Photographing at Horse Shows When You’re NOT the Official Photographer

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about putting this out there. This is such a controversial topic within the equine photography industry and before we go on, I want to stress that I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer here. It’s a grey area and I think it’s going to remain grey. But, I thought it might be an interesting topic to discuss with the show season looming, because it’s something that causes me a fair amount of angst.

Naturally, us horsey folk attend a lot of horse shows. And many of us will take a camera and take photos.

As someone who loves horses, has friends who compete in showing up to RIHS and HOYS level, generally enjoys photography as an art and loves to tell stories, about horses, through the use of images, I love photographing at shows. There’s just so much going on, everywhere you look.

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

And I don’t mean that I want to work as an event photographer. In fact, quite the opposite. I worked in event photography for a number of years before choosing to do what I do now, and in all honesty, whilst I understand why some people love being in the thick of the action, I wouldn’t trade back to event photography for the anything. I love what I do now.

What I love is the details, at events. I love snapping a mother as she fastens her small child’s riding hat. I love documenting a whole collection of rosettes hung proudly on a rider’s number elastic. I love spotting an abandoned basket of grooming products by the side of the ring, or the cloud of chalk dust blowing from a coloured pony’s feathers. The things that, to me, represent everything about competing that the official photographer might not have the time, man power or need to capture. So, when we go to shows, I often take my camera. For my own enjoyment.

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

Whilst I’m there, I’ll photograph some of the horses going round in the ring. Some I know, some I just think are pretty… I really don’t do this for any reason other than the fact I love to do it. If I don’t have my camera there, it’s like I get withdrawal and a twitchy shutter finger. I constantly notice moments that I wish I could photograph.

And then I often blog about the show, about the results my friends achieved, about the show itself, etc. Because, well… I blog about most things. I blogged about my dog getting a grass seed. I blog about my family’s birthdays. And part of the love of photography is the enjoyment of sharing your images.

I think one of the issues here is that, with what I do, there is no real separation between work and my personal life. Horses are not only my job, but they are my enjoyment, too. Also, I include a lot of myself, my personality and my own life in my work, because it helps build brand, allows my readers to get an idea of who I am, etc. so the line between professional and personal is incredibly blurry.

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

Now, I need to put this out there before I go on, because it is so important to me that this is clear; I do not, and nor would I ever, ever, ever, sell an image that I have taken from an event that I was not working at. I have been asked to, hundreds of times. And every time, I say no!! Lots of people can vouch for that.

I have even been asked, by competitors, to attend events (RIHS and Windsor, for example) to do a ‘mini photoshoot’ with a competitor and their horse, on the showground. It might be that they live a long way from me and are coming to a show that I’m attending, so see the opportunity for us to get a shoot done and not have to worry about travel. In theory, great idea! But,again, I would never do this, either! I will never take any money for photographs taken at an event that has an official photographer covering it, or where I am not the official photographer, even if we work in totally different genres of photography. Never! Because, I’ve been that ‘official photographer’, not just at horse shows, but at all kinds of events, and I’ve had people do exactly this to me. I’m not into stepping on anybodies toes.

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

So, with that cleared up, where are the boundaries? I don’t think anybody knows.

I’ve been shouted at by official photographers, threatened by show societies, spoken to politely by organisers, etc. all telling me some variation on the fact that I can’t take photographs at their event.

I’ve even been told I’d have to pay a fee to photograph my friends, even when I’m not making a penny from the images. When I agreed I would only photograph people I knew, I was told by one photographer ‘Your problem is, you have too many friends.’ In the end, I was allowed to take photographs of my closest friend and her pony, and that was all. They actually stopped me from photographing the other people I came to the show with!

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

So, I often can’t take photos at events. Despite not making a penny from the images. But you can. You, as the ordinary members of the public. Even if you have a spectacular camera. However, there is rarely an exclusivity contracts at these events.

