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May 27, 2011

Horse Show Photographers Are Facing A Crisis

If a photo has a photographer’s watermark splashed across the image, it’s an unpurchased proof, and any use by anyone other than the photographer is unauthorized. Photo by Shawn McMillen.

The author explains why many equine photographers are packing up their cameras.

Was there a show photographer at your last event? Was there someone at every ring taking photos of you and your horse? If you’re an eventer, did you get cross-country, show jumping and dressage photos?

If you’re one of the few and the lucky, you can answer yes to these questions. However I suspect you’re part of the majority, who is asking, “Where did the show photographer go?”

The full-coverage equestrian event photographer is becoming a dinosaur. We all know about the expenses professional photographers incur—the cameras, the insurance, the employees, the hotels, the gas, the fees, etc. To be a photographer (and do it right) on a grand scale (at multi-ring and multi-week shows) costs a ton.

My company, Shawn McMillen Photography, is doing 28 fewer events this year than last year. That’s right, I walked away from 28 weeks of guaranteed work.

Several years ago, we could go to a show and break even as a worst-case scenario. We don’t have an advertising budget like a traditional business. I figured that if we were out there getting our photos in front of the customers and exposing them to our brand name and our customer service, even if we weren’t putting money in the bank, we were winning. But in recent years, we’ve been losing money at show after show.

Why? There are several issues. The biggest—and the one people don’t fully comprehend—is that of copyright theft.

The word “theft” should signify that this is wrong. We have disclaimers on our website that tell in vivid detail which laws are being broken when our photos are taken. Yet, we (photographers) are the bad guys for confronting someone when such offenses occur.

I know that the theft exists. I would be an idiot if I didn’t; all I have to do is look at Facebook and find thousands of my and my fellow photographers’ proofs stolen. So far, I’ve chosen to concentrate on the paying customers and not worry about what can’t be stopped.

The only way that Internet theft will stop is if the equestrian community polices itself. I’ve tried limited posting of proofs, pay for posting, no posting, etc., and everything that I do only punishes the good customers. The photo thieves just work quicker, smarter and faster.

They Just Don’t Realize

When we snap a photo, it’s usually of a horse or rider or some combination thereof because equestrian event coverage is all we do. When we take photos, they’re technically “our photos,” but they’re also “their photos” because it’s them or their horses in the images. But the rights to use those photos remain with the photographer.

The problem is education. I don’t think the majority of photo thieves really understand what they’re doing. I don’t think that when they download a proof off of our website, they’re taking into account that we stand there for hours on sore feet and knees waiting for that one moment, often in extreme conditions—cold, wet and heat for upwards of 10 hours plus a day.

I don’t think they take into account how many employees we pay, how much our gear costs, how much we drive, how late I stay up manually alphabetizing thousands of photos, how much of a normal life I don’t have, how many family outings, anniversaries, weddings, holidays, reunions and homecomings I have missed to be ringside to make sure they have photos.

Every aspect of our business, with the exception of our printing lab, is done internally. We take, crop, correct, send off for printing, reexamine, address, ship out, and put online every photo we sell, all the while going to and from and photographing another event.

I don’t think photo thieves realize how much of our life is consumed by the photos that they are so quick to take without paying. I don’t think they realize they’re putting people out of work. I don’t think they realize I stay up late at night trying to figure out how to employ our staff with diminished sales due to theft. I know these people don’t steal from tack shops, that they pay the braiders and the blacksmith and their horse show bill, or their trainer. So I don’t think they really know what they do.

When they come into the trailer and ignore the “no camera phone” signs and wait until they think we’re distracted and then “click,” take a photo of our photo and laugh, I think they must just not know what they’re doing. They don’t think of this as theft, but it’s no different than going to the tack trailer and stealing a saddle. The only difference is the saddle costs more, but theft is theft.

I have to think they know not what they do. Because if I did think they knew what they were doing, that would mean they were just soulless, evil people. I have to have more faith in humanity.

Quality Is Worth The Price

We did shows in the Aiken, S.C., area for several years, and the first years were profitable. We didn’t make a ton of money, but enough to pay the bills and upgrade our equipment.

