09.05.11 - Stock

Many of my fellow equestrian photographers have been in discussion lately about the rights awarded to the official photographer at a competition, credentialed media photographers, how to deal with poachers, copyright infringers...basically all things business.

While I made rookie mistakes at the beginning, once I became a member of the professional ranks I have always done my best to respect the official photographer(s). Digital has made it very easy for anyone with a camera to set up a website and sell prints.

I walk both sides of the line, I have shows where I am there to sell to the participants, and I have many others that I cover as a working member of the media.

My distinctions between my stock and my participant photos are 1. the location were they are hosted, 2. the access, 3. consumer product prices are only listed on images for sale from event where I am asked to be there.

While I am there to cover the competition with the "standard" shots I am also there to add to my stock database. All my images will go into my stock galleries (which are password protected, and access is limited to editors and ad agencies).

Here is a sample of what I am shooting in addition to the "knees to the nose" frames.

09.06.11 Ludwigs



07.19.11 - Adding Logos

I had a request recently for some help adding a logo to a photo. With Photoshop, like any program, there are more than one way to skin the cat. Here is one of the methods.

1. Open the logo you are wanting to add. This is a jpeg. If you save the logo on a transparent background (the checkerboard background) and save it as a .png or .psd you can just jump to the dragging to the photo.

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2. Select the MAGIC WAND from the tools and click on the solid background.

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3. Control click to add to your selection. Use this for the centers of round letters or other fully enclosed spaces of background.

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4. Select the inverse. This means instead of the background you are now selecting everything solid which you haven't selected prior.

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5. With the photo open you want to add the logo to, select the MOVE tool.

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6. Click and hold on the logo, and drag it onto the photo.

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7. Make sure the little box "Show Transform Controls" is checked. This will give you the white boxes which allow you to adjust the size of the logo. Make sure to hold the Apple key to keep the perspective the same as you play with the size.

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8. You can also move the logo around on the image for a placement you like. Once you start adjusting the size of the logo notice the bar where the Transform Control box has changed.

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9. Select the MOVE tool again.

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10. Once you have the logo the size and location you want it click APPLY. If you dont the logo will go back to the size and location you first dragged over.

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11. In LAYERS flatten the image and logo. This makes them one image. You can save them without flattening them, but the file types are limited.

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06.27.11 - Copyright

I have spent the past few hours dealing with a number of cases of people taking images of mine and placing them on their FaceBook pages. FaceBook is very quick to respond by removing the images, which I very much appreciate. Since this is an on-going problem I'm going to spell it out, this time with photos. Your ability to access my proofs of your competition is a privilege not a right. Me putting them on-line is a contract of trust that you will respect that there are my property, and that you have the ability to license a digital file or purchase a print from said proofs.

There are many photographers who make you pay for proofs, or for them to photograph you at all. I feel punishing the many for the actions of the few will affect my business.

And while we are on the subject of business let me spell this out for you. To cover two phases at the Plantation Field Horse Trials I have to hire a second photographer which mean I am out-of-pocket their day rate, travel and meals before the first horse enters the dressage ring. I shoot with at least two cameras and have four spares for remotes (how to you think I get those shots underneath the Weldon's Wall) and back up. Not to mention telephoto lenses that are fast enough to shoot in pouring rain (if you show jumped in the April 2011 horse trial I shot you), fog and impending thunder storms. And I do stay out there in the pouring rain, exposing my equipment, albeit under a $300 lens specific raincoat. And there is all the superfluous equipment, monopods, tripods, remotes, cables, computers, storage, etc.

And let me toot my own horn here. If you were running in any of the recognized events this year I also volunteered as a fence judge for a number of your fences too. 

You all received an e-mail from me from the June event alerting you to your proofs. This note also informed you that 20% of my profits are going to the True Prospect Recovery Fund. So not only are you stealing from me, you are stealing from a donation to a charity!

The landing page of my proofing site spells out exactly what is allowed with proofs, and the penalty for stealing them.