If there is a contract or rule of some kind, eg. at Horse of the Year Show, then that’s a totally different story and I respect that entirely. I will admit, when I took photos ‘backstage’ at HOYS in 2014, I had no idea I was breaching any rules and when the press lady phoned to verbally slap my wrist, she soon realised that it had been an honest mistake, she was very polite and understanding, and I immediately removed the images.

But for the most part, they are public events and supposedly anyone is allowed to take pictures. There are no laws against it. So, considering the fact that I was a horse owner, lover and competitor before I was ever a photographer and very often accompany my friends who compete, when I’m at a show, as a groom, a friend, a member of the general public, should I be forbidden from taking photographs?

Because I make my living from photography, even though I won’t be making a single penny off of those particular photographs from that show, there is a mahoosive, frustrating grey area when it comes to me (and I assume this applies to any other professional photographer, although this is written from my own personal experiences) taking pictures.

Another way to view this is to think that there is also a caterer at most events, also making a living by providing a service to the people attending. How much uproar would there be if show societies were to suggest that attendants were no longer allowed to bring food for themselves or make bacon rolls for their friends. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But is it not a similar thing?

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

I also want to add that I am a great advocate of my friends buying images from the event photographers covering whichever event we are at. I love to go with them and help choose photos, often resulting in them spending a small fortune with the photographer. I think it’s part of the excitement of the day. Firstly, because I wholeheartedly agree with supporting the photography industry and secondly, because I just love photographs and truly believe that you can never have too many.

Also, I’m not standing in the ring taking photographs, with the best vantage point. I’m standing the other side of the fence, or sitting in the stands. Or I’m grooming, so can’t get photos of the class at all. I’m usually not able to get a great angle on them winning their rosette or them trotting down the long side… but the official photographer is. So I think it’s important for people to purchase prints from the official photographer.

Photographing at horse shows when you're NOT the official photographer - Sophie Callahan Photography

I know, for a fact, because I watch my friends hand over money at each event we go to and actively encourage them to do so, that me taking my own photos at shows has no impact on the people I am with buying images. I don’t sell them. I don’t discourage friends from buying prints. And if you follow me online, you’ll know that I’m a supporter of other photographers work (Unless you happen to have been totally and utterly, unnecessarily rude to me. Which has happened in the past. In which case, you can stick my support somewhere uncomfortable!) and of other equine businesses!

So, why the hostility? Why do I feel like so many event photographers are so behind the times when it comes to encouraging other photographers, supporting one another and just generally being friends. I won’t steal their business. I don’t want their business! I just enjoy taking pretty pictures.

Why do people get so irate about people like me taking pictures at events? And do you think they are unreasonable? Or, on the flip side, do you think I should leave my camera at home, accept that I can’t capture the action at events and just suck it up?

Or maybe the event photographers need to up their game and start mixing it up a little?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Whether you’re a photographer, a competitor or a show organiser, why not leave a message in the comments below to let me know your point of view…

 

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22 Responses to Photographing at Horse Shows When You’re NOT the Official Photographer

  1. I’ve only recently started going to shows and events to take pictures. I go for fun and to gain some experience shooting events I know nothing about (I went to a hunter/jumper show and an American Saddlebred show. I was clueless). But I’ve always wondered what the proper “rules” were. I’ve thought about trying events at some point, but I’m like you in the sense that I love the details. Thank you for shedding light on this! 🙂

  2. chriszygakis says:

    This is a very nive post. I didn’t knew that such things happen. I understand that photographers take photos for money, but nobody has the right to prevent amateurs to take pictures too for their own use. Do professional photographers pay fees to attend?? Stalls to rent? Athletes to train? Horses to wash and groom? Pooh to pick up? No. They just stand there photographing. But for the equestrians, eventing is not just a job. It is our life and part of our personality. And as professional photographers do in their everyday life, we have the right to do this too.

    Also, I think that the organisers should understand that. It’s us who will promote their shows and installments, not the photographers. The good or bad word about them depends on our experience and opinion about what they offer. Not upon the experience and opinion of people who just take pictures of strangers who make some effort in the saddle and previously spent hours on transport, feeding and grooming. I can do that too; watch others sweating and make profit from it. Not everything in the equestrian world is business.

