Hannah Freeland – Photographer
Hannah Freeland is one of the UK’s best known equestrian photographers, and has been responsible for the last four years photoshoots with Cordings. We caught up with her to find out what inspires her, how she started in the industry and why she keeps coming back to do the Cordings photoshoots.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED ON YOUR CAREER
After starting and owning a website and graphic design business I quickly noticed that I kept offering free photo shoots to my clients for their new branding or website as that’s what I truly wanted to do, I had no idea you could be paid for something you loved so much. Not until a great (and truly special) friend of mine told me I could start my own photography business and make money from it!
She gifted me a year’s worth of mentorship with Emily Hancock FBIPP another equine photographer to straighten me out and get me on the right path. The rest as they say is history!
YOU SPECIALISE IN EQUESTRIAN PORTRAITS – HOW EASY ARE HORSES TO WORK WITH? WHAT TECHNIQUES HAVE YOU LEARNT TO KEEP THEM FOCUSED?
To me, easy! I have loved and owned horses my entire life. I can understand them and can read their limits pretty quickly. Its lovely to be able to capture the best of people and their beloved horses because I’m just asking them to be together. I’m a natural, lifestyle photographer and although each portrait is curated and thought through, the relationship between horse and human is just happening in front of me. Of course, there are horses that are flighty or cannot go out to the big open fields and so we compromise, and we think sideways, but I haven’t come across a horse (yet) that cannot be photographed with their owner. The key is to work quickly and to keep changing poses and locations. Horses get bored super easily, they have no idea why we’re asking them to take a few steps to the right, ears forward, head up and stand still – this is not their normal routine. This comes as a positive and negative. Positive because they are interested in what is happening, so we get inquisitive looks and lots of pricked ears and negative because they get fidgety and bored very quickly.
One great thing with most horses is that they adore attention, and on a shoot day – it’s all theirs. From mine, my assistant and of course their owner. Constantly telling them ‘good boy’ makes them puff with pride.
WHAT WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE LOCATION YOU HAVE SHOT IN?
It has to either be the cliffs of Jersey or the fall colours in Boston. Every location brings something new but the colours in Boston in fall are quite unbelievable.
WHAT IS THE MOST UNUSUAL REQUEST YOU HAVE HAD?
I don’t get many unusual requests, sometimes there’s a prom dress while riding bareback or tacking the horses up to their carriage. Another request which I love is pulling together the whole family. One memorable one (and one of my favourites) was the horses, owners, their 2 sisters, mother, 2 dogs and the family’s favourite chicken!
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH CORDINGS?
I had previously worked with Pol Roger on a creative commission for a campaign they were launching with Harry Meade and Laura Collett. Cordings also dressed Harry Meade for his Badminton run in 2014 and at the time I was capturing Harry’s story from behind the scenes. We initially met as I photographed Harry in his splendid suit and then Pol Roger suggested we all have lunch together as they thought we would work well together. We then did our first ‘test’ shoot together in Piccadilly and that was 4 years ago!
HOW EASY ARE POLLY AND CHARLIE TO WORK WITH? WHAT TECHNIQUES HAVE YOU LEARNT TO KEEP THEM FOCUSED?
Just the best! Both of the models are so charming, natural and always go the extra mile to get the shot. We are all now great friends and shoot days feel like a creative collaboration for fun. Of course it’s hard work and everyone knuckles down, but we make time for laughter and impressions from Charlie.
I know that feedback to models is essential, from being a portrait photographer so I use my voice a lot. They need to know when I’ve got the shot, when to move to a different pose and to hear my feedback constantly. We all have such an important role to play on each commercial shoot, but no one feels like they are at the top or bottom of that list. It’s the A-Team and everyone does their job effortlessly.
HOW DOES SHOOTING A FASHION SHOOT DIFFER FROM PORTRAITURE?
It’s about the clothes! After my first shoot with Cordings I was astonished which images were rejected, from my portrait eye the model looked great, the shot was well composed, lighting spot on and the background wasn’t distracting – but the clothes weren’t quite right. A blink of the eye can be easily photo-shopped, but a jacket not sitting correctly or a tucked in collar are the stylist’s nightmare! If these aren’t spotted you could end up with a whole series of images that can’t be used. There is a constant dialogue between the models, the Cordings team and myself to make sure every element is working.
In portrait and fashion photography the posing and lighting rules are also slightly different. You can be much more creative with your lighting on a fashion commercial shoot. We don’t necessarily need flat light on the models face, but it still needs to be purposeful and with intention. We all know what bad light looks like!
Knowing your kit is essential, it’s not just one person who’s waiting on you, it’s a whole team and it’s their entire season shoot that rests on those images staying put on the cards and each shot being pin sharp. Confidence is a must for any photographer who takes on these commissions! If you don’t feel you have got the shot, you need to be able to think on your feet to work out what needs changing.
We split our shoots between studios and location. It’s taken a while to get used to studio lighting but I have fallen in love with the results just as much as natural lifestyle shots.
WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO SHOOT?
It goes without saying that Eric Clapton has to be on my list. A really cool shoot where I get to see into his life a little and capture what’s going on.
I would also love to photograph Jennifer Lawrence, I think she’s an incredible actress and I know she loves horses. I would love to capture the other side of her, the non-celeb horsey girl.
Plus Princess Haya, I believe she has an astonishing story behind her but I would love to (again) capture the girl and her horses.
To see more of Hannah’s work and to discuss a commission click here