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The image we contract for will not bear the watermark that is on my proofs.

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I hate that this watermark is so obliterating of the image. But it  has developed over the years from a simple © in response to those who have stolen my work. And yet it continues. (Photographing your proof with your cell phone or screen shoting and/or cropping the image are still infringements.)

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So let me spell out what happens when I catch you.

1. I screen shot your page(s) of images.

2. I report you to FaceBook or the web host.

3. I lock your folder of proofs so you cannot get to your images, and explain why it is locked.

4. I keep your name on file.

5. Any current or future images will not be available to you until you pay for the infringement.

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At this point in time there is no argument for "I didn't know better." There have been discussion threads on popular equine websites, there have been articles in national equestrian magazines, there have been public international lawsuits regarding music and other intellectual property. Oh, and my damn watermark spells out that, "IF THIS IMAGE IS BEING VIEWED ANYWHERE BUT AKDRAGOOPHOTO IT HAS BEEN STOLEN, AND PENALTIES WILL BE APPLIED!"

02.12.11 - THE SECRET IS OUT

I guess I can now tell you who I was photographing the other day. I was at QVC to shoot Camila Alves, model and tabloid fodder as Matthew McConaughey's girlfriend, and her line of purses which debuted at NYC Fashion Week yesterday. She was very personable, absolutely lovely to work with, and I will tell you the leather on the bags is yummy!

Contractually I can't show you the photos unless they are used in public, but since the promo video is public and I appear in it, I can include this.

For those who are interested, here is the lighting set-up for the studio shot you see me making in the video.
2 SBs camera left at 1/4 power each to evenly light the entire length of the body.
2 SB camera right into a silver umbrella @ 1/8th power as fill.
1 SB back right at 1/8th (I think) loosely snooted as a hair light.



02.10.11 - KEEPING UP

Like every year before, two of my resolutions this year were quickly broken. One was to blog everyday, and one was an iPhone photo a day. Why iPhone, because it is quick, it is (nearly) always near me, there are so many fun manipulations at your finger tips and the easy of uploading directly from the phone makes it fun.

And it actually takes pretty damn good photos!

This image, straight from the camera is 5.12x6.8 at 300dpi!


This image with a tilt shift app is 5.49MBs, which is a 4x5 at 300dpi.


And this using my favorite app, Hipstamatic, has its own Facebook page, Flickr set and Damon Winters of the NYTimes just took 3rd place in the POYi with a photo story he shot using the app! This file is a 5.12x5.12 at 300 dpi.


And since I started with Brody on the couch, I will end with the image from this morning with inspired the blog post.


02.08.11 - WHIRLWIND

Wow, what a crazy 24 hours since being named the winner of the Alltech/IAEJ A+ award winner! So many wonderful notes from colleagues, international requests for the image, and celebrating (virtually) with the winners of the other categories. One request was to see the other images from this set-up.


2010 WEG SJ Reacts - Images by Amy Dragoo


Just a little background, we were not allowed to place any remote cameras in the ring (a practice that has become common place at major competitions) so in a moment of brilliance that I can only believe think I intercepted from someone else's brain cells, it occurred to me to place my remote under the trainer's platform. The last fence of the class, the first round of the Nations Cup, was a big oxer on a long distance from an airy combination (if memory serves.) It proved to be a heart breaker for quite a number of riders/teams all day.

In the morning session I watched group after group on the platform "ride" the course, gyrate and react with each clear jump and error. Some time in the middle of the morning it just hit me, and then I believe I hit my dear friend Sue Stickle in the arm! I had to get permission from out Photo Chief David Porter at lunch for the camera placement, which he had no issue with as it was off the "field of play," below the edge of the platform and hidden in some decorative shrubbery and thus out of the way of the almighty television cameras. My biggest concern was that someone would fall off and damage the equipment/injure themselves.