    From your post I can understand that you might not completely agree with me, but I think that equestrians should speak up about this issue and step their foot down. Otherwise, let the photographers prepare the horses and athletes for these beautiful poses that they just take by pressing a button with their pointing finger (a quite expensive finger, by the way).

    • Julie Ward says:

      Your question as to if the official photographer (OP) have fees to attend, stalls to rent, athletes to train, horses to wash and groom, pooh to pick up, well, not in the same manner. Yes, we pay to be there. Some with a vendors fee, some with images given to the show management, it depends on the contract. No, I don’t have to rent a stall, but many have to rent space for themselves. No, I don’t have athletes to train, just myself in various forms of continuous education. No, I don’t have horses to wash and groom, but everything from my truck to my golf cart to all of my camera gear has to be cleaned and maintained regularly during a show. Pooh to pick up, nope.

      But do we just stand there photographing? Well, not exactly. I get to my shows a 1/2 hr before the first class to get my golf cart and gear unloaded and set up so I can be ready to capture the first horse over the first jump of the day. I run around the show between the 4 competition rings, the two warm up rings, and all of the barn set ups for the next 10 to 13 hours photographing everything from the competition in the grand prix ring to the pony getting braids removed at the end of the day. There are no lunch breaks, I bring snacks in coolers to grab a bite here and there in between rounds. Half the time there aren’t even potty breaks when I can’t leave a class and I stand there sweating and crossing my legs. I have stood in pouring down rain, wind, and cold temperatures all day without a break, and in over 100 degree days all day long. THEN I get to go home and spend the next 3 hours sorting and loading all of the images from the day so the exhibitors can see them that night. Then I get to reformat memory cards, charge camera batteries, charge the golf cart, wash the golf cart (it gets filthy in a day), clean out my coolers and prep food for the next day, take care of my own pets needs, make myself dinner, and try and get a few hours of sleep before I do it all again. Times 5 days in a row, with a two day “break” where I work extra long days at my OTHER job, then back for the next 5 days of horse showing. I have worked a show with scratched corneas, broken ankle, and even the week my father passed away and I was spending each night in hospice with him after the show. I was never late and never left early. The only time I left a show a few hours early was for his funeral. The only time I was 2 hours late to a show was the time my alternator went out on the drive there.

      My equipment that I bring along to shows totals about $35,000. I spend about ~$1300 each year for Nikon to thoroughly blast away the years horse show dirt and grime and recalibrate everything. I pay licensing, taxes, insurance, image hosting service, printing, and all of the other expenses involved in running a business. I carry 2 million dollars in liability insurance for horse shows. I have an entire wardrobe just for horse shows that is selected on an otherwise odd criteria but for it’s purpose.

      So while your post seems to not understand just how difficult and expensive our job is, believe me when I tell you it is not just standing around taking photos. Horse show photography is hard work and long hours. If I broke down my income by hours worked doing horse show photography it would be way below minimum wage. So why do I do it? Because it’s a passion. Because I truly love all of my horse show people. Because I love the sport. Because I love horses. Because I eat, sleep, and breathe photography. Because I have to make a living just like everyone else and I am fortunate to have the ability to do it with something I truly love.

      Also, I do not make beautiful photos by “just pressing a button with my pointing finger” any more than a rider wins a class by just pointing his horse at the jumps in the correct order. Much like a bystander that makes those cringe-worthy comments at a horse show, completely unaware how difficult and involved riding is, what goes in to consistently making excellent images is not even comprehended by a bystander or even a lot of amateurs.

      Not allowing other photographers isn’t about not letting anyone else profit, it’s about not cutting into the profit of the OP. We are completely saturated with images these days and a lot of people aren’t going to pay for an excellent photo when they can get just okay pics for free. And I am NOT saying that this particular blogger has just okay photos, they are beautiful, but that is rarely the case. And yes, normally show management is within their right to refuse other photographers. Most show grounds are privately owned and management has the right to remove any person they want from the grounds. Show management wants and needs professional images from their shows for marketing. If they don’t protect their OP’s they simply won’t have an OP any longer, which sadly is quite the epidemic. Horse show photographers are dropping like flies and are becoming quite scarce for all of the reasons that this entire page is discussing.

