One big family
It is interesting interviewing show photographers and finding that one thing they love about what they do is getting to know the riders as friends over time. Andrew and Stacy do this to the nth degree and hire people who will continue with their sales philosophy and the feeling of family in their business. It sounds like they have a blast shooting and selling their photography at these shows. I would love to spend the day with them and just watch how the customer experience works.
The camera came first for Andrew
Andrew grew up around professional and avid amateur photographers so for him photography came first before the horse. He was very active with photography through college but lost interest for a while as he learned his new career after college. For several years he worked at Disney World, a perfect place to learn about customer experience and customer satisfaction.
For Stacy the horse came first as long as she can remember
Stacy grew up with horses and in competition and still competes with her own horse. She knows the joy of owning her horse and the excitement of hunter/jumper competition first hand. She participates in upper level competition in the sport and has connections both as a participant for many years and now as a part of Andrew Ryback Photography.
For Andrew, dating a young lady with a horse (Stacy, that is) led to photographing her in her hunter/jumper activities. As her boyfriend and then as her husband Andrew followed her to her shows and brought his digital camera to fill the time and photograph her events.
Continuing to photograph his wife and sometimes other friends at the shows Andrew was invited to take some pictures by show managers. He did two shows for two years before things started to grow quite quickly.
He started as a weekend part-time business in show photography, but it soon became apparent that he could go full-time with this. Both Andrew and Stacy find this entrepreneurial adventure to be fun as a couple. Now he is full-time photography and is doing about 50-60 shows each year.
Understanding customer experience and customer service
Stacy’s family background included some entrepreneurs so she understands customer experience and she does a lot at the sales end of the business. She maintains her corporate job and helps out with management of the business and the employees as well as running the sales office at the shows when she can. Her vacation time is spent either participating in hunter/jumper competition and/or making the sales end of the business run smooth as silk.
Join me now in my interview with Andrew and Stacy of Andrew Ryback Photography
We started out asking about which came first, as I do with each of these podcasts. Andrew shared his story and Stacy shared her’s. He started with the camera from way back and Stacy started with horses from way back.
As we start talking about the business they discussed finding the right kids to hire who love photography and horses. Andrew has a team of photographers that make it possible to take on the shows that have multiple arenas. His wife, his dad and other teens and college students make up their team. It sounds like perhaps it is a lot of work to keep things organized for each show.
Camera Settings and exposure
Click on video button on this photo:
Andrew and his staff of photographers use only available light for both indoor and outdoor venues. They don’t want to chance causing a fall because of a spooked horse at a show. If the light is very bad for an indoor venue, Andrew sometimes shoots RAW. He likes f4 as a general rule, and a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th. Depending on the venue he has to push the ISO very high in some situations. His newest camera (he thanks Stacy for letting him invest in this particular new gear) has great ISO capability. He has experimented with 25,000 ISO with surprisingly good results. Although 6400 ISO can usually work. His newest camera can do far higher with NO NOISE.
The outdoor venues are where he needs additional photographers. At outdoor events there are many times multiple rings going at one time. Andrew has 70-200MM f2.8 lenses on his cameras and communicates with his photographers, who are mostly college aged or even High School aged, by text messaging on cell phones during shows. If the lighting suddenly changes, he might text everyone to bump up the shutter speed a notch or what ever might be needed. The card runner makes sure that the photographers have what they need throughout the day.
Getting to know your clients makes them have a nice warm wonderful experience and both Andrew and Stacy have backgrounds that make this just what they do
At the shows, he has some directional signage, but really word of mouth gets people in to check on their images. They recently purchased and renovated an old Airstream mobile home trailer. With the unusual shiny aluminum trailer it becomes very easy for people find them and see and purchase their competition images. Word of the shinny trailer and the great images moves quickly through the participants at the events.
No online images from the shows
“We prefer for them to have the in-the-moment experience with the images.”
Andrew and Stacy do not put show pictures online. “We prefer for them to have the in-the-moment experience with the images.” It started out that Stacy was the only one in the trailer or hut and running cards to get images onto the computers, but now they have more help. To keep good customer experience they have employed people who are horse owners who understand the joy of competitive showing and others who love photography. They hire people with talent and the right attitude about why they are there. It sounds like quite adventure and great job for the people who work for them.
What does a typical hunter/jumper show look like?
Stacy explains that at a show series they do can have from 800-1000 horses and riders participating in a week. For the smaller local shows, they might be dealing with 80-100 horses for a much shorter period of time. Stacy describes the trailer and what the riders see when they walk into the trailer. The laptops set up for the participants have folders ready for them with all the pictures from their rides. They walk them through selecting images and explain various options and the popular all inclusive whole week digital package at a price point.
They mention a Go PRO product, but we forgot to follow-up on it in the interview. Go to the PS below to read more about this product that is becoming quite popular with riders.
Andrew explains that he wants his images to be seen and enjoyed
Most popular is the full digital package for riders which is a USB drive of ALL the digital images of that rider during that event or that week of rides. For multi-week shows, they have to buy a USB for each distinct week. They set the pricing up so that if you want to buy two or three or four digital files, that it just makes sense to buy the digital package. Andrew explains that he wants the pictures to be seen and enjoyed by the participants, but they also sell individual prints and other photographic products as well.
Lately, they have sold more canvas prints, as well as cute model horse jumps where a print fits into the stand and other unique products. They like to switch things up from time to time so that the riders always have something new to look at and consider when they come to look at their images.
The USB prices are mentioned in the podcast. Pricing for individual digital files is high enough that after purchasing 2-3-4 digital files, it just makes sense to purchase the entire “All images USB” package for the week.
The USB drives are culled for bad timed images, but they make sure that the exposure and color are good on everything from the camera.
Fun new products
Stacy explains that she introduced custom pillow pictures which are becoming very popular. Andrew thought there would be no pillows sold, but Stacy knew it would be a hit and it is. Every little girl (or girl at heart) needs a pillow with their favorite horse to cuddle up to at home.
What makes this a great business for both of them? Why do they LOVE doing this business?
Andrew and Stacy talk about the joys of this business. He talks about being an artist, a photographer and a friend to his customers. He thanked his wife Stacy for bringing him into this business.
Stacy explains what she enjoys. It is extremely rewarding to see little girls grow up and working their way up to grand prix events. Our customers are always so excited to see us. The joy we get to have with this very large extension of our family with both our customers and our employees as well is wonderful, says Stacy.
P.S. What is the new GoPro product that is becoming very popular?
Andrew explains: Hi Peter – the gopro images are stills that are fired off with a remote. I decided on the gopro as they’re much less expensive than a dslr and superwide and are more weather proof (I had one get knocked into a water jump once) and if one gets destroyed by a horse, then it’s much easier to swallow than a full camera. Plus, the resolution is incredible – but the battery life is a pain. I’ve attached an example for you.
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