The howling from me and my fellow photographers as I did my first run through the card of images will be one of my favorite memories of WEG. By the fifth of October, the day this was shot, most of us had been shooting for 1.5 weeks with only a few hours of sleep per night. Tempers were getting short, dark circles were appearing under eyes, and many of us swore we would not be eating a cheeseurger again for a very long time. This evening of editing sent me on the search for some crazy music to set the slide show to, but the laughter, tears and side stitches from our little corner of the tent were the best sound of all.

The fun thing (and many times most frustrating) about the remote is not knowing what you have. So many things can go wrong, and most do all at once. You don't focus well, your exposure is wrong (and shooting into the sky makes that something you have to take into account), your remote doesn't fire because you have forgotten to turn the camera or the remote on, you are on the wrong channel, or the radio signal is blocked by some unforeseen force. You can never make your remote the entree, it always must be the icing on the cake you don't know if you will have room for at the end of the meal. I got lucky on all counts. I will say the reactions the first half of the day were a bit stronger because the riders figured out the striding by the afternoon and the stronger riders went later in the day. But I am my biggest critic, and I always know it could have been a little bit better.

I will admit, I never thought this image had a chance in the contest. There isn't a horse included and the venue/signage doesn't jump out as a dominant portion. But it just screamed to me!


Winter is always a slow period for my business; the big equine competitions are all in the south, weddings and portrait sessions are fewer, commercial clients are beginning the new fiscal year. I use this time to catch up on the projects around the office, cleaning, organizing, backing-up.

One of my pending projects has always been reclaiming the images from disks I have burnt over the years, things that I cleared off drives. I am glad I have always burnt two copies of each disk, because CDs and DVDs are not as safe as we were told. I have made it through the majority of my stacks. My reader is a bit temperamental. Sometimes it needs a time-out to be think about why it is being a PITA. There are many disks that is has had issues reading one day, and no problems a few days later. I just keep trying.

One pair of disks that has been very hard to read, and very important to me to access were the few images I was able to shoot as my father was dying. It was a very traumatic time for our family, it was the week of my sister's wedding, he tripped on the sidewalk, was discharged from the ER with a fantastic bruise on his face, and 24 hours later he was headed in for emergency surgery for bleeding in his brain. He never woke up.

We had the wedding, my dear friend Charlie Mann came down and shot it for me in the POURING rain, we nearly got arrested (long story), had a second service at my dad's bedside in the ICU, and then had to make the decision to take him off life support. He hadn't attempted to breathe on his own for the week he was in the ICU, so we were prepared for him to go quickly. Alas, as soon as the tubes were pulled, he began breathing and his numbers were all near perfect. There was a little part of me that hoped he would spring up out of the bed, but I had seen the CAT scans and this was not going to happen. Interestingly, as we all held vigil around his bed, the only time his numbers dropped was when we began leaving the room for a meal, phone calls, and bathroom breaks. We all came hurrying back, and up they came again.

He lived four days on his own. He passed away in the middle of the night when we had all fallen asleep. These are some images of those last days; my mom and sister holding his hand, my mom and him alone, my sister through his ICU room doors me shaving his beard, his distinctive ridged thumbnail in my hand, my sister letting him sniff the cork of the wine we smuggled into his room and the last photo I have as I left the room after he was gone.

While it still brings tears to my eyes to look at these images, I am so grateful that my drive was in a good mood and copied every single one with no problems yesterday. There are now redundantly backed up and as safe as I can make them with current technology. That being said, I have kept the disk just in case. You can never be too careful.



Over the years my archiving system has taken a number of forms. It began with burning two copies of each DVD, which was terribly time consuming. Then, as the prices of external hard drives came down (and I was shooting more and more larger files) I began a rats nest of cables and daisy chained drives. At this point in time I got very bad about making a backup of my files (yes I know, but it was always on the "to-do list).

