by Suzanne Sylvester/S. Sylvester Photography
Now that you have been contracted to be the official photographer for the horse show, what comes next?
There is a lot that needs to happen in the background to be successful at a horse show. You need to have enough photographers to cover all the arenas, a backdrop (if you have one) and to run your sales booth. I am going to discuss the sales booth and selling aspect. If you are shooting a small one or two day show (and even some three day shows) you can get away with only selling on-line. If you are covering a show that is four days or more, I highly encourage you to have a booth where competitors and spectators can come and view and order their photos. When I started offering on-site sales, my numbers more than tripled…yes tripled. Now are the processes that I am going to teach you the only way to do things? No of course not, but I can tell you that what I am going to teach you works, I have tried (and failed) many, many different ways, always looking for the best possible solution. So take what you learn from here and combine it with what works for you.
Raw vs JPEG
I prefer to shoot both. I shoot large RAW and small JPEG. The reason? You have more editing control from RAW files, but you can not upload them to a sales website, and using them for viewing may or may not work depending on the software you use. The JPEGs are used for onsite viewing as well as uploading to the ordering site. I prefer to edit from RAW as I sell to lots of magazines, and commercial companies, and clear, crisp good sized photos are an absolute must for them.
I use a computer for the “back office” which is what I call the main computer in the booth. It is used to download, sort and edit photos. Images are stored on an external hard drive which is backed up at a minimum of nightly. Backing up several times through out the day is the best option.
On the back office computer the following folders are created: Raw, Horses, Draw Sheets, Orders and Working Folder. The RAW files are moved to a folder within the raw folder, so let’s say first day of the horse show is Wednesday, we make a folder again inside the main RAW folder and name it Year.Month.Date_Wednesday then within the folder we have Raw 1, Raw 2 etc.. When the next card for that day comes along it gets the same naming convention only changed to the next number. The JPEGs are moved to the “Working Folder” where they are then sorted into each horse’s folder.
One the second image you will see Raw 1 front, and Raw 1 side. This was done because I had two photographers shooting two locations in one arena.
Notice that the “Working Folder” is missing. This file is where all the JPEGs are moved to from the cards. Once the horse show is over, the folder is no longer needed, so it is deleted. I have found that moving all the JPEGs to the “Working Folder” is easier than trying to sort from the card itself (which really is not a good idea anyhow…)
You can get a master back number list or draw sheets that show the horse’s number/rider name and horse name from the show secretary. Every secretary I have found is more than happy to get this information to the official photographer. The “Horse” folder contains a list of every horse/rider combination. At one time I tried to do by class, but here is the thing, if someone shows in multiple classes, they now have to look through several folders and a ton of other people’s photos to find their own. Then they have to try to go back and forth between the folders to decide what exactly they want to buy. Creating each horse/rider their own folder, you have now made it easier for them to find their photos, and do you want to know what happens when it is easier to find their photos? They order more, I promise they really do…. I not only photograph horse shows, I show, and I will not buy if I have to go sorting through a bunch of photos just to find the ones of me or my horses. Make it easy on your customers, the easier it is for them, the more they will purchase.
Attached to the back office computer via a network cable is a laptop. Attached to the laptop is a large monitor. The laptop is run by the sales person so all the customers have to do is sit back and watch. Did you notice I said salesperson? I do not have order takers working for me, my people interact with the customers and help them decide what pictures to order, and what products they want to order. My salespeople chat with the customer, get to know them and find out what they need, or may be interested in. I am all about customer service.
(This photo is during setup- all un-necessary items get removed and a banner added)
I do not/will not do on site printing. The cost of a half way decent printer starts at about $400. The first issue with printing on site is the amount of dirt and dust you will encounter at a horse shows, even if the show is indoors and your booth is up on the concourse. Dust and dirt destroys printers. I am not sure about you, but going through several printers a year is not my idea of a great way to spend money. The second issue is keeping a printer calibrated so that your colors are accurate. Send your stuff to a pro lab, customers are happy when they are told that I value the product I put out and will only have their images printed by a professional lab, and that they will receive their beautiful prints in the mail in just a couple of weeks. The third thing is cost, it really is not cheaper to print your own, between printers, ink and paper, it is much cheaper in the long run to send them out to be printed, and if you use a great professional lab, then your prints will be amazing. You are a professional, put out the most professional product you can.