      I have a tremendous amount of respect for the trainers and exhibitors, and luckily at MY shows have they same amount of respect for me. It saddens me that often other areas have so little respect for a good OP.

  3. Kirsty Wylde says:

    If you’re not profiting from any of the pictures – then what’s the problem? If you are attending a show ‘off-duty’, then surely your rights are the same as any other member of the public attending a public show?
    I assist with photography at some events & while the people that I work for are very strict about being the only company allowed to profit from photos on the day (& rightly so!), I can’t imagine that they would ever prevent anyone from taking pics for their own enjoyment – however amateur or professional that person may be.
    I certainly won’t be stopping taking my camera out & about, for me it’s all about gaining experience & learning more. I very rarely even keep any of the pics I’ve taken. The only thing I am very careful about is not to photograph children without their parent’s consent…a big no no for me.

  4. Ellen says:

    I totally agree with you on this Sophie! There should not be any issues with you taking photos of your friends or for your own personal enjoyment, when you are not selling the photos – particularly if you are encouraging them to buy from the professional photographer who is covering the event. It’s crazy!!
    I photograph events at a local yard for pleasure and they sometimes have professional photographers come in, but I would never dream of selling any photos – it would be detrimental to their business. Luckily these photographers are quite approachable and we’ll have a chat about camera settings, etc.
    Have you ever approached the official photographer at an event to explain your intentions from the off? One photographer once mentioned to me that he would rather this was done and then he had no problem.
    If not then maybe you could go to your friend’s shows in disguise 😉 he he.

  5. Is it possible, like at a lot of other sporting events, to request a press pass? then there should be no quibbling over boundaries…?

  6. NJM says:

    I think there are a few important points to clarify here, especially in light of the comment by @chriszygakis above, so I will start with that one…

    Yes, the professional photographers DO have to pay to attend. In the case of HOYS, which Sophie mentioned, the photographer I work for have to pay thousands of pounds to the organiser of the event for the right to be the official photographer (after successfully going through a long-winded selection process beforehand). Add to that “licence” the cost of paying wages to their (up to ten) staff, food and drink for them and the staff, accommodation costs, media (paper, ink, mounts) etc. etc. and I think you will find it more than equates to those costs for entries, stables, etc. etc. I know that at that event it may take three or four days (out of five) to cover those costs in takings from sales.

    I must make one important correction to what Sophie has written, too. She writes, “they are public events and supposedly anyone is allowed to take pictures. There are no laws against it.”, and I’m afraid this is wrong on several counts. They are events which are OPEN to members of the public to watch and compete in but that does not mean that they are “public” in the sense that anyone can do what they want. They take place on private land, not in a “public place” and as such the media rights are owned by the show organisers. This applies to most sporting events, and large sums of money are paid by Sky (for the TV rights) and the official photographer (for the right to sell stills) and this helps the show pay for itself. So, in the same way that you cannot turn up and take photographs without permission at a Premiership football or rugby stadium (even if you do know one of the players), the same applies at most horse shows, particularly the big ones.

    As @joanna says, quite rightly, the way round this is to get accreditation. I have absolutely no doubt at all – and I know the Grandstand media team quite well – that Sophie would have been given permission to shoot had she asked in advance.

    Likewise, as several people have said, if you are genuinely not shooting for your own profit then there it is difficult to see why any official photographer would have any problem with it. I often have people come up and ask me at my events if I mind them shooting for their friends, family etc. and I always say no, I don’t mind at all, as long as they will not be for sale.

