Buying Professional Show Photos

I’ve talked about professional horse show photographers on this blog before. What makes a good one, what makes a bad one, why it’s a total a-hole move to steal their pictures, etc. I am, to my very core, a big fan of good equine photography. Not so much the pictures of a human standing next to a horse in a pretty field, wearing a flowy top or a dress or something (they are super artistic and lovely in their own right, but I would literally rather die, that is just so not me), but good ACTION shots or even the occasional show candid (because if you take a picture of me petting or smooching my horse there is like a 100% chance I will buy it bc I LOVE HIM).

This is my new favorite photo and you will see it a lot in the future, sorrynotsorry

Although I am a lover of great photos, my show budget is very small, and my budget for superfluous show-related things is even smaller. As much as I would love to pre-order an All Images package at every single show – and video of every phase from the show videographer, while we’re at it – it is just not in the cards. At $30ish a pop (which I think is reasonable, all things considered) for a digital image from our rated show photogs, they add up fast, so usually I have to end up narrowing it down to my absolute favorites. I am always guaranteed to buy at least a couple though.

His face + turquoise water = had to buy even though I already have approximately 4 billion water photos

Mostly that’s because I really love pictures. Long after the day is done and the adrenaline rush of competition is over, you can look back on the photos and remember how much freaking fun it was. To me these photos are memories, which I find to be dang near priceless. I love having nice, professional quality shots of Henry’s progression as an event horse, and I love when I come across them while looking through a photo album or when they pop up on my facebook memories. It never fails that I find myself smiling all over again. Having tons of video stills or iphone photos are important too of course, for the sake of quantity/ease/blogging, but nothing can replace those beautiful high res professional shots of The World’s Best Horse (possibly biased, but probably not).

PHPro1
Like this pic from Henry’s 2nd Beginner Novice in 2015. We’ve come a long way, kid.

I also feel like, especially in the age where every teenager is holding a Nikon or a Canon (and no disrespect to them AT ALL, because some of my favorite photos were given to me by that crowd, and I treasure them greatly), it’s our responsibility to keep the show photographers in business. They are a dying breed, and I for one will be extremely sad if/when the day comes that they can no longer justify staying in business. They work hard, standing there all day in the heat or the rain, taking pictures of everyone and trying hard to capture that perfect moment. Not to mention all the time uploading, sorting, and editing. I might not be able to afford to buy them all, but you can bet I’ll buy whatever I can and I will thank them profusely (perhaps borderline creepily) when I do it. And possibly apologize, if they had to endure photographing a particularly shitty ride on my part.

What do you guys typically do when it comes to show photos? Do you have a friend or spouse to take pictures for you, or do you purchase from the official photographer? If so – all of them, or just a couple? Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t really care much about the photos or can’t justify the money, in which case you’re killing me with sadness but I get it.

46 thoughts on “Buying Professional Show Photos

  1. I will always buy a photo or package from the good ones who offer reasonable prices. My husband gets wonderful photos but sometimes they have different shots or different jumps and I want them all!

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  2. I bought a few photos from my first rated event (the only event I have been at with a professional photographer). I pretty much will ALWAYS buy a photo or two if I can find one I like because the memories are so special, and the husband is usually focused on video or might not be in the right place at the right time.

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  3. Man, if I could afford it I would buy every single picture from every show. But at $55 plus shipping for a 4×6 and no package deals for the photographer at HITS, I really haven’t been able to. I have bought one picture from every show we’ve done together (minus our equitation show), usually funded by my dad with the promise to send him a copy. My adopted barn mom takes fantastic pics so when she’s there she’ll grab some good ones, but she sometimes has her real actual child to be following. I’ll be going to some different venues next year with different photographers and I’m tentatively hoping that the pricing structure might be different enough to allow me to get more than one per show. That is, if I can manage to ride well enough to have more than one nice picture, which is not a given.

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  4. At the little show I did in October with Whiskey, there was a show photog and I equipped my husband with my camera. There’s a stark difference in quality (my amateur setup vs. someone who’s invested), so I definitely purchased. Amazingly, she only charged $15 for “whatever she caught”, which came to about fifteen photos. Also, SCAD student, so not technically a pro photographer, but it was still great to have and support her.

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  5. Like you, my budget is only so big. As much as I would LOVE all of the photos, I can only afford one or two and even then, I may wait until the photographer has a sale. I have to pick my most favorites as a result. If I end up having a really amazing ride on Grif, I may splurge one day and get the “all images” package the local eventing photgrapher has the day of for $99, but that will be something I do rarely ($99 is easily my gas back and forth from one of those events!) My endurance photos are much cheaper. Most ride photographers will print off 4x6s and sell them right there after the race, my photographer is one for $8 or two for $15, etc. others out west will give you all of them for $20-25 (!!) and then you always have the option to get bigger photos on their website later.

