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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Horse shows and online sales
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06/04/2015 02:42:52 PM · #1
United Mountain Horse, Inc. has asked to book me to do 3 shows before the end of the season. A couple of two day shows and a five day show.

They are offering $100 and tell me the current photographer makes a fortune with the online sales... and believe me, her photos are bad, which is why they're getting rid of her.

Now, I've gotten pretty good with workflow and I understand it's going to be a time crunch to get them up fast.

I did shoot one for her for like an hour for free so she could see my work. The only thing I need to practice is catching the gait.

My question is do any of you have experience with horse shows. Are they profitable? Also, are there additional options for selling them. I thought about bringing proofs from the first day of the show on the second day and take some sort of printed orders, like they do for high school pictures. Is this a thing anymore?
06/04/2015 03:04:14 PM · #2
I've done a lot of equine photography and I've always turned down shooting horse shows (mostly due to time and interest) so I have no idea of how profitable it would be, but I'd ask them if they can verify somehow how much you would get in sales if at all possible.

My advise on shooting horses is to know the breed of horse you are shooting and how they are supposed to appear, and how their owners want them to appear. Horse owners that show and breed horses for sale and to show, are famously picky, but there are also breed standards for each breed, that they want to see in any image they will buy. Usually they want the back and neck curved the right way (good banana vs bad banana) and their feet just so, with the tail down unless it's an Arabian etc.

I guess what I'm saying is a great image by you might not be something they will want to buy, unless the horse shows good confirmation etc. and studying what they are looking for can make a big difference in how much you sell.

Hope that helps.
06/04/2015 03:17:14 PM · #3
I grew up around horses and my Aunt and Uncle showed them professionally for years in the quarter horse world and I trained other horses for show as well and worked with their horses a bit. There is a huge time crunch from the time the classes start to photos..

Great memories!!! I have seen your horse photos on FB and they are absolutely amazing and very, very good. You have a great eye for it

I can't say anything about the pricing but I am surprised they are not doing set price and perhaps a commission from what is sold, but good luck I know you will do well..
$100 just seems very cheap to the awesome quality work you are putting out.

Message edited by author 2015-06-04 15:18:16.
06/04/2015 03:17:47 PM · #4
hmmm. what baldour said and maybe to make it less work for you, create an online gallery to sell from in advance. one the second day bring some sample images and a business card with a link to the gallery and have them visit and purchase from there.

my wife used to show horses, that group will but anything related to their horses. if you think photography is expensive...
06/04/2015 03:38:37 PM · #5
Good idea with bringing a link Mike. Julie, I know $100 bucks does sound bad. If nothing else, I guess I'll make some good contacts. BaldurT, I've got a lot to learn about catching the gait just right. The lady said she was going to find me a horse farm close by so I can practice. As far as verifying what the last lady made, I don't think she truly knows... and I can't ask the last lady, because she doesn't like me very much right now. She had her finger in my face at the show I was briefly at, yelling at me and warning me not to put them online to sell.
06/04/2015 03:50:14 PM · #6
Originally posted by cynthiann:

As far as verifying what the last lady made, I don't think she truly knows... and I can't ask the last lady, because she doesn't like me very much right now. She had her finger in my face at the show I was briefly at, yelling at me and warning me not to put them online to sell.


i hope your gear is insured.

Message edited by author 2015-06-04 15:50:30.
06/04/2015 03:57:40 PM · #7
Originally posted by Mike:

Originally posted by cynthiann:

As far as verifying what the last lady made, I don't think she truly knows... and I can't ask the last lady, because she doesn't like me very much right now. She had her finger in my face at the show I was briefly at, yelling at me and warning me not to put them online to sell.


i hope your gear is insured.


lol! ...and yes, it is. She hasn't gotten her walking papers yet, but everyone there shares the same opinion of her. It's not even her poor photography that's getting her fired, it's her mean attitude. Apparently she's not a happy camper.
06/04/2015 04:55:56 PM · #8
Growing up my Family raised Arabians and for a few decades summer was one horse show after another, so while I have never shot a show, I knew most of the guys who did shows on the west coast. That is I knew the guys/gals who did Arabian shows; if you are going to build a reputation, you pick a breed and work within it.Of course there are all breed shows, but I never think of photographers shooting those , but the must. At Nationals or any of the big shows, You had teams of 2 to 4 people helping the shooter. A runners, a developer/printer, and a sales person.