Over the years, we’ve only gotten better in our ability to capture “the moment,” and yet sales are on a downward spiral. This year I gave up 12 shows less than 10 minutes from my home in Aiken. It no longer was a matter of breaking even—it became an issue of hemorrhaging funds. I needed to figure out how to stop the bleed. It’s a sad testament to the state of things when I can save more money sitting in my house than by going to a show and doing the job that I love.

I have to admit that I share some of the responsibility for my own demise in Aiken due to my preferred business model. We were the exclusive photographer at the shows we shot, and we shot everyone all the time. We then posted proofs on the Internet, identified by horse name and number.

When we first started posting proofs online, there weren’t many other photographers doing the same thing. Posting proofs to the Internet isn’t just to sell—almost as important to me is the ability to blow you away. I want you to come into our trailer and have so many good photos that you can’t decide between them and want to buy them all.

I would rather have you be so overwhelmed at your photo selections that you could not make a selection than be so underwhelmed that you can only find one or two that are just OK. Being average is the worst of the best and the best of the worst. We’re not content being either.

As a result, I’ve had a very lax policy about putting the photos online. I know people aren’t going to buy every photo we take, but I thought maybe they would want to go back and watch the journey they took over the course of the show year.

This was a great idea in practice but a terrible business model. By giving the customer the liberty to purchase a photo at will and not forcing them to buy, the customer more often than not will not make a purchase or will make a single purchase from the entire season. This was ultimately what caused me to walk away from Aiken. I don’t care if steak is your favorite food—if I feed it to you 60 days in a row, you’re going to beg me for macaroni and cheese. We started out as steak and became that mac and cheese.

So now I find myself doing shows further and further away from home. I still haven’t changed my posting policy, because while they’re my photos, they’re also your memories.

It’s Unfair Competition

The next issue I want to address is the scab photographer, or poacher, or faux pro. This is the photographer who shows up with nice or not-so-nice camera equipment, with little to no expense involved in being there. They have full-time jobs outside photography and just show up for fun or for the weekend.

They shoot photos of an entire class or division and post them for sale at a reduced rate. They can sell their product cheaper because they have no overhead expense. It gives people a choice between a professional photo for a price that compensates the professional’s effort and investment and a “good enough” photo. It’s filet mignon for $25 or a greasy burger for free. The greasy burger is the “good enough” photo, and that works for more people than you would think. This has been a huge issue in our industry.

Look at the Chronicle’s Horse Show Issue and the many sub-par quality year-end awards photos that were in it. That truly was a testament to what is out there right now. At many shows, Uncle Bob and Dad are replacing the professional photographer. The weekend warrior camera guy is very content being average. We’re not.

So yes, in a nutshell, we as your photographers are going the way of the dinosaur. Some of the equine photographers are branching out and doing weddings and corporate events. I don’t really care much for either, so what will our fate be? I’m sure you’ll find us in a tar pit somewhere along with the other dinosaurs that thought they could hold out a little longer.

The industry is in a sad state, and the perfect storm is upon us. No doubt the Internet, Facebook, cheaper pro-quality cameras and the bad economy have all combined to help create the situation. Some equine photographers are out of business, some will be, some will hang on, some new ones will crop up.

While we might lose our livelihood, ultimately the equestrian community will lose out. You won’t have those cherished memories that so many of you frame and value. You won’t have those sale photos that help you get extra dollars for your well-loved animal when it’s time to move up in division. So we all lose.

We in the photographic community have seen this coming for a while now, and the customers are now seeing it as well. If you want to help photographers, ask your friends to quit doing what’s wrong. Or better yet, tell them that their thoughtlessness is now starting to affect you.  

Shawn McMillen and his fiancé, Melissa Pomerleau, operate Shawn McMillen Photography based out of Winchester, Ky., and Aiken, S.C. McMillen has been a professional equine photographer for more than 25 years. His love of horses was inspired by his father, who had hunters, jumpers and Saddlebreds.

“Some people say we are really good at what we do and ask, ‘What’s the secret formula?’ But there is no secret formula—just love what you do and you will excel at it,” said McMillen.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. "Horse Show Photographers Are Facing A Crisis" ran in the May 23, 2011, issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.