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    1. Well, that entered a moment too soon… Final thing, I DO love photos and I’m really fortunate to have good friends (Hi Austen & Emma!) who have been around for all of my events so far to document for me. Emma is wicked good with her or my phone & Austen has a DSLR; both are absolute masters at not only fully documenting each phase but also scoring sweet candids.

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        1. ha one of my favorite things is getting to take pictures of all my friends riding!!!! and yea Liz and Austen (and Megan K!!) seriously take amazing pictures and it’s so special having them and knowing that they’re taken by friends too 😀

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  6. I have a good friend who takes my absolute fav show photos and a full gallery of 1MB images is $75. Plus i buy from her so much she gives me coupon codes and always edits my pictures first 😛

    it seems extravagant, but when make them my desktop background at work and see them all day every day it makes my heart happy.

    She has also gotten smart and started hiring said teenagers as second shooters. They get some cash and she doesn’t get competition of free images

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  7. Yup. I will snap shots and give them away, but they aren’t pro quality or anything. I don’t have much money to buy photos either, but I bought one, with commercial rights (people neeeeeed to learn what that means too!) And I love it.

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  8. i am such a junkie for pictures. no secret there. and even the blurry pixelated zoomed in cell phone screen shot can get me all pumped up lol. but…. professional quality is definitely preferable. it’s kinda a bummer these current days bc charlie and i rarely take a good picture. we…. usually look a bit like a hot mess. i’m hopeful that this will improve when i maybe learn to ride, charlie maybe learns to care about the jumps, and maybe when the jumps are a bit bigger? fingers crossed….

    so that slows me down a bit from buying those individual $30/pop shots bc…. they just aint that cute, no matter how good the photog. BUT! my favorite local show photography company will sell every single digital image they took on a thumb drive (usually upwards of 100, with bursts of shots covered from each fence) for $99 when they have their trailer onsite at shows. i almost never say no to that haha….

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  9. If I showed, I’d probably try to buy one image especially after reading about them on blogs. But I don’t even have the budget for showing, let alone the budget for pictures at the moment. I also don’t know if it would be worth it at a schooling show. That would also be if a photographer actually was at a schooling show. It’s on my list of “somedays” at least.

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  10. So far to date my only shows have been small dressage schooling shows, and only one had a “professional” photographer. Her photos were way shittier than the ones my husband snapped with my good camera, so I didn’t feel any guilt not buying them. I almost always have a friend along to use my camera (heavily bribed usually haha) and my camera is decent enough that I can usually get some worthwhile shots. If we ever venture to a recognized show, I’m sure I’d buy some photos to commemorate it.

    The one time I did a rail class show with my first Andalusian, I did buy photos even though two prints (photographer didn’t offer digital files ugh) cost more than I spent on two days of showing in seven classes (which still annoys me many years later haha).

    It’s hard — I am a huge proponent of supporting show photographers but I think some price themselves out of the market.

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  11. I still choke a bit at $30 a picture. I’m 100% supportive of the trade especially given the fact that all my pictures would turn out better if my 5 year old took them. What gets me though is the $30. Endurance photogs charge $7!! And they have to trudge through the woods, mountains, rivers, swamps, desert to find a wonderful spot and then deal with all the weather and bugs etc… and then sometimes it was only for a total of 20 entrants. I always bought every picture they offered. $30 a picture seems a bit like robbery to me.

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    1. The last time I bought a digital from an A rated h/j show it was $50 soooo $30 seems great! 😉 It can add up fast, but I also see how much $$$$ equipment they have, how many people they employ, how far they have to travel with associated travel expenses (and hotel, because none of these are 1 day), etc. Plus I know how much I’ve already paid to be there in the first place (hundreds of dollars)… in that way, $30 seems plenty fair.

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  12. Same-but-different, we endurance riders are USUALLY fortunate enough to have a ride photographer present. My very first 50 mile completion (including crossing the finish line!) and all photos from that ride are framed and in my office at work, as well as a particularly special ride with a friend.

    My “problem” (VERY first world!) is what do I do with all of these pictures? I went on a buying spree and bought every single photo from “my” photographer, and now I have about 50 pictures that I have ZERO clue what to do with them. Special scrapbook? Special photo album? Gazillions of frames? What do people do with them all? My husband doesn’t exactly want our home decor to be “endurance”. And my office isn’t exactly unlimited wall space at work. Plus, that just seems creepy at some point! So, they’re all sitting in an envelope while I decide what on earth to do with them!

