Show Photography

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    Boss Mare

    Please use this area for discussing how to handle photographing shows and events. Make sure you are specific with your questions. The first page of comments are copied over from the old forum and may seem a little disjointed but does contain a lot of good info.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by Boss Mare.
    • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Boss Mare.
    Boss Mare

    1. early bird specials ( discounts for ordering within the first 3 days of the images going on line – this is automated )
    2. digital downloads I sell them for $50 each or 20 for $500 I know you guys don’t like selling digital images – but they are just show photos and throughout the season I generate thousands
    3. mini shoots at the show – for family portraits with the horse
    4. Loo Ad’s – I know this sounds tacky but I create an 8×10 flyer advertising barn shoots on card stock – laminate them and tape them in all the porta potties
    5. I carry a little bag of biz cards and hand them to the parents around the arena “trying ” to get the action shots – odds are they didn’t get it, I am very friendly and even offer tips and advice to them on how to maybe “get the shot” this might sound like I am shooting myself in the foot – but I want them to see me as the expert plus I offer Equine Photography courses – so one way or another I want to turn them into a client.
    6. I post montages from each show on facebook and explain how they can legally share their show pictures on face book – I use photostockplus for my web provider and they have a very nifty little feature – that places a visual link on their facebook page – but when you click on the picture it takes you back to my web site

    Boss Mare

    Full time horse show photographer here. Like others I have seen a big change in sales over the last 10 years but I think you still can make a living selling horse show photos – you just need to find a system that works for you and your clients.

    So many people talk about the decline of the horse show photographers sales due to stolen photos but I dont think that is the case. I agree stolen photos dont help the issue nor does everyone having a decent camera in their phone. I think todays generation likes to “look” at their show images but not necessarily buy anything. They are used to being bombarded w images all day long – on facebook etc – but no one really takes the time to notice the difference between a snapshot and a quality image.

    Last year I changed to a “pay per upload system”. I’ve shot one sport (eventing) – and many of the same riders – for the last 10 years. They know my work and most appreciate it. I felt there was value in my horse show proofs – something worth paying to see. I came up w a system where they either paid a per show fee or a season pass for me to upload their proofs. In return for their payment, once proofs were uploaded, they could pick a “complimentary personal use digital image” which would be emailed to them. It was a huge success. My gross income for the year was up 30%. Now there were some people who complained loudly – but none of them were people who ever bought a photo from me. I did grandfather in a group of about 20 people who had been long standing good clients. I continued to post their proofs no charge – tho most of those decided to purchase the season pass so they could get their free photo from each show.

    Now I would say the majority of the people never ordered their free digital image – but I did have to process a ton of them. Each free photo had my logo so when posted on FB, so was a form of advertising as well. I was concerned that if everyone was getting photos for free, Id sell less prints – which is actually what happened. The good news is I made so much more money selling the uploads that didnt matter. An free digital images – even fully processed in photoshop – take less time than printed images as you dont have to print receipts, write out labels, cut photo paper, print the image, write out the photo label, package the order and run to the post office. Let me tell you – I now LOVE those digital images!!

    Boss Mare

    Show photography is a ton of work for sure, BUT that is also where I have gotten most of my referrals for private sessions! So I keep at it in spite of the hours, weather, competition from parents/husbands/friends with cameras.

    *I shoot mostly dressage shows and work from a ‘sign-up in advance basis’ and charge a photography show fee. This usually is $35 per horse/rider team for both days (if a two day show) or $20 per horse/rider for a one day show. Yes, some complain about this, but I explain that this insures them that I will be ringside when it is their time to show and not off photographing some other rider that may or may not even be interested in pictures…. If I can get them to stand still long enough to really “hear” my explanation, they usually see my point and are happy to pay the fee up front.

    *Competitors that I have photographed at prior shows, know the routine. However, I try to get show management to post a little blurb, when advertising the show, encouraging competitors to contact me in advance to sign-up for photos. I also usually provide flyers for their show packets and walk the stabling area the day before the show introducing myself and providing sign-up sheets.

    *I bring a table to all shows, with my portfolio, and a display wall with some of my best work, and a few pieces of framed art as examples.