JimLatini- PHP
2 years 39 weeks ago
Partnering with Shows? Too Expensive for most Photographer's.
Any suggestion of 'partnering' with Horse Show's is not a good idea. Look-up the definition of a; 'partnership', and you'll know why. I prefer an 'affiliation' with horse show's. It's less expensive... Read More
JimLatini- PHP
2 years 39 weeks ago
Shawn, You hit the nail dead-on, and I'd like to "drive it home"
I just came across your article from 2011, and even though it's more than two years later, the situation has not improved much, for us professional horse show photographer's. I'm the last of the "... Read More


Ellen DeWitt
5 years 33 weeks ago


I used to work for a  photographer, and we had this problem all the time.  Today's teens don't consider taking anything off the internet as stealing.  They don't care how much you spend, money, time, employees, travel.  They believe (not think, but really believe) anything on the internet is their's for the taking.  I don't know how to solve the problem except go back to the old way, and not post the pictures on the internet.  They laugh when they sneak a photo of your photo because they know they are stealing and they don't care. 

5 years 33 weeks ago

Show Photographers

I don't believe anyone should use a photograph they have not paid for and all photographs should have the name of the photographer on them.  That said - I found the tone of this article to be just plain horrible in many respects.  A GREAT photograph is now costing so much money that it's out of the reach of most horse owners.  In order to sell our horses and ponies we need good solid photos but they shouldn't cost an arm and a leg.  And I do believe the pricing should not require another fee for every single different type of use. 

To call the people who do photography as a hobby part time "greasy cheeseburgers" or whatever is just plain terrible.  You might be surprised to know that many of them take very good photographs that DO sell horses and CAN be used on websites and advertisements without hundreds of dollars of fees.  With our youngsters who are growing and changing we can't pay Pro's top dollar because the photo won't be useable for very long. 

No one is forcing Professional photographers to give up their entire lives to take pictures of horses.  It's obviously a passion but to say that anyone who DOES NOT buy your photos doesn't undesrtand the profession is false.   And I have paid those "up front" fees to just photograph horses or ponies at shows - and the resulting photos from pros were garbage.  So we ended up not buying any.

If someone is using your photographs without paying for them - take them to court. Don't blame all horse owners for the bad eggs.  And it is a free world - anyone with a camera at a horseshow can take photos - no law against it.  If you don't feel you are covering your costs - take a second look at your pricing.

5 years 33 weeks ago

I agree--digital copies are way too expensive

I sympathize with the plight of the pro photographer, but at least in the S. Cal area, they've really priced themselves out of the market. I maintain my trainer's website and when she sent me an old show photo she'd purchased and asked me to scan it for the website, I explained that we needed to buy a digital copy from the phtographer. She agreed, and I contacted the photographer.

The photographer wanted $175 DOLLARS to allow me to post the photo on the website. I'm sorry, but I do websites for many different companies and I buy pro photos all the time and NO ONE charges that much. The average is $25-$50. Keep in mind I'm looking for a low-res, non-downloadable copy that will never be printed.

As a result, I now shoot the photos for our website myself and the photographer lost a regular customer.

4 years 50 weeks ago

Unfortunately it is true...

But it isn't just the photographers that are loosing out in this digital world. As your story explained, Uncle Bob is taking photos AND videos AND is often the one managing the "FREE" website. I too am a web designer because I love it. I don't make lots of money as my clients tend to be individuals or small local businesses owners. I am contemplating buying a new still cameraI as well as a low end pro-sumer video camera. Will they ever pay for themselves? Maybe not. None of us can compete with "Free". (I followed a link from Mary Cornelius Photography blog to your great article.) Patty. Yamhill, Oregon
4 years 48 weeks ago

Top photographers are in that price range

I'm at the website ( of the show photographer for the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida. If you want to use one of her images for Facebook, it's $40. Same image for use on a website homepage is $150, or $75 for an interior page. Now if that image is so good you want to use it in an advertisement (Farm, Stallion, Business), it's over $700. I'm thinking the $25-$50 you pay for other photos is more along the lines of stock photography?
5 years 33 weeks ago

