Thompson’s portrait of a horse

Sunsets. Beaches. Cityscapes. These scenes are often subjects for budding photographers, but for Eli Thompson (12), his main subject is horses. 

Thompson initially gained an interest in photography through taking photos on his IPhone, but once his parents gifted him a camera for Christmas, he began to pursue the passion more. 

“I took it with me to the barn one day, and I was taking pictures, and I was like, ‘These are some really good pictures,’” Thompson said. “‘I really just like taking pictures of them [horses].’”

Horse riding is something that Thompson also spends his free time doing, but it was not something he was initially interested in. 

“My little sister wanted to ride horses, and my mom wanted me to do it too, but I was like, ‘I don’t want to do that it’s stupid,’” Thompson said. “And I went to her first lesson, and I was like, “Okay, maybe I want to try this.’”

Since middle school, he has been riding, and as recently as November, Thompson competed in a show where everything from his technique to outfit were evaluated. While fostering his horse riding talents, Thompson also managed to build his photography skill set, through taking photos at local barns and horse shows. But, a push from friends and family motivated him to take the next step of selling his photos. 

“I was doing the horse show pictures a lot and people were telling me, ‘You need to start selling your photos, you need to start selling your photos,’” Thompson said. “And I was like, ‘But, I don’t want to, because I don’t really care about making money.’ And then my mom and a couple friends were the ones that convinced me. … I was like, ‘Okay, … these are really good photos and I’ve seen worse looking photos sell for actual money.’”

Thompson takes both action shots, which he charges around $20 to $25 for, and portraits, which are about $30. He faces unique struggles when getting his shots as photography is more than the click of a button even for the easiest of subjects. 

“Horses move and they don’t know how to stand still for a photo, so they’re moving and they’re jumping and they’re blinking and they’re making an ugly face, and it’s really hard to figure out how to get a horse to do what you want,” Thompson said. “ … And taking jumping pictures, it’s really hard because you got to time the photo just right. Just like with any action shot, you have to time it like to where you get the top of the jump, not the worst landing [where] the ripples of their muscles are everywhere and it looks really weird.”

Thompson shares his photos on his Instagram account, @e.reillyphotography, where he is sometimes contacted for photo shoots or asked to come and take photos of riders at shows. He has even had instances where he has taken photos for other events such as engagements or friends’ parties. 

“I still get people just texting me asking me for photo shoots and stuff and like it’s kind of gotten to the point where I had one of [my]  trainers ask me if I could do a photo shoot for her … wedding anniversary at the barn, and I was like, ‘This is weird. How did I get here?’” Thompson said.

While many of the action shots Thompson takes garner patience to get the right moment in time captured, he enjoys the process of taking and editing the final photos for the portraits of horses more. 

“I feel like I can be more satisfied with them because it’s not like … I’m trying to make myself happy, it’s like, ‘Aw, this person is so happy with their horse,’” Thompson said. “[Portraits] are a lot more tedious to do than just the show jumping ones, which is probably why I like them more because I put a lot more work into them.”

Despite his love for the art, after high school, Thompson wants to pursue a career in journalism and would rather keep photography as a hobby or pick it up later in life. Whatever path Thompson takes, he knows he can always grow to become better at his craft if he desires. 

“I love how rewarding it is,” Thompson said. “I feel like you can constantly get better at photography, like there’s no peak, because it’s art …It’s so versatile that you can do anything with it and you can go as far as you want with it, so I definitely like that I can see myself making progress with it and getting better.”