Equine photography for me started when I was hired to cover a Dressage festival in Hampshire, quite a large event, that often attracts a lot of people over three days. Ranging from Dressage newbies to Grand Prix level riders. I was given a camera and a memory card and then I'd go cover an arena for the day. There would be 3/4 arenas with competitors in there constantly. My brief was to get around 10 shots of each competitor, each displaying different gaits or movements within a particular dressage test. After every hour or so, I'd hand my card into the photography organiser and they would download the images ready to show their clients. They would literally have a cue out the door of competitors anxiously awaiting to see how they looked in their dressage test. Closely followed by collecting their dressage score sheets and then comparing the two, image vs judges scores, as an onlooker this would sometimes be amusing. By the end of the day, I would know so many Dressage tests, from "Intro A" to "Advanced Medium 93".
At this time I was fresh out of Art school having just completed my Master's degree. I was ready to leap into the creative competitive industry that is photography and leave behind the "safe" environment that was university life. After working for an organisation for around a year, I decided to go it alone and build my own business. I wanted more control over my imagery and I knew I'd see a better return selling my images rather than a day rate. So I planted myself within the dressage community to network and build relationships, later on, this proved to be the key to success within this niche market. Before long I would be booking all the local dressage venues and turning down events because I would already be booked.
Ben & Torri 2012
Organisers were booking me based on my unique imagery that was a completely different style to most other equine
photographers. I didn't settle on simply dressage coverage, I went on to cover show jumping and cross country events as well. The Pony Club and local riding clubs were booking me for all their camps and competitions. It was a fantastic time because it allowed for growth and expansion, making my future plans for my business exciting.
I started to be hired to do private shoots at people homes and stables. I would travel to many locations across the south of England from East Sussex to Cornwall. At this stage, my website was up and running and I found I would be booked more and more for private shoots. I began to book weddings, baby portraits, family portraits, dog portraits and more, filling my entire schedule to full capacity. So I decided to move on and do fewer horse competitions. My time was being stretched with so much editing, it wasn't an unfamiliar occurrence to have an editing list of 25+ clients at any one time.
With having less time to commit to competition coverage I made the sad decision to pull away from the circuit. Now I could engage with my clients on a much more personal level as opposed to several minutes at a dressage competition. I would be invited to top dressage and show jumping homes and quite often I'd be invited in for lunch and wine.
The level of personal client care had escalated and clients would become friends rather than a quick business transaction.
I knew I had been successful within the industry when I photographed over 100 equine private shoots in one year. This led
me to be an
exclusive equine photographer and gaining my first front cover and feature with a well-known horse magazine.
My next challenge would be to open my own studio at home in Southampton. So I gradually decreased my equine private shoots and started booking more studio portraits which in turn lead me to cut back on equine indefinitely. I'm so pleased I progressed on to this new challenge because I really wanted to focus on using artificial light and learn the dynamics of the studio. Mastering artificial light is where I wanted to be and having reached this level of photography, I felt a great sense of achievement. While the studio was finding its feet I would still have enquiries for equine shoots and I would fit them in where ever I could but it became evident to me that my buzz for equine outdoor shoots was fading and all I wanted to do was play with light in my studio.
Now for exciting things.....
I started thinking of my next challenge and it was something I'd actually been thinking about for a long time but before it was without the knowledge of a studio system. I really wanted to combine my new found knowledge with equine photography and with that
Prestige Equine was launched this spring.
I've not looked back since. My time now is split between studio portraits and equine indoor portraits. All my clients now visit the studio to view their images and make any purchases. I felt moving away from online galleries was an important step to make and one that was needed to progress and become more unique.
I felt it was crucial to obtain a more personal experience after all photography is personal, special and absolutely a
luxury and one to invest in. Sticking images online didn't cut it for me, I believe images should be hand-delivered with care because they are unique and special to each individual client and will hold fond memories forever.
By Sarah Harvey
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