Why There Will Soon Be No Event Photographers Left


Ok, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I’m going to get my rant on today. It’s not something I do very often, but I feel that this is really important!

Here’s my question, to those of you who compete with your horses…
Is having a professional photographer, capturing those special moments, something you’d consider a basic requirement of any well run event? I’d probably say so.

If your answer was yes, then please, please, please, please (x infinity) stop stealing images from these hard working, event photographers.


I didn’t attend Horse of the Year Show, back in October, for the first time in years. But a couple of days after the event, I could tell that the HOYS photographer had just put the photographs online. No doubt they’d worked long and hard to get thousands of photos edited, curated and onto their website, for the competitors’ viewing pleasure, so quickly.

And the reason I knew they’d gone online, without having to look, is because my Facebook feed was FULL of stolen images. The ones with the big copyright symbol smack-bang in the middle!

And it makes me so sad!! Actually, it embarrasses me. Because it’s so freakin’ tacky!

Because it’ll be the competitors who are gutted when there are no photographers at any of the big shows next year and nobody, other than your friend with their camera-phone, catches you winning that prestigious class or your youngster at his first show.

Honestly, how sad will that be?!


And I’m sure some of you are going to come back with a comment about how event photographers charge too much, etc. etc. etc. and of course, I’m going to defend them, because I’m a photographer, right?

But seriously. Are you aware of what goes into getting images of you at a show?

They don’t just turn up with a sub-par point and shoot camera and print the pics off of a £30 inkjet printer, like the one you have at home.

Firstly, if it’s a substantial size show, it’s likely that they’re paying an initial fee to be there. Then there’s the camera, the specialised dye-sub printer, the printing media, whatever mobile studio they’re working out of, the food, drink and accommodation for the whole team, travel expenses, the time of each and every single photographer or member of staff, the time it takes when they get home, to get thousands of photos processed and uploaded to their website… Just off the top of my head.

And that’s not even taking into consideration the time and learning that it’s taken for those photographers to know how to use their camera well enough to get a decent image of you, because yes, that’s a skill, and yes, that’s valuable.


My job is entirely different to event photography. I used to photograph events, but I gave it up to focus on what I do currently. I work with private, commissioned clients, so I’m lucky that I don’t tend to have this problem. This also means that I have no ulterior motive for writing this post. I just find it so disappointing when my news feed is full of ripped off images. And I feel so sorry for these hard working event photographers, who stand in the middle of the ring, all day long, in the boiling heat or the pouring rain, to get photographs of you and your horse.

And another thing, that I don’t think people realise… Even if you’ve purchased the print, it’s still not ok to steal the watermarked image from the photographers website. Most photographers offer a digital download. If you want to put the image online, buy that! And if you don’t want to fork out for that, then I’m sorry, but you can’t put the photo on Facebook!


I’m not trying to preach, here. Really I’m not. I just genuinely don’t think people realise how much goes into event photography. These guys are trying to make a living. They have bills to pay, families to feed… and what the hell is the point, if they just can’t stop people from stealing their product? We should be supporting these guys, not stealing from them!

We should have some respect and we should value their efforts and their place in this industry.

The advances in social media have been monumental in recent years, when it comes to helping small businesses promote themselves for very little or no cost. But it’s also becoming monumental in the demise of the event photography industry. And if it doesn’t change, I’m telling you now… There. Won’t. Be. Any. Event. Photographers!


So next time you go to press that screen-shot button, please, please, think twice!

If it’s worth having, it’s worth paying for.


If you liked this post, why not check out my social media pages for more…

     sophie callahan instagram

This entry was posted in Education and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Why There Will Soon Be No Event Photographers Left

  1. Pingback: Sharing on of our guest's posts from her blog - Equine Photographers Podcast

  2. You are of course correct, taking copyrighted photos is stealing! I was surprised to learn that there is still a big market for physically printed photographs, I had assumed that everything had gone digital, believed that should have lowered the cost, and the requirement to purchase packages always irritates me. I’m from back in the day when an event photographer traveled in a motorhome with a dark room in the back, and hung printed photographs outside the unit for sale. We bought one at every event during my youth career. They are very special to me.

