Meg_at_ Banned from Photographing at Old Salem Horse Show

Meg_at_ Banned from Photographing at Old Salem Horse Show

The equestrian Instagram world is a bit abuzz right now with a topic that is very interesting to me.

A popular instagram account Meg_at_ (formerly Meg_at_wef) has been prohibited from doing any photography at the Old Salem horse show. Meg has a little under 10,000 instagram followers, and posts photo journalistic style images from popular hunter/jumper shows. I follow her, and enjoy her work a lot.

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You can read the full account of the situation on her blog (I suggest you do, the explanation of the situation is better than mine), but the short story seems to be that she originally arranged some for compensation private shoots off grounds and possibly on the show grounds. The official photographer got wind of this, so she cancelled her for pay shoots… which in my opinion is the right thing to do. However, then show management changed their minds about letting her shoot editorial content at the show for her blog. They told her she’s welcome to come to the show, but can’t shoot any photographs at all.

That’s where I get pretty irked.

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I understand the plight of the horse show photography and I’ve written about it pretty extensively here on this blog. I’ve completely given up any hope of making money taking photographs of horses, and at this point consider all of my work 100% editorial. In my opinion, it’s not a good idea to arrange private shoots at a horse show with an official photographer. If you do so, you better plan on getting approval from the show office ahead of time… especially at a large show.

However, I think it’s completely insane to limit editorial photography at a public event.

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When I shot at Pin Oak this year, a representative/photographer from Shawn McMillen Photography came up to me pretty much immediately and asked who I was shooting for. I told them that I just do it for fun and write a horse blog with my photos. As soon as I gave this information, any possible hostility melted away and we chatted photos and horse shows. She asked for my blog name and information, and we basically wished each other a good day.

That was a positive interaction.

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If I was at a horse show and was told I couldn’t take photos for my personal blog, I’d probably have a minor freak out. I just can’t find any valid reason in the world to restrict that.

Even if Meg managed to ruffle the wrong feathers in the wrong way, I don’t see this ‘punishment’ as justified. With the livelihood of the show photographer at high risk these days, it’s a pretty heated topic. I’m very curious of your thoughts – photographers and non-photographers alike.

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Do you think the show management was right or wrong in this situation with Meg_at_?

43 thoughts on “Meg_at_ Banned from Photographing at Old Salem Horse Show

  1. As someone who does similar work, I think she handled it poorly. But, and this is a big but, the horse show and horse show photography worlds are shooting themselves in the foot if they think that
    1- they CAN police every one taking photos
    2- they SHOULD police every one taking photos.

    I’ve been a horse show photographer. It’s a difficult business model now that pro quality equipment is easily available. But, as a photographer, I can honestly say that most people can see the difference between their barn mate’s work and mine. So I don’t worry about it. And having horse shows featured on popular social media accounts is necessary if we want that part of our industry to remain viable. It’s a lifestyle and in order for people to want to continue paying to be a part of it they need to see it where they consume their other lifestyle content (blogs, social media, etc).

    1. I think this is very much a ‘two sides of the story’ situation, so I won’t comment on how she did or didn’t handle the situation.

      Completely agree that horse shows just can’t police people like this. There are WAY too many teenagers, parents and people like Meg with nice equipment and a decent talent for it. It’s just impossible to regulate.

  2. Hmm. I think it’s kind of unfair that they won’t even let her take photos for her blog. I can understand why they don’t want her to take any for pay photos, but at the same time, if they were not action/show shots, but rather more of a portrait session, I guess I don’t really see the harm in that. Is the official show photographer really going to have time to do that for someone that may want that service? I don’t see how they can justify banning her from taking photos without banning EVERY SINGLE PERSON from taking pictures.

    1. I think that’s my problem too. At virtually every show there are a few teens with really nice equipment and good timing, and will post hundreds of photos of their friends… but they can still do that?

  3. I didn’t read Meg’s blog, but I think I can understand a show secretary just giving a blanket “you can’t shoot any photos at this show b/c you violated the rules” shotgun response without spending much energy going over nuances of for-money vs editorial or personal use photography. Hopefully it ended amicably with her welcome back to that show again in the future.

  4. Nope – show management is wrong. Meg explained herself very well and it sounded to me like the show management got pressured by the show photog. Not cool.

