Special Q & A with Kirstie of Kirstie Marie Photography
Kirstie Marie Jones is an amazingly talented equine photographer with a passion for people and ponies. As a photographer she is known not only for taking photos but for really capturing the relationship between horse and human and sharing that story and deep bond. As a fellow TCU Equestrian, I am so honored to share this interview with such an amazing woman in the equine industry.
What's your background with horses?
I was horse crazy from the beginning. I didn’t have Barbie dolls — I had barns full of toy horses. I started taking riding lessons when I was 3 years old. My older sister took weekly lessons with a dressage trainer and I begged for lessons of my own until I was finally big enough to maneuver a little POA mare by myself.
In the second grade, I started working with miniature horses and showed several horses in driving, in-hand jumping, and in-hand trail. In the fourth grade my parents bought me a pony of my own to show in 4-H events, and eventually the hunter-jumper circuit. By the time I got to high school I was showing all-around events on the Paint and Pinto circuits with my show horse. After graduation, I rode for Texas Christian University on the Women’s Equestrian Team in reining and horsemanship events.
My background with many different horse breeds and showing various disciplines deepened my love for horses. Whether someone is jumping or roping, we are all ‘horse people’ and we are far more alike than we are different.
What path led you to your photography business?
Several of my college roommates had nice cameras that I would often borrow. My senior year of college I decided to buy myself a camera for Christmas and I went straight to my front pasture to photograph a band of broodmares. From there, my interest in photography grew and my subject-of-choice seemed to be horses. It is easy to be drawn to their beauty, but horses were the only thing that really mattered to me. More specifically, the relationships I had with my horses deeply affected my life and I felt that was a story worth telling. I started calling my friends to see if I could photograph them with their horses and before I knew it, people started calling me asking for images to represent the relationship they had with their horses.
What has been the greatest obstacle along the way?
Shortly after establishing my business in Oregon, I moved to Texas and virtually had to start over. While this experience was the biggest challenge, it also taught me the most. I planned short term and long term goals, spent time understanding the new market I was in, and took the time to digest what was working and what wasn’t.
How do you think maintaining a social/online presence has benefitted your business?
From a marketing perspective, it is important to be where your potential clients are. In my case, that is on various social media apps. I am on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Yelp, Snapchat and Pinterest, and I have different strategies for each platform. The greatest benefit I receive from social media is being able to tag my clients in images I post, and my clients tagging me in images they post, so that their friends can see pictures from our session.
Tell us more about your “Horse that built me” blog series. Where did the inspiration for this series come from?
My childhood horses are aging, and it was important to me to take a portrait of each one this summer while I still had the chance. As I was going through the images, I felt that there was a story to share. Not necessarily a story for the world, but a story for my own heart. It meant a lot to me to relive my relationships and ink a lasting memory as I walked down memory lane. Some stories were harder to recite than others, but the response I received from readers was incredibly touching.
If RIDE TV were to have a reality show about equine photographers, what funny moments might we catch on camera?
Every horse chooses “picture day” to be on their naughtiest behavior. Even the saintliest “steady Eddie” can be a real turkey when a camera comes out. If RIDE TV were to follow any equine photographer around, they would see a lot of horsin’ around. Yawns, kicks, bites, bucks, rolls, getting loose and taking a few victory laps around the property… it is all just another day on the job. Horses are full of mischief.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My favorite part about this job is that I become very good friends with my clients. Over the course of our session, I get to learn about their favorite events to compete in, the history of their riding careers, and their goals going forward. I get to see and capture one of the most important relationships in their life. I get to cheer them on through their victories but also grieve with them through some heartbreaking losses.
If you could pick one photo as your favorite, which would it be? And why?
This is one of my favorite images because of how real it is. I don’t want to take a picture of what you look like, I want to construct a portrait of who you are. I love to see real emotion, genuine laughter, true joy, and honest love. Seeing Deanna this happy with her mare – it makes me happy.
You have been featured in essentially every major equine publication, at what point did you realize that you had “made it” in the industry?
I certainly don’t think I’ve “made it” in the industry, but I will say that things started changing for me when editors and marketing directors started reaching out to me for content, instead of vice versa.
Do you have any exciting news or big plans for 2017? Any plans for growth?
In 2017, I will continue to travel and grow my portrait client base, but also expand my commercial and editorial work. Later this year, I will launch new learning material for equine photographers to teach posing, editing, marketing, and various business-related subjects.
If you could give one piece of advice to others who are hoping to make it in the horse photography business, what would it be?
Be the client. Put yourself in their shoes as often as you can. Book sessions with all different types of photographers to understand the service that you are providing to your own clients. One of the best things we can do is to be on the other side of the camera to understand our customers’ fears, insecurities, needs, and wishes. It will help you understand the market, which will help your welcome packet/preparation guides, pricing, products, branding, messaging, marketing strategy, and overall client experience.
To learn more about Kirstie Marie Photography, visit http://kirstiemarie.com.