British Equine Collectors' Forum

For All British Model Horse Collectors

Entering a Photo Show

What is a Photo Show?

Please note: This was written for photo shows where you posted off your hard copy photos to the judge but lots of the information here also relates to Digital Photo Shows.

Photo Showing is where you take a photograph of your model (halter) or of your model with tack and a set-up and possibly props (performance) to create a still-life scene that replicates a type of performance that you would find in the world of real horses. The idea is to take the best possible photos you can, and to make it as realistic as possible.

What Can I Show?

You may show any photos of models that either currently belong to you, or which have been leased to you for showing purposes. These photos should represent the model in its current condition - there is no specific rule that says you cannot show photos of a model which is now damaged taken in its perfect days, but is generally regarded as being 'not the done thing'. 

You may Not show photos of models that do not belong to you - e.g. models you may have sold on, photos snapped at a live show or in a shop/museum, etc, models that have been repainted etc or other people's pictures that have been lent to you for inspection purposes, etc.

Also now it's the days of digital Camera's and computers it is also 'not the done thing' to alter the photo in anyway, apart from trimming the picture if required. Altering the picture is very much is frowned upon within the world of model horse collecting and showing. Judges will disqualify any pictures they feel have been altered or tampered with.

Selecting your photos

It's a natural urge, on seeing a photo show schedule, to want to enter everything you can.  But it often pays, particularly if it's your first show, to have a good look at your photos first and select only those which do justice to your models.

Firstly, discard any which don't show your entire model in reasonably sharp focus.  No judge wants to have to attempt to judge a model whose legs are hidden in long grass, whose photo has been taken head-on so that it appears to be a giraffe, or which is nothing more than a fuzzy blob in the distance.  Select only those photos in which the model is at least a couple of inches high, is standing side-on to the camera, is in sharp focus (more or less), and is visible from ear-tip to the bottom of the hooves.


Picture A                                                 Picture B    


Picture A - The model in this picture is a good size and mostly in focus, unfortunately the daisies in the background, although not in focus, slightly distract from the main subject, also the angle of the photo is a little high, and the grass should have been trimmed to allow the lower half of the legs and the hooves to be clearly visible, if the class was a close-run thing these small details could mean the difference between 1st and 2nd place.

Picture B - The model in this picture is in focus and 'fills the frame', though maybe just a bit too much as the bottom of the front hooves have been lost.  The Halter is a good size and fits the model, and the end of the leadrein is such that it looks like its being held 'just out of shot', the background is good and clear and makes the picture and subject look real. Unfortunately the angle of the model is all wrong, he should be side on to the camera with his head facing the judge not star gazing off in the distance, this picture would be very difficult to judge, as the models conformation is unclear.  


Ideally, your model should also have been photographed from its best side, which is normally:

A - The side which it is facing if its head is turned

B - The side on which the mane falls if it is looking straight ahead and standing absolutely square, or

C - The side with the legs furthest extended.

There is no need for models to be wearing any kind of headgear for In-hand classes, unless this is specifically requested.  (Unless you are a whizz at tack-making, it is usually better if it does not wear any, as if it is not exactly the right scale, it can obscure important facial detail and expression and could cost you a place.) 

If you are intending to enter Ridden or Performance classes you will need to be very stringent with your choice of photos. In the excitement of setting up these sorts of shots it can be easy to overlook details, which though small, are vitally important. So as well as conforming to the same requirements as in hand photos, performance pictures should also be checked to make sure that:

A - All parts of the tack are present and correct (no missing girths, etc).

B - The bit(s) appear to be in the corner of the model's mouth.

C - The rider is sitting correctly in the saddle (not with legs stuck straight out or leaning at a dangerous angle).

D - The rider is holding the reins in the correct fashion (in at the little finger, out at the top).

E - The rider is looking in the same direction as the horse.

In addition, if the photo is of a performance event (showjumping, gymkhana, etc.) check that you have the correct obstacles/equipment in the correct scale (not too big or too small), and that both horse and rider look as if they are paying attention to what they are doing and are capable of doing it. (For example, if you place a standing horse such as the Breyer Proud Arab stallion directly facing a jump, it will look as though it?s refusing, not jumping!).