    *I offer some quantity discount pricing, especially for FB images

    If I factor in my time plus time spent editing/culling photographs at home… no I probably do not break even; but, I get a good bit of private session referrals and those can bring in some money.

    Boss Mare

    Digital file sales have been becoming more and more requested. It is nice to skip the cost of prints, mailers, and postage!
    It is hard to work a show and see everybody and their brother with a DSLR. My husband reported having to ask people not to take pictures of their pictures on the monitors.
    With the help of family, I set up a sales booth for viewing and ordering. It is always slow the first day and a bit crazy the end of the last day of a show. The last show I did, I required a $10 deposit per person to post the photos online. A lot of people didn’t understand there was a deposit. I took photos of everyone and had them sorted by horse number. I uploaded the requested ones with a polite “please order at least one print or digital file” request, and I think all complied.
    I lost two of my biggest shows after taking two years off (I had done them for over a decade). (More info in my introduction.) I would like to find more shows where people appreciate the OP. I have a FANTASTIC miniature horse group I do a show for every year, but my forte is hunter-jumpers, and they don’t seem to be profitable. I get great feedback, just not enough sales. Also, those shows are typically outdoors, so if it rains part of the day, my sales are severely cut.

    Boss Mare

    This is how I work my remaining shows and yes I am still coming out ahead (or I wouldn’t bother to go).
    I shoot everyone however I only post their rider gallery by request. There are request forms at the show, I send emails before and after the show with an easy paypal sign up link. I charge a $15 per horse fee for them to get their gallery activated, and this entitles them to a free web use digital file or 4×6. Like Joan I get many people paying the deposit but then not getting their file. I don’t chase anyone for this, its up to them to figure it out. Even if only 10 or 20 people pay the $15 fee I feel I have covered my gas and meals for the show. I only do shows where management will cover my room, and most will pick up at least my lunch. It’s ridiculous to work for free and anyone that expects you to do so you don’t want as a client.

    when I get home from a show and create my galleries I put everyone’s name that I shot on the list on the site that people can see, but only people who paid their deposit have an active link. I include something like: “See your name? To activate your gallery send a $15 deposit by going here (paypal link)). Your $15 deposit entitles you to a web usage digital file etc”

    If they don’t like it they don’t have to pay but I have not had any issues with people bitching about this method and many have told me they understand I need to make money. There will always be a % of exhibitors that wont pay (and will steal from your site) so they don’t get to see their pix, and if you are posting photos of people who consistently steal then shame on you! You need to concentrate on your paying clients.

    Digital files: I sell a ton of them, and I am happy to do it. I have several options: facebook only, personal web usage, and web and print ad usage. I give a significant discount for a CD of ten or more images.

    My galleries are up for a limited amount of time. I will do a final push around the holidays for year end orders but then I make it clear that the galleries will be closing. I think leaving galleries up forever is bad business and gives people no incentive to buy. But I’m not stupid, if someone wants to see a gallery a year or five later by all means I will give them access. I do a lot of email pushes like ” go here to see images from xx show, you can still order your gallery, galleries will be open for another two weeks” etc etc. Make sure you get email contacts from management, very important!!

    I don’t do this myself but a nice discount to get people to order within a week or two of the event is a great thing to offer and will drive sales. I also think a coupon with xx% off a future order for people who place an order of say over $100 would be a good idea. “Calls to Action” are critical.

    I look at shows this way. while once in a while you may be able to capture a cover/stock worthy photo for the most part these images have little value to anyone but the horse owner. You need to make your images work for you and you have a limited amount of time to do it. people do value good images and most are willing to pay for it, however you need to train your market and then deliver a consistent product and good customer service. My riders are fairly sophisticated, higher end income. I see big lenses around the ring all the time, and I see the photos on facebook popping up before I even get home, but I still make sales from the same people who had photos of their horses taken by other people. Don’t be afraid to charge. You will not break even on expenses with $5 4×6’s and $10 5×7’s.

    I do think event photography is changing, personally I am waiting for the day when I can be a personal horse show paparazzi and follow a few prepaid clients for the day to deliver some really fun and unique images, maybe in book form, it would sure beat standing in a hot ring all day shooting the same rail shots over and over that you hope someone will buy. The old horse show days are about gone and they aren’t coming back, but I think there will always be a need for quality show images, I think they will just be created and delivered differently, and in the end it may be a good thing.

