Behind the Lens: Get to Know Equine Photographer and Amateur Rider Giana Terranova
At only 24 years of age, Giana Terranova has traveled all around the country as a full-time equine photographer. I am sure many of you have seen her amazing photographs or even have had the privilege of being photographed by her. Known for her artistic, black background and beautiful horse and rider portraits, Giana has taken equine photography to a whole new level. But not only does she work full time and is constantly traveling, she still makes the time to ride and compete with her horse Pilot. How does she do it? We were able to chat with Giana and ask her how she balances her career and riding. So, let’s jump right into it.
To begin, can you tell us how you got into riding?
I started riding basically as soon as I could. My amazing grandma actually was the first one to bring me to my first riding lesson and I was basically hooked right away. I started riding when I was eight at a lesson barn in Southern California. I started in Pony Club, doing the local OCHSA circuits. My parents were nice enough to get me my first horse when I was 14, a cute little chestnut OTTB named Cooper and most of my childhood riding career was with him!
You have gained such an amazing following and have inspired so many aspiring equine photographers. When you were starting your business, did you have any idea how big a reaction your photography would get?
I honestly had no idea. The funny thing is I started doing photography basically to fund my horse show career. When I went to college I had to sell my horse, as my parents were kind enough to help me with college but not riding on top of it. I found out pretty quickly that if I wanted to keep riding, leasing and showing I needed some way to pay for it! So for the longest time, I kept thinking that photography was just my “side-job”. It wasn’t until I actually stopped worrying about failing and dedicated myself full-time that it really started to become something. It’s honestly amazing to hear so many people say that they look up to me or consider my influence in their creative lives as well, especially since I was once just a kid with a camera having fun.
What have been some of your favorite moments capturing the incredible bond between horse and rider?
Just this year I began photographing private clients at WEF, and that was a super special sort of experience I haven’t really had before. Being able to follow riders throughout their whole season, through the ups and downs, is such an amazing experience. The riders I photographed for really love their horses and it really shows, and I was honored to be able to be a part of it.
When it comes to photo shoots, it’s amazing being able to meet all these equestrians that truly love their horses. Seeing those connections, even in just the time span of a shoot really makes you feel connected to the industry in an even bigger way than just the small circle of people you might ride with or know. Everyone has their own stories and I love hearing from all of them.
If I had to pick one specific moment that really captured a bond it would be a shoot I did in Arizona. This lady owned this stunning Friesian, and would basically let it run free in the open desert. He’d always stay close by, and she even rode him around with no tack on at all. As someone who photographs a lot of hunter/jumper clients and show horses, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before!
Balancing a career and competition life is something many amateurs struggle with. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced being a competitive equestrian and a full-time equine photographer?
Time. I never have enough time in the day! I’m constantly struggling between managing shoots, editing, and then finding time to ride and compete. I have to very carefully plan out my year and my schedule to make sure I have enough time to do both – and it’s pretty limited. There are some shows where I fly back from a week-long trip just to get off the plane and go straight to the show. I’m lucky to have an amazing team at the barn who can manage my horse while I’m away, and I’ve just had to get used to being away for long periods of time without even sitting on a horse. Such is life when working is the only thing letting me ride in the first place!
Can you tell us a little bit about your adorable horse Pilot?
He’s seriously the best. I might be slightly biased – because he is anything but perfect – but he’s the best thing that has happened to me and my riding career. He’s such a character, always making me laugh and doing the strangest things that there is definitely never a dull day. When I came back from WEF last year to spend my Summer in Southern California, he was the first horse I started riding. Lord knows it was super rough in the beginning. He was super green to jumping, as he has spent his life doing dressage, and I was less than stellar from putting competitive riding on the back burner for the last year or so. It’s honestly crazy to me watching the old videos of us together because we’ve both progressed so much it’s insane. He went from barely jumping to doing 1.15s at WEF – which was a first for me too. We’ve both met so many milestones together and I’m so excited for what the next years hold.
What are some of your future goals for both riding and photography?
Photography wise, I’m super happy with how things are going and just want to continue to grow! I’d love to travel to new states and expand my clientele all over the US. Maybe one day even travel overseas! I also really want to continue growing the private show client aspect of my business too. It’s been a new endeavor that has proven to be a little difficult. Not a lot of horse shows allow private photographers like WEF does, so I’m not sure if it will grow beyond that but I really would love for it too!
For riding, I would love to just keep improving and get to a place where I can get confident in jumping the bigger classes. I think being able to step into the 1.20s eventually would make me ecstatic, but right now I just want to conquer the Adults!
Photo Courtesy of Giana Terranova Photography & Mackenzie Clark