I don’t photograph events in an official capacity any more. It’s a decision I made at the beginning of this year, purely because I wanted to focus more on the private photoshoots. However, my photography career actually began in event photography, at the age of nineteen, when my Dad and I founded a company that we eventually franchised across the UK and then sold, when I began working on equine photography. I worked within this company for four years, doing everything from photographing, selling, website management, marketing, booking events, meeting with clients, training franchisees… the list goes on. So this is definitely something that, whilst I don’t consider myself an expert on, by any means, I have had extensive experience in. And if you want to get in to any kind of photography, events are a fantastic marketing tool to start you off, as well as great for experience.
So here’s the scenario; You’re just starting out in your photography venture, whether you’ve made the leap from part time to full time yet, or whether you simply consider yourself a hobbyist and want to make some extra money or photograph events because you enjoy doing so. You’ve been booked for your first equestrian event as the ‘official photographer’ and you’re going to go along, take photographs and put them online for people to purchase, following the event.
So, what advice can I give you? I could spend days on this subject, after all, we used to have our franchisees in for weeks worth of training. But to keep it simple, here are my three top tips for a newbie photographing at equine events.
It might be a little late in the day now, for this first tip, but still, it’s the thing that I feel is most important when photographing horses. And it’s to know horses! Know about their movement, the correct ‘way of going’, about their expression, their behaviour, how their owners want to see them in your images, about the particular sport you’re photographing, etc. For example, if you’re photographing a dressage or showing show and you don’t understand what I say when I tell you that you don’t want photographs of the horse looking ‘on the forehand’ or ‘overbent’, I suggest that, at the very least, you go and do some homework.
My second piece of advice would be to know your camera. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. Every camera is different and the only way you are going to find out how to get the best results from yours is by using it. Go out and shoot everything and anything. Shoot in different lighting, in different locations, shoot different subjects. I posted the other day about being rubbish at pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and that’s totally true for me lately. I only really ever photograph horses, now. But when I started, I photographed everything.
I’ve shot dance competitions, football tournaments, horse shows, dinner and dance evenings, school plays, Christmas parties, I’ve shot indoors, outdoors, on backdrops, in studios, in the daytime, at night… Four years on the road with an event photography company sure puts you in some weird and wonderful situations. Honestly, my Dad and I have some fabulous stories from our time in event photography. And as a result, I ended up knowing my camera inside and out. I knew how to get myself out of a sticky spot if I had a low light/high action situation. I knew what could go wrong, and what to do if it did. I’d been thrown into so many situations and I’ll admit that at the beginning, I really had no idea what I was doing a lot of the time. But it was invaluable experience and has gone such a long way to making me resilient, resourceful and ready for anything, in the job I do today. Compared to the unpredictability of event photography, what I do now is like a walk in the park.
Lastly, my advice to you, once you know that you are capable of doing a good job, is to be confident. The likelihood is that you’ve been booked to photograph that event because somebody has seen and liked your work. In which case, you deserve to be there! Act like it. And if you’re a nervous wreck, fake it! Pretend you’re confident and nobody will ever know any different. Smile at people, chat to people, be approachable, make yourself known and don’t be afraid to get the most out of the event. Ask the organisers to give you shout-outs over the tannoy system, if they have one, ask them to share your links on their website and social media sites, give every competitor a business card… Be efficient, be professional and be proud.
I hope that helps even one of you who are facing the daunting, but incredibly exciting journey into event photography. Good luck and feel free to check back with me and let me know how you get on!