    There is, of course, a grey area (isn’t there always?). I shall explain. There are some unscrupulous photographers out there who will say there are not shooting for their personal gain or profit, but then proceed to shoot every competitor in every class in every ring. Why? Do they personally know them all? Unlikely! They then put their images on their Facebook page (often what Facebook calls a “Business Page” rather than a personal profile, and named something which sounds like it could easily be a business) and tag all the competitors in the photos.

    What’s wrong with that? I hear you ask. I think there are two elements which vex official photographers when this happens. First, what happens when someone contacts the photographer and asks for a photo? Are they tempted to sell them after all, knowing that nobody is aware of this private approach from the competitor? I know several eventing photographers who do. How do I know? Because I have been in people’s kitchens doing shoots for magazines and I have seen those framed photos on the wall. “Oh that’s nice”, I comment, “was that a gift?”. “God no, I wish!”, comes the reply. Noted.

    The second issue is that these images, published on Facebook, Twitter or wherever, are actually a marketing tool. Those photographers may well enjoy their art and do it largely for fun, but the reason they put them online is because they want people to see them. They are promoting their business. They gain “likes” for their page and they raise their profile, in the same way that an expensive advert in a magazine might do. Would an advert be considered a commercial use, which results in increased brand awareness for the product? Yes, of course it would. So, you could argue that these photographers are also using their photos for commercial gain as well.

    Anyway, in summary, I don’t think there is anything wrong with what Sophie, or people who behave like her, do. Some, though, are not as honest.

  7. What an interesting post!

    At first I must introduce myself because I found this blog post on Facebook and the title got me curious. I’m a 23 year old nurse from Finland but I could call myself as an amateur horse photographer. So basically I earn my living by working as a registered nurse but a horse photography (and photography alltogether) is a dear hobby for me. I’ve also got small amounts of money for doing photoshoots and selling event photos. And I pay taxes from all incoming I get. I just don’t have a degree of photography, I’m a self learned.

    Now I’m thinking of moving to the UK to work as a nurse. I’ve been asking around how the horse photography system works there and I’ve noticed that it’s whole different compared to Finland. It also seems to be much more difficult than I thought and it makes me sad. Maybe I have to open up a bit how these things work in Finland. Here all horse events are public events. It doesn’t matter who owns the land and who arranges the whole event – it’s a public place and everyone can go there. That means that EVERYONE can take photos as well as publish them on the internet or sell them. There rarely are official photographers anymore because almost everyone can take their own photos of friends and relative. However there are some crazy people like me who like to spend the whole day in the event, taking photos of EVERY competitor, and not just to sell them but for fun. I myself am a part of Finnish equine pedigree database (Sukuposti.net) and I often add my photos there. I do have my own website, facebook page with a few hundred likers, business ID and I’m quite well known in my own area here.

    I’m confused how this is different in the UK? Is the law different about public places or owned land or what? Is there actually a rule or law about this or is it just some unwritten rule of professional photographers to try to prevent others to enjoy their hobby?

    I’m also confused what should I do when I actually move to the UK. Should I drop the whole photography hobby or just change the subject from equine to nature for example? If I go to some horse event and take photos, will someone come to take my memory card because I’ve been stepping on someone’s toes?

    I understand that photography (especially equine photography) isn’t an easy way to make a living. In Finland the whole thing is so small that I probably can’t even understand how it is there. No one calls themselves as a horse photographer in Finland. Especially a professional one. You just can’t make a living by photographing horses here. Because everyone has a proper DSLR-camera and an amateur is always better/cheaper/friendlier/nicer. I appreciate professional photographers, both in Finland and abroad but I often don’t like their attitudes towards amateurs.

    What about the policy in smaller events? I understand that it’s more strict in international and probably in national events too but what about even smaller events? Is there an official photographer as well? Can’t I take photos there either? Even for fun and for my own usage? Not for sell? What if I just take photos of private horses, arrange some private photo shoots for free? Is that also illegal? I just mainly take photos for fun, this whole thing seems so difficult to understand that why wouldn’t someone allow me to do something that I really enjoy?

