The Business of Capturing Memories: Melanie Shinault, Owner of Kindred Spirit Photography


For lifelong rider Melanie Sutton Shinault, equestrian photography was a natural career path in combining love of horses and appreciation for nature and art. As Owner and Head Photographer of Kindred Spirit Photography, Melanie captures horses and their owners in both the English and Western arenas.

Melanie, born a northerner, started riding horses at six years old, but quit soon after due to extremely cold weather in her hometown. Then, her family moved to France, where she found a newfound love for horses and got deeply engrained in the equestrian sport. She began riding Shetland ponies and then small horses, and she truly felt in her element despite the language barrier she experienced while in France. After living overseas for five years, Melanie’s family moved back to the U.S., and she got plugged into a barn locally where she started riding and competing in shows as an English Hunter/ Jumper rider with her Off the Track Thoroughbred her parents bought her while she was in high school.

About four years ago, Melanie switched over to Ranch horses and Western riding. She purchased her mare as a four-year-old and through that partnership it engulfed her into working with cows and ranch life. “She’s amazing. It’s so much fun,” Melanie shares about her mare. Melanie is recently married to her rodeo-rider husband Avery, whom she met from mutual friends associated with her barn. Avery runs cattle as his daily job and has been able to teach Melanie all about the cattle world and how to work the horses together. They’ve enjoyed spending that time together while working. “It’s a different lifestyle. Even from the English background that I grew up with,” Melanie shares with the added note that busting ice is her least favorite thing to do!

Melanie now runs her photography business with two main service lines including horse show photography and equine lifestyle photography. She also offers videography services as a support function to her clients, allowing them to keep high-motion memories in an in-action format, which they love. Melanie started off photographing small weddings, families, newborns, engaged couples, and then decided to get more focused and narrow down her business to one niche. “Horses are always something I’ve gravitated to. I’ve been taking pictures of horses since I started with a camera,” Melanie recalls. She got connected with the West Tennessee Hunter Jumper Association (WTHJA) and started taking photos unofficially before gaining a position as the official show photographer. She likes that they’re local to her Greater-Memphis area, and that she showed at WTHJA shows when she was a young rider, which is very special to her. The shows keep her busy when they pick up in the spring with four to five shows taking place starting at the end of March and running through May.

Melanie’s second major service offering is Equine Lifestyle Sessions, which can range from 30 minutes to two hours, which also can include video. After clients book their sessions, she has a preliminary conversation about their aspirations for the shoot and how many horses they would like to include. Then she arrives a few minutes early to scout out the barn and surrounding area and meet the horse and owner.  Clients often bring a friend or family member to help out with the sessions. Melanie jokes, “Horses are like 1,000 pound toddlers so you don’t know exactly what will happen during the shoot.” By capturing the relationship between her clients and their horses, Melanie values how special those bonds can be and appreciates the opportunity to preserve that memory for her clients.

Additionally, Kindred Spirit Photography now includes videography at horse shows and as part of equine portraits. Videography, especially with vast expansion of social media use, has become increasingly popular. People tend to gravitate towards reels because they capture attention and catch your eye. With her video shoots, Melanie captures the behind-the-scenes moments between horse and rider at shows. The videos often include warm-up, behind the scenes, exiting the ring, jumping, and other special moments revealing an inside look at the partnership between horse and  human. “Clients have really enjoyed having this option. It’s like adding motion to your memories.” Inspired by watching the many hours of home videos from her own childhood, Melanie wanted to do the same thing for people during photo sessions stating, “All that motion… you can remember with your horse, maybe when they’re not here one day.”

In addition to supporting Melanie’s photography business with horse show images or a special lifestyle session with your horse, you can purchase her incredible landscape photography from a recent trip to Montana a few summers ago. She offers prints in her online store showcasing life out west-many include horses. After her mother hung some of her Montana landscapes in her own home, Melanie realized that others may enjoy the natural scenery of the mountains as well.  She looks forward to continuing to add on to her landscape photography over time, always with an eye towards nature and the equestrian world.

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