Tough Decisions

Photography is a highly competitive field, that is no secret, the ease of securing equipment, access, and ability to share at the click of a button has made it much easier to enter the world of photography.  

Nearly a decade ago, I was one of those hobbyists if you will- I was in high school, I purchases a camera for art class, I was more into drawing and painting so the camera was to capture things to make art out of later. But I found out quickly I had a knack for shooting, an eye for composition and lighting which I can only attribute to my arts training. So I kept going, soon I began practicing photography more than drawing and painting, then my photos started getting noticed, and things grew, evolved, and changed for me.

I am continuously learning new things in this medium, there is so much you can do with photography, so many genre's to shoot that it intrigues me as to how many photographers specialize in a certain area, where I love the challenge of them all. Of course some I gravitate toward, and do more work in but there are days when sitting in my yard shooting a macro image is more thrilling than a 15 hour day at some equine event.

A rose from my planter on the front porch.

A rose from my planter on the front porch.

So in the last six or so years I have been doing an off again on again finding my niche, trying to hone in on that very area that makes my photography and makes me want to shoot it every day. Of course it is really three areas, commercial photography, events such as weddings and sports, and equine photography that I gravitate toward and love because of the challenges they each provide.

Yet in recent years one area has caused perhaps more headache and heartache than the others. Equine Photography. See I love shooting portraits of humans and their equine, but I love shooting them in action doing what they are meant to do together. It is a challenge, light, dirt, dust, speed, and other elements playing in to make capturing that image a moment of perfection and success.

Barrel Racing event that was a giant dust bowl with high sunny the entire time.

Barrel Racing event that was a giant dust bowl with high sunny the entire time.

I have always loved the challenge of shooting, then the reactions of viewers, unfortunately when I started growing, developing and becoming a much better shooter of equestrian sports image theft started occurring frequently.

So I joined the ranks of those who watermark and learned that that wasn't a deterrent, intact it seems like they could careless if it was a low resolution, pixelated screen shoot with a logo smack dab in the middle. I actually got a call from a printer saying someone was trying to print on of those and because it had my watermark they wanted to know if the person had my permission- short answer no- so they got denied a print of a watermarked image.

It was that experience that proved that I needed to re-evaluate how I was doing things, become more client friendly when it came to easy access, purchasing, and yes even sharing. It is a modern world they will share regardless of if they legally have the right or permission too and frankly it would cost to much litigation wise to go after those who basically steal my work. So I reworked everything, made things easier and for awhile sales increased and things were ok, there was steady improvement and then the decline came.

See for awhile it is a new thing, people will support you even if they had been thieves previously because it is shiny, new, and looks cool to be apart of but then the hassle of actually purchasing, supporting, and taking two minutes becomes too much when in less than 10 seconds they can have a screen shot. 

Now maybe they don't understand that sharing the image watermarked or not, perhaps giving credit but more often than not they do not is theft, is wrong, and ultimately does nothing for the photographer. But I am of the mind that it isn't that they don't understand, it is that they simply do not care. Or even the "I work hard for my money, I put a lot into my equines, and I shouldn't have to pay for the digital rights to my images or even for prints because they are of me and my horse." 

Well, I work hard to make those images. I work hard to afford the equipment, up keep, travel, training, software, websites, and spend countless hours on my feet, killing my knees and back to make those images. On average an equestrian event is 12 hours long if not longer- most my shoot days are 15 hours though I have worked a rare few that were 4-6 hours- I have to travel to these events, I stand the entire time so while they may have one run here and an hour of two down time I work the entire time, rarely taking bathroom breaks or even getting food. 

Then when it is all said and done, I drive home and spend at least 10 hours culling, editing, and getting the images loaded and ready for purchase on a site that cost me for every image loaded onto it. So I have expenses just to make them viewable, and then I get to crash to wake and see that I have over a thousand views but no purchases. Then the tags come in of those who at least credit my watermark laden screenshot stolen image but more often than not those are few and far between.

I can not continue to work such environments when I face blatant theft and frankly where I am not valued. I would love to keep shooting equine sports, but experience has shown that my work is so undervalued that it is worth nothing more than credit sometimes. I can't live on credit so to all my equine sport/event clients this is ado. In good business conscious I am making the tough decision to forgo these events and focus on clients who value my time, energy, and business.

People will steal anything. Sometimes they don’t even know they’re stealing.
— Dan Istvan