    1. Boom..Cathryn…show management being pressured by OPs is obviously very common… some photogs will even “stretch the truth” to make non show photogs look “guilty” of something..

  5. Based on the blog, I feel like the show is being pretty unfair. Why would you take back your word? She has been given permission to take photos for her blog, she isn’t doing anything for money, what’s the problem? To me the show handled it poorly. I get that it isn’t a situation that anyone wants to be in, but in my opinion the problem was solved before she was banned.

  6. Just sounds like a weird situation overall… I did read the original Me At post. Sounds like she did the right thing by agreeing not to do paid sessions at the show, but I agree it;s unfair to ban her from shoots pics for her blog when I’m sure there are other people taking pics too. Also, from her original post it sounds really sketchy like one of her clients is forwarding their emails to show management behind her back? Maybe I’m misunderstanding that or maybe the client was just trying to check with the show management that it was ok, but it seems weird.

    1. Yeah, I think that client would possibly no longer be a client if that were me…depending on the circumstances…

  7. Well that seems a little uncalled for. It sounds as though she handled it in a very professional way but was not accorded the same courtesy from the official photographer or the show management.
    If my BF/personal photographer was told he couldn’t take pictures of me showing my horse I’d be pretty ticked off.

    1. But your boyfriend is not soliciting business at the show. He is not selling photos to you/others. She was, there is proof in the emails she sent to clients that she was planning on accepting money for competition photos- knowing that there was an official photographer.
      She then denied ever sending prices for competition photos (odd, since there is proof). If she was allowed to bring her camera, what’s to stop her from doing what she originally intended, and then lied about? Nothing-except not allowing her to take photos.
      Also, Parker offered her FREE photos for her blog. She declined.

  8. I can see the show management’s position, but at the same time I think they overreacted. My friends have previously relied on me for pictures from shows because here in SWVA, we have so few show photographers. The one that does do a lot of our shows doesn’t do super amazing things. Not that I do either, but I don’t charge. I’ve never charged for photography, so I’ve never considered how I would handle this situation. It is definitely uncomfortable.

  9. Okay I’m going to give my lawyer $.02 here. Generally speaking (disclaimer#1: this is NOT legal advice; disclaimer #2: I didn’t specifically research the laws in NY). If it’s a public space (with the exception of museums and monuments, which have different rules), then she has the right to photograph whatever she wants, as long as she’s not violating any other laws. If it’s a private space, she needs the property owner’s permission. So the question becomes, is Old Salem open to the public on show days? Generally, if it’s a private space open to the public, you may take photos unless you’re told otherwise by the property owner, which is what happened here. So, unfortunately for Meg, the way I interpret it, OSF had every right to tell her she can’t take photos anywhere on their grounds. Bottom line she shouldn’t have set up any for-pay shoots, because they probably have exclusive contracts with their photographer. Even if she didn’t specifically know that, she probably should have known that. Just my personal opinion though.

    1. Oh I LOVE hearing non-legal advice from a smart legal person! 😉 This is good info to remember for any photographer wanting to go to a popular show. I had wondered and figured that most show grounds were actually private property versus public.

      1. Well, yes, it is private property, but the public is invited there on show day (which is why no one gets arrested for trespassing when they come to watch!). If you showed up in my backyard and started taking photos, I could definitely ask you to leave/call the cops if you won’t. But if I’m hosting a horse show, and the public is invited, I don’t think I can have you arrested for trespassing but I CAN tell you no photos, if I choose to do that. Which I wouldn’t, because your photos are lovely, but I digress.

  10. Knowing the other side of the story, I think it was correct for the show management to take the steps that they did. James Parker has conversations between him and her, where she was flat out lying about her intentions. “Clients” came forward with the emails of her offering services, to only tell the officials that she wasn’t.

    Yes- you should be able to take photos at a show for yourself. But you shouldn’t lie about your intentions. Her punishment was deserved, and hopefully she learned her lesson.

    And Lauren- yes- when I’m shooting for McMillen, I have the show right to ask people “who are you working for”, only because often some people do come in thinking they can sell. Hell- I’ve helped the mom and pop folk to take better photos, we love talking to other people at the ring! But when you abuse your power, show management has every right to step in (we had someone at the Classic last year taken away by security for something very similar).