    Boss Mare

    I only post online galleries for shows, I work alone. Most of my show friends tell me they prefer to review their images at home that at the show. I don’t think on site has the appeal it did when it first came out.

    However I do a number of pleasure rides and here is a good way to do those that will bring you a good amount of cash. For a multi day ride I go the first day and get shots on the trail and also back at ride camp for portraits, candids, headshots, etc. I go home and pick out the best one or two of each horse and rider and print them to 4×6. I have a Snap Lab that is great for this but local kiosks will do the same thing. I label and sign each photo and put each horse and rider group of photo into a Clear Bag. On the clear bag goes a label that says “Go to this link and see the rest of the photos from this ride and place future orders”

    Then I go back to the ride grounds for dinner with the group, which has been advertised “your photos may be seen at xx time” I lay the packets out on the table and people go nuts. The 4×6’s are available at a highly reduced rate of $5 each (normally $12 and I tell them this) and by the end of the evening most of the photos have been sold. I also bring my price sheet and give people a discount on print orders placed that night. People love getting deals.

    Anyone who likes to hang out in the woods, scout for pretty locations and spend a relatively stress free day shooting I highly recommend you shoot a pleasure ride. You can also do this with endurance and competitive trail rides but many of these have OP’s already and they are run in such a way you may not have a day to prep the prints. The pleasure rides usually run anywhere from 3-10 days and usually get a huge turn out. People love their horses, rarely get good images and are highly appreciative of good photos. Try a google search for a pleasure rides and trail riding groups in your region and I am sure you will find something, they are not usually highly publicized but if you make contact and they don’t already have a photographer I am sure you will be welcomed. the in person sales work great, you will make new contacts and get some great trail shots as well.

    Boss Mare

    I dont require a deposit but I charge a fee. last year it was $15 per show or $40 for an entire season. Once proofs are posted, the rider may order a complimentary personal use digital image which will be emailed to them. its a subtle difference from a deposit. I dont owe them anything $$ wise – and they dont have to make a purchase to get their $$ back. In fact – they dont have to order anything and they get their free photo. I was a little concerned beginning of the season as I was giving away so many free photos and had so few print order but my income increased significantly so ill take it! I did get a ton of print orders at Christmas which I normally dont. I leave the proofs up for about 2 years. The 2013 proofs will come down the begining of the 2015 season. The 2012 proofs just came down. I realize I lose sales by leaving them up but these photos are my only income source. If they are not online, I have no way to make $$. With this system, I do sell photos year round while only shooting about 6 months of the year.

    This year I am charging $20 per show – $40 for the season pass before June 1 and $50 for the season pass after June 1st and now offering a Trainers Season Pass for $100. The trainer would get 1 LR digital image from each show that they can use to promote themselves online. I received season pass orders up til the end of December and sold just over 300 for the season.

    Below is a link to my website. You can see who bought the uploads by the photos available for viewing. The broken links are the ones that werent purchased. On my end, all I have to do is upload those jpg files when someone orders an upload. It is some xtra work but I dont have to re-write the whole web page. On average, 40% of the riders purchased the uploads – way more than I ever sold prints or digital images too!

    Boss Mare

    I worked with Terri Cage at a show in OR and learned so many tips on how to do on-site sales. I started doing those and the results were business changing. They are not nearly as difficult/scary as you might think. If you are struggling for sales from events, this is a deal changer. I think it actually helps increase the online sales later as more people are familiar with you having seen proofs on-site, or additional orders.

    The way to set it up is going to differ for everyone based on your event type, and I think more importantly your assistant. The assistant has to be familiar with your business so they can answer questions and make some “executive decisions” as I like to call them right on the spot. Simultaneously they have to be able to sort and post photos on a computer having several viewing screens (I use a network), process payments and of course be a salesman (the up-sells are essential). I know I just made that sound difficult, but it really isn’t as bad as you think.