This past fall I couldn't take it anymore, especially after inadvertently erasing a very important card of images during the World Equestrian Games before downloading it. I couldn't keep pushing my luck. After doing my research, a fortuitous meeting with Jesse at Springboard Media, I settled on a Drobo. 16TB of dual redundant storage! And a subscription with Backblaze which is constantly backing up my information.

So my winter project has been to reclaim all my images from the disks from over the years. The scary part of this is that many of them have file errors! (I miss film, you can always get an image out of a scratched negative.) Disk scratches, sun exposure, bad burner, it doesn't matter, losing files is a very scary thing. So far there are only a few disks in my "need to fight with" pile. And you can see how many I have gotten through (I will never need to buy a jewel case ever again), and I think these are the last of them sitting next to me. Fingers crossed that I haven't waited too long!


01.11.11 - Binary Day Humor

Timing is every thing. It is the art of capturing the peak of action (or the agony of defeat) that makes a sports photo pop. Be it a horse over a jump, a receiver and a ball, a fist and a face. The awkward non-peak times are moments that just are not traditionally considered "pretty."

That being said, awkward can equal funny. There is something about the moment of the ball mashed on the floor that makes me chuckle. My timing is usually so that I don't capture this moment, so to do it (nearly) so many times in one game stood out.


01.05.2011 - Camera at the Ready

When I was just starting out I assisted Eileen Blass, a staff photographer at USA Today. As we were driving to the shoot she asked me where my equipment was. I had not brought it because I thought that would be rude. She asked me what I planned to do if a plane fell from the sky. That piece of advice has stuck with me for 15 years.

I am never far from my Nikons, but even without them I always have my phone. Today I found myself without my Flip cam (we share them at the office) and in need of the video camera. I whipped out my iPhone and asked one of the students to do the recording as I shot stills.

There is an entire movement of photographers promoting the use of mobil photography. While it wasn't a plane falling from the sky, I was prepared. Thanks Eileen.

12.17.10 Contest Entry

I haven't entered images in any contest in years. I am very particular about my images, and I find it a daunting task to sort through a year's worth of work. I start every year promising that i will have a working folder of potential images for entries, but I never make it beyond the first quarter of the year (if that).

I made one stab at an entry this fall, and was rewarded with a 2nd place in the NPPA monthly clip contest for Septemeber in the Sports category.

090310 deast scr 122

Shutter Speed & Strobes

Shutter Sppeed

One concept that takes many photo students awhile to grasp is that when using strobes your shutter speed controls the ambient light. The only difference between these two images is that the one on the left is shot at 1/20s and the one on the right is shot at 1/250s.

I wish I had moved my key light around a little more camera left to get some catch light in his eyes, but tomorrow is another day in the world of newspapers.


I have not mastered developing a method for updating my blog from the various computers in my life. We use PCs at the paper, and simple keystrokes on my MAC, such as the copyright symbol, are ridiculously difficult on the PC. The list of fonts between the two systems are different. If I wait until I get back to my MAC the updating just doesn't get done. It seems the little amount of down time I have to check in comes about 4pm at the office.

I'm so glad this has finally appeared in the paper. The story is about an 83-year-old golfer who has seven career holes-in-one, two of them this past year. We did the interview at his house, and he suffers from some memory loss (he couldn't remember the name of the club he plays at.) So I was without a golf course, cart or clubhouse, and with a budget limited to $0, I was struck with a bolt of genius.

How does one make a golf cup out of nothing? One snags a styrofoam coffe cup from the lunch room, rips off the bottom, wedges it onto the 10.5, uses the same setup I use from my remote camera and gets our victim model to lean down like he his pulling the ball from the hole. GENIUS!!!

Photo of the Day

I have joked for years that I prefer not to peak early in the sports season. Today was the first soccer game of the year. A day game is not something I see much of, as almost all the schools we cover have lights and night games mean bigger crowds and charging for admittance. But this game was scheduled for high noon. Mother Nature gave us a nice cloud cover, and Nikon got me my company camera back. I wish I had shot this with the D3, the slight softness from the slower focus on the D2Hs bugs me, but you work with what you are given. With my schedule for the next few months I am not exposing my equipment to any more wear and weather than I need to for own work. Hopefully I have not peaked for the fall of 2010 with this image.