    I also need to answer to Nico Morgan’s comment about ‘unscrupulous photographers’. At first I want to say that I like his photos A LOT, they are very good. I often go through his gallery just to see some new photos of some fabulous events. I’m also a fan on FB. But I’m a bit surprised of this one sentence I picked from the whole comment:

    “There are some unscrupulous photographers out there who will say there are not shooting for their personal gain or profit, but then proceed to shoot every competitor in every class in every ring. Why?”

    Don’t you have any people who actually do that? Because I do. Like I told earlier in my comment, I like to take photos of every competitor and every horse just to keep a list and my own archive. What’s the point of going to some event (maybe taking the whole day/weekend off just because of it) to take photos of just few competitors? I don’t personally know any one of them but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to take photos of them. I also publish all good photos on my personal homepage (and one or two best photos on my Facebook page as well). Of course I want people to see my photos! I’ve never thought this was wrong.

    I’ve been meaning to ask some professional photographer about this whole thing before moving there but I guess this comment will do it. If Nico Morgan is reading this (or someone else PROFESSIONAL), I would really much appreciate a proper answer about what can I (an amateur) do and what I can’t because I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or do something wrong. I will (of course) appreciate the policy of the country I’m in. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’.

    Anyway, this became longer than I thought and I hope that I don’t make anyone feel offended by my comment. If anyone wants to contact me, my e-mail is info@tiiatahvanainen.com.

  8. Natalie Pennell says:

    I completely 100% agree with the way you feel in regards to this topic. I have a passion for photography and horses, so if there’s a horse show in town I too want to go and photograph it. But I never step on the toes of the show photographer in regards to people approaching me to take pictures – I always point them to the show photographer. And I never sell photos from events I go to where there is a professional photographer. My goal is to photograph the horses – sometimes in the ring and sometimes outside of. There’s a number of events out here where I’ve been told the show has specific rights with one photographer and I can’t shoot there. I’ve been told I can only photograph the warm-up rings, not the classes. Some shows specify it on their websites and others don’t. It is certainly a gray area, but at the end of the day if I’m not selling my photos and I am encouraging people to purchase their photos from the show photographer, I do not feel as though i’m doing anything wrong or stepping on anyone toes. But I still tread lightly and always worry about someone coming and yelling at me for it.

  9. Brenda says:

    I believe anyone should be able to have their favorite photographer at a show. You are right they may not have the best vantage point. But if you take pictures around that the show photographer does not even do there should not be any problems. I have a unique problem. My photographer disowned me after I helped her move out from her old man. Now I am forbid to be around her and she has told me she would not work with me anymore. Stupid I know. So if she is the photographer at a show, the photographer I bring in for my photos can stand beside her in the ring but the photographer cannot take anyone elses photos. Now how stupid can you get? How many horses and people are in the ring at the same time, right many. How can you take a photo without having someone in a photo or two? So I just went to an attorney and explained what was happening and was told since the original photographer has caused a ripple in my business she has no right to order my photographer, the one I brought in with any rules what so ever. So there is a way to get around anything.

  10. NJM says:

    Hi Tiia, thank you for your kind words.

    I am very aware of the Scandinavian interest in equine breeding. Indeed, a significant proportion of my online visitors come from Finland and I am regularly asked for permission to allow use of my images on virtual stables. As a result I can quite understand your interest in recording every competitor, I simply meant that in this country there are some who say they are not photographing for their own profit, but really they are.

    A quick précis of how horse shows in this country (normally, there are other models) work:

    – organiser hosts event on private land and pays the land owner for the privilege.
    – organiser takes fees from trade stands to attend the show and sell to competitors. Normally they limit the trade stands to one of each sort, in order for them not to be in competition: 1 coffee stand, 1 on-site photographer, 1 burger bar etc. Fees can vary. Sometimes, as a photographer, we would just pay a standard trade stand fee but for bigger shows it may be considerably more.
    – organiser may accredit other photographers who are covering the event for editorial (online and magazine/papers) purposes. Members of the public are welcome to take photos but are expected not to sell them in any way. At the bigger events accredited editorial photographers are permitted to sell direct to competitors and the public in general after a three-month period. This applies to some European events too.

