Snap Decisions: Show Photography Etiquette

June 5th, 2017 3:50 PM | 2 Comments

Pro Am 44 copyLike most industries, the photography world has evolved over the years to adapt to the digital space.  Gone are the days of viewing proofs as print-outs at shows or receiving proofs in the mail several weeks later, to quickly looking at show proofs online via social media or a photo service like Smugmug.  While this has drastically changed the ease and convenience for both the photographer and the client, it has also had many drawbacks.  

It is becoming harder and harder for show photographers to cover their expenses and justify the ROI to cover shows, particularly ones across the country.  As show expenses increase, so does the expenses for the photographers.  From the accessibility of equipment of hobby photographers to take their own photos to those screen shooting watermarked proofs and sharing across social media, professional show photographers are facing new hurdles in the digital age.

We all love the wonderful show photos from arena shots to win pictures, and can definitely see the difference in quality and experience between a professional-level photo and one that is quickly snapped with a phone.  However, if some of these poor practices continue, the show photographer could go the way of the dinosaurs eventually.  

Pro Am 30 copyNot only are rail pictures commonly part of the benefit of having a professional show photographer, but many offer personalized sessions and even backdrop photos at some of the larger shows.  When you think of having to be in multiple places at the same time, it is far from an easy, breezy job, and can be hectic to photographers and clients alike.  Photographers want to make sure you get the shots you’re going to be in love with, and without proper communication, it can make the task difficult.

We decided to check in with a number of show photographers to see what issues they have faced and how customers can make things easier on everyone, themselves included.

Anna Ingram, Avid Photography

One of the biggest issues that I’ve come across personally is everyone wants to see the arena shots but when it comes to actually buying them it’s a different story. There is so much time going into shooting the horse show (8-10+ hours/day) then so many {many} hours post horse show in cleaning up and culling pictures for review. It can be very disheartening to put your heart and soul (and time you won’t get back) into something for little to no return. Now, playing devil’s advocate, technology has come so far and every person on the show grounds has a camera on them at any given moment. So, that has almost devalued the professional’s pictures taken at a show. That does not escape the fact that everyone still loves to look at pictures. The trick is to find the angles and the pictures that they deem most flattering – including above those pictures taken by their friends and family who’ve also been their own personal paparazzi the whole weekend. 

fphc spring fling 25 copyWhen it comes to things like sessions, clients can help streamline the process and be ready to take cues from the photographer and give them your undistracted attention. It’s hard enough for the photographer to worry about the horse. So, you have to trust that their help/assistant has them handled, and the photographer can let you know what they need from you. The more relaxed and focused you are the easier the shot will be!
I would obviously love to see more support for the horse show photographer – from the show staff, the exhibitors and the horse show patrons. On behalf of horse show photographers, maybe evolving the business more to embrace the the inevitable changes that technology had added to our environment.
Jennifer Horton, bar H Photography
Please respect copyright laws.  The photographer owns the copyright to all of their images. In this digital age, photographers use their websites to publish proofs for the convenience of the customers in ordering their images. Screenshotting these proofs or right click copying them is, in fact, stealing. It is not “flattering” to the photographer that you are using their image as your profile photo if you have not purchased it. It is not promoting the photographer if the photo of the horse you are trying to sell has “PROOF” marked across it. Why would anyone want to post an image on your social media that shows they stole it? Most all photographers offer a low resolution digital image option to be posted and shared on your website and/or social media. 
fphc spring fling 31 copyBecky Ruehle, Ruehle Photographix

As much as you want to just take that one picture to post, please don’t, be respectful. Know that we have spent countless hours traveling, packing, editing, and learning to give you the quality images and it is not just pushing the button, photographers profits are not guaranteed the moment we set up. The people who are shooting ring side with cameras who give away the photos, do not understand that it is NOT a matter of us feeling threatened by them or that they may take a better photo or capture a special moment, but they are harming the horse show photography business and the services the show offers. We need to educate the people, and the consumers who gladly accept and support the “hobby photographers”; The hobby photographers are taking away photos that someone should have purchased from the official show photographer. Photographers want you to have and enjoy your images, we want to come back and offer all services to the show, not just one part of a horse show. If the official photographer is not supported in and out of the arena, we cannot profit or return to offer all the services that allow every exhibitor the opportunity to be photographed. For example; if someone decided to give away grooming supplies or equipment every time someone needed them, instead of supporting the tack vendor on grounds, the tack vendor would not return.

