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Behind the scenes - Part 4: How To Stand Out As An Equine Photographer

With the cost of mid-range DSLR's becoming more and more affordable, the power of social media and the internet having many online tutorials, the trend of becoming a photographer seems to be on the increase! I thought I'd share with you some of the most important things that I would consider makes a photographer sucessful:

Be consistent in the images that you take. The crucial thing to making your "brand" work is making sure your customers can rely on the standard and quality of your work. Develop your own style that people will instantly recognise as your own - for me, my black background images have become assosciated and well known with my brand. I also think that using a consistent watermark here helps people get to know your business too, and once they see it appearing everywhere, they'll recognise you as the "go to equine photographer."

This for some people may be the hardest part of being a photographer. There are just infinate numbers of poses, editing techniques and styles to follow. Find a style that you like! To begin with it might be tricky to be so consistent, but it will soon become second nature as you gain more experience.

Be unique, don't be a copy cat! Originality is the key to standing out - what makes you different and better to the other photographers in your local area? Again, part of your sucess in this area is making sure your style is consistent. There's a difference between taking inspiration from photogrpahers you admire but make sure you don't copy - you might think how can two photographers who shoot the same subject make sure their work is unique? Well, there are many ways - do you have a sigature pose. Perhaps you want to focus on the small details of the horse, whilst others work on documenting the landscape the horse lives in. Yes I agree, inevitabley there will be some overlaps in the type of images you can create. Many photoraphers style each shoot down to every last detail in a fine art style, including the hair and make up of the owner; whilst others like to work in a more natural way. Perhaps you want to experiment more with flashes and light, whilst another photographer will create soft, delicate and intimate photographs between horse and owner. For me - I like to capture the relationship between each horse and owner as well as document their character and personalities. Before each shoot I send each client a form to "get to know them" where I ask questions about where they keep their horse, their favourite activity and what they love most about their horse...

Be approchable to your clients - make them feel special, make them feel wanted and valued. Not only will this put them at ease during the shoot, it will also make them feel connected with you. This is not only good practise to have, it also makes them more likely to want to work with you in the future and recommend you to their friends. First impressions count, from the initial consultation, through to the shoot itself: make sure you are presentable but practically dressed; knowledgeable and happy to give direction, as well as taking in to account their ideas and requests; friendly, yet adaptable to each situation presented. Always ensure that the shoot ends on a high, all of the shots they had in mind were taken and that all of their questions about what happens next can be answered. Don't go overboard with compliments, there's a difference between being reassuring and positive to being patronising and over-doing things.

Think about who your market is, this goes a long way in making sure your work is appealing to this group of people. It also helps you aim your marketing at a specific model, rather than just to "every horse owner." Finding a suitable platform to market your business at is something that needs to be considered. Time should be allocated to market what you do, however time is often limited and you'll have a thousand other jobs to do. So, finding the best place to market your photographs is something you should consider- social media is a good starting point. For example, I have found that most of my enquiries come through Facebook. Facebook is the biggest social network with millions of accounts. Make your posts exciting, unique and informative and you will attract your market. I think your ideal client is someone who is very similair to you, this is definately true for me: most of my clients are young horse owners who absolutely adore their horse. I think this is because I know what these people are looking for in images of their horses and we have a common, relatable ground to start with.

Choosing the right social media platform is important - do you want to attract teenagers, or do you want to attract their parent? Find out what your ideal client uses, be it Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook. Find out where they shop and pop a leaflet up, find out where they compete, what magazines do they read?

Make sure you're comfortable with what you're shooting - understand your subject, in my case: horses. Whilst sometimes we all love to throw ourselves in at the deep end, it's crucial you have knowledge about your subject. I for one, would never volunteer to photograph a specialist sport or something that I didn't enjoy. I just know that this would be reflected through my images. I've grown up around horses, I understand their body language and this really comes across in my images. There's sometimes subtle differences between photographs of horses taken by a horse lover and those who aren't a horse lover. Whilst, technically a photographer who is competent about using and understanding their camera can photograph anything, finding a niche market you are passionate about is something that should be valued. A well known phrase: "Jack of all trades, master of none" is particularly appropriate here. I think specialising in one particular area, so for me, this being horses, is important. People will trust your expertese!

On the other hand, I have agreed to photograph many different subjects to gain experience, most recently I've been on the look out to gain some experience with a wedding photographer because I feel this is something I'd love to have a go at. Whilst I will never tire of photographing horses, adding something different ocassionaly will help keep your skills sharp and your mind working. I don't think I could ever handle the pressure of photographing a wedding but I feel I would gain alot from having some experience doing so - there are so many camera and lighting techniques and poses that would cross over in to my equine portrait sessions. I've set up a few styled sessions in the past which I absolutely love, both with and without horses, I know it has really helped me become more creative when it comes to posing and composition. I am certinally never going to be a fashion photographer - I love the creativity from these shoots: the posing, the make up, the back drops! Equally, elements from these are taken forward to my equine shoots just on a different level where appropriate.

So how do you go out there and get work? Building up a portfolio is essential - I don't necessarily think you need to have the grades or qualifications on paper, I certinally don't! Photography is an art and therefore subjective, not everyone is your ideal client, however there is a client base out there for every photographer, you just need to find yours! Work hard, read and watch tutorials online, get out there and gain the first hand experience, either with a professional or on your own. I started out, after learning the basics of using my camera; armed with various ideas, I roped a few friends and their horses together for an afternoon and I practised and practised. Becoming an equine photographer didn't happen over night, it did happen rather by accident though - I never thought I'd actually be lucky enough to have this as my job. I spent a summer learning about my camera, working alongside a few other lovely photographers, watching YouTube videos and then before I knew it, I was taking bookings and I haven't looked back since!

Working on referals is crucial. Your business as a photographer relies heavily on leaving your customers satisfied with a great value-for-money experience. You want them to go out there and share their photographs with their friends, who in turn will hopefully be impressed and book a shoot with you. In turn, they will pass your details on to their friends, who will pass your details to their family and friends - again this is why I think picking one niche to photograph is important. Horsey friends have horsey friends, who will work on a yard, who have a range of liveries - again all helping to make your business well known!

I think that's the end of the fourth "behind the scenese post." I hope you are finding these insightful. There is so much more detail I could go in to about marketing your business but for now I will leave you with the title of the fifth edition: "Why should you have your photographs printed?"

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