    Boss Mare

    I think a lot of photographers are going about show photography in the wrong way. They are doing it all on spec and shooting everyone and leaving galleries up forever. Of course no one is going to buy, there is no urgency or need to when all the images are there for free looks forever. By charging a gallery deposit or fee and offering a time sensitive discount and a deadline for orders for when galleries will come down people will have to buy, and they do. They also don’t mind paying a gallery fee and that puts money in the photographers pocket up front. People actually understand when I tell them I need to make money to stay in business 😉 I think one of our downfalls is guilt in asking people to pay for our work since we love to do it so much, we need to change that thinking.

    There are many shows now that don’t have a photographer anymore, or don’t have a qualified photographer covering the show because of the reasons we have stated here and in other places. But I think there is money to be made if we go about it in the right way and also if we work with management that is willing to back us up. In a way I think what is happening now is a good shake up. The shows that can’t get good coverage where managers with attitudes that allowed all cameras in and had no loyalty for the photographer and even if there was some kind of contract in place they weren’t willing to back it up when the time came to enforce it. So the good photographers walked away and now there is another type of photographer taking over, those with little or no experience shooting horses or events, not providing the quality of images that anyone wants to buy, not being professional from not staying for the whole event to getting in the way, to sub par images, and exhibitors aren’t happy. I always tell exhibitors that if they aren’t happy they need to let management know, and hopefully they do. To get the good photographers to come back the money is going to have to come from somewhere to pay them.

    I am going to share a story to illustrate my point of people still wanting good quality images. At the NEDA Fall Festival which I have been shooting for many years now I shot a ladies ride. She had a brilliant grey horse and turned in a great ride. While I was shooting I noticed someone with a long lens also shooting the ride. I think it was someone from her barn. Within a few days images from that test were up on the ladies facebook page and I told myself “there goes that sale” The images were definitely “good enough” however the lady had also requested gallery so of course I posted it. Within a few weeks I got an order for over $1000 and a note that said the following (Yes, I saved it) : >>I just placed my order (delayed because I get a little busy) but wanted to say thank you! You take beautiful pictures. Most importantly, thank you for the picture of me on Royal Christmas after the PSG champ test you posted on facebook. I could not remember that moment of relief and happiness right at the end of a test I was proud he did. Pictures are moments captured that we can easily forget in seconds! I have it forever now. I look forward to seeing your photos in the future << I have attached the photo below she mentioned below. Obviously her barn photographer didn't get that shot, among others. This is why I still do shows. and the order was definitely a bonus. Also, some additional thoughts. after a show I make sure I post an album of favorite shots on facebook, fun candids, bloopers, behind the scenes, people and dogs etc and tag the hell out of it. This creates huge buzz, everyone gets talking, everyone wants to see their images. I am very careful what exactly goes into this album so that people still have to buy, so I usually select more human interest, fun type shots, however as people start ordering I will also throw the purchased photos into the album and tag them again, this drives people back to the album and makes them say to themselves that they need to order. Why people post huge galleries of all the images on facebook is beyond me. OF COURSE they aren't going to buy if you post them all on fb for free for crying out loud. ALSO (lol, sorry for the ramble) when you have been at this long enough people and horses die, horses get sold and we usually have no idea how important or loved this horse or person was until this happens and we may have the only great images. It is not that unusual for me to get substantial orders years later. And this is also why I shoot everyone, not just sign ups. I only post sign up galleries but you never know when you may have an image that may be highly valued.

    Boss Mare

    Full time horse show photographer checking in. I changed my business model a few years ago to a pay for proof uploads. Two options – $20 per show or $50 for a season. Upload purchase lets you order a complimentary personal use digital image (per show for the season pass). I also added a Trainers Pass for $100. Allows trainers 1 low ish resolution file per show they compete in to use to promote themselves and their equine business.

    Income this year was an all time high – even not shooting one of my biggest recognized events due to a schedule conflict, not shooting my best schooling event ($2k day previous year) and my big dressage show totally sucking for sales. I have 247 saved files in my “December 2015” folder – some various stages of saves on a single image but still huge numbers. And I am selling more print than ever before. Go figure!

    Im also offering what I call Artistic Vision Images – an artistic version of their horse show image – printed either on luster paper, metal print or gallery wrap canvases. I am starting to get more orders for these as well.