Booth set up can be a daunting task. The more complex booth you have, the more work it is to set up and tear down. I will simply leave your booth to your imagination. I would just keep it professional looking, I mean who wants to do business with someone who has no pride in their own business?
Products can be just about anything! Just remember to show your customers what you want to sell. Sounds odd, but it is true. I have about 18 – 11” x 14” prints framed and matted in my booth (making them 16” x 20”), along with usually one large canvas. The canvas is typically 36” x 48” and people love it. I very rarely sold anything larger than 8 x 10, until I started showing people larger images, then all of a sudden they started buying larger prints. I do have 2 – 8 x 10 prints in my booth. One is an acrylic sample and the other is a metal sample, I also use them to show people sizes. Want to get the them to buy something larger? Hold that 8 x 10 up to the wall and show them how small it really is.
First off…Please, please stop giving your work away!!! I have seen an awful lot of photographers who are only charging a few dollars for their images. If you sit down and do the math, you may be shocked to see that you are making only a few dollars an hour for your time. If you are not sure what you should be charging, do yourself a favor and figure out your CODB and your COGS. If you need help with that we have tutorials to help you.
I have two price lists, one for prints purchased on line and one for prints purchased at the show. The prices listed for purchasing on site, is about 10-15% cheaper than the website and also contains items that can only be purchased at the show. This makes people commit to buying now, rather than waiting to purchase later when they get home, or a month later or never. I have a printed price list at the table that we show people (we do not let anyone take it since prices are subject to change at any time, and I prefer not to have the price list floating around) this price list has two columns, one is the website price and one is the show price, so they can see that by buying now they will save money. They get to actually see the price difference rather than being told. Again, I have found that this encourages an immediate buying response.
One of the other things I do, is to have a box of 4 x6 cards that have a space for a customer’s name, phone, email and horse’s name. (I should probably add a space for the horse show name…) I call these our “favorites” cards. When a customer comes to the booth, I fill one out and then keep an ongoing list of their favorite images. When they are done they are filed in the “favorite’s box”, so they are readily available when the customer comes back. These cards serve two great purposes, the first is that customers usually come to see their photos throughout the show, this list helps them remember the ones they already love and keeps you from having to weed through all of their images again. The second purpose for it is that you now have your customer’s information, if a customer does not make it back to the booth (it does not mean they don’t want to buy, sometimes horse showing just gets in the way…lol), you can email the customer a list of the image numbers they have selected once your images are live on your website. I have found that when I send this list to customers with a link to the gallery, 90% of the time they end up buying.
Have you decided what type of payments you are going to accept? I accept just about anything except small children. Ok maybe that is not completely true, but I do take cash, checks and credit cards. Whatever forms of payment you decide to take, make sure you are all setup and ready to roll when you hit the horse show.
Again, this is kind of a personal thing. I use a 8 ½” x 11” order form. They are duplicate form so you keep a copy and the customer gets one as well. Make sure you have room for notes, file names, product, size, space for sales amount, customer info and mine also have a customer acknowledgement line where the customer signs that the order is correct, and that they have read our image use policies. The image policies are printed on the back of each page, so the customer has a copy and you have one as well. Having them sign off that the order is correct is imperative if you are doing any kind of custom edits like collages, adding text, background changes or anything else you may offer.
You should have these, and lots of them. I place them in several spots on the table so that customers are sure to see them.
Remember to have fun!! I can promise you that issues will come up! Computers will die, cameras will die, you will have forgotten something….the list goes on and on. Just take a deep breath, do not panic and have a plan to fix the issue. Good luck!
© Suzanne Sylvester/S. Sylvester Photography