  3. Great article, and I can identify with your story. So our solution for a sport event program was to stop posting to the internet. Tough at first as we trained our customer, not even going to discuss the cost, however with the investment of a better experience for the customer to purchase onsite we seem to have made headway. In my opinion it is in actual fact fellow photographers who do far more damage to our model, they will photograph an event and not wishing to invest in their onsite program continue to post online and suffer their images being stolen. Short of a watermark over the face of the athlete rendering them unrecognizable most people are only too happy to have images, however they obtained them, all the while the event organizers are asking for up front fees for vendors, guess that fee beats a class or course and experience is being obtained in the field. That would account for the rapid turnover of event photographers in general. My final word of advice to those budding photographers wanting to grow in the industry, work for or train under an existing program see what you could do better and go do it, Practice and get paid without the headache.

  4. Natalie says:

    I have to guess, that people think it’s okay to use (post) a photo, if the credits are given to the photographer. (watermark or in the text of the post)
    Not that I’m agreeing with that, but I am guessing that’s what the general public thinks….

    • Teresa Rogers says:

      @Natalie, I thought as long as the picture had credit on it that it was ok to post. I was under the assumption that the photographer wanted it out there on FB, etc. How much should it cost to just get a digital copy to post on FB?

      • Hi Teresa,
        We are terrible at business and will never, ever recover our investment and charge just £5 for a digital image. Interestingly we are discussing upping this price – at present for that you receive a hi-res image and one at 1000px – good enough for a 6×4 print or for social media. Will almost certainly leave the price at £5 for a 800 or maybe just 640px image while charging £10 or £15 for the full res.

        As a couple who work in all weathers some of our days are shot in very, very poor light (recently in a band of torrential rain and gale force winds) so those photographs are grainy and cannot produce acceptable prints much beyond 7×5 so pricing structure is tricky in the extreme.

        The Gather

  5. That’s exactly right. And when shows start finding themselves in a bind for publications and promotions, they will have to start paying the photographer by the entry to be there. That means that entries will go up $$.

  6. Well said Sophie. We operate in the hunting world and the very niche market of Sheepdog Trialling. Luckily most of our followers are decent folk and have agreed with us what may, and what may not be shared. Those who screen-shot our work and use it on social media receive a quite pithy message and an invoice together with an assurance that until the invoice is settled we will not just refuse to upload images of them but will not bother taking any. This is relatively easy with Trials as all images are indexed by name.

    The most irritating theft in recent weeks was by someone we know well and whose mother regularly buys a book of photographs at the end of each hunt season. The daughter had a tumble out hunting and a rather rough and ready sequence image was created and sent to her at very low resolution in a private message with an apt caption across it as a watermark. She “loved it” and asked for a proper version. This, as the photographers on here will know, is not a five minute task if done properly – it involved eight mages with a complex background of other horses and riders. The image was posted onto a password protected gallery that could only be accessed by the rider. The young lady, in her late twenties and with a very good income, knows that our photo-business is an important part of our income. Low and behold a screenshot appeared on her Facebook page with a private message saying “thanks guys – great picture.”

    Oh and the publication that filled a page with our hunting pictures without so much as an acknowledgement – suppose that we should be grateful as they had made a collage of low-res screen-shots – it looked awful.

    We love what we do and have invested heavily. We have no intention of “growing the business” or making a fortune – just enough to cover the diesel, dog-food, wine and Scotch required to get us to our next gig. Our business only works because it is heavily subsidised by the pension that one of us receives. We charge peanuts, are lousy at business are are too polite for our own good. Does that mean that we deserve to be the victims of theft?

