Spring Is Here

Welcome to spring!  What I love is watching all the new life, from baby horses to the new grass under their feet. How can you not smile when a foal is racing around its new environment learning how to use all those long legs they were given?

How to Charge for Your Photography

How to Charge for Your Photography

Next in our series of starting an equine photography business is to figure out what we need to charge for our beautiful pictures and oh yeah our time. Yes, you should get paid for your time as well as your products.  Many new photographers want to know what others are charging and base their fees on those numbers.  While it is great to know what the competition is charging, it does nothing for sustaining your own business.  Your costs may not be the same as mine, and I know my costs are not the same as others in my industry. We each have our own CODB and we need to know what that is. So today we are going to get into another portion of our business,  (sorry no shooting yet….we will get there, I promise), we are going to be figuring out our cost of doing business or CODB. You only thought that doing a business plan was scary, this work is going to show you what you need to make in order to make a living. I know when I fist did all of this, my eyes must have glazed over and looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. We are going to try to make this as non scary and painless as we can.CharlySRS_9627

CODB – what is it and why do you care?   Your cost of doing business is the result of an equation. (Yep we are doing math here, so hang on!) The equation is not that bad.

Non-reimbursable expenses (A), plus your desired salary (B), equals your total annual costs (C). Simple!


First, how much do you want to make a year this is what you want to make as take home pay. (as if you were receiving a paycheck from an employer, and get to take home and spend how you want) $50,000 a year? 75,000 a year? more? Don’t sell yourself short, but also don’t think you will make as much as Bill Gates in your first year.

The addition of your non-reimbursable expenses, these are the costs associated with keeping the lights on and the doors open. Rent, computers, phones, internet, insurance, gear, office supplies, etc., fall into this category. Beware this is going to be a fairly large number for some of you.  Grab a blank sheet of paper and lets make a list of what our non-reimbursable costs are: office/studio

phone (cell and/or landline)

photo equipment (cameras, lenses, memory cards, etc.)

equipment service and repairs (let’s hope not…)




vehicle expense (double check with your tax advisor on what you can include in this one if you are using a personal vehicle for work)

office supplies and furniture

postage and shipping

professional development (workshops, etc.)

advertising & promotion

subscriptions and dues

insurance (business and equipment)

legal and accounting services

taxes and licenses (business and self employment)

office assistant (I wish…)

utilities (other than you phone since we listed that earlier)

travel and entertainment

Your list may not have all of these, or it may have other things not listed here.  The important thing is to include all that you can think of that you will spend to run your business for the year. Some of these thing will take a bit of figuring out, but again put in the time and work, so your outcome will be a realistic number to work from.

Lets try an example:

A= desired salary    $75,000/year

B= total expenses     $75,000/year

$75,000 + $75,000 = $150,000 per year expenses.  So our CODB is $150,00 per year. This is what you will need to make annually just to keep your business going and does not include any savings for your company.

Yep that is a BIG number.

So let’s break it down into some bite size pieces.

You can break it down by month, or week, or by session or horse show. Let’s do it weekly to see what that looks like. So out of 52 weeks in a year, how many will do you want to work? Be sure to include time you want off for vacations, being sick, time for workshops etc. One month off should give you ample time so lets use 48 weeks as our magic number.

So $150,000 codb, divided by our 48 weeks of work time

$150,000 / 48 = $3125

This means that in order to make your $150,00 per year codb, you need to bring in $3,128 each week.  For equine photographers this can be made by shooting ranch/portrait sessions or horse shows or a combination of the two (there are other ways, such as commercial, but we will keep it to just these two ways for simplicity).

Lets use ranch/portrait sessions for our example.  Lets say we can do 3 ranch sessions a week  (remember we need to include email time with the customer, phone time, editing time, travel time etc.). This means we need to make $1,012 per session each week.  This is where our next topic of cost of goods sold or COGS will come in, as this $1,012 per session is just to pay you, and cover your expenses, it does not cover any products for your clients.  SRS_7300

Lets see what  shooting horse shows looks like.  Lets say you shoot three horse shows a month that are each 4 days long, this means you are shooting 144 horse show days a year (this does not include edit time, travel time etc….these are just the days you spend shooting, adding these thing will put you about 250 days a year.)  In order to determine what we need to make each day shooting it will look like this:

$150,o00 / 144 days of actual horse shows = 1,042 per horse show day.

