So you took your first roll of pictures and sent them off to a show,
confident that it was only a matter of time before you were bringing home
blue ribbons. Instead, your horses were solidly mired in the middle of
the pack, or, worse yet, didn't place at all. What happened?
This brief guide will give you a overview of the basic requirements
for a successful show entry. It will cover tips for taking good pictures,
how to get those pictures ready for a show, and how to make sure that your
pictures find their way safely to the show and back home. An important note:
with the exception of club-sponsored shows, you do not need to be a club member to enter model horse shows.
Now let's get started!
1. Start with top-notch stock. You may have a sentimental
attachment to that old, battered Family Arabian Foal, but does she really
belong in the ring? With very few exceptions, only models in top-notch
shape will win the blue ribbon. Beginning with only your best horses will
also help keep your expenses down, something to always keep in mind!
2. Places, everyone! Next you need a place to take your pictures.
You can take pictures either indoors or outdoors. Backgrounds can be a
'natural' setting like a field or show ring or a 'studio' setting like
the colored background used for school photos. A few pointers:
- Be sure that there is nothing obviously out of place (like your
sister's bicycle) in the background. It ruins the illusion that your horse
is alive and can be distracting to the judge.
- Any visible grass or plants should be proportional to your horse.
In other words, the grass shouldn't hit him in the knees...or the belly!
3. Ready, aim... Now you're ready to shoot! Get a roll of
color film (12 exposures is good to start if you use a film camera), make sure your camera lens
is clean, and grab that horse. (He's clean too, right?) Some quick tips:
Photos should always be taken from the level of your horse or below,
never from above.
Make sure you know your camera's limitations. Some cameras can't
focus on anything closer than three feet (1 meter) from the camera lens.
If in doubt, check your owner's manual or take a twelve exposure test roll.
Out of focus pictures rarely win!
Your horse should fill most of the picture, giving the judge the
best possible look at your horse.
Experiment to find just the right angle for each model. If your
horses' head is turned to the side, it should never face away from the
4. Develop! Digital photos can be downloaded to your
computer and cropped as needed, though using "Photoshop" techniques to hide
or disguise flaws in your model is generally considered a form of cheating. You can take
rolls of film anywhere you like for
developing, and many places will also print your digital photos. You can get either 3"x 5" or 4"
x 6" prints; the larger size shows off your horse better, but is also
more expensive to mail. Glossy finish will give you a sharper image than
matte, but also fingerprints much more easily. A little experimentation
will tell you what size and style works best for you.
Okay. You've got your first set of pictures in your hot little
hands. Now what?
PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST
PAPER PHOTO SHOW
1. Get those photos ready! Each picture that you mail out
needs to be readily identifiable. It should tell the judge the name of
your horse and your name and address, so your photo can easily be returned
to you. Most people also include the sex, color, and breed of the horse.
And don't forget your BMHR registration number if you're entering a BMHR show! Here's a sample of what
yours might look like:
As you can see, the information has been computer printed on a white
label which was then attached to the back of the photo. Typing is also
fine, but be sure to type your label before it's attached to your
photo! Typing directly on the back of a photo can damage it. Oh, and the
"back" of the photo above doesn't belong to the sample
One thing that may not be easy to see here is the piece of tape that
the class are written on. Any type of clear "write on" tape,
like Scotch or 3M, will do. The important thing is that the tape can be
written on in pencil and the marks erased after the show is over. Using
a piece of paper taped to the back or a Post-It note isn’t recommended,
as these can easily come off while the photos are being moved around during
the show.2. Show Supplies: In addition to your photos you’ll need
a few more things before you’re ready to enter your first show:
3. Putting it all together. You’re almost there! You’ve got
your photos, they’re clearly marked, and you’ve got your envelope ready.
Here’s a checklist of what should be in that envelope:
Your Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE). This is the
envelope that the judge will use to return your photos to you. It is addressed
to you, and has the show holder’s address (or, optionally, your own) in
the upper left hand corner. There should be enough postage attached to
cover the cost of returning your photos to you.
Extra postage. You’ll need to enclose extra to cover the
weight of show results and any ribbons or other awards you win.
Your bagged photos. It can be useful to have your name and
address on the bag as well, along with the total number of photos enclosed.
The required show fee. Most shows (other than some
shows) require either a fee per horse or a set fee per entrant. The safest
bet is to send a money order, but you can send cash. Be sure to tape any
coins flat (not stacked all together) and put any bills either in the bag
with your photos or wrapped in a piece of paper.
A cover letter. Your letter needs to tell the judge what
show you’re entering (including the date), how many photos you’re sending,
and how many extra stamps (if any) that you’re enclosing. You should also
note how much money you are sending, and if you’re paying for full results
or other extras. A friendly "hello" is always a nice touch, too.
- Envelopes: The size of the envelope you’ll need will depend
on the number of photos you intend to mail out. For a few 3" x 5"
pictures a legal size (#10) envelope will do. For anything more you’ll
want to invest in manila envelopes. Buy them large enough to hold all of
your photos and a copy of the show results. Some people buy reinforced
photo envelopes, but unless you have a lot of trouble with your mail service
this probably isn’t necessary.
- Mail Scale: If you are serious about the hobby you’ll need
one of these. A postage scale can tell you exactly how much postage you’ll
need to affix to your envelope, paying for itself in no time. You can buy
one made for this purpose, or a food scale will work fine, too.
- Plastic Baggies: Something no shower should be without! Ziplock
baggies will keep your photos together and waterproof while they’re in
the mail. More than once a manila envelope has been shredded by the Post
Office and the photos returned to their owner, undamaged, in their little
plastic bag. (You did remember to put your name and address on every photo,
- Postage: An obvious one, right? But many people don’t realize
that the second and following ounces are cheaper than the first. You can
buy both stamp denominations from the Post Office and save yourself money.
The rate in the U.S. is currently $0.37 for the first ounce and $0.23 for
every ounce after that. For more information on U.S. rates, check out the
- Mailing to a foreign country: It costs more to mail things
out of the country. Check with the Post Office (in the United States
for the rate to that country. Remember, you’ll need to enclose that country’s
postage to get your photos returned, unless the show holder specifies otherwise.
When entering a show in another country, be sure to carefully read the
instructions and follow them exactly.
Now you’re ready to go! Be sure to seal your envelope well, and mail
it early enough to arrive before the deadline. Many judges won’t accept
late entries at all, and you’ll have wasted the postage to get your photos
there and back. To play it safe, be sure to write down the number of photos
and money sent, along with the name and address of the show holder, and
keep that information until your photos are safely home.
On-line showing is a phrase commonly used when referring to to model horse
shows where scanned or digital photos are allowed instead of, or as well as, the
more traditional paper photos. The shower uses her digital camera to take
pictures of her horses just as described above. She then downloads those images
into her computer and saves each picture as its own file. Those files (almost
always saved as .jpg images) can then be sent to the judge via e-mail, with a
brief note as to which photo is entered in which class(es). Showers may also
scan their paper photos into their computer and do the same thing.
On-line shows are very popular with computer and Internet-savvy showers. Once
you've purchased your equipment, on-line showing is cheaper than standard mail
photo shows, as no postage or film processing fees are required. Most judges
accepting on-line entries allow you to pay any entrant fees via PayPal or some
similar service. Initial costs used to be pretty high, but now decent digital
cameras can be found at a very affordable price.