  11. As a consumer, I can understand why the official horse show photographer would get irked- but sometimes the official photographer sucks and I wish I could hire my own private photographer….

      1. Yes, and she picked OSF, LP and Devon- all the shows Parker shoots- no one at those shows is going to say “I wish the photog was better”- he’s the best in the business!

  12. I can see that they were mad about her taking payment, but banning her from taking photos just to post on the internet doesn’t seem fair because there are many other people doing that.

  13. This type of situation becomes sticky fast. Hubby shoots for as many as possible from our barn at shows. We do it for free (or food) but certainly would take money if offered to cover the expense of having the professional level equipment and time editing etc. 😉 At the last show most of the classes we were all in I never saw the photographer and with what we all paid to be there, I’d have been pissed if no one had gotten pics. To me a show should also hire adequate show coverage if they have 4 or so rings going at once if the photographer wants excludive rights.

    Now our local rodeo has banned all cameras. This is ridiculous in the age of cell phones because they can’t take those. I get both sides, but frankly no longer being able to take quality photos at the rodeo really takes away a large portion of why i like going. Sticky sticky.

    1. I’m in a similar situation to your hubby. I take photos for barn friends because I have the equipment and enjoy doing it, but also because often times the pro photog doesn’t get them at all. Would it be really nice to get a small amount of money back to help maintain my equipment that was REALLY expensive? Yes, it would. Do I want to put myself in an awkward situation with the official photographer? No, I do not.

    2. Glad you commented Kat!!

      I was going to say that we have a barn.friend and hubby who bless us with pics bc any of the shows photographers stink or.don’t get anything of us… We pay them with food or I give old tack that I think she would like as payment lol 🙂

      SO thankful for the pictures bc otherwise there would be none ha!

  14. I’ve seen the emails she sent to ‘clients’- she names prices for on-site competition photography. She then lied to Parker/the show grounds saying she *never* offered to take photos of riders competing that would be for sale. But there is written evidence otherwise.
    Based on her blog post, it seems like she’s trying to get the pity vote by only telling half-truths. It’s a shame, I liked her work but she broke the rules and then lied about it. You need to be punished for that.
    What’s best is that Parker *offered her free competition photos for her blog* but she declined. Sounds like if she wanted photos (arguably, the best she could get in the U.S.) only for her blog, she’d have taken that offer- but it seems she just wanted to make money off of her own photos, while there was a well-known and respected photographer in place who’s been shooting OSF for decades. Bad move.

    1. It is good to get the other side of the story! Sounds like the big issue here is not taking editorial photos at a horse show, but rather some challenging communication regarding arranging private shoots.

      1. Not only private shoots, but in-the-ring competition photos. She offered prices for those photos, but left out that tid-bit in her blog. She broke the rules, lied about it, got caught, and won’t admit to it, even though there is proof.
        At that point, you need to admit what you did was wrong, not call people following the rules/making a living ‘bullies’.

  15. Personally, I think the world of horse show photography needs to be majorly revamped. But that’s a thought for a different day. Definitely a crazy situation, I understand both sides but it’s definitely a tough call.

    1. Unless already visited….I agree that it is time to TRY to get everyone (show managers, OP’s, experienced no-fee photogs with the latest gear, exhibitors, etc.) to agree on an updated set of acceptable “guidelines” as a starting point…..

  16. Love your blog Lauren! It’s a tough call and I’m 100% sure there is some PERSONAL feelings going on here. She did something very nonprofessional and disrespectful to the photographer (I am in the same boat as you and have even worked for professional photographers over the years) but I think just a scolding would have been enough, life is a learning experience and it’s ok to make mistakes. Now if she repeats…..

  17. Hm. Lots of interesting things going back and forth. It does look bad for the show to tell her not to take pictures, but there’s obviously a lot more under the surface.

    Nothing is as it seems on the internet, I guess.

  18. I didn’t read any of the comments, but I’d like to offer my opinion from the show management perspective. I worked for a very large horse show, and one of my (many) duties at the show itself included managing media credentials and checking on any credentialed photographers personally. As show management, it’s not always an easy task to sign a photographer — the days are really long and if you pick a bad one, you never hear the end of it. And the official photographer usually has a lot invested, especially at a large horse show. So I understand the need to protect the exclusivity of their business.