I think the one of the main

I think the one of the main reasons for the trouble that horse show photographers face is simply improved technology.  A camera that takes a great picture doesn't cost what it once did, and perhaps more importantly, doesn't take as much skill to operate as it once did.  This doesn't excuse people stealing photos off the web, and there are certainly things that can be done to discourage that, but ultimately I think that a lot more hobby photographers can take pictures that are on par with the pros, or at least at a high enough level that it isn't worth the extra money to get the pro photos.  I absolutely think it's unfair for a horse show/photographer to say that my friends or family can't take pictures of me and my horse- I've already paid for the right to be at the show, and there is something to being able to look at a picture years later and know "Dad took that, I remember him going to that show with us."  A truly gifted photographer is an artist- I got goosebumps looking at Susan Sexton's photos when I was young and I still treasure one she took of my first horse (which I did in fact buy 2 copies of ^_^) - and I still don't know anyone who could compete with her.  So I do feel bad for the photographers, but I think that this change is inevitable and the really top photographers might still make it working for a magazine, but with a lot less freelance income from competitors- though I think it could still be lucrative for someone fantastic wiho has a large enough fan base. 

5 years 33 weeks ago

horse show photographer

Shawn and Melissa are two of the kindest, most giving people in the world. They are also fabulous photographers.  I know how hard they work and how far they travel to meet their commitments at the different shows because they drove through the night to photograph a small benefit show I was involved with. They have taken amazing pictures of my girls from walk-trot to the juniors; their quality and service are excellent and their prices are very reasonable.  I am so sorry that so many people don't understand copyright infringement and that it is hurting their business because they deserve to be very successful.  I hope horse show people will be more supportive of our professional photographers.

5 years 19 weeks ago

Shawn you hit the nail on the head

As a fellow show photographer for many, many years we absolutely see and feel the change in the industry. and like Shawn allot of us old rollers have tried about every thing to keep going, not posting online, to promote sales in the mobile units, but that's not really fair to you the rider we know you are busy and don't always have time to hang around after the show when you are exhausted. We love what we do that's why we do it. We know that the equipment is getting better and easier to use but I think Shawn would agree with me when I say "there are thousands of people who can take a picture but there are only a hand full of professorial show photographers" We will keep doing what we do until the tar pit takes us under or we can figure out how to adapt to a changing world. Great Job Shawn long time no see. John Jones: Jones and Lockett Photography.
Les Lenchner
3 years 40 weeks ago

The country is on reset, unlike the Horse Show Community.

While I sympathies with this photographer he reminds me of the book "Who moved my cheese?" He cannot continue to go back to the same empty trough to drink. It's empty! Ask ACE, ACO or Tom's hardware on your local corner (if he even exits anymore) what they think of Loews and Home Depot... more of the same I'm afraid.... Asking your customer for help in most cases is a losing proposition. Using evolving innovation to develop a niche market will help you to remain on top. Those that can't or won't will fall by the wayside........ Not an easy task given the availability of affordable and reliable equipment to mom and dad at the horse shows! They don't realize that "Quality" doesn't cost, it pays!
3 years 24 weeks ago

I first want to say I really

I first want to say I really respect what you do. I have 2 of your photos (purchased!) framed on my wall. They are lovely. However, my reality is that I am not a "typical" show horse owner. I am very, very lucky that my horse ended up in the right barn with the right rider. Understanding the overhead (horse owners do tend to understand overhead costs!), it's not within my budget to spend $100+ on horse show photos from every show. I also don't love the idea of having to buy the print to get the digital image. One can only have so many pictures of the same bay thoroughbred on their wall without looking like an insane person. As an amateur photographer, I also feel a bit put-off when targeted by professionals. I agree those who poach and sell isn't fair, but I feel like I should have the right to photograph my own horse without question. I don't feel like I take "greasy cheeseburger" shots and I do feel driven to take better pictures every time I shoot. If anything, I understand the work and equipment that goes into a truly awesome picture (which is why I took my own pictures *and* bought two of yours). But honestly, I think it all goes down to, like anything else, customer service. I feel like in the height of this troubling period for show photographers, some are abandoning good service. It's something to keep in mind.
3 years 24 weeks ago

other things have changed

Hi, I'm surprised that people would be satisfied with a gorgeous photo of their competitive journey with PROOF stamped across. It would NOT do for me. If I had to guess, I'd say that the digital and video technologies have advanced enough so that passable photos/video can be taken by just about anyone -- no, not the same quality by any measure, but free. If my husband wants to come and take some shots of me, I'll take those, and maybe one or two of the best shots from the pros. But I bet a lot of people make do with shots that friends take, and I think that should be okay. These are probably people that could not afford pro photos. I am one of those people who buys your photos -- and appreciates your work -- but the expense, not matter how justified in terms of business practice, is about at the limit of what I can spend. I'm lucky to be able to afford a couple of 4x6s. Another issue is that I prefer digital photos, and those are often even more expensive. Some photographers make you pay to view them, which is an even greater deterrent. I sympathize, and I lament the changes in your business. But I think it is the march of time and technology, and ultimately the difficult economic choices we make when times are hard, at least as much as the copyright issue.
3 years 23 weeks ago

I love professional photos, but...

