to use your professional photos for marketing her products. The horn I purchased from her clips onto the horse’s forelock, the hair that hangs down the horse’s forehead, and it was an amazing fit!
I opted to purchase a white halter and lead rope in order to eliminate the absolute necessity of editing the tack out. The white set is aesthetically pleasing and does not take away from the magic of the photo. I purchased both items from “Two Horse Tack” online, and the material was beta biothane. I chose this material because it was cost-effective and wipes clean very easily. Again, less editing because now there was no need to edit out any dirt. I also ended up purchasing a “browband” in the same material. This made clipping the horn onto the band much sturdier than clipping it onto the horse’s forelocks.
Instead of just having the children stand next to the unicorn, I brought a white-painted wood step stool that they could sit or stand on. This worked out so well! Wait until you see the unicorn bending down in front of one of the children! I also brought a white fluffy blanket so that the kids could sit on the ground for photos, it added a beautiful touch of texture and magic to their photos!
It is always a great idea to go into a session with a handful of poses planned out. This helps get those big beaming smile shots that mom always wants. But ultimately, most of the photos you’ll see in the blog below were taken without prompting. I find that once kids are comfortable with the unicorn, they naturally “pose” through their expressions and the excitement that they exhibit. And what is more picture-perfect than that?! During a session, I tend to snap constantly and this helps me catch all of those beautiful candid, in-between moments!
When dealing with horses and children, safety could not be more important!!! I had two handlers with the horse at all times. Additionally, a rule that we put in place was that no one was allowed to sit on the horse’s back. I know how adorable the images would have been if I allowed bareback poses, but it just was not worth the risk of a child falling off and getting hurt. Especially because I hired a full-sized horse and not a miniature pony.
There is so much more to being a Columbus Family Photographer than just shooting and editing. Because of that, I always have my assistant with me during my mini-sessions! I typically book these sessions back to back, and being organized is key in executing them. There is no way I could remain efficient if I was constantly walking back and forth to meet the next client and then walking with them to the spot I chose for their photos. I always print out my schedule of clients and place it on a clipboard, which includes their session time, contact info, and any important details they may have shared ahead of time. This allows my assistant to be in full control of client management and eliminates time spent scrolling through my phone if I need to contact a late client, for example. My assistant also numbers the clients as they come, because at times I had to flip-flop time slots because one client was early and the other was running late. When you do 13-15 sessions in a 5-hour period, the culling process can be very challenging if you can’t put a face to the correct client name. As long as I have my paper list with the sessions numbered, I can easily match it up to my images once I upload them into lightroom and separate them into collections by last name. Can you imagine how heartbreaking it would be if a client received the wrong images?