Again this only covers what it will take to pay you and your expenses and does not cover the cost of products that your customers may purchase. So when you are shooting horse shows on spec work (a topic we will cover later on) it can be very daunting, since sales are not guaranteed.DizzyLizzyGirlSRS_0343web

Our next stop will be figuring out our COGS, so stay tuned!







Of Horse Shows, Photographers and Poachers

Of Horse Shows, Photographers and Poachers

Being a horse show photographer has its wonderful moments. Then there are the moments where I am embarrassed and mad to be one. The Scottsdale All Arabian Horse Show is going on right now, and while the horses are beautiful and stunning to see, should other pros be there shooting it?   Rick Osteen and Howard Schatzberg of Schatzberg Photography are the “official” photographers of the horse show. Their work is amazing, they have done Arabians shows for years and have honed their craft with the utmost perfection. I know they are required to carry a hefty insurance policy naming no less than 3 organizations including city and counties as additional insureds, have overhead of employees, etc. and are there trying to make a living. I know these things because I have shot at this facility and have been required to provide the same things. On any day of the show you can stand beside any of the arenas and see countless “pro” photographers ringside happily shooting away.  Now don’t get me wrong shooting for your own personal enjoyment is one thing (people should be allowed to shoot their family – an entire barn? I don’t think so). However many of these self- proclaimed professionals are shooting and sharing on Facebook, as well as tagging anyone in the picture.  Which in essence means that they are selling their photos for $0.  Many are even handing out business cards to the people they are shooting to get them to buy the pictures (I  found one who has this blurb on his website: “Due to the sheer size of the event, I am afraid that I was not able to cover every arena and every horse at the event.” followed by a list of all the classes and photos from those classes for sale).  Here are these self-proclaimed “pros” who are coming into Rick and Howard’s work place to steal work and customers from them. Now I know many of you are going to say that the show producers should take care of these “poachers”, others are going to say that is the way it is now in the horse show world, my comment to those is “if they are professional, shouldn’t they behave that way?”

The poachers are not having to fork out money for insurance, employees at the show and cover who knows what other expenses that the official has to.   I have even found them trying to be sneaky at horse shows I have been the official at. Want to know something else???  Let me walk you through a scenario that could happen…. Perhaps Mr. Poacher scares a horse, causing the rider or the horse to get seriously hurt.  Someone happens to see Mr. Poacher with his pro equipment and says “That guy with the pro equipment caused this accident.” While Mr. Poacher may or may not get sued, I can just about guarantee that the facility and the “official” photographer will.  It is surely going to be assumed that the pro was working for the “official” since he was supposed to be the only pro there. Still not getting it?  How about this one? Let’s say you are the “official” food vendor for a sporting event, now I pay my entry fee into the park and proceed to sell hotdogs and hamburgers (heck I may even give them away).  Are you going to be ticked????  You bet, you have been required to have insurance, permits, employees etc., and here I come and cut in on your profits without having to provide any of the things you have.  The horse show photographer is no different!

The Scottsdale show is not the only horse show with this problem, just about all horse shows have this problem.The International Andalusian & Lustiano National Championship show was no different. Unfortunately there the “official” photographer Kristie Nichols Puckett of Moonfyre Photography, had to deal with a photographer who came in on a “media” pass.  While media passes are not bad, they are supposed to be for magazines, etc.  Not for that person to shoot hundreds of photos and then turn around and offer them for sale on their website or post them all over Facebook with people tagged…..so rather than buying from the official, they got free photos. This happened at the Scottsdale All Arabian Show in 2012 as well.  The person that was shooting for Arabian Horse World has all of the photos they took on their website for sale. So they got to go to the show – no insurance, no employees, etc. and shoot whatever they wanted for the magazine and then turn around and sell the photos. Were they the official? No Osteen-Schatzberg were. Not only is that unethical it is pretty immoral in my book as well.   I wonder if these photographers realize that they could be sued over this infringement?

Unfortunately I have found that this happens in other sports as well.  It just makes me mad and disgusted. Why do we as professionals insist on screwing each other?  Perhaps you may not be aware that at some point one of those people you have poached may need a second shooter.   Guess who they will not be calling???? And can you guess who’s names will be drug through the mud?  You “poachers” would not like someone coming to your horse show and behaving the way you are at the shows you are poaching….so how about we all grow up and behave professionally?





End of Season Sale

End Of Season Sale

Hi Everyone!!!


We are getting ready to delete old galleries to make room for the fall shows!! So to make your choices a bit easier for you we are offering 15 images on a CD for $250.00. They are fully edited images that you can print, email, use on Facebook, or a multitude of other things. About the only thing you can not do with them is change them or resell them.