I love the work that professional photographers do and have bought from them often. I'm also appalled that people still think it is ok to use photos with watermarks on them. However with costs rising unilaterally, i.e. gas for trailering, entry fees, other show fees, coaching fees, etc. it is difficult to spent several hundred on professionally taken photographs. Those other things are what I must put up with if I want to show. There is no way around it. So professionally taken photographs are what will naturally take a back seat to the other things unfortunately. There are many times I've gone to a pro photographers website and found half dozen that I really like but did not purchase because spending an extra $200-300 at that show was just not in my budget. I end up either purchasing nothing, getting only 1 photo (for $50-75 a pop) or saving the big purchase for the really big shows. So I basically agree with those that have said the pro photographers have priced themselves out of the market. At a recent show, I paid $50 for a video of my horse that was worth every penny. The videographer requires, rightly so, that people pay before their horse is videoed. Judging from the number of videos that were posted from the event, the cost was low enough that many people signed up thereby making it worthwhile for the person to show up to do the videos. I wish pro photographers could come up with a creative plan that would help interest enough people so that volume would increase and costs decrease, making it more affordable to purchase their photos.
JimLatini- PHP
2 years 39 weeks ago

Shawn, You hit the nail dead-on, and I'd like to "drive it home"

I just came across your article from 2011, and even though it's more than two years later, the situation has not improved much, for us professional horse show photographer's. I'm the last of the "First One's", in my area of the U.S. I was a 'pioneer' horse photographer back then, as there were very few others. Now, the other 'Horses-only' photographer's that I came to know over the year's, are all gone. For most 'horse-show' oriented people, the Truth about what's happened to us horse show photographer's, is hard for them to believe. Most of us horse show photographer's are all in the same "boat". Without a steady amount of Income, it's not easy to stay afloat. Here's a Case in point: Most Horse Shows have always required that all Fees for Entries, (Fees that Do Not include a Photographer's Fee) be paid In Advance of the horse show, which all Show Horse owner's have to do (with No guarantee of Winning), BUT, they 'Balk' when an Official Horse Show Photographer ask's for a small Fee, at the Show, to Photograph their Horse, or Horse & Rider, and/or, to Post the Proofs. Why? We're providing the exhibitor's with a Professional Service, that you can only get at a Horse Show, and Not on the street. A Horse Show's Entry fees, Sponsorships, and Prize List/Program Ads, have to cover the cost's of the Facility where the Horse Show takes place, and also, the hired Officials, such as; Judges, Announcers, Stewards, Farrier, Veterinarian, Show Office Staff, and SP-Services, Prize Money, Awards, etc;. If not, the Horse Show goes Broke, right? However, A Horse Show Photographer's costs to do a horse show aren't covered (the only exception being that of a Hotel room). Unlike the other hired Horse Show Official's, We're there on our Own money. At Horse Shows; Horse Show Judge's provide a professional service, just as We do. With your class entry fees already paid, you'll enter the show-ring, get judged, line-up, get awarded (or not), and exit same. You were serviced by a Professional Horse Show Judge, or Judges. What if you didn't like the outcome (no award) of your class? Sorry, No Refunds. So, why should it be any different for us horse show photographer's? At a Horse Show, You'll pay a fee to the official photographer. When your class is called, you, with your Horse, enter the show-ring, get photographed, and/or get your award, then photographed, and exit same. You were serviced by a Professional Horse Show Photographer. You'll either get to see the Proofs right at the Show, or, they'll be posted for You to view on the Official Photographer's website. Moving on,. . I've dedicated my entire adult life to Horse Photography, and there are other's like me, who have done the same. I see no logical reason for any of us to take a step backwards from charging a fair price for the quality of work that each of us do, and for the results we achieve. After all, We are professional's, not amateur's. Shawn, I also agree with you about the problems we have with 'scab' photographers, or, as I refer to them as; a 'poser'. A 'pose' is: to pretend to be what one is not; to set oneself up (as) [to pose as an officer]. They don't know one end of a Horse from the other. All a 'poser' knows about is, how to take YOUR money from us, Period! So, here's a tip on how to tell the difference between the official horse show photographers, and the 'poser'. The "official" horse show photographers are Listed in the actual Horse Show Prize List and/or Program under "Officials", and, in the Horse Show Office, as well as being advertised and announced at the Horse Show itself. The 'poser' Is Not. The 'official' photographer's, take their Photo's from the inside of the Show-Ring. The 'poser' Can't. They're NOT a Horse Show Official. Horse Show Regulations state: "Only those with Official Duties to perform may enter a Show-Ring." Now, You can tell the difference between 'us' and 'them'. "For Those Of Us 'First-Ones', Who Are Still Out There..." Sincerely, JL- Professional Horse Photographer
war admiral
3 years 6 weeks ago