Keep in mind you will be shooting , often in full sun, from 8 until 5 unless it is below a class B show where they might have night classes in 2 day shows. There will usually be a 40 minute lunch break and 2 15 minuet water breaks to knock down the dust in the arena. That is a full day of shooting. Then you need to edit the days work, cull the thousands of images down to the 200-500 you will edit, one of each rider in a class, plus multiples if you can, plus ribbon winners. Then archive the images under class name, rider name, stable name. All that information is in the class list you get from the show secretary. These days it is a bit easier because you used to have to print proofs constantly. If people bought images from the shooter it was almost always during the show based on proofs. Without someone to act as sales, I don't know how sales might go.

Your money will be made on the ribbon shots and the 2 horse trailer crowd, who only go to one or two shows a year.

Check out these links and you will see that the business is tough right now.

Check out the images of one shooter near you and you look at his unedited proofs and you think my goodness these are terrible, no sense of lighting, his horizons are all over the place. And then you see each of the horses are in the exact same pose, he caught them at some idealized moment in their stride perfectly. Plus if he is that good, and he puts up such bad proofs, a whole lot of people are stealing the proofs instead of buying the prints.
06/04/2015 09:05:05 PM · #9
Thank you Bennan, these are very valuable comments!
06/04/2015 09:22:36 PM · #10
Originally posted by BrennanOB:

Plus if he is that good, and he puts up such bad proofs, a whole lot of people are stealing the proofs instead of buying the prints.


plus who wants to edit all those pics if no purchase may take place???
06/05/2015 03:45:41 AM · #11
I'm routed in equestrian world grey up with 10 or more at home, I now build stables fencing and menages/sand schools etc
Sister has show jumpers jumping in Germany on European tour.

As mike said you think photography is expensive we've had dads spend £50k just for daughter to hack around!

Anyway the pros I've seen doing it have a 3-4 person team. They bring a exhibition trailer/caravan/ horse wagon and base them selves out of there, they have boards set up and photos are printed and up 5 mins after shooting.

1-2 photographers, 1 runner doing memory cards batteries drink food

Depending on show 1-2 ppl printing at the base doing sales and online upload and social media interaction

Get them online asap on sales galleries for print or for cheap digital print for social media, I see loads of girls with photos on Facebook covered in copyright logos.

There always seems to be loads of ppl rd the boards buying or looking but it'll be tough one on your own.
06/05/2015 08:43:09 AM · #12
For a couple of summers I shot a Silver-level dressage show at a local barn. Had to sit perfectly still some 20m back from the arena, camera on tripod, and get the horses and riders at their best. Let's just say it's a good thing that I used to event and train, so I know how to read a dressage test so I knew when they were about to launch into the *sexy* stuff like a big extended trot or a collected canter.

I was never paid for the vast amount of work I did but made some $$ from online sales the one year. The second year, zilch. So now I don't waste my time shooting dressage and chase the absolute polar opposite of dressage - rodeos - instead. Shorter, much more colour and action and not predictable in the slightest!

@ 21.gif Giles...who's your sister? She must have some pretty severe $$! And fun fact - 3/4 of the Canadian showjumping team live within 40 min drive of me - Ian Millar, Lauren Hunkin and Jill Henselwood.
06/05/2015 11:21:38 AM · #13
For every niche of the market there will be some very important aspects of the photo that you need to master...or on th eoposite you can develop your own style. It that is going to sell you have to see.

But every sport, every variety of subject that you shoot have some moments that you need to know to be looking/waiting for them and be prepared to get them.

For example I've shot bull fight for severam years, and the horse riders only bought the photos from a certain angle and of a certain moment. So you need to know what to get, what they are looking for.
06/06/2015 12:15:20 AM · #14
i covered an event for a newspaper - once - and got a shot that the riding school actually liked enough to buy a print. while there, though, i watched a photography business enterprise in action. as mentioned by others, they had a team: 2 shooters, a runner, and an editor. they also had an an air-conditioned trailer where they did all the computer work (editing and printing). beside the trailer, they had a covered "sales pavilion" where owners could preview the photos taken and place orders. all orders were printed onsite on a huge epson, capable of 48" wide prints. these guys charged a fortune and made a mint. and they paid their shooters more than $100 a day.

not trying to rain on your parade, but unless you feel like your capable of consistently producing what the owners are buying, your best bet is to say no to these guys, and instead find someone already in the business and see if you can shoot for them so that you can learn the business and get some paid practice.
06/06/2015 07:20:24 AM · #15
I have seen a similar operation to what 31.gif Skip mentioned at the last gymnastics meet I watched. One shooter at 3 of the 4 apparatus and at least one person taking orders just outside the event at a viewing station with about a half a dozen laptops, so parents and gymnasts could review the photos and order. All photos are printed on site. They also offered package deals, which were about 10% cheaper if you bought it before the event started. I have seen this operation at this particular meet for the last 5 years, and they seem to be making a killing, but it wasn't cheap to set up by any means.