This offer is only available to the galleries that have a “Year End” tab in the pricing section. If you happen to choose an image that is not in a sale gallery, you will be asked to choose another image. Once you have placed your order via the internet, we will email you an order sheet on which to list your deisred images. Simply email the form back and we will get started on your images. Please note that due to high volume it may take 3-4 weeks for your order to be completed.


This offer is only good until November 1, so be sure to get your orders in, because after that this deal will be gone.




S. Sylvester Photography



Find the Truth Then Decide

Find the Truth Then Decide


So at the beginning of the month I posted a link by Mark America on my Facebook page in regards to horse slaughter….. Yep, I got some backlash and some people removed me as friends.  Makes you think that your friends should all have the same opinions that you do.  How boring would that be?  It is funny I never really put where I stand on the slaughter issue, I really only wanted people to be open-minded about what they were reading.

It is sad that so many people make decisions based on what they hear.  Not what they have researched themselves or what the facts are. When you meet someone new are you going to go by what someone else has told you about that person or do you want to make up your own mind based on what you yourself learn about that person? People should be aware of all the facts before they go ranting about an issue they have not really researched.

People have gone on the assumption that all horses that are processed are for human consumption.  This is not true.  Try researching tallow and see what you come up with. Another assumption is that the AQHA is responsible for the over population problem because they pay out incentives.  Perhaps reading how the incentive fund really works might be enlightening. The money does not come directly from AQHA. How about those that want more laws for those of use who have horses.  Yep just what we need more laws, and more restrictions.  Next thing you know we will have laws about having children too  (oh wait, maybe for some that may work….. wait, I better not get started on welfare etc…..). It is to bad that the majority people who are screaming about slaughter have not helped to come up with any viable solution.  My taking on another horse is not an option and I would imagine that most people who have horses feel the same way.  I have what I can afford to feed and take care of properly, and I have taken in and still have  more than one rescue dog.  Do I have any answers?  No I don’t but I am not going to condemn someone who does.  Instead, I will research their idea and come to my own conclusion as to whether or not it will work, or if it would work better with a little tweaking.

Another one that I like is that people should not have horses if they can not afford them.  While I agree with this statement for the most part, what about the good people who have lost their jobs and are choosing to feed their families before the animals. Are you going to tell me you would feed your horses before your kids?  Or spend $300+ to have a horse put down instead of feeding your children.(never mind those that have more than one horse).  Oh yeah you should put them down and not put your family first……yet, how many of you have tried to put down a healthy horse? All the vets that I know will not put down a healthy horse, it must have some kind of ailment. So now what?

Before anyone goes there, yes, I know that most horses are given drugs that make them  ineligible for human consumption.  But not all animals that are destroyed go to human consumption.  Dogs and cats that are destroyed do not end up on people’s plates.  And do you really know where your horse ends up when you have them put down and then picked up by a carcass removal service?  Processing plants.

With hay in my area fetching $17+ per bale for grass and $19+ a bale for alfalfa, (if you are lucky enough to own horse property).  Trims running  approx $50 (for a decent farrier). Yearly vet at about $300 (on a good year and a healthy horse….) and we have yet to add in – vitamins, special shoeing if needed, etc, etc. So how many rescues can you afford to take in?

Again I ask what HELPFUL solutions can you come up with?

As far as my stance on slaughter – if it is done in a humane way and regulated in some way then yes I am for it.  Delete me if you must, but please do your research before condemning anyone – each of us is entitled to our own opinions and I can only hope that your opinion is truly your own and based on RESEARCH and TRUTH.

Anyone Can Make a Difference

Anyone Can Make a Difference


Oh sure it is a bit cliché, but it really is true.  I am blessed to do something I truly love and am able to make a living at it. Am I getting rich? depends on how you look at it.  I think I am, but it is certainly not in the monetary way.  My photography has allowed me to immerse myself further into the horse and dog worlds than I ever was before, and along the way I have made some great friends and captured some wonderful moments for people. Yes, my photos have made some people smile, and  they have made some cry.  My images have allowed people to share great triumphs and even share great sadness and I get to be a bit selfish and feel good about it.

What really let me know that I had made a difference was the day I received an email that a rescued Jack Russell Terrier had found his forever home because of a photo I had taken.  The woman who adopted Max said she kept coming back to him because of his photo on the rescue’s website.  I was elated for Max, and once again I got to be a bit selfish and relish the fact that I had made a difference not just in Max’s life but in the life of the woman who adopted him.  Way to go Max!!!

