Photo shows provide a new level of excitement, competition and engagement with the model horse hobby beyond amassing a collection. They give collectors the opportunity to share their model horse collectibles and try their hand at creating unique scale dioramas and scenes for their equine miniatures to highlight the realistic nature of the models. They're also just plain old fun and for people with a competitive streak, a great way to add a bit of zip to a collecting hobby.
About Photo Showing Model Horses
What are photo shows? A photo show is a virtual collector event in which collectors from around the world send or post photographs of their model horses to a judge to compete against one another. The class list often mirrors actual horse show competitions, with classes based on gender, breed, color, and even performance. Photos may be exchanged by mailing actual prints to a judge with a return envelope and postage to receive the photos back and the show results, or they are posted to a collector's club or photo website such as Webshots. Each show has its own class list and the number and type of classes vary according to the show's theme. A club dedicated to collecting Breyer horses may have photo shows for only Breyer models, while a club dedicated to foals will have only halter, breed and color classes. Class lists are posted or distributed prior to the show date so you can think about which classes your horse models are suitable for and take your pictures accordingly.
The Basics of Photo Showing: Choosing Models
Choose only your best horse models for photo shows. Look at your collection with a keen eye. Which of your Breyer model horses has the most realistic color, the best paint job? Do you have one special Breyer horse with an unusually beautiful detail?
Look critically at the horse's pose, too. While some models like the rearing Breyer horses are fun to collect, they may not do very well in the show ring. Standing models are great for halter classes, and models depicted accurately in the trot or canter can also do well.
Taking Pictures of Model Horses
There are many ways to take pictures of model horses. Many people create indoor dioramas. You can use any solid table or create a diorama in a box of some sort. Using photographs blown up or down to scale and props such as Breyer accessories, model horse enthusiasts often make very realistic backdrops and settings.
A very simple way to get started taking photographs of model horses is to drape the table and a cardboard box with a clean sheet or a piece of cloth. Choose solid colors over prints because prints can be distracting and are unlikely to be in scale with the model. Another tip is to choose complementary colors; if the horse is chestnut or palomino, for example, a dark hunter green backdrop looks lovely, while bays and grays really shine against a navy blue piece of cloth.
Position your model well away from any backdrops so that the shadow doesn't cast against the backdrop. Steady your camera level with the horse. If your camera has a little red X or mark to indicate the center of the photo, it should be centered on the horse's belly, where a rider's foot would be if someone were riding the horse.
Take the photos from the horse model's best side. Usually that's the side where the mane lies but not always. Use your judgment. A good picture for a photo show will show one entire side of the horse fairly close up. The judge must see everything, from nose to tail and ear tips to hooves.
Entering a Photo Show
You can find photo shows online. TOPSA, or the Totally Online Photo Show Association, is a popular online model horse show. There is a small membership fee each year which gives you unlimited access to their bimonthly photo shows. Once you join, read the rules and instructions carefully. TOPSA uses Webshots; you must resize your pictures according to their specifications and upload them into the appropriate album on Webshots according to the model's size and type.
Many model horse collecting clubs include photo shows as part of their fun. The Model Foal Breeders Association on Yahoo, for example, has monthly fun shows. Entrants upload digital photographs into files on the club's site and volunteers judge the shows.
A few model horse shows require entrants to mail prints to a judge. If you find a show that asks entrants to send model pictures through the mail, keep in mind a few points. First, always include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE) with enough postage to cover the return of your photos plus a printout of the show results. Label each picture on the back with the horse's name, age, sex, color and breed, and place your own name and address on the back too. Add a piece of masking tape or clear tape to the back and write the class numbers you are entering the picture in with a pencil so that you can erase them and reuse the picture for many future shows.
Most shows ask for an entrance fee. It is usually only a few dollars per entry, and many shows are held as benefits for charities, animal shelters and similar organizations. Some allow you to pay your entrance fee by PayPal.
Photo shows may or may not distribute ribbons to the winners. Most of the time, people photo show for the pleasure of sharing their prized collectibles and enjoying the fun, friendly competitive atmosphere. If you do win a ribbon, be sure to display it prominently with your "show ring worthy" model!
To find model horse shows, check out the following collector websites: