Priced out of the market

I have a lot of sympathy for the photographers and videographers that try to make a living shooting horse shows. I know there’s a lot of overhead, the equipment costs are astronomical, and it seems like everyone and their brother owns a decent DSLR these days. I try to support our local photographers and videographers as much as possible. Even if there isn’t media that I head- over-heels love, I’ll try to at least buy something.

I bought this one, even though the timing is off, because I wanted to support the photographer.

The photographer and videographer for the event this coming weekend both offer pre-order packages, which I was pretty excited about, thinking I could save some money that way. Then I opened the emails and did some math, and to pre-order photos and video would cost $250. That’s more than my entry fee was.

I’d love to support them, I really would, but at that point I’m priced out of the market. Now I just have to hope that they actually manage to get some media of me, that it’s decent, and then see if I can pony up the money after the fact for whatever sliver of it I can afford. Usually one digital image costs me $50 which means that I really can only justify buying one, maybe two if I’m feeling particularly rich that day and if they happened to get some pictures of me (since I’m not a pre-order I’m not priority, so sometimes there’s nothing). But like I said, I understand their struggle, so I generally just grumble a little then buy something anyway if it’s halfway decent. That bums me out not only because I’m possibly missing out on pictures and video, which I love, but it also means that I may or may not actually end up giving them any money at all. Then we both lose.

I kinda miss the one photographer from the local h/j shows that charged a low fee of $15 per digital file for a small facebook quality photo. It certainly wasn’t suitable for anything else, but that’s all I need them for so I’m happy. I could buy several of those, and always did. Sadly, I’ve never seen anyone else offer an option like that.

Who buys cheap low res pictures? ME!


lots of them


All the time.


On lots of different horses.


For years and years.

Despite all this, I don’t really know what the answer is. Their struggles are real and I understand that, but so are mine. In a sport that is already so expensive, it’s just not feasible for me, and probably for most people, to spend more on media than they do on entry fees. I’m convinced there’s got to be a middle ground. I want to help them out and feed their business but at these prices it sadly becomes impossible.

29 thoughts on “Priced out of the market

  1. Not to be grouchpants about this, but be glad you have photographers. Around here the purchases are so few and far between that they are rarely at shows anymore. So either you have no pictures (which often happens to me) or you have the pictures your well meaning mother took with her point and shoot, which are sometimes not so hot. I’m going to strap my DSLR to her this season so at least she can zoom and and get the awkward moments up close. 😉 I can 100% understand how you feel about this though.


  2. It’s been years since I’ve done much showing, but digging through the memories we did have a photographer at our summer shows in Alaska that charged a targeting feed to shoot pictures of you. Otherwise it was rare for him to even get one of you. I don’t remember how much it was, but that was also 10 years ago. Definitely worth it if you’re going to buy pictures, but in my case where i didn’t buy hardly any, it was a complete waste. I’m not sure if I could still track the guy down via facebook or something, but I’d love to get a hold of them. But I digress….sorry for the slight tangent.


  3. I dream of the day that I take Courage to a good enough show to have a real photographer and I’m willing to cough up $$$ for a good shot, BUT not all photogs are created equal and I simply couldn’t justify the upfront money to get shots like the ones from your last show. They’re fine. They’re not great.

    My rule of thumb is that if I can outshoot you on an iphone, I’m not giving you money for pictures. So yeah, I see both sides. It’s a rough market, but if you want that kind of money, you better be able to deliver.


  4. My guess is that pre-order price is high because many people will pay it. If the photographer was NEVER getting it, they wouldn’t ask. I’m hoping (and it seems like from your post) that they may also take some shots during the day and you can buy individually afterwards? I agree that more people should adopt the reasonably priced ‘web photo’ model. I’ve bought several from the local photog you mention, and although the quality isn’t there with rated events it’s still nice to have a few photos of my day for under $50.


    1. I’ve never used the videographer before so I don’t know if you can buy after the fact or not. I am assuming so, IF they video you. The photographer is the same – he will shoot you if he can, but if he has another pre-paid customer elsewhere at the same time, obviously he won’t be able to shoot you. So it’s kind of a toss up. There might be stuff I can buy after the fact, or there might not be. Also this is the same photographer as last fall where the proofs he sent me were so tiny and had the word PROOF so giant across them that I couldn’t really see the picture very well anyway. :/


  5. I’ve always wondered what the equation looks like for increasing purchases with decreasing prices, and if that can still be profitable. I priced my pictures pretty cheaply at the schooling show I shot last month because I knew who I was competing with — moms and friends with iPhones — and that I would have no chance of people ordering images unless I was pretty cheap. What I made was not worth the time I spent that day and afterwards processing the photos, but it was a little schooling show with only 70 entries, so I’m not totally shocked either. Once someone has selected a photo, if you need to do post processing the amount of time to get it done is minimal (5-10 minutes) — the real time suck is getting all the pictures on your computer and edited such that people would WANT to buy them (fixing weird cropping errors etc.). I an confident I can take better pictures than a mom with an iPhone — I know all the good angles from shooting all day, my timing is great, and I can zoom waaaaaaaaay more — but getting people to see/appreciate/buy that is the challenge.

    It’s a serious conundrum and definitely a chewy thought problem.


  6. The USDF show I went to last month had both a photog and videographer. I used both. The photog charged $10/ride to take pics, and you could buy pics at $30 each or $100 for the whole set. I thought it was well worth the up-front fee, so I have some to choose from although I doubt I’ll get the whole set. Videos were $35 per ride, which seems pretty pricey. They weren’t so great because the lighting, but better than nothing and I saw SO MANY mistakes, so overall it was very helpful for my riding. In fact, I wish I’d been able to see the vids after each test, because I feel like I would have been able to use them to improve. Sometimes you see things from the ground that you don’t realize in the saddle, and that’s worth the $$$.

    Hopefully you’ll get some good pics without breaking the bank!


    1. The $10 a ride seems reasonable to me as long as I’m familiar with the photographer’s work enough to know that it won’t completely suck. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that passes as pro work around here. O.O


  7. When I was showing consistently, you either had the smaller shows where there was no photographer, or you had the big shows who brought in big time teams of pros (KC Montgomery, Jeff Kirkbride, etc). I have a handful of photos where I’m actually riding from the 2008 World Show, but most of the time the only photos we ponied up for ($100ish per photo) were my big win photos against the backdrop. It actually makes me really sad, because I would love to have had more ‘action’ shots.


  8. Whoa. That’s crazy! I’m looking at buying some photos from our first limited distance ride, and depending on the size I want, a printed photo ranges from $7 for a 4×6 to $35 for a 11×14. And for about $7 more we get a digital copy for Facebook.

    Although, a videographer would be kind of cool! We don’t have those.


      1. Endurance ride photographers in general charge a LOT less per photo. If you buy them at the ride, it’s $9 for a 4×6 on matte paper. Online with the same photographer they’re about $11/photo. Endurance riders are not big spenders.


        1. No lies! If I had to pay a crazy high amount, I would NEVER buy photos.

          And yeah, endurance riders do things on the cheap if they can.

          I’m also not sure how professional the ride photographers are either. Usually I suspect it’s someone with a nice DSLR who is willing to come out and take the photos for a myriad of reasons.

          Not 100% sure on that, I just know that the ride photographer that I’ve seen at our rides, that’s how it seems to be.


  9. one of the photographers in my area offered pre-registration and he gave you a disc with all of the digital files. It was around $125 and I walked away with over 100 photos. I liked that!


  10. It’s amazing how much they charge for photos here in America. Back home in Ireland, depending on the show, you get a printed photo in paper frame for 10-25€. And they are good. Both the momet of click and the photo printed quality. But then again, it was a chock to my system when I realize how much everything equine related cost over here compare to Europe. Best of luck to you this weekend.


  11. Eek, yeah that price is a bit scary – especially since you weren’t impressed my that photog’s work before. I’m totally sympathetic to the photog struggle though and I th to help too, but for the small 3 phases that I’ve been at lately I wasn’t even impressed with the shots they got

    I think the models that jenj and Tracy both mentioned seem like good ideas for particular situations (like $10 per ride seems hard to do for anything but a dressage show) .


  12. We have a photographer in the area who use to shoot a lot of the shows and he seriously made it into an art form! Sadly b/c of a lack of interest he no longer takes pictures at the horse shows 😦 But OMG his timing/eye/skills were truly amazing. Now he does other forms of media and I do enjoy following him on Facebook and watching what he puts out 🙂

    We do have 2 different photographers in the area that still go to shows and take pictures. Liz Crawley ( does a great job and has very good timing. I ended up buying the CD of all my pictures for $100 at FENCE HT b/c I wanted to support her AND I enjoyed most of the pictures. If I bought them individually I would have to pay $30 so if I like at least 3 I will buy the “show set CD”. Though if the CD was $250 I don’t think I would of been able to choke that down and buy it- especially in a pre-order fashion- what if you get eliminated? Do they give you a refund if they only took 1 or 2 pictures of you or even 0 pictures of you at the show??? Pre-ordering truly freaks me out a bit!!!


  13. I have about five versions of my thoughts on show photographers in my drafts but I can never get the courage to post it because I have a pretty unique (and probably unpopular) view. I love show photographers and I support them when I can. Heck, I paid for Dandy to be videod at every show last year and ended up buying two. That was expensive! And I bought a website quality photo of him when he was at Rebecca Farms HT for $25 which I thought was a decent price. But the local photographer? I would wait and wait for him to post photos at the show (you had to pay to get your photos posted online) and nothing was ever amazing and his prices were EXPENSIVE! I am not paying you for a photo that’s no better than my amateur photographer boyfriend. I’m just not.

    And then when I started competing at agility trials, they had a photographer there taking photos. No guarantee that she was going to get a shot because she flirted from ring to ring. She did what she could. And do you know what she charged per photo? $5 for a digital high resolution copy. I bought every single one she took of my dogs. And you could use it for anything other than selling/promoting. I was able to post it on FB, I meant to post it on my blog (never got around to writing the post) and I could (and did) print copies of it. It was all in her agreements and use rights. It was amazing.

    So then I started thinking, with so many people who can take good to amazing shots with their own equipment, why do you even need a show photographer? One of JLE’s barn dads has an amazing set up and while he’s not a professional, he very well could be. His shots are fantastic. And he stands out in the XC field for a whole division taking photos of our team. What if he could just take shots of everyone, and hand out his card and sell the digital copies for $5/picture? No guarantee he’d get you but he’s going to be out there any way. And if there were 10 people at the show doing this? Why, I bet parents or siblings with good set ups and decent skills could pay for their child’s show or at least a good portion of it. I know I’d go through and collect cards and look through photos for me and my horse. And I’d pay money for them, assuming I’m not being gouged.

    I understand why show photographers do what they do and charge what they do. I just can’t justify the expense when my boyfriend’s photos are just as good.

    Anyway, /thoughts.


  14. Here in South Africa, I don’t think I’ve been to a single show where there *wasn’t* a photographer – even if the photographer happened to be one of the big kids with a point and shoot. Bear in mind that I’ve been to only one graded show, so I’m referring to tiny unaffiliated training shows. How exactly these photographers make any money is actually beyond me, because virtually ever for sale ad I see contains clearly watermarked images of the horse.


  15. I’m very lucky here in Area VI. We have a video company that video’s every ride. That’s their slogan in fact! And it only runs like $150 for all 3 phases! Includes disk and online video, just takes about 2 weeks to get it. I support show photographers when I can, but I’ve never done pre-paid.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s