I could see this sort of setup working well at any performance oriented event, all the better if the performers are children. I think the ability to display and print on site is crucial to a successful business model though. I suspect the number of people ordering prints after the fact would drop off pretty quick. It is not a one person operation though, and would require a reasonable up front investment in hardware and management and editing software to do it successfully.
06/06/2015 08:18:04 AM · #16
Originally posted by FromDaRock:

I have seen a similar operation to what 31.gif Skip mentioned at the last gymnastics meet I watched. One shooter at 3 of the 4 apparatus and at least one person taking orders just outside the event at a viewing station with about a half a dozen laptops, so parents and gymnasts could review the photos and order. All photos are printed on site. They also offered package deals, which were about 10% cheaper if you bought it before the event started. I have seen this operation at this particular meet for the last 5 years, and they seem to be making a killing, but it wasn't cheap to set up by any means.

I could see this sort of setup working well at any performance oriented event, all the better if the performers are children. I think the ability to display and print on site is crucial to a successful business model though. I suspect the number of people ordering prints after the fact would drop off pretty quick. It is not a one person operation though, and would require a reasonable up front investment in hardware and management and editing software to do it successfully.


i have also seen the same model at cheerleading competitions, dance competitions, and all-star baseball tournaments. it's sad, but i think the day of the sideline shooter making a living has pretty much gone away. between people shooting and giving the photos away and the enterprises described above, there's not much room. when i was able to do it, it took a lot of time and commitment, and it took a number of years for the business to take traction. i've been away from it for a number of years and can't say that i miss it, at least as far as being a single sideline shooter. on the other hand, if i had the money to bankroll an enterprise, i wouldn't mind that ;-)
06/06/2015 12:48:26 PM · #17
Great stuff! Thanks guys!

I'm still on the fence with doing this. The lady wanting me to do this has done a pretty good job at describing how she wants me to capture them in gait. Not an easy thing from what I hear.

I also have a nice on-site 4X6 printer that I bought when I tried to start a photo booth thing. I could sell those and take orders.

But yeah, I'd need a crew, that's for sure.
06/06/2015 07:21:08 PM · #18
At horse shows vendors often occupy stalls near the ring, or show office. If you don't own a popup tent, getting them to save you a stall that you can dress up with some rolls of paper and clamp lighting to crate an office. At shows where people bring a lot of horses (we used to bring around 20 to Pacific Slopes or Scottsdale) it is normal to have an office stall with seating, sales office, video running. You can get power easily to run printers and computers and lock it up at night. Plus it is less dusty than out by the arena.
06/06/2015 09:00:44 PM · #19
Originally posted by cynthiann:

Great stuff! Thanks guys!

I'm still on the fence with doing this. The lady wanting me to do this has done a pretty good job at describing how she wants me to capture them in gait. Not an easy thing from what I hear.

I also have a nice on-site 4X6 printer that I bought when I tried to start a photo booth thing. I could sell those and take orders.

But yeah, I'd need a crew, that's for sure.


Burst mode, and as you get used to it, the number of keepers will increase and you can use shorter bursts.
06/07/2015 07:00:56 PM · #20
Originally posted by cynthiann:

Great stuff! Thanks guys!

I'm still on the fence with doing this. The lady wanting me to do this has done a pretty good job at describing how she wants me to capture them in gait. Not an easy thing from what I hear.

I also have a nice on-site 4X6 printer that I bought when I tried to start a photo booth thing. I could sell those and take orders.

But yeah, I'd need a crew, that's for sure.


Caveat - sorry being lazy didn't look at the OP to see if this is for a specific breed, or style of going. But if this is for a gaited breed, get her to SHOW you what she wants. If nothing else there must be at least one site out there dedicated to that breed. United Mountain Horse (still being lazy, haven't googled it yet) sounds like Rocky Mountain horses which are specific and I believe a gaited breed.

My advice would be her to get you a few copies of the horse magazine she probably subscribes to that shows them, or other images of winners 'in gait'. If nothing else there are are probably a gajillion sites out there dedicated to the breed and/or style of going. Look at them carefully. Maybe try and do a rehearsal at the barn prior to the show with client at your side to explain exactly what she wants you to shoot?

Good luck!

Message edited by author 2015-06-07 19:02:58.
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