Remember, it is always much better to send a few good photos to a show rather than a lot of bad ones (particularly if entry fees are per model per class), as bad photos will not place, and only cost you more in postage!

If you are shooting photos, it is a good idea to have more than one of each shot, to allow you to enter shows whose entry dates may overlap.  You can either do this at the time (I always shoot 3 frames of each model/set-up) or you can order a second set of prints when you have the film developed.  You can also order reprints later, but this tends to be expensive.  The best size for prints is no bigger than 6? x 4?, as this is the size that fits most standard envelopes - large prints are more liable to get damaged in the post.

Once you have shot/selected your photos, it is vitally important to identify them.  There are three sets of information which is essential and required on each of your photos:

  1. Your full name and address
  2. Your model?s name and details
  3. The numbers of the classes you have entered.

Some people write directly on the back of the photos using an ordinary biro, which will not smudge once dry, but may leave indentation marks on the front of the photo.  Water-based felt pens will not dry and can mark everything with which the photos come in contact with.  Ideally, it is best to use self-adhesive labels, which can be typed or written on.

If you do hand-write the information on the back of a photo PLEASE make sure it is neat and readable - there is nothing more annoying to a show holder then being unable to read the information provided, and if the information is missing or unreadable the judge has the right to refuse your entry ! 

It may also be a good idea to stick to the same basic format and style with all the backs of your photos, doing this will ensure the judge can locate all the important information quickly and efficiently, also this will become your 'signature' and will help the judge to sort out and return your photos after the show as well.



Could you decipher this ?!
Imagine trying to understand these details when your trying to judge a show!!  Keep backs of photos clear and uncluttered.

To save yourself continually writing out your name and address, invest in a pack of the small printed address labels, as sold through the ?Innovations? catalogue, Exchange & Mart, etc.  They cost around £5 or £6 for 1,000 and are more than worth their cost for all the trouble they save.  For you model's details, the plain self-adhesive address labels that come on a roll (approximately 3½? x 1½?) are invaluable.  Write all the relevant details out carefully and clearly, or type them.
The normal details required are:

  • Sire/Dam
  • Breed, Sex, Colour, Height,  Date foaled/Age
  • Make, Mold and Finish eg OF  (and name of artist(s) if customised)
  • Name of Photographer (and tackmaker if applicable)
  • Details of Event or Class, and Activity Description  (if performance: e.g. Gymkhana - dismounting in Sack Race)

Some of this information - model's name, breed, etc.  is clearly necessary; the rest - customiser / tackmaker / photographer is either a courtesy to the artists involved, or a chance for you to blow your own trumpet, if it is all your own work.

Both address and identity labels are permanent and unchanging, but class numbers change from show to show.  To cope with this, you can either use a second plain label, and write on it in pencil, erasing it for each new show, or better still, buy a roll of Scotch Magic Tape and stick a strip of this on the back of each photo.  The surface of this tape accepts pencil, and can be erased time after time without getting tatty, unlike a label.  If your model is eligible for more than one class, list classes in numerical order, eg  [  5 - 18 - 24  ]  - it makes it much easier for the show-holder to ensure your model enters the correct classes, if your numbers are out of order your horse may miss it's class, proper numbering is the entrants responsibility.

Entering the show

  • Step One - Read the Schedule Carefully!

This may seem obvious, but it is easy to get carried away.  Always check your model is eligible - correct breed, age, gender, make - for that particular class, and be aware of any special rules that may apply e.g. Original Finish only.  Also, make sure you list the correct class numbers on your photos.

  • Step Two - Pack Your Photos & Entry Fee

Again, if you assemble your photos in class order it makes the show-holder's life a lot easier.  Try not to send photos loose either place them in the wallet the photo labs return them in, or at the very least in a strong new envelope. Mark this clearly with your name and address, and also with the number of photos enclosed. This will help the show-holder ensure you get all your photos back. Sending out a bunch of loose photos, badly labelled, and with no indication of numbers, is a sure way of losing them!

