Some time ago I was asked about the freelance work I do for equine event photography companies as part of my life as an Equine Photographer. They wanted to know how I’d got into event work, how I approached it together with the Pro’s and Con’s to potentially doing it themselves.
So what is event work?
Well, to be honest, that’s a very broad title and potentially encompasses a massive area of photography. Weddings, Corporate, Sports, the list is long. Specifically for me, it refers to the rider photography at equine events thats supplied by the Official Event Photographer.
These companies are appointed by the event organisers and are on-site selling your images from the day.
Not to be confused with any of the vast array of media accredited photographers that may also be on site too. Those photographers are taking images to support publications and or media channels. They are also there (or should only be there) by approval of the event organisers.
I first got into this line of work about 4 or 5 years ago. I showed some of my images I’d done to a few Official Event Photography (OEP) companies and each said I was good enough despite my mid-range equipment. With my riding background and, more importantly, my competitive background I had solid knowledge of each discipline and knew I’d need to be alert and have eyes in the back of my head to stay safe!
I plunged forward and asked for a trial and got one. I was uber excited! I didn’t have the best camera and my technical skills weren’t brilliant either, but I was told that its easier to train someone with an equine background to do equine photography than it is to train someone who photographs weddings or landscape proficiently but doesn’t have a clue about horses in any manner.
I soon realised that there was quite alot of pressure involved, no longer could I be selective over who to photograph. I had to shoot everyone, every time, come rain, shine, sleet, snow, wind or hail. I also soon discovered that a showjumping class really could go on for 2-3 hours and that’s a huge amount of walking to get the agreed shots for each rider.
Now 4-5 years down the line and I still do freelance work when I can. I’ve worked for a number of different OEP’s in each season. I enjoy seeing some of the world’s best riders pop into view, although I am a little more blase about them now – they are no different to me from a work ethic aspect than the stars of tomorrow bouncing around a Pony Club 2ft course. Each deserves my focus and energy to create their perfect moment.
It’s not the best-paid job in the world, you won’t suddenly be driving around in a posh car, but it can be good fun and a great way to see some top class action too. I’ve worked with some great companies who form some solid teams and I’ve made friends for life as a result. Some companies will expect you to have Pro level equipment, that’s a lot of initial investment, others will provide the equipment for you as they can manage the kit directly, but you will be paid less if this happens.
So what would I tell anyone wanting to get into this line of work? What would I suggest you avoid if at all possible?
My Top Tips:
- Know your camera and it’s functions inside out, then practice practice practice!
- Invest in a fast lens, the vast majority of work is with an f2.8 70-200 lens.
- If you go to an event to practice make yourself known to the Organiser and ask permission. Talk to the OEP too. If you are shooting for personal use with no intention of splattering Facebook with a million images to give away (or, heaven forbid, sell) then they will generally be happy. Remember this is their livelihood.
- Create a portfolio of your works that you can send prospective employers. It can be something as simple as an album on your Facebook page.
- Ask for a trial day with an OEP when you are ready – what’s the worst they can say?
- Never be afraid to ask questions.
- Invest in comfortable suitable footwear, great base-layers & waterproofs.
- Be prepared for long days standing. Keep pocket-sized, easy to eat snacks with you. There’s a reason lollipops feature heavily in my life.
- Be polite & respectful to all course-builders, judges, stewards and officials.
- Finally, be FULLY aware of all course plans including potential jump-off courses or Eventing alternatives and stay FULLY alert.
So if you think you’re ready to tackle this then I say go for it! There’s plenty of opportunities out there as each year there seem to be more and more events each weekend and only so many freelancers to go around.
It goes without saying that if you ever have any questions then please please do contact me.
Have a fabulous week!
All images (taken by me) are copyright of Ultimate Images and/or Jay Photos and are used with permission