    While it sounds like Meg didn’t 100% follow perfect etiquette, it sounds like she tried to correct and apologize for her mistakes. Which in my opinion, is all you can ask for. On the same hand, horse show management also wasn’t perfect — handing out credentials and then revoking them isn’t a good practice. It’s really too bad that OSF’s marketing/communications can’t see the benefit of unpaid advertising in the capacity of social media and blogging. And I 100% agree with Meg’s point: if we as the horse show industry do not embrace new technology and the changing environment, we will die.

  19. definitely a touchy subject! from the big picture perspective – it seems short sighted and ultimately unenforceable to police who can and cannot take editorial photographs at a horse show – and it could potentially make the organizers look bad for even trying.

    but digging into the details of this particular case, they appear to have every right to ban her, regardless of any implications it might have on the photog business as a whole

  20. If signing and keeping a great photographer is difficult, the management may have had their hands tied to keep the photographer in the future. It sounds like this photographer was good enough to warrant their decision, even if applying a blanket rule would be impossible to police.

  21. I know the topic of price has been beat to death BUT maybe some new talent will make the pictures more affordable for us adult ammys that can’t spend $75 on one print!!!

    Off soap box 🙂

  22. I just happened to stumble upon this post and I had to comment….
    I also take photos at horse shows here in Virginia for my blog, RoanokeEquestrian.com. I just started doing it this past spring, and I have twice been approached and questioned because the official photographer was getting upset. The first time was actually by the official photographer at an A rated hunter show and she was actually quite nasty with me. Even though I assured her that I was not marketing any photos, was shooting for my personal blog only and in no way was selling anything, she still found the need to call me “unethical” and a “poacher.” And this lovely conversation happened right in the middle of two arenas where anyone could see/hear. I found it to be incredibly unprofessional and really turned me off about a person who is supposedly a big deal. Another time I was taking photos at an AQHA championship, and an AQHA official came to talk to me. She was much nicer once she found out who I was, but I was still asked to “shoot less.”

    While I have utmost respect for horse photographers and the official photographer trying to run a business, it seems like the business model is terribly broken when you are reduced to yelling at spectators at the horse show.

    I wrote about my experience on my blog, of course, that week. (http://www.roanokeequestrian.com/2015/05/horse-show-photography-when-spectators.html)

    I am very careful to not market or sell any photos when an official photographer is present. And I think in the future I am going to take it a step further and change the way I take photos at a show with an official photographer. I have noticed that photographers seem to get upset if I seem like I’m shooting everyone in the class (I do that so I’ll have a shot of the winner and also, frankly, cause I’m not a professional and more often than I like my shots aren’t in focus, esp if I’m shooting indoors. I’m not shooting with a strobe setup, of course.) They also seem to get prickly when I move into position to get a nice shot or a class that they aren’t taking.

    As more and more nice camera equipment becomes available to the average person, including just the cameras in our smartphones, shows simply won’t be able to control this problem, in my opinion. And horse shows desperately need the free marketing that all of these photos posted to the Internet provide. They shouldn’t fail to take that into account.

  23. The main photographer is paid by the organization, right? If other photographers are paid ny privates to make photos during the show, I don’t see why would this must be banned. The main photographers on the other hand are focused on the jumping, they shoot for the organization, they had a different story to tell to public through their photos: a champion who is going to be defeated by a new horsejumper? a failed jump? the exact moment when the horse is going to win the show? These are the organizations stories. A private maybe would like to have a full day photoshooting of the show: from the preparations, warms up, and the feelings that a show generates. Differente stories, and they cannot be covered all. One rule must be granted: no photos during the show. That is for the organization’s photographer. But behind the scenes, is a total different situation.

    I’m a pro photographer. I don’t see any problem with different photographers behind the scenes. Am I scared to loose the contract for future shows? Well, in this way I will always do my best to keep ny job granted. Any photographer has something to tell, i’m for an open market. I’m not scared by anyone. If I’m good i will be hired. If I’m among the best i’ll always be hired. If I’m not going to be hired anymore than I must practice more and sell my works in a better way ( and I live in Italy, where in sport photography,persons works thanks to the people they know…that’s why probably I’m not scared…here it’s full of sharks, not always the best works and u have to fight hard…but I’m still open to a free photography session…there’s thousands of stories that can be transformed in wonderful shootings).

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