Horse Show Photographers Are Facing A Crisis

From Chronicles of the Horse…

Wow… you can just feel the pain and hurt in the words.

“I don’t think photo thieves realize how much of our life is consumed by the photos that they are so quick to take without paying. I don’t think they realize they’re putting people out of work. I don’t think they realize I stay up late at night trying to figure out how to employ our staff with diminished sales due to theft. I know these people don’t steal from tack shops, that they pay the braiders and the blacksmith and their horse show bill, or their trainer. So I don’t think they really know what they do.”

Oh no, they do indeed know. They don’t care. That is the hardest thing to face… the customers don’t care about what your personal challenges are. There is a fundamental change hitting that kind of photography (I would insert the obligatory ‘weddings next’ statement but I thought better of it so no one sends me any death threats… this is not the sentence you were looking for…), and there will be fallout and chaos.

“The next issue I want to address is the scab photographer, or poacher, or faux pro. This is the photographer who shows up with nice or not-so-nice camera equipment, with little to no expense involved in being there. They have full-time jobs outside photography and just show up for fun or for the weekend.”

Unfortunately for the professional horse photographer (dogs, events, skating… all are feeling it) the arrival of digital has lowered the bar on acceptable, and a dentist with a bigass DSLR can indeed make a good, sharp image. With some practice they can make killer, sharp, well composed images.

Loyalty to you, the photographer may be more difficult to create.

“The unfortunate truth is that brand loyalty across every industry is declining. According to Ernst & Young, just a few years ago the average customer was loyal to their favorite brands about 40% of the time. Now, that percentage is estimated to have dropped to just 25%.”
— Angela Pointon, “How to Create Brand Loyalty”

Yes, they are taking away your business as a horse photographer. They don’t care. It is NOT their responsibility to care… they want to make pretty pictures, and read somewhere on a forum that they could recoup their lens purchases with the prints they sell. Single purpose ROI.

I am not saying this is right or wrong (and using the word “scab” will certainly not go a long way in public relations… sheesh…) but it most definitely IS the state of affairs with consumer/commodity photography.

I know people get tired of hearing the same old thing… but, sigh… to succeed in this type of business (little capital investment, easy to produce product) one will have to go far beyond what is now considered traditional marketing/service to something totally different and exciting enough for customers to want to pay.

Then get ready for it to fall on its self again… and again.

Change the game!

4. Have a Point of View

In a world of mass messaging, right and left points of view, and chest thumping me-ism, I see so many artists who are reluctant to let their true colors shine. They’re worried that having a point of view might alienate a subset of fans or followers. Well, that’s bullshit. Because the only reason you’d want fans and followers is to genuinely connect with a community of like minded people – connect your authentic self with theirs. Referencing #1 above – you think it didn’t take balls to stand up for a belief in marriage equality amidst the typical hiphop anti-gay mindset? Sure it took balls, but that’s what M&RL believe and so they found it a perfect thing to write about – with confidence. I spoke to them about it here. THAT is called having a point of view.


I’m guessing there’s a few things in your world (I know there are in mine…) that you’ve been scared to put out there. Dimes to donuts that this thing you’re holding inside will be a huge benefit when you get out of your own way and share that thing, own that thing, have a point of view. The people that will care about that thing are the people you’ll want to connect with anyone. So what are you waiting for?”
— Chase Jarvis, “7 Lessons Anyone [YOU] Can Learn from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis”

The hockey stick for how this stuff will change and mind-share is at nearly vertical… what is cool this year may not be cool next year. It will be a constant struggle for the minds and hearts of customers.

Not saying it is right, only that it is what it is.