Hello all! Just me today (Sarah Mavro), the creator of The Yeg Equestrian. Today I’m talking a little bit about what to consider when selecting your equine photographer, and expanding on how I charge for my own sessions. I’ll give you a little glimpse into what the back end of the photography industry looks like!
1. Is your photographer “a horse person”?
I did a poll on Instagram asking if having a non ‘horse-person’ photographer would be a good idea and the results were heavily weighted towards “not a very good idea”. I’d have to agree and the reasons are fairly simple. First and foremost you want your photographer feeling safe and confident around their subjects. As a client, you aren’t going to be able to relax into your session and get great photos if you are teaching equine safety at the same time. The amount of times I’ve held a horse for a client while they ran to get something, or helped position a horse where we need them is through the roof! It just comes with the territory and you need to be able to do it safely and effectively. Secondly, while any professional photographer can likely get a nice photo of you with your horse, they wont have the background knowledge of flattering horse confirmation or the best way to pose a horse to get that “WOW” shot. Horses are a lot like toddlers, and shooting each one is a little bit different. You have a very limited time to figure out what makes that horse tick and get them engaged and setup for those ‘wow’ photographs. While these things can be taught, it does take time and you want to make the most out of your session.
2. Does your photographer have insurance, and are they licensed?
These two are a bit of a no-brainer, but anytime a professional is going to be working on/near your horse(s) it’s definitely a good idea for them to be insured. I personally carry a Commercial General Liability policy up to $2,000,000 through Front Row Insurance which is based out of Vancouver and specializes in policies for photographers. A business license is something anyone running a business should have.
3. Is this a side-gig for them, or are they all in?
I was a photographer as my ‘side-gig’ for over 10 years, and only in the past 2 years have I taken it on as my full-time job. Being a full time photographer can be scary, you are a contract worker with no guaranteed income or benefits. You are your own boss and employee (which has it’s pros and cons of course!). You will put in hundreds of hours you wont be paid for, you’re never really off the clock, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things I could ever imagine doing. I always felt a bit like an imposter when I was working my day job and doing photography on the side, but now I can finally confidently say, I am a photographer! Doing this full time means I have thrown my entire heart and soul into my business, I care about my clients and the industry as a whole. Speaking of which…
4. How is your photographer contributing to the equine community?
The concept for The Yeg Equestrian came to be long before I ever started building anything. I have been doing equine photography under my Sarah Mavro Photography business for many years, but it was always here and there. The name The Yeg Equestrian kept popping up in my head, and it was an idea I had but I wasn’t quite sure what it would be yet. When I first began building the site I knew I wanted to create a showcase for my equine portfolio, with packages that were better suited to equestrians and that had gotten too complicated to include with my original photography business. It quickly became much more than that as I worked to launch the Equestrian Directory, Events Calendar, Facebook Community, Online Shop (coming soon), and more. I’m currently working on figuring out how to support equestrian programs in the area that provide opportunities for BIPOC youth to experience horses and riding, and am continuing to lift up and support other equestrian businesses in the area.
5. Is your photographer an innovator?
The equine industry in Alberta has a lot of growing to do over these next few years. Everything is online more than ever, but for some reason barns and equestrian professionals got left behind in the 1990’s! I am starting to see some growth with professionals and barns in the area that excite me. Branding, websites, and social media will soon be the norm. When I launched my equestrian branding sessions I knew there would be a lot of people who could benefit from showcasing their properties or professional talents. I can’t wait to help them all reach more clients with great shots of what they do best! I don’t think anyone can do their best innovating without some education. I try to take at least a few courses every year to better both my photography and my business savvy-ness. In the past few years I have taken mentorships and education from Holly Casner (one of my personal favorites for equine photography, based in the USA), and Giana Terranova. I have also taken a photography pricing and marketing mentorship course with Dana Pugh out of Calgary, AB and had my websites reviewed and revamped by copywriting/marketing specialist Heath Wilcock which was crazy informative and helped me think about marketing in a new way!
6. Additional questions to ask yourself
A simple but important aspect of choosing your photographer is having good chemistry or a connection with the person when you interact with them! Are they taking a long time to respond to your inquiry? Do they have the process seemingly streamlined and organized (contracts, invoicing, etc already in place?). Make sure to read the contract and see what exactly you are receiving and what the timeline is for delivery. Another good thing to ask is to see a sample or two of a full gallery they have delivered, to get an idea of the full picture of what you would be receiving. Instagram and websites are mostly a highlight reel which sometimes lack the depth and details you should find in a full gallery!
7. What is the cost of your investment?
Lastly, and often a major factor in decision is cost. Providing some perspective on how I value my sessions, I want to first recognize that value is a very personal and subjective thing. Everyone has a different budget of what they are willing/able to spend for a session. My highest priced session (the Classic Portrait session) is $850. Each session I do takes just over 4 hours, between inquiry, planning and contract creation, driving to and from the barn, shooting, editing, and uploading. That doesn’t include any social media work, marketing, bookkeeping, creating blog posts with guest writers, website work, mentorships, etc. You then of course get to dump about 30% of that income to the government for tax- yay! Some of my sessions also come with a canvas print which takes extra time for me to edit, prepare for the printer, and drive to pickup and deliver to the client (which I legitimately LOVE to do- prints are the bomb).
Like any business, photography has lots of hidden costs just to run your business that clients don’t see (and I mean why would they right!?), but for example:
☼ Income Tax ~30% of your gross income
☼Business License ~$400/year
☼Liability Insurance $~$430/year
☼Gallery, Editing, Bookkeeping Software: ~$1200/year
☼Promotional and marketing materials: ~$1400+/year
☼Vehicle maintenance, gas, insurance: ~$3500+/year
☼External drives, cloud storage: ~$400+
☼Contributions to nonprofits/local businesses: ~$1200-$3000/year
Anyways that’s really just the tip of the iceberg, things like gear and printing costs, marketing, all get more complicated and adds $$$. A peek behind the curtain of a photography business!
That about wraps things up! I think in general, especially in female dominated industries, people tend to undervalue their worth. You may be doing something you love, but you are still taking time away from your family (furry or human) to provide for them. Running a business is MORE than a full time job. I wake up in the morning thinking about work, I work in some capacity every single day, any hour of the day. I then go to bed thinking about what I want to accomplish the next day, or work on for the next months. It’s truly something I am passionate about and love doing, but it is a TON of work! Everyone has to start somewhere of course, but after doing this for over 13 years I just can’t afford to do a session at a couple hundred dollars. If you’re a business owner you should do the math and make sure you are paying yourself above minimum wage! You’re worth it!
If you have any questions about the business, or photography in general I am always happy to chat, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.