With respect, it works both ways.

For the record, I've never stolen a photograph, but I believe respect works both ways. I've not had the pleasure of being "shot" by Mr. McMillen, but let me tell you, please, a story concerning an equally professional photographer in flat classes at a breed show. This gentleman has a policy - a POLICY mind you! - of only taking one shot per horse each direction of the ring in a flat class. Knowing my young horse was only going to be doing the breed shows for one year before moving onward and upward to H/J, I visited him at the beginning of the show, explained the situation, and told him I really needed some good shots. He still only took the one shot per direction, and neither one of them were good enough, so I ended up not buying anything. I also disapprove of show managers granting one photog a monopoly on their shows. If you allow more than one pro photographer on the grounds, you get actual *competition* happening, which means that lazy, lax photographers like the one I described above have to actually get off their assets and WORK for the best shot to earn my business. I sometimes compete on a local circuit which has no sole photographer monopoly at shows, but permits a max of two official pro photogs on the grounds with advance permission. This works out great for all concerned. I've bought from both - whoever gets the best shot wins. And in the case of one of the photographers, who not only puts her photographs online but KEEPS them online permanently, I have actually purchased, purchased, purchased and re-purchased one shot in particular from 2010; just bought another copy in fact b/c my largest one got trashed when I moved house. I did buy the digital version as well, but I like to send this particular photo out as Christmas gifts or on holiday cards and whatnot, and I like it printed well on professional paper in a variety of sizes. So overall she has earned MANY times the value of that one shot over the last 3 years. And it's probably worth noting that rather than gripe about people stealing shots, this photographer will post HER OWN proofs on the owner or rider's OWN FB page if the shot is one she is especially proud of, with a little note along the lines of "This was shot by 'X' Photography at Show 'Y' on [date] and we thought you might like it. The remainder of our proofs can be found at [link], and we're open to shooting other horse shows, so feel free to contact us." This gives the owner/rider/trainer some braggin' rights b/c their FB friends get to see Cute Pony's pic hot off the press, AND it gets the photographer's name around as people click "Like" and it shows up on different pages. Yearning for the old days isn't going to work. Thinking outside the box might.
3 years 6 weeks ago

Try innovation

Instead of just complaining about losing business, photographers need to see this as a business opportunity (like war admiral posted above). How about partnering with the show, so that an upfront fee IS paid for each competitor? I balk at finding out that one photograph from the show will cost me $65. I already scrimp to make entry fees. But if the show entries included a built-in per-horse fee of say, $10-15 which guaranteed each competitor a facebook-worthy digital-only? That would be worth it to me. If there are 600 competitors then the photographer is guaranteed the per-horse fee (and maybe the show gets a cut) without even selling one print. I've often bought photos that were moderately priced (again, $10-15) even if they weren't great, just to support the photographer. But I'm not doing that at $30-60 per photo. Photographers might also look at different demographics such as: I'm not interested in getting a "deal" of all my photos for a show for $200, which I can't afford anyway, when at least 75% of those photos aren't desirable (my horse's form or my form) never mind some that aren't taken at the right moment etc. Instead give me a deal on one photo or buying two or buying one with the digital rights (or vice versa) and I'll try to support the photographer by finding one I like and buying it. Lastly, don't take forever to deliver. These days we want instant gratification. If you make that hard, your sales will decrease.
JimLatini- PHP
2 years 39 weeks ago

Partnering with Shows? Too Expensive for most Photographer's.