    Here it is January – 4 months since my last show of the season – and I have 30 images to be processed on my order grid plus several inquires for AV images and 2 book orders.

    While its not easy – and Im probably making pennies an hour – I think you can still generate a living wage as a horse show photographer.

    Boss Mare

    I frequently have to cover multiple dressage rings — and to keep my bills paid I need to do it well. What I have found is that there are certain moments in every test that are pleasing to the eye for shots. In most cases, you will see the same test in each ring for a period of time. I know that in Ring A I will shoot the center line and the 20 meter trot circle left plus a head shot before moving to Ring B where I can catch the diagnol, head shot and the canter circle right etc. Maybe because I competed for so many years, its easy for me to learn the patterns. Knowing the patterns, I know that I need to be back at a certain ring prior to a certain movement to get that shot. Now some tests run fast — others run slow — it isnt a perfect science for sure but it helps you get at least a few good shots of each test in each ring but you do need to stay on your toes.

    My biggest advice is only post the best of the best. People will always say they want to see more shots. This is true but does not lead them to purchase more shots! People think I am a much better photographer than I am because I delete the crap I dont want them to see. Posting too many shots — even amazing ones — can cause confusion and lead to no sales. There are so many good ones they cant decide which to buy. True story — my vets wife is an FEI competitor. I trade her free photos for credit on my vet bill. She can have all she wants for free. After one show I didnt get an order from her and I thought all my photos sucked. She told me the opposite. She said they were so good she couldnt decide which to buy. Someone had warned me about that years before and I hadnt understood!

    Boss Mare

    Ive done year end and life books for riders. Never a book for a barn but thats a great idea. I have mine printed either at WHCC (press printed and mini accordian) or Zno (black book) depending on the price point. Problem for me is they are so time intensive to do well and at the end of the day I have to make enough $$ on them to at least partly pay for the editing time.

    Sample book I did for a client last year

    I also do 4 and 6 image photo montages. Much less editing so likely I make more on these than the books tho the books are fun!

    Sample montages –

    Boss Mare

    I have different website software now so slightly different format. I post all proofs online but lock galleries that have not paid an “unlock” fee. A rider can see if they have a gallery and how many images it contains before purchasing an unlock. I am also happy to tell them specifically how many photos are dressage / XC / SJ etc before they purchase. They can see one preview photo as well. Preview is just 1st image in the gallery. To time intensive (for me) to pick the best of each rider. Once they pay the unlock fee, gallery is unlocked for all to see. Rider who hasnt purchased an unlock can get an idea of what their images will look like by looking at other galleries.

    If I dont have great images of a rider, or a small selection (3 or 4), I will post those no charge. However, if they dont pay a fee, they dont get one for free. If they want a “complimentary” image from a gallery I posted for free, they can just pay the unlock fee and I will allow them to order one.

    When I first transitioned to pay for unlocks, I contacted a group of 20ish supportive clients who have purchased in the past. I told them I was charging for unlocks now but would post their images for free as I appreciated their past financial support. Same deal tho – if they didnt pay they dont get one for free. Many of the riders I posted for free, paid the fee as they loved their “free” photos. By doing this (and I asked them not to share I was doing free unlocks for them), when other clients went to the galleries, they could see other riders galleries and it looked like people were purchasing unlocks.

    After purchasing an unlock, if a customer complains that I didnt post enough images or the images are crap, the first thing I do is re-lock the gallery followed by sending them a refund of their $20. I apologize that I wasnt able to take photos that they liked and happy to send them a refund. I shoot a TON of images at an event but only post the best of the best (HA! See page 1 of this thread). I run into this once or twice a season. Ive found a refund is the easiest route. I cull ruthlessly and only post the best of the best so rarely does someone have more than 10 images in their gallery.

    Sharon Packer

    Good morning. I’ve been contracted to work with different show managements since 2008 and will be happy to answer questions about work flow and the essential business practices of show photography. In order to provide services currently, my business is Horse Sports Photo, LLC. I have to carry 2/4 mil in liability insurance and the additional Errors and Omissions to step foot onto show grounds. Please ask what you want to know.

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