Always post your photos in a strong envelope, and make sure that your SSAE for the return trip is equally tough, cheap, flimsy envelopes are just not up to the job and can easily tear (and lose your photos!) also make sure the return envelope is large enough to fit all results and possible prizes into.  If you are able to obtain them, C5 sized card or card-backed envelopes are the best, as they will prevent your photos becoming creased or bent in the post, and - if opened carefully by the show-holder - are usually strong enough to make the return journey as your SSAE (mark the envelope 'reusable - open with care' and enclose loose stamps and an address label with your photos).  If you can't find card-backed envelopes, a sheet of card trimmed to fit the envelope is nearly as good. Whatever envelope you use, it should always be marked 'PHOTOS - PLEASE DO NOT BEND!' on both back and front, and have your return address on the back.

The safest way to send your entry fee is in the form of a cheque, stamps or postal order.  If this isn't possible and you have to send coins, ensure that they are sandwiched and secured between two pieces of card.  This will prevent them coming loose and damaging your photos and/or envelope, and will make them less detectable.

If you are sending more than one or two photos, you will need to have your envelope weighed at the post office to determine the postage - unless you own digital kitchen scales, in which case you will just need to pick up a current list of postage rates!  If you do need to get your envelope weighed , do not seal it before going to the P.O. - you will need at least the same value in stamps on your SASE.  If a show advertises rosettes or certificates as prizes, or the results booklet is likely to run to several pages, then it is not a bad idea to add extra stamps to your SSAE to cover the increased weight.  NEVER 'just hope' you have enough postage on your photos - if they turn up at the show with postage to pay you will not be very popular, and could indeed lose all your pictures as the show secretary is not obliged to pay the extra postage to receive them!

  • Step Three - Wait?!

Allow at least two weeks for your photos to come back to you.  Photo shows are time consuming to hold, and typing results can be a long job, particularly for the average one-finger typist!  Please do not ring the show secretary to ask how your models have done - this is very bad manners, and not only distracts the secretary when she is likely to be very busy, but also makes you look like a greedy pot hunter.  If, however, more than a fortnight goes by without your photos/results arriving, then a brief, friendly call or note to the secretary to find out what has happened is justified.  Letters do go astray, or sometimes-unavoidable circumstances such as illness prevent secretaries from getting results out as quickly as they would wish.

If the worst happened, and your photos have gone missing, then it is up to the secretary to contact the Post Office and ask them to look for them.  On the other hand, if they never arrived at the show in the first place, you must inform the P.O. (it is always the responsibility of the person who posted the letter to contact the Post Office).  If you want to insure against this, you can send your entries by Recorded mail - this costs a little extra but can be worth it if you only have one set of pictures, though it has to be said that despite the numbers of photo shows held each year, very few pictures actually go missing.  A Certificate of Proof of Posting is free, and although it doesn't give you the protection that sending something by Recorded mail does, it can help your case if things go astray.

If you don't win?

There are three reasons why models do not do well in photo shows.  One is, sadly, that your models were just not that good compared to the rest of the competition.  Alternatively, it could be that your pictures did not do them justice (out of focus, bad angle, etc.).  Or unfortunately, it could be that the judge either had a bias towards certain types of models.  If your pictures continue to do poorly in three or more shows under different judges, then I'm afraid you may need to re-evaluate your models/pictures (and perhaps consider concentrating on entering those particular models in postal shows and performance events).  If, however, your models only do badly under a certain judge, then simply stop entering their shows!   Discreet enquiries will tell you if this particular judge does have a bias/knowledge problem (e.g. they could be hot on Quarter Horses, but know nothing about Dartmoors), but don't go telling everyone you were robbed!  And never, ever ring up the judge to complain to them (unless they have done something unforgivable like lose or damage your pictures) - it only creates bad feeling.

Fortunately, problems of any kind are very rare, and you can enter your next, or first, photo show with confidence that very soon, it will be that exciting moment when the envelope comes back through the door and you hold the results in your trembling fingers! 

Happy showing !

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