There are many special memories I have that have all stemmed out of giving back through my photography. From donating my time (photos) to rescues, to giving back to the associations that have allowed me to become their photographers, I am eternally grateful and am humbled that I have actually made a difference. Have I solved the debt crisis? created world peace? no but it is ok, I can still make a difference one small photo at a time. What can you do to make a difference?  You may be surprised and humbled by what you can do and how it will make you feel.


Busy Busy Busy

Busy Busy Busy


Well, The last week has been swamped with shooting, shooting and more shooting! Am I complaining? Not a chance.  I love what I do. And I am so thankful to all my customers who like my work – you are all amazing!!! From barn shoots to horse shows, to just shooting for fun, what better job can there really be? There is still that thing called frustration that shows up sometimes, but the fun/good outweighs the bad. I am so truely blessed with great customers and fans.  The picture with this post is probably one of my favorites from the last week, (with two different edits) and while I wanted to share some of the funny ones I was threatened not too!!!  lol  If you want to see more of my pictures, go check out S. Sylvester Photography on facebook, and become a fan (ok – just “like” the page). Thanks to all my customers, many of whom I now consider friends I could not have done any of this without you.

Kyle and Preston

Frustration – we all get that way

Frustration – we all get that way


The heat is making me crazy. Well, maybe not literally but crazy none the less becasue I want to RIDE!

Mini (hand up = bad)

I was put on my first horse at about 6 months, then began riding lessons when I was around 4yrs old.  It’s funny but I can still remember some of those days. My family always hoped I would grow out of the horses.  Well, I have only grown to love them more and more with every passing year. At this point, I have made the leap into cutting horses…..oh boy what a ride!  I have ridden western pleasure horses, reining horses, hunters and about every dicipline in between.  But cutting……… it is almost indescribeable.  You have to really trust that your horse is truely trained to do its job and be able to guide your horse with only cues from your feet.   In other words, while you may have reins, you really don’t get to use them! Now I know better than to be a green rider (ok maybe not green at riding but green at cutting) and buy a green horse.  But what did I do? Yep green horse. Her name is Mini (Da Cats Whiz Kid) and I have most certainly leanred a TON from her, however I wanted to be more competitive, so I went out and got another cutting horse (PG Zorra – aka Gracie). While she is lite years ahead of Mini, she is still on the green side and while I am more competitive, I am a whole lot more frustrated!!!  Not in a bad way, but in that “can we just hurry up and figure out how to do this already” way.

Frustration, we encounter it everyday in our lives, I guess it really boils down to how we deal with it.  Personally I have come to the realization that while I may be frustrated to the

Gracie (hand down = Yeah!!)

heavens, I am still improving everyday.  Gracie, I am sure has been way frustrated with me, but she is such a good sport, she just goes on. I am having to remember that while I know what direction I need to go, I may not get there in the next 5 minutes. It may be days, weeks or even months (oh I hope not!) before we get it right and score where we need to. The same is true with non-riding frustrations. Being frustrated is ok, it means you are at least doing something, you just have not figured out the way that the puzzle pieces truely fit together yet. Deep breaths seem to help, what is happening is no one’s fault necessarily, but rather the timing is not right. This is a hard concept to wrap your head around, without flat out getting mad.  I have leared to make it constructive for myself – like the puzzle – let it be a game.

Riding has taught me so many things, and not all of them are just about horses.  Many life lessons have come from my time with my horses, the current one is dealing with, working through and being ok with my frustrations.

That New Horse Feeling

That New Horse Feeling

I can remember getting my first horse.  I guess I was about 13 (I have to guess becasue it was soooooo long ago!!).  My excitment could barely be contained. The second horse was just as exciting, as were each one to follow. Now I get to be a small part of a young lady getting a new horse, and well it is just as exciting.  This particular young lady found a horse near where I live in Phoenix, and being that she lives in Oregon, I got to be the one to go “try” her out.  Have to say it is a really good thing that she is not a cutting horse, or poor Laken would be out a horse before she ever got her!  With the purchase completed, Annie got to come stay with us for a while, until a ride could be found to take her north. Yesterday  I had to deliver her to Flagstaff to meet her ride and I was actually sad to see her go.  She is a sweet sweet mare and Laken is just going to love her (I hope….lol).  I could not let her leave without getting a few “shots” in of her – I mean who could resist with all that pretty mane??  Glad Laken has to take care of it rather than me though! To Laken, thank you so much for letting me be a little part of this and I truely hope you love your new “pony”. Two beautiful girls together, now that I would like to shoot.