How to Make Big Money from a Small Horse Show
Depending on where you live or the time of year, you may not always be able to land the really big profitable horse shows. Many seasoned equestrian photographers have the big shows “locked up” with contracts, and those shows are just off limits for the time being. Small shows are plentiful and often don’t have a photographer covering them. Many photographers think that just because a show is small or held at a small private barn means it’s not profitable. Quite the contrary. You can turn a small horse show into a horse trough full of money!
In this article I will show you how to turn a small horse show into a money making machine which will lead to barn photo-sessions, breeder & ranch shoots and all the equine photography work you can handle.
Where to Find the Horse Shows
Start by searching if your area has fairgrounds or equestrian event centers. You can check the website schedules for these local facilities that have everything from horse shows to mud wrestling! One big example is the event facility in Scottsdale called “Westworld”. Look for all the horse related shows you can find, noting the name, dates and show promoters contact info. Next, see if your area or the area you are working in has 4-H club:4h-club for California , you can type in 4h-club plus the state or even city you are wanting that info for. Great kids, great events, we have worked many 4h-club shows and have had really good results! This is a gold mine of shows, events and opportunities if you can get hooked in the loop of these small shows.
Another way is to find the “horse show guide” for the area. We used this particular Arizona guide: http://www.azhorseguide.com/Arizona_Calendar_Events.html to plan out our whole winter of weekends with shows, and we got about 90% of the ones we called on! The shows included all breed shows, single breed shows like appaloosa shows, arabian shows. It also listed small shows like Gymkhanas, local cowboy mounted shooting shows, cattle sorting and more! It will list the big shows too FYI. Other states have similar websites, just do some searches and you will find this wealth of info all on one website!
The next way to find shows is to look up private barns and check out their barn calendar. We found some great small shows that we ended up following the riders to larger shows!
Lastly, keep your eyes open! You will see barns and arenas everywhere! You will notice one off the freeway, drive by one when you accidentally drove down the wrong street, they are everywhere if you have your eyes open and are in a “horsey” place!
Book that Small Show!
So you’re scouring the websites & event facilities for a horse showsto work, and it seems like all the medium and larger shows are taken. All you’re turning up are tiny little shows, exhibitions and practice events, none of which seem like they’re going to be worth your effort. Let me tell you… THEY ARE!!!
Pick a small show, preferably one at a private barn or horse training outfit. Go to the facility and ask around for the owner or whomever is organizing the event (sometimes a trainer). Tell them what you do and that you’d love to come and shoot the event for the competitors. I recommend doing a booth setup and our tried and true method of Shoot, edit and sell on the spot. Keep your prices really reasonable so that you get lots of action at your booth. Don’t shoot too much as you want to have plenty of time to schmooze it up with riders, parents and trainers.
*Read more on exactly how to do the Shoot, Edit and Sell…our Media based method here: http://www.betterhorsephotography.com/operate-successful-horse-show-photography-business/
Make sure that you have some business cards with your contact info and website and/or some nice looking promo flyers to hand out. Be sure to actually talk with people. Don’t be the photographer in black that just shoots from the shadows and doesn’t speak to anyone! Just going around handing out business cards will not create a memorable connection with anyone either. Chat it up! As you are talking with people, compliment their horse, or their riding. Ask lots of questions, “How old is your horse?” “How long have you been competing in ____?” “Do you board your horse or keep him/her at home?” “Where do you board?” “Who’s your trainer?”
If you’re connecting with someone, offer to send them a link to your website, get their email address and phone number. Keep good notes of who you talked to and where they board & train and what their trainers name is.
Trainers, Trainers, Trainers!
Look for trainers! A small event can have anywhere from 1 to 5 trainers, each riding multiple horses. Each trainer will have from 3 to 10 students riding in a small show. Trainers are a key pathway to getting lots of portrait work. Trainers are looked upon with great respect by their students and gaining a trainer’s approval is the equivalent of Oprah giving the world her endorsement of your new book! If the trainer passes off on your work, her students will line up to book you for their equine portraits, equine family portraits, equine senior portraits, breeder shoots, owner shoots, ranch shoots and more! Often smaller events are populated with novice horse owners and kids. Everything is new and exciting to them and it is a perfect opportunity to bring in a boat load of profitable portrait work. Our sales in equine portraits garnered from horse shows averaged from $750 per shoot to $2000 per shoot. Once word got out and riders started seeing each others pictures, we would start getting bookings stretching a couple of months out, and repeat clients that would book us every year.
