How to hold a photo show

by Gail Berg

If you are just getting started in model horse showing, have only a handful of horses to show, don't have a lot of live shows you can attend, or want other ways to show your horses, photo showing may be the way to go. This article will address some of the tasks needed to prepare, judge and follow through on a photo show.

Simply defined, a photo show judges "pictures" of the horses in a class (compared to a live show where a judge can view the horse from each side/front/back, etc.).

One benefit of a photo show over a live show is that if there is a flaw in the horse, such as a finish issue, creative photo taking can mask or not even show the problem. However, some horses may be difficult to photograph as they are not "moving" in a straight line (and a head/neck or leg/haunch may be out of focus and/or appear out of scale).

Getting Started

What type of photo show will you be holding?

The first major decision when planning a photo show is to determine the type of photo show.

From the start of photo showing, in the 1960s, until the end of the twentieth century, the "only" type of photo showing required showers to mail (or hand deliver) photos to the judge/hostess, and return photos in the same way.

With the rise of postage costs in the 1990s, photo show "trains" became popular. In this case, a series of judges/shows were arranged, and showers needed only to catch the "train" for one price with multiple judges, before photos were returned when the train reached it's destination. (Some showers "arranged" for their own train by sending photos with Self-Addressed Stamped Envelopes, SASEs, with instructions to judges to send on to the next judge rather than return after the show.)

With the rise of the internet with high speed connections and digital cameras, "online" photoshowing is now possible. Showers can email photos, put together a photo scrapbook online (or create a web page). This saves a lot of postage costs, and transit time. The emphasis of this article will be geared toward "mailing" photos, but many of the topics will be applicable. Where table space may be discussed, think instead of disk space.

Will you be having a standard photo show, or a stand alone?

The second significant decision is to determine if this will be a "standard" (pre-defined) show (perhaps along the lines of the Model Equine Photo Showers Association, MEPSA, Totally Online Photo Show Association, TOPSA, Model Horse Online Showing, or other photo showing groups) or a unique stand alone show.

Although one may be required to be a "member" of the organization to enter or host a standard show, all the work of defining a class list, determining awards and entry fee is already done, and most of the promotion of the show is taken care of. In addition, there is an established group of showers who will participate; they have their past entries queued up and ready to go (with little "additional" work except to incorporate new additions to the stable).

Having a stand alone show may be good as a once a year fund raiser for charity (or perhaps seed funds for a live show), but promotion is important to ensure participation in the event.

Other similarities to live shows

Like a live show, setting up the class list, awards are key elements of a photo show. For a stand-alone show/series, these two items, and the judge(s), are the key elements that will draw showers to enter.

However, unlike a live show, the class list is not limited due to show table space resources. However, time is still a concern. Many photo shows allow a set number of days to complete judging, put results together and return the photos/results/awards. A judge/hostess needs to make large chunks of time (2-4 hours/after work/school, and the better part of "all day and evening" for weekends) available to complete the judging in a timely fashion. An established show with fifty classes could have thousands of photos entered; this may take the better part of a week or more to judge.

So, when scheduling (or signing up to judge in an established series), ensuring that finals or critical work stretches or other obligations will not delay judging too long is important.

Having a tangible award for a championship is always fun, but it does take $$ out of someone's pocket to ship it to the winning shower. A simple traditional horse could cost more than $10 to ship (once shipping materials and charges are included). Gift certificates (for $s or % off for merchandise or services) are great "light" awards. Postage stamps are also usable. And there's always "cash" (sent in the form of a check or PayPal funds) that can be used for awards.

Show rules

There are a number of differences compared to live showing, including specific show rules, such as

Setting entry fees

Setting entry fees has to balance two things: low enough to attract showers, but high enough to cover all expenses (and provide extra funds for charity, etc.).

Many shows base their entry fee on the number of photos entered. (Unlike live shows, many photo shows have no limit to the number of entries a show can submit.)

Although the expenses of show hall and judge meals are not included in a photoshow, there may be expenses of "organizational" equipment/tools to run the show. Many shows provide electronic versions of results, but there may be folks who need physical hard copy mailed to them.

Promotion of show

Once the class list, awards, fees and show date(s) have been set it's time to promote your show. Many of the same promotion aspects of live shows are applicable for photo shows.


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