  7. Unfortunately this is happening in virtually every branch of photography. This is not new though just more common. I was an advertising photographer since 1968, working for the top advertising agencies. I would never invoice a photo but copyright for use of an image for a limited period. It made no difference if it was a commissioned image or not, that system was always in my work conditions. Still we had problems for example VW using an image in England that I sold copyright for Belgium only. A letter was enough to receive a nice cheque by return.
    The problem these days isn’t the users of images but the social media that allows the images to be stolen. There is a system in existence as there is in music that handles these problems.

  8. J. Backs says:

    Perhaps there are some privacy settings the photographers should set which would not allow the sharing of their work. Just guessing here.

    • Tiia says:

      There really aren’t any privacy settings that doesn’t allow the sharing of someone’s work. If a rider wants to copy a photo from some event, the rider can do it easily, by taking a print screen and pasting it to Paint or some other photo editor program. There isn’t anything to prevent doing that.

      I know because I’m struggling with the same problem, only in another country (Finland). The only thing that might stop riders from copying photos illegally in the future is to send a huge bill and ‘force’ them to pay for illegal usage. If the rider is underage, then send the bill to his/her parents.

      It doesn’t really matter how big the watermark is or if you can’t use the right button on your mouse or if there’s a text saying ‘COPIED ILLEGALLY’ etc in the middle of picture – these are things that don’t matter for the person who wants to have a picture but not to pay to get it.

      It’s just stupid. It’s also the reason why most amateur equine photographers (we don’t really have professional equine photographers in Finland – it’s not a profitable job here) have stopped publishing event photos in the internet. All selling and photo showing are done via e-mail. It’s really the only thing that prevents illegal copying – don’t put your photos visible online. Of course it might not be an option for those photographers who do this for the living. People just don’t appreciate photographers anymore. It’s sad.

  9. Social media and the internet in general has been a very useful tool for the photographer, but it has come at a price, and this is what we see here. Personally I think event photography that involves only selling the images online after the event is no way to make a decent income, pocket money maybe, but that’s it. You can’t live by the internet, then complain when it comes to bite you back!

    You did the right thing Sophie, the same as me, work for private clients, or if you really want to do events, get employed directly by the riders or teams to commission you to shoot just for them. That guarantees you a wage and them some (hopefully) unique shots.

    Does it mean the end of event photographers? Probably not, every year someone new will come along, willing to try their luck. Personally I think the organisers should employ the photographer, not the other way around, lets face it, given the choice of going to an event with a good official photographer there, or one without, which would the riders rather go to?

    Though as has been mentioned, this is just part of a much bigger picture, happening in most other sectors of photography too, and will only get worse as cameras get better and cheaper. And on that cheery note 😉 ………

  10. Angela says:

    I’ve had a lot of photographers start charging you a base fee to view any proofs on your own computer/device- if they have them uploaded at the show you can view them for free at the photographers stand. It’s usually around $35.00, and if you end up purchasing a photo your deposit goes towards it- all in all not a bad deal for either side.

  11. clcoronios says:

    Sophie, an excellent article. And it’s happening here in the USA, too. I’m guessing that only the really big shows have truly professional event photographers now.

    Mark is correct, I believe – in that there will always be the next wannabe with a camera (or ‘faux-tographer’). Those who don’t realize that it’s not all fun and games when you are expected to be there from sunup to sunset, rain, snow, or shine; who post the good, the bad, and way too many ugly; who offer ‘all your pictures on a CD for $15’ because it takes too long to cull and sort.

    Do competitors REALLY want 150 off-stride, poor position (of horse or rider), out of focus, trash-can filled background photos?

    Copyright is different in each country – and many people truly DON’T understand that when they buy an 8×10 photograph, that doesn’t give them the right to copy and print multiple copies of it or to take a picture of it to post all over the internet. But way too many others don’t give a ….. (fill in the blank).

    Nicholas does what many in the USA are doing – to some degree of satisfaction.

    And the idea of shows hiring the photographer makes a lot of sense – if they think of customer service. Would it cost the competitors more? Maybe. Perhaps each competitor could be given a voucher for one web-sized digital image for each class entered (or each division entered) – that way, they’d feel they were getting something for the additional fee – and they’d still pay for any prints.