    My single annoyance/lesson learned is that I didn’t immediately buy some photos from 2 different photographers. One, the ride was in June. I contacted her a month or two ago as I noticed her online gallery was gone for them. She said she would republish the gallery online if I’d pay $35. I don’t need ALL of the photos, I just wanted the 2 you took. *sigh* The other one, well, that was from 2 years ago, and she also wanted like $25 or $35 to repost to the internet. Lesson learned, don’t wait to buy the pictures!

    But, endurance riders know the same thing. If we don’t support our ride photographers, they’ll stop coming and we won’t have pictures of us any longer. And I have INCREDIBLE respect for ours. They have to drive out into the wilderness and frequently hike to some remote location on the trail to get photos of us. And they’re usually in motion, so they have to kind of calculate if they’ve gotten most of the riders, then move to a new location for new scenery. And if they can, they try to be present at the finish line to get THOSE pictures too. There’s an art form, not just in the photography, but in capturing enough media to make the riders happy. I do NOT envy them, but I do respect them, and am grateful for their work.

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  13. While I love show photos I’m always super critical of myself so have a hard time finding ones I love enough to buy. I always do try to buy at least 1 from every show – for myself and to support the photographer. There are a few in the area that require a download fee to view them, but you get a free digital image along with it. That’s ok with me, and if I don’t like any of the other photos at least they made some money on my DL fee. One of our main area photographer isn’t my favorite with their photos so I’m not likely to buy any from them, but at least I’m paying the download fee to help them out. Of course if I love the pictures then I’m trying to buy them all 🙂

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  14. The photogs who are usually at the Texas hunter/jumper shows have very reasonable digital image costs so I always buy one if there is at least one good one. The only bad part is that I tend to go to the same two or three show facilities so I have a lot of photos with the same background from different years! I make it a point to support the real show photog and not the ammies/juniors standing at the ring taking pics with their “fancy” cameras.

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  15. I sort of wish I’d bought at least one photo from my first recognized event this fall but honestly I didn’t really like any of the photos. I’d hoped they would have had some good XC ones but they only had a few and they weren’t great so I couldn’t justify spending on them. Next year I hope to be able to purchase some though!

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  16. Unfortunately, around here we don’t have too many professional show photographers. In fact, I think there were some at Rebecca (which I bought a couple, because Rebecca) and there were a couple of photographers at Aspen, but one missed my shot they were going for (our jump into the water). There may have been a professional at Camelot as well, but they were taking pictures of both dressage rings and missed us, and missed a lot of our cross country. So, for that, I am glad to have my husband and friends around to video and photograph the sections they can. They aren’t professional quality, but I cherish them all the same. Hubs also writes down everyone else’s times in our group and videos them. He gets an A+.

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  17. This is hard for me because I have a small side hustle in photography, mostly people posing or riding their horses though, not at shows. I am less likely to buy photos than some even if I want them because I’m picky about quality. If I happen to have the money and they’re good I spend as much as I can because I want to support it and know how much work it is.

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  18. At the tiny local shows we’d compete in they’d bring in a photographer but sadly no one would buy the photos. Even for a great deal! Like a whole dvd disc of high res photos for $100 (which I think is so fantastic) and I get that some people don’t have that extra cash, but they wouldn’t even buy the singles and the singles were like $20-25. So I tried to get a few but it ended up being too expensive for them and they stopped coming. So I’ve had my sister come to a couple of shows and she’s taken some very pro-looking photos for me with her really good camera. And oddly enough I am always handing people my phone now because it takes 4k video and great res pictures lol But you can bet that in my future events if there’s a pro photographer I’m buying at least a few pics!

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  19. I always buy show photos, if I can afford to. I want to support the local show photogs who do a great job (for the most part) and spend their whole day shooting in the hopes that someone will buy pics. It BURNS ME to see people steal photos then. Because I want to give them my money for the shots that I like so that when my giant blondie is finally jumping jumps that look appropriate for his size, there will still be a tog in business to capture the moment.

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  20. At least at the shows I’ve been at in the last few years, there haven’t been photographers, but I ALWAYS get a video of each test. It’s only $30-35 a video and it’s nice to know that she won’t get distracted and video a bird in the sky or zoom in too much and then forget how to zoom out. I usually hand my DSLR off to someone, tell them to just hold the shutter down, and edit the pictures myself. They are a bit hit or miss sometimes but at least I have the video.

