Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Massachusetts, USA
• Horses: 0
Most exhibitors don't think about this, but yes, it actually COSTS money to be a show photographer. Show photography is a business, just like anything else.
My equipment is not free, the schooling I took to learn how to be a photographer was not free either. I don't get compensated for driving hours to a show, nor am I paid by the show comittee to be there. I get no guarrenteed minimum amount of money for going to a show. In fact, what I am guarrenteed is that I will be on my feet for 8-12+ hours per day, with barely a bathroom break, in the hot sun (and inclement weather...yep I have photographed in the rain...it's not fun, but if I say I am going to be there, then I have to be at the show, prepared to shoot in whatever weather is going on. A rule of thumb is, if it's safe enough for riders to continue riding in the show, then I will be shooting).
Sometimes, if I am lucky, the show will comp my lunch, but many won't even do that. Sometimes, shows want the option of being able to view photos onsite during the show, that means I have to have the equipment to be able to offer that AND I have to PAY someone to mann it for me... Everything stated above costs time and money. That isn't including the 20+ hours it will take me to upload, store, organize, cull, edit and post the 2500+ proofs I will have from the show. It also costs me money to host my website and proofing site. Many proofing sites will charge a monthly fee + commission on YOUR photo sales. Many hosting sites for websites will charge a monthly fee for their services. For quite a few of those sites, the monthly fee is based on the amount of photos that you have on the site....so no, posting proofs online is NOT free either.
So lets break this down into a cost analysis (with just the basic gear, not including extra gear for inclement weather, equipment for viewing stations or backup harddrives for photos-god forbid something happen to your computer- ths is just for the initial day of shooting). I'm going to average my equipment. I have a main pro camera body that cost about $2500 and a back up body that was about $1300. Neither of these cameras came with lenses. My main lens was $1200 Sigma 70-200 f2.8 (which is THE lens used by most equine photographers well a 70-200 f2.8 in general- obviously brand name ones like Nikon or Canon are better, they are usually sharper and faster, but they are also 2-3 times the price!). I have a 70-300 on my back up which was about $750. The I have about 6+ memory 4-8 gb memory cards per camera, so we will say about another $240 in memory cards. I have spare batteries for my cameras. My main body the extra battery cost $169. My backup camera the battery was about $70. We'll also through in the cost of gas to get to and from this show. For me, it's about $100 per tank. Also, something I am SURE you have not thought about, but most shows want YOU (the photographer) to sponsor them! That can be anywhere from $50-$300+! Yep, there are many shows want you to pay to be there, bet most riders don't realize that. We'll also include the $20 for lunch and drinks throughout the day. So right now for the show you are looking at a cost of over $6000 for you to shoot at a show! That's not even including YOUR time for shooting! Include another approximately $100 for your time in shooting at that show! I don't know too many people who like to work their butts off for free...
If you take off equipment costs (but really if you want to make money, your equipment should be paying for itself), you are still looking at about $300-$600 per day to shoot at a show (including your time, gas, food and sponsorship fees...). Just to break even at $5 per print, you are going to have to sell 60 prints, which is very hard to do with all the above reasons (poachers, other parents and riders giving away photos, people stealing photos from your site instead of buying them, etc.)