Hopefully by now you’ve been following my photography through my social media channels for a while. So I reckon it’s time to give you a bit more about the person behind the Brand as I’m sure you are as intrigued in life about others as I am. I say intrigued thoughtfully, rather than nosey, but you know, if nosey more fits your style then own it!
In this ‘Meet the Maker’ series of blogs you’ll get to curtain twitch into my life bit What makes me tick, what potentially ticks me off and why I do what I do. In the second part I follow on from my first season as a freelance event photographer and find myself moving into new fields…
In Part 1 of the ‘Meet the Maker’ series (available here ) I let you into my initial photography story, how I went from a mighty lovely salary in a fabulous American sporting lifestyle company, through redundancy and out to setting out on a path as a photographer. By the end of that first full season in 2013 I was shattered but pretty exhilarated too. I am a self taught photographer, with zero qualifications in anything remotely creative or camera based but I’d survived a my first season outdoors with the camera and I had worked for a number of different companies in my freelance capacity and gain a huge number of skills, quickly. Not just equine photography either.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
One thing I was really grateful for though was the fact I still had a part time job too. I’d worked out that freelancing like this was NOT the way to earn a good living. I was honest with myself and viewed it as a) a stepping stone and b) a way to some nice pocket money. As my part time job (still in the sports/lifestyle sector) was home based and flexi time (I worked on their retail website) I was in a stronger position with the freelance work to work mid week dates as well as the weekends. That way I had the opportunity to work the bigger equine events that were 2,3 or 4 days long and maximise my income more. The downside is that the physical hours on your feet with a camera are tough. Really really tough. There’s not too many event photographers out there that don’t have neck, shoulder, back, hip, knee issues from this game.
Roll forward to the spring of 2017. I’m not sure I’d say I was earning a living, but I enjoyed it immensely and had the pleasure of working with some great companies, truly talented sports photographers and at huge range of events. Everything from Grassroots Pony Club stuff through to big international horse trials. However both my body and brain were struggling.
I’d made the decision during that year to branch out into equine portrait photography too. A way of finding my own business too. I combined the portrait work, the event work and the part time home based ‘real’ job. I was married to a man in the military and we moved house. A lot. I combined everything for 2 more seasons, gradually getting my name known (under my old Sweet-Images Photography) in portrait work and slowly reducing the number of freelance days I did in the field at events. By the end of the outdoor equine season in 2018 I’d decided that my freelance days were over. I’d only covered a handful of events that year as I worked harder and harder on other areas.
Something had to give.
I was on auto pilot most of the time. I never stopped delivering but my heart was no longer in it. I’d stood in burning sunshine, blinding rain, hail and snow storms too much. A full day of photographing showjumping is relentless, particularly at BE level where class changes are few (or non existent) during the day. On your feet from the first horse at around 9am to the last at around 5pm. Constantly moving from the pattern of fences you cover for every single horse. Not missing a single horse (possibly the odd fence as your brain farted and you forgot your tracks, or who you were for a moment, or because simply the camera failed to fire), being alert to the dangers of fast moving flesh in your vicinity and keeping mentally alert to the technicalities of light, speed, getting the memory cards to the trade stand, the ever moving sun and more. I think showjumping broke me if I’m honest. Cross country was easy, Dressage we had regular breaks, Showing there were regular class changes and differing needs, but showjumping nailed the coffin I think. As a freelancer you are of no use at all really if you begin to suggest that you’ll work but you can’t do showjumping….!
I’ll tell you something else. Rider feedback could be really disheartening at times. Our aim is to have you and your horse in a perfect form over a fence. The right moment of suspension for the style of fence it is. That’s the very basic first intention. If we can get a great back drop without compromising this fundamental intention then we’ll add this too. However many many of the comments were about things no photographer in the world can control or change. The way the horse dangles a leg, dishes a foreleg. That he doesn’t arch well or that he has his ears back. That the riders toes/ankles/knees/elbows/hands didn’t look correct. That he got under a fence so the timing is wrong or stood off it so the timing is wrong. Phrases like this were heard, often at volume, and in a way as if these things are somehow the fault of the photographer. Whilst it was a minority at each event it can be such disheartening thing to hear, something quite trivial to you can have a lasting impact on others simply through the implication we are at fault. Photographers do their level best to be in the right place at the right time whilst staying out of your way and alert to so much. We can’t make your horse jump bigger, cleaner or more stylishly any more than we can affect how you ride either. So please please think about who is around and be kind to the people who have stood in a ring, for 8-10 hours straight, often without a pee break, to shoot you as best they can. 300 horses on a BE day, covering between 3 and 6 fences plus a few pretty non jumping shots, is a lot of images to take (over 2000 on a quick head sum) in whatever weather.
I made a decision and I announced that 2018 had been my last freelance season. I’d suggested to a few of my employers that this might be the case as the season progressed. Boy it was SO tough to do in the end though as I had great friends in the industry, many of who I knew I’d probably never physically see again. I’d cut my teeth in photography in one of the best, but hardest, ways possible really.
Portrait photography was going really well. I was having a fabulous time meeting all the lovely horses and their devoted owners. Building stories in this way was becoming a real pleasure. I was also picking up some great equine and rural commercial customers and really enjoying that new challenge and skill. I was divorced, but somehow found myself in a wonderful new relationship. I had a clear direction and support from people and businesses I could never have imagined a few years ago. My whole life was changing and I wanted my weekends back to enjoy in other ways too.
What came next? I’ll tell you in Part 3
Have a fabulous day
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