    As you can see, if an on-site photographer has to pay a fee, wages to three or four photographers for several days, and their photographers’ food, drink and travel expenses, they would be keen not to be competing with photographers who haven’t got any of those expenses.

    To answer your question about what you can do as an amateur: do as you like, as long as it is not for your profit.

    British Eventing have brought in a licence system but it is not yet in general use. The idea is this: the organiser issues a licence to the on-site photographer and this gives them the right to sell to competitors on the day and on their website afterwards. Without this licence you can’t do it and they have the right to pull them offline if you were to try to. Some organisers of shows have even gone so far as to contact non-official photographers who have images of their show and try to buy them. If they agree to sell them over the phone they then reveal who they are and insist that all images are removed from the web.

    Hope that helps, and thank you for your kind words.

  11. roadcart@yahoo.com says:

    do you give the photos to friends? Even if you encourage friends to buy from the official the bottom line is free is better than paying! I have seen this over and over again.

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  13. DiDeff says:

    I ran across your blog post because I was just rudely approached and called names by an official photographer at a horse show because I was taking photos. Even though I assured her that I had no intention of selling any photos and was taking photos for the intent of art for my personal blog that I use to report on local horse shows, she still was incredibly rude and told me I was a poacher and that I was unethical. I think that kind of treatment of spectators is ridiculous and the exchange was incredibly unprofessional. While she is supposedly a big deal, I certainly found her to be an insecure bully. If she had approached me in a civil manner she would have learned that I am not a professional photographer, I was using a barrowed camera, and that there was no chance of me selling any shots I was taking. It makes me shudder to think professional photographers are being that territorial. The fact of the matter is that an average Joe might have a nice camera in this day and age and there’s not much to be done about it. The other part I found ridiculous is that she wasn’t shooting any photos and hadn’t been for the couple of hours I was walking around the grounds. Yet at least two arenas were active with classes. Instead she stood behind me eating Cheetos while I was taking photos then wanted to know who I was. I understand the pickle pro photographers are in, but yelling at spectators is not the way it should be handled.

    • NJM says:

      Hi DiDeff
      Would you be good enough to contact me privately about this? The BEF and BEWA (Journalists association) take a very dim view of this sort of behaviour.

  14. DiDeff says:

    Hi NJM. Thank you for asking! I took a pretty dim view of it myself. It’s amazing to me that the horse industry seems to be largely OK with this kind of behavior in the name of saving the official photographer. If only we felt this way about every business whose business model is getting outdated and therefore under pressure. Feel free to contact me (I couldn’t figure out how to contact you through your profile.) But it may make a difference to you that I am in the U.S.

  15. teelions says:

    I was at recent Grand Prix event in my state when a director cautioned me about taking ‘professional pictures’. Then I showed her my Sony a6000 and said, “What, with this ‘toy’ camera?” She looked at it then back at the contract photog with the larger 5d & 80-300mm and just smiled and said sorry.

  16. fletcherk2 says:

    I have read through most of the above posts and would like to add my thoughts. If you gave every member of the public attending an event a camera, how many of them would take a great image? Moreover, how many of them would be able to sell their great image?

    People value and buy images for different reasons. The key aspect in terms of a photograph is t’s value and this has nothing to do with money, If a photographer takes a great image, professional or hobbyist it is the value that image has to someone looking at it that is of most relevance, not who took it and as the value increases often so does its value in relation to money.

    Some people may choose to give the image away some may want to charge for an image and there is value in both..

    I am a freelance photographer, in other words I try to earn a living from photography and people commission my services and buy images from me. However, I respect official event photographers and will only sell an image of a rider after three months from the date of the event where I have taken photographs.

    As a freelance photographer, I have photographic related insurances to pay, equipment to buy, rent and service, together with TAX to pay. As I put a lot of time and effort into my work I think it should be valued which it obviously is, otherwise no one would pay me for it. However, I don’t pay the event for a stall, or run viewing and printing facilities and employ a load of other staff.
    So, my outlay is less expensive.