Any suggestion of 'partnering' with Horse Show's is not a good idea. Look-up the definition of a; 'partnership', and you'll know why. I prefer an 'affiliation' with horse show's. It's less expensive. Why? They already have entirely too much liability, responsibility, and work to do, in a Horse Show Office before, and during, a Horse Show. Give them more work, and you'll have to pay even more for it. Sadly, horse show's are not 'required' to have show photographer's to operate. Rated show's are required to have Judges, Stewards, and Ringmasters, but not always Photographers. That's the problem. You see, there are always those that do not want their Horses to be photographed at a horse show. It's still their choice. As for me, I'll always devote my skills and time to photographing those that Do, instead of on those that don't. Think about that, the next time you wanted to be photographed at a show, and you say; "Wow! I love the photo's you took!" Then, as time passes by, you didn't buy any prints of them. Now, how long would any of you stay on your job, if your boss told you; "Loved the work you did! BUT, you're not getting paid for it!" This is why a pay-per-horse photo-fee is very necessary and needed. (You pay a fee, you get photographed. You didn't, you don't. Simple.) Also, why would I, or any (sane) show photographer, 'guarantee' you a photo that's only facebook-worthy? As for me, My work achieves far better than that. Being at Horse Shows most of my life, I've found that it helps if you have a sense of humor. Here's one a Judge told me! "The next horse show you enter, go over and ask the Judge to 'guarantee' that you'll be first in your class, and it'll guarantee that He/She will show you the 'exit' Gate first!" Now, for those of you that still have the need to harangue horse show photographer's about what their prints cost. Before you do, keep these truth's in mind; "QUALITY, Not Quantity.", and "Haste Makes Waste." "Those who Hope in the Lord, will soar on Wings, like Eagles." Is.40:31
2 years 46 weeks ago

You know.... Instead of

You know.... Instead of complaining about the situation, I'd like to see photographers get more creative and catch up with the times, if you will. A photographer came to our local schooling show and I was happy since I don't have many pictures of my horses and myself, the pictures that resulted didn't really impress me and the prices were downright outrageous. In my recent observations, it appears that photographers are trying to raise their prices to make up for a lack of sales, except this only effectively drives away sales. You lose money when you raise prices. The best option I've seen lately are photographers offering low resolution CDs with all the competitors pictures of that horse/rider combination for a nominal fee such as $20. With modern technology, these can be made at the show and that is the time to be selling pictures, when the moment and the ride is fresh in the riders mind. Lets face it, social media is here to stay, either you can lament its existence, or make it so your customers can proudly share your photos with copyright info in the corner with their friends and family. Think of it as free advertising for your services.
2 years 46 weeks ago


As a competitor who's been doing the A circuits for years now I know that I don't want to pay $50 for a 4x6 print of one jump. However if I could get 4x6 pictures for $10 I many time I would end up buying 5. For the most part the only pictures I have bought in the past few years have been awards pictures that I can justify spending all that money for one print. Beside one show this summer where the show photographer had a really great price so I bought three prints. I really don't think I'm the only one who would buy more prints if they were priced lower. Some industries you just have to take the lower margin on each item and sell a large quantity to make up for it (Think Walmart) My last point is who wants to buy just one print (unless its something awesome like a poster) I don't want to have choose just one of my favorites I want to be able to get all my favorites without spending a small fortune. There are solutions to this problem, just need to think outside the box
2 years 46 weeks ago

Photos at horse shows

Just for the record, I have never "stolen" a picture from a professional photographer at a show. Back when my DH used to go to the shows with me, he would occasionally take a picture and one of my favorite pictures is one he took. And, I ride in AQHA recognized shows and the issues are similar. However, I can tell you that if the pictures were reasonably priced-not over $100 for ONE picture-I would probably buy pictures at every show. Heck, I would even buy just the digital picture itself-no printing required. Would you rather sell 10 pictures at $10 each (total $100) than no pictures at all? That's my take on it.