How to photo show

By Gail Berg

For those with a limited travel budget, few local/regional shows, the only realistic way of showing one's model horses may be by photo showing.

Taking pictures for a photo show

There are two things to accomplish with the pictures of your horse: first, to present a large, clear image of the horse, and second, to camouflage any flaws. Model Equine Photo Showers Association, MEPSA, Totally Online Photo Show Association, TOPSA, Model Horse Online Showing

As the emphasis is on the horse, using an uncluttered background that does not distract is best. Perhaps with a sand base, a simple rail fence against a blue wall or a pasture scene (painted or poster).

To take good photos, you need to know your camera and become comfortable with it. Know how to focus the camera, so the subject is clear (in focus). The focal plane (distance of depth in focus) may need to be adjusted if the horse is not "moving straight" or is small. It's often good to take photographs at many angles to capture the horse's "best side".

If you think of your horse as on a compass with the head at north and the tail at south, the following shots might capture all possible angles and some close ups for halter/breed classes:

At least one of those angles should provide a shot that shows the horse off to good advantage.

In performance, sometimes the obstacles or setup do not allow as many angles of photography. (And the size of the layout and backdrop may also have an impact on the shots selected.) If using a rider, a "full" image of the horse and rider in performance set may be used, or the rider might be cropped (a judge may have a preference one way or the other).

After you have all the shots, select the 2-3 best each for halter or performance shots. You'll be making "copies" soon.

Finding a photo show

There are clubs that have monthly or even semi-month (two a month), or more, depending on the finish or other criteria. These clubs include the Model Equine Photo Showers Association, MEPSA, Totally Online Photo Show Association, TOPSA, Model Horse Online Showing, or other photo showing groups

Photo show calendar here.

Making copies

Now that you've selected a show/club/series to participate in, it's time to make the pictures ready for use.

Each show may have limitations or rules as to the size/shape that can be used for photographs. And as for digital photography, some clubs prohibit some digital enhancements. Check the rules for the show you want to enter.

Some shows may only do print entries, others may do electronic. Different versions of the same image (depending on whether it'll be used online or prints made) may need to be made. (If using film, having a CD of the developed images may be required to enter electronically.)

If doing prints, how many copies might you need? Well, if you have two possible shows a month to enter, that may be just two sets. Or perhaps one is all performance and you need a full set of photos for that and some halter. But if you really get involved, four to five or more may be helpful.

Preparing photos to show

In general the information required on the back of a photo is the horse identification, owner ID and classes. Each show/club may have their own definitions of what is required, optional, prohibited.

Horse information can include:

One easy way to do this is to create a label with all the appropriate information, and simply apply the label to the back of the photo.

Owner identification can include:

Some folks use peel-and-stick return address labels for owner identification.

Classes are usually listed numerically. One of the best methods I've used is to apply "magic" scotch tape (not the shiny stuff) to an area and it's easy to write on in pencil and later erase. To help prevent class number writing impressions from marring the finish of the photograph, first applying a blank label and putting the tape on top works very well.

A performance entry may also need to have a diagram or other information included on the back of the photo.

Having the same information in the same place for each photograph from a shower makes it a lot easier for a judge to determine the owner. Please review the photo backs and try to prevent any confusion due to name changes.

Selecting a show string

While a show may not limit the number of photographs a shower can enter, financial resources due to entry fees and shipping costs may place restrictions.

If a horse is being campaigned for a year end award, that's good reason to include the horse in the selection.

If you've just received and photographed a new horse, that might also be good reason to include it (some judges get jaded looking at the same pieces quarter after quarter and something new may catch their eye).

Then again, the show could be limited by finish or discipline so that only a limited number of horses from one's show string are eligible to enter.

Preparing the shipping envelope

Once you've got all the pictures selected for a show, count and double count all the photographs to be entered. Packaging photographs in groups of 50 or so inside quart-size freezer Ziploc bags is a great way to protect the photos in transit. Don't forget to identify each bag as yours and the count of photographs in each bag. Splitting by finish or discipline is a one way to divide into multiple bags.

Calculate the entry fee and follow instructions for payment. (If paying online, including a print out of the transaction is helpful.) Including the payment via check/MO easily visible in one of the photo envelopes is also helpful.

Read the show rules as well regarding return postage. This might include extra one ounce stamps, as applicable, for the extra postage that may be required for the results or awards.

Find a sturdy envelope (or box) for return of photographs, include proper postage and address for return. Insert photographs, entry fees, etc., inside the envelope/box, and then inside envelope/box for initial shipment. Apply postage and mail.

Patience is a virtue

Most shipping methods have an estimated transit time. If nothing has been heard in transit time + two business days, contact the judge/hostess to determine delivery.

Then one must wait for the days/weeks for the judging to be completed and results tabulated and published.

After the show is over

Your photos are back and you're thrilled with the results.

Don't forget to confirm that all photographs were returned. If there's an issue with missing or extra items, coordinate with the judge to help determine what happened and resolve things.

And please thank the judge. For tens of hours of work, they may get little more than a "atta-girl" pat on the back. Thanking the judge for their hard work may encourage them to return and judge another show in the future.

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