    Good luck – all over the world – we stopped doing event photography in 2014.

  12. Sophie you are so right. Unfortunately it is a worldwide problem. You have nailed right on the head.
    Thank you.
    I haven’t put anything on my website for a couple of yrs now I have gone back to emailing out proofs, and trying to educate people that way.
    They have know idea about copyright, I have even seen magazines do the wrong thing which is even worse.
    Yours in Action.
    Sally H

  13. Ruthanne says:

    A thief is a thief….

  14. I recently went to an event and purchased photos taken by a professional. The photographer gave me permission to use the digital ones that she posted to FB that I did not buy and also tagged me in additional photos for my own FB page. We all won. 🙂

  15. Duncan Harris says:

    I’m an Event Photographer and due to costs and stolen images many photographers have given up and already event organisers are finding it more difficult to book coverage for their events.

    I’ve heard many times the comment that people thought it was ok to copy images as they have a credit/watermark on them so it’s free advertising for me. Next time we do our food shopping at Tescos I’ll just walk out with our bags without paying, their bags are branded so I’m sure they won’t mind as I’m providing with free advertising for them.

  16. Jamie Whitehorn says:

    Some people who do this don’t realise it’s illegal – even in the replies here, there has been confusion. That’s a matter of education.

    Other people DO know it’s illegal, but they don’t care. As far as they are concerned it’s a crime without consequences. They steal a picture and nothing happens to them. So introduce a consequence. Create a central register of persistent offenders and make sure they are never photographed again by any event photographer anywhere.

  17. c says:

    Reblogged this on eventingdownunder and commented:
    Something that all competitors should keep in mind. Too often, I see people posting pics of watermarked images on social media. It’s tacky and incredibly disrespectful to those hard working photographers who sit out at events, rain, hail or shine. If you like a photograph so much, purchase it. If you can’t afford to purchase it… Share the link to the photo. That way when you can afford to buy it, you can easily find the exact photo.

  18. You are absolutely right!! It’s been going on for years, but I noticed it happening more than ever now. I should have done more about when I was photographing the shows, but I’m glad you did. Thanks,
    Daryl Weisser Photo.

  19. Tim Shenton says:

    It is not very helpful the charges some of these “event photographers” charge for a print size 8×6 with a cardboard mount. We have paid for these at the Three Counties and they are not cheap!!

    Perhaps if the were to make the costs more reasonable it might stop copyright infringement and encourage people to purchase the pictures. You are never going to stop people using copyrighted pictures on line (unless you are prepared to go to litigation) and then the only ones who make any money are the solicitors.

    Having worked in the photographic industry, the charges to the customer bear no relation cost of production.

    • Sandie Knudsen says:

      The cost of production is totally irrelevant. A lawyer charges a lot of money for posting out a letter – after all, it’s only the cost of paper, ink, an envelope and the postage. What are you actually paying for? The lawyer’s experience, knowledge and talent. That’s what we charge for as professional photographers.

  20. The photographer who attends South View Equestrian Centre has a great system, you cannot view and therefore steal images until you have paid a set fee. I think it was £20 but thereafter you have access to all your ponies images from that show.
    Less is more.

  21. Duncan Harris says:

    Should shops reduce their prices to stop shoplifting, should the motor trade reduce their prices to stop car left ?
    With regard to Event Photography charges to the customer, they certainly do bear a relationship to cost of production. Like any other business we have labour costs (usually the biggest cost), machinery costs (cameras, printers, computers etc), raw materials being media and mounts and of course trade stand fees, insurance (equipement, public liability, employee liability) etc.

  22. Shanta Stevens says:

    The watermark should say, “this photo was stolen”
    In an attempt to embarrass the “shoplifters”

  23. John Smith says:

    Event galleries should have a paywall for the larger preview images (see tinypass) and the images need “unlicensed ” across them – because all photos are copyright and nobody knows what that means!
    FB does have a very good takedown copyright reporting system too…

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s