Does having more photographers at your equestrian event make it better for your competitors?

I read with interest an article on the Horse & Hounds website regarding the Little Downham Horse Trials and their decision not to have one “official” equestrian photography supplier at their events this year. Instead, they are planning on having up to 10 different photographers at each event in the belief that this will provide a better service for the competitors.

But is this really viable?

Each photographer will have to pay £75 for the privilege of attending the event and selling photos. If they run a company like ours, who generally field more than one photographer, then it’s £75 per cameraman.

Equestrian Photography isn’t cheap

This year we’ve replaced our on-site sales vehicle with a customised trailer which has cost many thousands to purchase and customise. We also have tens of thousands of pounds worth of cameras, lenses, computers printers and other equipment. We have spares of just about everything, so that we can continue to work no matter what goes wrong. Speaking of things going wrong, we are also fully insured too.

So let’s say I send three shooters out for the day, that’s £225 in fees that have to be covered before I pay for the photographers’ wages.

How many photographs do I have to sell in order to cover costs, let alone turn a profit? Don’t forget we also have to pay our sales team too.

Now, some folks reading this will think “you are a photographer, you’ve got a vested interest in this – stop whining” and that’s a fair comment. The question you have to ask is this: does having more photographers out on the day benefit the competitors?

I would argue that it doesn’t and here’s why:

Can you imagine the frustration of waiting in a queue to view the photographs at multiple different outlets on site – or checking numerous websites afterwards – rather than having a single, central location?

You’ll end up paying more for your pictures.

Like a great many other equestrian photographers, we offer discounts to customers who purchase multiple prints from us. If you have to purchase different photos from different companies at a single event, you will inevitably end up paying more. Company A won’t offer you a discount because you’ve already bought a photo from Company B.

Again, like many other companies, we also offer montages for sale with several different photos combined together. This is something else that won’t be available if the images are coming from different companies.

This plan has been introduced to “make it work for everyone” but it certainly won’t work for all of the photographers. We all know that there are certain killer fences that will yield great photos. Due to the layout of the course it isn’t always possible to get great shots of all of the fences due to the lighting conditions. This reduces the number of obstacles available to the pool of photographers. This means that there’ll be some photographers who get great fences and others will be allocated less favourable shooting positions.

Of course, if the organisers are not allocating shooting positions you’ll just end up with multiple photographers in the same locations, all offering you pretty much the same photograph and this won’t improve the offering to the customers.

Having given this a great deal of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is only the organisers that will benefit from this idea – it is a bad deal for the riders who will pay more and have to work harder to find their photos and it will make it much harder for the photographers to remain in business.

Is it a level playing-field?

I would be interested to know if all of the suppliers at this event will face the same issue. Is it a level playing field? Will the catering contract be offered to multiple firms? Will there be a variety of different ice-cream vendors on site? If not, why should the photographers be treated differently?

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