Some of the biggest issues I am currently seeing are the amateur/hobby photographers taking show “candids” and submitting to magazines or posting on Facebook and giving them away. They need to know that the official photographer usually has that covered, and it is a matter of respect. If this is something you are wanting to do at a show, please approach the photographer before taking pictures, introduce yourself and ask if candids is something they will be covering. Talk with them, ask questions, and be respectful. If they have that covered at the show, please do not take pictures anyways. 

Another big issue that is seen way to often is screen shots posted on social media, with the caption “don’t worry I will be buying this picture from the photographer”. Consumers need to know that is not acceptable! All photographers offer many different versions of photos for different uses and turn around times are usually very quick on social media images. Those proofs are for viewing images only. The photo is usually right off the camera, and does not represent them or the exhibitor and horse to the best of its ability. Purchase the image and allow us to crop it in, fix the red eyes, and insert the show logo/credit and make that image perfect for you.

Talk to the photographer, Establish a relationship and ask questions! If you have a question on image use or what you can and can’t do with an image, just ask, this is why we offer many options for purchasing the images. We want happy customers with images they will cherish for a lifetime. If you are doing a session or even looking for a particular arena image, talk with them and let them know what kind of images you are looking for and what kind of theme you want the images to have, posed, casual, your ideas.  If you are requesting arena photos, give them your back number and classes and something about you and your horse that will stand out and make it easy for the photographer to identify you. When filling out paperwork, please make sure it is complete, write down any notes or special requests you have. Remember we take thousands of photos at a show, and we do not want to forget to add any signs or prizes to your photo, however we need the notation to do so.     

Tom Powers-2Kelsey Smith, Natural Flash
I’d have to say a HUGE thing for me is communication. If you are REALLY interested in purchasing photos at the show and would like to get as many photos as possible never be afraid to come up and tell me. This increases your chance of getting more photos and also at least to me personally gets me familiar with you so I can recognize you in the arena when shooting. 
Another big thing is ask your photographer about “rights” to your photos. Some photographers make you pay an additional fee while others don’t. 
Also, I can’t tell you how many people rip the photos I have taken off my website or Facebook without my permission and use them in sale ads and even just normal ads. Not only is this illegal but it is not fair to any photographer or for that matter other individuals who have paid for their photos. 
With that being said if you yourself have a camera and are taking photos of your own horse or maybe even people in your barn just talk to me! Most of the time, I will not care and honestly, I will think you are a super nice person for respecting me enough to communicate this with me. This goes for other photographers to. If you maybe have 1 or 2 clients that really want you to do a personal session with them please just communicate with me. HOWEVER if you are shooting a TON of people outside and inside the arena that is an issue for obvious business reasons.
I promise 9 out of 10 photographers are not scary people and if you ever have any questions for us please never be afraid to communicate. Just like anything communication to me is key. 
We all love our show photographers as they capture us at our best and make memories stand the test of time.  However, as the times continue to change, we must do all we can to support them so we can continue to have them be a part of the show experience.  It might seem harmless to screenshot a few proofs, but those actions have more consequences than you might realize.  Photographers are there to help you immortalize memories with your horse and truly want to work with you to get the best shot.

2 Responses to “Snap Decisions: Show Photography Etiquette”

  1. Thanks for the great article. We at Holman Photography love our relationship with Pleasurehorse and value what they bring to the equine world. This article is dead on…arena images are used for tutoring and rarely purchased. Everyone wants to see them but not many buy. Our job as photographers is to bring our creative vision to the event and capture what an iPhone or table cannot.

  2. Thanks Nick! It’s always a pleasure working with you as well!

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