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Charles Hilton and I got to know each other when he was still in Equine Photographers Network and the world was changing to digital cameras. He dove right in and went digital and started learning Photoshop to enhance his beautiful images of people and horses.


Always improving his photography and business practices

As I mentioned on Facebook, every time that I see an image that Charles shares on his Facebook feed, I think, “Wow, that is better than the ones from last week.” He continues to learn and grow and learn and grow each day in this advection of equine photography.


We had a wonderful discussion with Charles about his passion of horses and people and photography.

Charles Hilton2


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Podcast Link: Equine Photographers Podcast

Took his daughter up to North Texas for her 16th birthday to explore the horse farms. Got run off many of the farms. One had a sign that said welcome and open any time. He took some pictures of a foal and took them some 11×14 prints with new backgrounds.

Invited back to do more pictures. Traded photography for a 2-year-old appaloosa.

1992 took early retirement and took it.

Debt free. Son killed in an accident.

Built a 15 stall barn over a couple of years with his daughter. Daughter was going through John Lyons certification. Did all his shoots for “the Perfect Horse Magazine.”

Went through a divorce.

Clinton Anderson called and wanted him to do his pictures.

Horse Magazine, Horse and Rider Magazine, and others.

Lots of editorial work after 2002.

More recently moving toward the more emotional captivating horse and rider portraiture. Feels that it is photography with more purpose to it. What horses mean to people.

Facebook feed.

Telling the story behind the people we are photographing. 15-year-old fighting cancer session.

Helping sharing her story and maybe write a her book. My faith is a part of what I do.

Work on my photography EVERY DAY!  We all have so much talent, and the effort we put in will determine how far that talent will take us.

Wants to do more Photoshop mentoring and classes, but I’m a shooter.

Wants to do some larger scale workshops.

Day rate for editorial work. Work for individuals is very different.

$250 minimum for any work for individuals. The $250 goes toward purchases from his price list. They almost always buy a lot more. Shows the client 30-40 images and does a selection session to make their purchases, then once they have purchased the $250 worth, then it is up to them to keep spending more if there are images they must have. Helps them to eliminate images, but the clients usually push back and say I must have this one and I must have that one. Usually $1000 to $2500 spent.

If it’s $250 it’s okay, if it goes to $500 that’s better, if it goes to $1000 or $2000 that’s great. He brings LARGE PRINT canvases gallery wrap. If you show them an 8×10, that’s all they will buy. I bring a 24×36.

Sue Bryce is someone Charles follows.

Several other portrait photographers that he also follows. NOT a pressure type person. Does not like pressure sales. I talk with them throughout the session to give them what they want and what they are looking for.

What is the pre consultation like. Dealing with the environment presented to him. Shoots with a 200 to 400mm zoom lens with wide aperture and blurs the background. Finding the light that is right. Not taking a landscape photo, shooting a client and their horse and letting the background just go very soft.

4×7 ft reflector sometimes. Wife Susan helps a lot.

Now starting to use flash metering to balance with ambient light. Tries to darken the background by 3/4 or 1 stop and bring up the subject with the flash. All manual settings. Flash high on the stand. These are studio strobes with battery packs.

Traveling. How does that work?

Trainer client wanted a day shoot. Pay set fee plus travel. She said she had some clients that would want to also participate. Ended up do 20 sessions over a week or two with a $150 minimum for each. Did selection sessions online by sending a PDF file locked so it cannot be printed. It only can be opened on-screen. Order form on each page. They can see the images pretty large on-screen. 25 to 50 or 75 images. Some stealing, but not that much. If they don’t order, he called them up to follow-up. What are your questions?

Before, when he sent small JPGs they would not order. Now they are ordering with hand holding over the phone and with emailing. Trying for over the phone orders looking $500 to less than $1000. Last time he went to that farm he photographed 47 sessions over almost 6 weeks in multiple locations. Uses a Facebook GROUP to invite people to join up for portraits. Tell them how many they need for him to come. Basic prices show. They decide if they want to participate. He collects a deposit of 50% of the base fee. Friends invite and join their friends to the Facebook Group. At the end there is a big part that someone throw and he puts together a big slide show of everyone at this event. Posts a few images on Facebook and the group keeps growing. This last time, he had to tell ten people he had to tell them he could not do them. Keeps the GROUP from year to year, deletes all the old images and starts again. Has THREE Groups that he is managing. Tries to do 3-4 people per day. Has done as many as 10 in one day. Might schedule a weekend at the beach photography sessions at an additional fee.

Funny stories.

Talks to people. Don’t try anything new for the first time.

Best advice to the new person. Learn a foundation of good quality photography. In some Facebook groups. Was in EPnet for many years.

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