    However, as I do not have signs and banners everywhere the majority of people are less aware of me and what I do, I also don’t take images of every rider and just click the shutter like a chimpanzee. What makes me different from an event photographer is that I look for locations and riders that I think will make good images that will be valued, but if I get it wrong make no money at all and people have to search for my work as it is not on computer screens at events.

    Take a look in any paper, magazine, book or website and the chances are you will see images that go hand in hand with a written story. Now try and picture all of this content without any photography.

    Life would be very dull without images, especially photographs that have or add value to people.

    Most things in life are interrelated and connected in ways we often take for granted, photographers need the subject matter as much as the Horse sponsors, riders, grooms etc, need photographers.

    Some of my images have been used for PR and to promote a service or product, these people benefit and then sponsor riders and events without which their would be no public equestrian events and no need for official event photographers.

    We should all be entitled to make choices and value things in life.

  17. FrustratedSnapper says:

    What an interesting article and so many interesting replies… and some lovely photos 🙂
    It certainly highlights the confusion people experience. I totally agree with the general ethos shared by others – not to take any photos for reward whilst in the presence of an official photographer. As has been said, it is a private event and the bottom line is that all photography can be banned by the event organisers if they deem it fit to do so (even if hard to enforce) as it is not in a public place. Perhaps we should just feel privileged to be allowed to take any photos and shut up!
    I think the lack of clear guidance and poor excuses the ‘challengers’ often come up with is where the problems start.
    The type of equipment you brandish seems to be a big part of the problem. People taking photos with camera phones are regarded as merely snappers and therefore of no threat and seem never to be approached. Once you have an expensive camera, a big lens and heaven forbid – a tripod, you are the villain (whatever your intent may be – good or bad, pro or amateur).
    I have taken personal photos at an event and been told that due to there being children present, that wouldn’t be allowed. Yet the official photographer was able to take photographs of my children and post them on his Facebook site for all to see without my permission. This was despite there being nothing explaining this or covering this in any terms and conditions of my attendance at the event.
    Of course, nobody with camera phones were approached. This is very common both at equine events and many others.
    I have been told to turn my camera the opposite way when people I don’t know are showing… what about when these ‘unknown’ people drift into view behind someone I do know? Do I then mosaic their faces out?
    The police went through a period of being paranoid and quoting the terrorism act to detain train spotters on platforms taking pics of steam trains or people photographing buildings from a public place in the city. I have been removed from shopping centres whilst taking pics, who cited ‘commercial sensitivities’ for the reason and detained by police who said I ‘may be a paedophile’ as I was pointing my camera at a crowded (public) high street. Neither asked to see what photos I had taken to prove the point nor have I ever been questioned when using my camera phone to do the same.

    Unfortunately, it seems the grey area will remain grey. Reasons and excuses for questioning photographers are often vague and completely unfounded and there seems to be no hard and fast rules. One thing that is for sure, I and many other photographers will continue to find the enjoyment of loving the art of taking pictures purely for their own pleasure, severely reduced by the constant worry of people challenging them. But people have never taken so many pictures… so someone better bring some colour to this grey area at some point!

  18. Lani says:

    I have been starting to photograph at events but luckily for me everyone seems fine with me photographing. I honestly don’t understand why professional photographers have such an issue with amateur non-profit photographers at events from what I have heard though. Are they making money from this? No. We are just practicing and gaining skills in our passion. Shouldn’t they be encouraging more people?? The only thing that I do to my images is post them on social media (Instagram)

  19. tlhopkins says:

    No it is not illegal. Contracts apply to commercial photography only for example, selling a product or brand. Selling or giving away a photograph or print is not considered commercial. I asked lawyers about it and was told any event the public is attending is thus a public event (even on private land – no model releases are required) and anyone can photograph or sell/give away their prints. Editorial use do not require model releases. It is only required for commercial use. Other photographers will try to intimidate you and often even the executives at the event do not know the law. Shoot on my friends.

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