One great way we’ve used to hook a trainer, is to offer to do an equestrian portrait for them for free. This is a VERY effective method of gaining a trainer’s favor and is win-win for everyone. Trainers don’t make a ton of money and what they do, is a labor of love. They often can’t afford to hire a photographer to do a photo- shoot for themselves, so this is an awesome way to give them something that they really want. The trade is that they agree to let you use their images to advertise at their barn or the barn they train at. This is usually not a problem for anyone.
So, do your equine photo- shoot with the trainer and their favorite horse or horses, and show and give those images to them! This will create buzz and excitement around the barn as everyone will know (barns have alot of community) the shoot is happening and will ask her how the photos came out! Then, create a poster/flyer with 2-3 of your best images from the shoot. See some of our examples with captions, make sure to include all your contact info!!!
I know you will do a great job with the trainer and her horse! The photo- shoot will be incredible and you will have one hundred… killer, award winning, absolutely stupefyingly awe inspiring images! But PLEASE resist the urge to cram them all onto your poster or flyer. It will make a cluttered mess that will not show your work well. Even using just 1 really good image has far more impact than 5 kick ass images. Trust me.
So now you’ve got your posters or flyers up all over the trainers barn (with pre-arranged permission) and her students now see someone they know in the flyers, instead of a stranger. This is HUGE! Before, if they saw one of your stunning images of a stranger and her horse on a flyer, they could chalk it up to a lucky shot you took seven years ago. Now, they see that no… not luck. We know this person, and her and her horse look spectacular! You just hit rock star status! It just takes one person to book an equine photo-session with you, and the avalanche begins!
Packages and Offerings
Being prepared for that portrait avalanche is key and you will need to have the following worked out and organized so all your photo-sessions are fun and profitable too!
You will need to know where you are allowed to show these great images you took! If you can, find a place at the barn where you can plug in your computer or laptop and show your images there where other riders are ambling by after their horse riding practice. This will land you even more bookings!
You will need to have your prices and packages worked out and all the photo-finishing products you want to offer. Do you want to offer prints on paper, canvas or metal? What about photo-albums? Decide what your products are and have some sort of price sheet or price book to show the client as they review their images. READ:http://www.betterhorsephotography.com/make-amazing-sal…orse-photography/
Have turn around times, where the images will be delivered, confirm names, address, email and phone. Have all your ducks in a row! You can have a fantastic photo-session, have the client do a large order, but if you drop the ball at the end… say… the order took longer than you quoted… that will be what people talk about! It’s an unfortunate part of human nature to focus on what didn’t go well. Don’t sabotage all your new business opportunity by not being organized and think everything through! Your referral business depends on it! Have time quotes with room, policy on re-shoots, how many horses are included… think, think, and think some more! You will still forget details and learn as you go, we all do. Just do your best to be organized, be able to answer your clients questions and you will do fine!
Have turn around times, where the images will be delivered, confirm names, address, email and phone. Have all your ducks in a row! You can have a fantastic photo-session, have the client do a large order, but if you drop the ball at the end… say… the order took longer than you quoted… that will be what people talk about! It’s an unfortunate part of human nature to focus on what didn’t go well. Don’t sabotage all your new business opportunity by not being organized and think everything through! Your referral business depends on it! Have time quotes with a little extra room, policy on re-shoots, how many horses are included… think, think, and think some more! A good goal for every photo-shoot is under promise and OVER DELIVER!!!! You will still forget details and learn as you go, we all do. Just do your best to be organized, be able to answer your clients questions and you will do fine! Your goals should always be to have yet another happy customer to add to your growing equine photographer clients list! If you do this, you WILL be successful and Busy!
For booth/tent setup and other great info, check out our resource pages here: http://www.betterhorsephotography.com/resource-page-2/
by Clay “Flash” Corbisier