Hah well I doubt the shooting/shooting joke has legs any more... and it wasn't even five thousand separate horses... nevertheless, I shot five thousand pictures of horses the other weekend, at the Woodhill Sands 'AESI Fibre Fresh' Horse Trials. Woodhill Sands is a great location near Woodhill Forest, and I've been lucky enough to get a few jobs there lately photographing horse trials, showjumping and dressage competitions. The horse trials are particularly interesting to shoot, as the jumps start getting quite big in the higher classes, and difficult looking compared to the smaller events I've shot before. It's not Badminton-level yet, but I got to see and shoot some pretty good riders. But this is mostly about my latest challenges in photography, rather than actual horses. Which I know little about anyway.. The whole set of pictures is available on my equestrian website here.
Equestrian shooting is still new to me, but I'm (hopefully) getting more experienced and more understanding of what people are looking for in their photos. It's quite different compared to other photos I take, in that what I like is quite secondary to what the rider likes and wants to see, since I am of course trying to sell pictures to the riders! Still, I do my best to make sure that the image quality, composition and colour editing are up to my standards, and something i'm happy to have my name on. I'm trying to make some pocket-money here, but I still care about taking the best photos I can!
This gets to be a slight problem when you have over 5000 photos to edit after shooting a two-day horse trial - and this was even with me being quite conservative on the shutter in some cases so i'd still have card space left by the end of the day. Before I started shooting sports I only had 16GB of memory cards, which I quickly had to expand to 48GB just to keep up with the number of photos! Anyway, I had a lot of photos to process in a short time, since I really need to get all pics up within a few days of each event before people forget about them, or before they ride a different event the following weekend.
I started a trial of the Photo Mechanic software for this batch of photos, which was fantastic. I hadn't used it before, so it probably didn't save me a lot of time in this first occasion due to some clumsy operation on my part, but it is great for very quickly running through photos and making my selections of what to keep and throw away. It also has very useful tools for captioning and organising, which I used to add rider names and numbers to each photo for quickly finding the right ones later. I'd seen this software recommended before by sports shooters, and I could quickly see why I needed it too :)
The final tally was about 16hrs shooting over the weekend, and 30hrs editing time from Sunday night to Wednesday night before it was all done. So not much sleep for a few days, but i got it all done, and got some good feedback from the riders and the club. And even a few sales, although I won't be quitting the day job any time soon! I've already added a battery-grip to my camera since, to both save my wrist when shooting vertically for hours with a heavy camera, and also to increase my shooting speed from 5fps to 8fps. Of course the higher speed gives me more photos to edit, not less, but hopefully a better chance of capturing the 'best' jumping position for each rider. Nothing worse for me than having one or two riders where I just plain didn't get a good shot.
After the heavy workload here, I've been considering how to make it a bit easier, and I've come to these few learning points:
- Shoot more consistently - keep the framing consistent so I don't need to spend much time cropping later, or at least can do whole groups at a time. Individually cropping every photo was at least half of my total workload I think.
- Fill the frame - keep the zoom in tight on the subject so hopefully I don't even need to crop most of the pictures. I'm limited here by camera and lens selection, but it may be a good investment to buy a teleconverter and get another 40% zoom on my lens. Until somebody buys me that Nikon 400mm f/2.8...
- Keep selections small - I may shoot 30-50 pictures of each rider, but in the end only a few of them are at the 'right' position to make a 'good' horse photo! No point editing all the photos if people won't buy the 'not so good' ones anyway. Relies of course on me learning and knowing which are 'good' horse poses first!
I've already shot another event since this one, which went a lot quicker in the editing, although I only shot 3000 pictures over one day that time :) Hopefully even faster next time!