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What I have learned after 6 months of shooting rodeo...

Rodeo feels like the new avenue in western photography. While some claim to have "changed the game" remember that your vision and "eye" for photography cannot be duplicated; there is room for everyone around that arena and we can learn from each other. So, with that being said...


Here are 7 things I have learned after six months of shooting rodeo:


  1. Follow the LIGHT!

Photography is all about light manipulation. You must know how to use light in your favor to create the vision in your head.

**This is actually one of my main problems in photography because I often go into a session and let the light determine how the shoot will turn out, which makes me very adaptable but sometimes you (or your client) have a specific vision that will require you to change the light artificially or change your plan. This is something I need to work on.

Anyway, back to rodeo...

I started using a trick where I hold up my hand flat to help determine where the light is coming from. If you want a photo like the one below then you have to know how the sun will hit them.

I make this point because I got so creatively stuck sitting at the same barrel or the same position in the arena. And this leads me into my next lesson...


2. Don't be afraid to try a new angle


I shoot for two rodeo associations in Arizona. There are a lot of rodeos and a lot of parents to please! Because of the pressure of getting the perfect shot every time, I tended to stay in the same ol' tried and true location, but it can be boring and repetitive after your 6th rodeo of the season. Get outside of that box and let your creativity loose!

This is one of my all time favorite photos. Because I was so close to the box I was able to catch the dismount straight on, but this also meant I was not in the prime position to capture the tie.


3. Learn what your customers are looking for

I have awesome ambassadors that tell me what they look for when purchasing photos of their runs. This helps you fine tune your timing while in the middle of the action but also helps later when you cull through your photos in post editing. Asking questions gives you the best chance of turning that photo into profit.


Remember all competitors have different idea about how they want their pictures to turn out but below are two example of what to look for.


Foot placement is everything in barrel racing! Most likely people are looking for their horse to be stretched out and dirt flying.

In the photo below, you can tell I was a second too early so the horses legs are bunched up and not visible.



4. Push your equipment/know what your equipment can do


My biggest weakness is night photography with arena lights. While I wait for permission to use speed lights in the arena, I have to figure out a way to capture these events when the sun goes down. Remember that with a little light comes a lot of grain. Just the name of the game, so if you have found a way to combat this, let me know! I try to snap when the competitors are directly under the arena lights. This doesn't guarantee the perfect catch shot but it does guarantee a photo that is better quality, in my opinion.


5. Always add value to what you offer


I want to secure my spot in these associations and facilitate a lasting relationship. I know I am capturing special moments in these competitors' lives, which may sound dramatic I know, but it is important to be aware that the photos are important to these families. I offer packages. I made sure the price point was attainable to the most amount of people. I started an ambassador program with benefits like free rodeo photos and cash referral fees. I want to be here for a long time capturing these moments. Make sure you give them reason to keep you around!


6. The people who succeed are the people who keep going

The market is saturated. You hear it ALL. THE. TIME. This does not mean there is no room for you. Owning a photography business is all about networking to build a cliental, staying consistent, and doing it often. Keep going!!


This is where I started...

This is where I am...

I'd say that's a pretty dramatic difference.


7. Last but not least. Humble yourself.


Be welcoming to the new comers. Answer their questions because you were once them! Also, don't be afraid to ask questions yourself. The veterans have a lot to teach us!


Here are some of my favorite photographers to learn from.


Chris Dickinson - @cdphotog

Chris is an incredible western photographer that does not follow trends, he makes them. Follow his Instagram and you will see what I mean. He allows his creativity to be the driving force in his business.


Dan Lesovsky - @weasel_loader_photo

Dan has done great things for rodeo photography and I am always amazed by his ability to make the action feel so dramatic.


Kirstie Marie - @kirstieeemarie

Kirstie is such a great example of consistency and building a cliental! I love that you are able to recognize her work just by looking at it. Her style is distinctive. She is also the go to photographer for every professional rodeo star.



Check out Lensrentals.com to try new equipment without the stress of commitment!


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