Organizing Your Reference Photos

Maybe I should have titled this post “Organizing My Reference Photos.” But what really matters for our purposes in the model horse hobby is that we have reference pictures and can find them when we need to use them… in whatever system works best for us. As of today my reference library contains 712 photos. To keep them organized, I use iPhoto, a standard program which came with my Mac computer.

I am one of those people who is neurotically organized, so it’s important to me to have my reference photos carefully catalogued by factors such as color, breed, or position so that I can always find exactly what I’m looking for. And I like to be able to put photos in multiple albums (for example, under palomino, dapples, and trotting), and have albums within albums (for example Appaloosa –> Leopard). I like iPhoto because it allows this level of organization and because since I do not use it to organize my other photos (vacations, my cats, etc.) it can be devoted to reference photos.

At right is a screenshot from iPhoto, showing my folders and albums. Besides the obvious divisions I have the “In Use” folder with albums for each one of the customs I’m currently working on- with all the reference photos that are relevant to that work. That way I’m always organized when switching from horse to horse.

Today I was working on what I call my “Hairy Pony Project,” which is my mission to customize a G3 Standing Pony into a shaggy Shetland. Right now he has much shortened legs, chopped hindquarters, and an elongated belly, all of which leave him looking rather strange. One of the fun parts about this project is that looking for references is what experts call a “Squee Fest” where everything is adorable and must be saved for further viewing. So within my “In Use” folder is my “Hairy Pony Project” album, full of wee shaggy beasts:

Then within the folder I can easily find the picture that works best for my current needs and see it in its full glory:

And it works similarly when I am looking for things such as pangare shading, a horse’s shoulder muscle when rearing, proper breed type, teeth detail, etc. I love how easy this system makes finding and using my many reference pictures. And although I do also use many photos from books, the ease of finding and organizing pictures on the computer is invaluable.

And so my advice for reference pictures is: have many of them, and keep them easily within your grasp. Your plastic ponies will thank you.

3 responses to “Organizing Your Reference Photos

  1. Ooh, nice one! My references are sorted by colour, markings, tack and interesting poses and anatomy closeups for sculpture. I really ought to arrange them all by pattern and whatnot but meeeh…too much work. XD

    Massive lol at frankenpony. XD If you need any more refs, I’ve got some fluffy pony photos!

  2. This was really helpful! I’m totally going to read more of your blog tonight. All my horse refs are all over the place!

    I find it really difficult to find multiple angles of the same horse when searching for ref photos. Any tips, or know of any good sites to check out?

  3. A few sites I know of are and Many of my references come from other hobbyists who post them on message boards and blogs.

    As for multiple angles… you do occasionally find this, but it’s hard because usually only model horse people want that sort of thing! For sculpting, I use different photos of different horses for references for musculature- for example if I want a horse with an outstretched leg, even if the model is not actually trotting, I can search “trotting horse” to get the basics of the muscles in an outstretched foreleg.

    Generally any custom is an amalgamation of multiple photos showing different angles, since I can very, very rarely find images of the same horse. But that can be handy… unlike in the real world, in this hobby you can take the best parts of different horses and meld them into one model.

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