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  21. The whole point of showing is pictures, so I buy the pictures from the show photographers — digital high res downloads now, but I have some very cherished prints from pre-digital photography, too. Now we just look at the photographers’ websites, but either going to the photographer booth at a show to look at pictures or getting proofs in the mail was kind of fun, but not as fun as the instant gratification of YAY PICTURES ARE UP take my money now.

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  22. As someone who adores having pictures of my horses, and who has spent plenty of time behind the camera at shows,I ALWAYS try to buy. It’s hard work to shoot and I put a lot of pressure on myself to capture something good for each person that goes in my ring, even if it’s just a ground poles class. 😀 I know what the ROI is for the the show photographers, and I want them to continue to come to shows, so not only do I buy, but I encourage any friends to buy as well. I have, in fact, purchased packages for a friend here or there that couldn’t make it fit in their show budget. I do appreciate the photographers that offer a digital package of all prints for a flat fee. I’m often looking for a different type of shot than the standard hunter jump ( I have plenty of those) and the package allows me to purchase the creative shots I wouldn’t normally spend money on…as well as play around with shooting different angles, framing, etc without having to worry (I field edit, so my bad choices never see the light of day. :D). I had many people like the shot I take of their back number so we can separate horse/riders. 😀 No one is going to buy it outright, but it is a fun shot.

    When I was a kid, the pros used to give people their crash photos. I love that. I have a series of me coming off that I think is hilarious…photographer stopped shooting a bit early, though, because she thought I was going to get stepped on. Eek!

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  23. Agree 100%! I want all the photos. If there’s a kid around shooting, I want those pics. Helper with a cell phone? Yep those too please. But fear not, I will also support the horse show photog as long as they get something decent. The cost of horse show pics though is getting pretty crazy in hunter/jumper land. I still will buy them (you know… if I actually showed) but I’ve been getting less and less for the same amount of money. Anne Gittins for example, you want a hi-res digital shot? $250. Low res works for you? Ok $50. $45 for a printed 4×6, but then you can get the low res file for an extra ten. No discount on hi res though. It’s pretty insane.

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  24. I really don’t show anymore and if I do it’s at the smallest of small local shows. Sometimes there will be a club member at the shows taking pictures, sometimes it’s my husband taking the pictures with his iPhone. Any time I am at a show with a photographer, I try to buy at least a couple pictures. I like to buy the actual prints because I do frame them, but if I were showing more often I would probably buy the digital images since I only have so much room for frames.

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  25. I love buying show photos and often find myself disappointed when a show doesn’t have a professional photographer there. While I usually have someone behind my camera or videoing, there is no doubt that a pro’s photos come out 1000x better. There was one show last year that I was feeling pretty cruddy about and thought went horribly, then I saw the pro’s photos, loved them, and ended up buying them all! It is a great reminder that it isn’t always as bad as it looks.

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  26. The pictures at h/j shows around here are just so expensive. My last show I spent $70 on 1 8×10 print. I couldn’t afford it but it was rare local show at the Devon Horse Show grounds. The high res download was $110. The photographer only took 1 picture of everyone in our division even though we had 3 classes so I bought a rather crappy picture. But, Devon and the Dixon Oval. Mostly I don’t buy too many pictures because of cost. I did buy 2 from a paper chase the year before when they were on sale at $50/print. But it’s just too expensive. When the low res quality is $45, I just can’t afford it.

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  27. I often shove my own camera into the hands of others when I am riding so I can try and get some media, and I also take photos of everyone when I can. I would love to be a show Equine photographer, but unfortunately my skills aren’t that impressive yet. I continue to take photos and give them to the people I photograph so I can further that skill. One day I am hoping to start charging for photos (but still not good enough yet…). When I go to a real event or show with a professional photographer, I will definitely go out of my way to buy at least one or two pictures. I know how long and hard the days can be when you’re taking photos. The weather can be brutal and sometimes the rides are even worse, but you have to sit there and hope and pray for a photo to come out well, even when the ride doesn’t always look good. I have the utmost respect for professional equine photographers. It is a tough job they do.

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  28. I definitely agree that action and candid shots are the best! Unfortunately, I cannot buy as many as I would like. We have a wonderful photographer but her prices are what I think are outrageous! A low res personal use digital picture is $42 and an 8×10 (with ear fix) is $83. I am sorry but I just cannot afford that! I do get at least one professional action shot 8×10 a year but with those prices I have to pass on a lot that I would like to purchase. We do have another photographer that does maybe one show a year who’s prices are better and he tries to take more candid and artistic shots. My favorite that I bought from him was me exiting the ring after a great round. I was laughing with my trainer and patting my boy on the neck. I could not pass that one up and every time I look at it I can’t help but smile just as big.

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