Time Flies

I recently went to show someone a stock image from the snow storms and couldn't find it in the database. I discovered it wasn't there. Yikes, slap my wrist. The greatest image in the world makes you nothing if nobody knows of it. (And it needs to be keyworded and promoted, but that is for a different day.)

I've gone back to the first of the year and discovered how spotty I have been in 2010 with updating. I have a great, and ever growing list of stock image subjects. I spent a few hours contorting myself under the rails at the Devon Horse Show shooting take-off and landing shots. (Which when done with a 300mm and no landmarks becomes an exercise in deleting many out of focus and missing subject matter.) And yet these were still sitting in my "To DO" folder.

I am working my way through it all. The requests for winter photos have begun to come in. And I have gotten the snow shots from last year in. And the joints are going in now. Perhaps I will be caught up for the year prior to leaving for WEG, where I am sure I will make one or two images that will need to be added.

Preperation is Never Overkill

I had a shoot yesterday which was scheduled as a portrait and a shot of the computers he has installed. Think on that for a bit. Develop your idea of what this will look like, perhaps a nice environmental shot of the prof with the room of machines behind him.

So as I was unpacking the rolling case with five remotes, flashes and cables, the long bag with supports, a bag with lenses ranging from 12 to 200mm, two camera bodies - my new D3 and a D200, I though to myself, "Is this too much?"

Then I discovered I was photographing a physics professor who has opened up the long closed astronomical observatory. Dark blue domed ceiling, dark blue telescope, small room (this is West Chester, not the McDonald Observatory at UT), low ceiling, prof in casual, pre-term clothes.

My mental check list went like this: this will be the first moment where the full frame of the D3 will be very useful, the 70-200 is still too much lens it will stay in the bag, I need to put a back light on the telescope to separate it from the ceiling but have to hide the source and support, I need to include the room, a single computer (and computers are no longer BIG), and we need to crack the dome open to give the impression that the observatory is in use again.

Hiding the lights and getting enough room to place the main light and umbrella were the biggest challenge. Thankfully I am using Nikon SBs and not DukeNukeUms, one because there were stairs between the parking lot and the observatory, two because I would have had to pile on the ND filters to drop the power down low enough, three because the space was rather limited. I wavered about dropping a light onto the face of the computer, but I liked how it is still readable as an object in silhouette as opposed to drawing your eye away from the subject with a spot of light.

I am very glad I pulled out the moderate lighting kit. There are plenty of assignments that don't require much more than available light with a bit of fill, but I listened to my little voice (for once) and came prepared.

Self Evaluation

As I near the end of the website redesign it is the images that are holding me up. You would think I would have a stable of portfolio ready images surging to be released on the public. But sadly, I am fighting myself to choose photos. I am my toughest critic, those that jump out weekly lose their luster as the effort to make the fades.

I used to remember every image, every assingment. Now they blend together. Perhaps it is because I have been in the same location for 14 years. Perhaps it is because I have developed a "style" of shooting, approach, lens selection. I need to break out of this an reinvent my eye. Change, challenge, grow, explore.

I want to have to fight with myself about what I need to remove from my portfolio.


For the past few years I have helped judge the adult photo contest at the Goshen Fair. Every year there are a few really stand out images. Composition, exposure, subject, tonal range. Some stand out for the lack of these elements. The ones that have it really jump out.

There are always some surprises. The winner of the "My Friends & Family" was a silhouette of four people sitting on a rock ledge in the woods. Overall it was a bit dark. But dark in a good way. It was exposed well. There was tonal range. There was a shaft of sunlight on one of the people. And there was a little rippled pool of water behind them reflecting them. Not the traditional idea for the category. But it was the best image.

What I come away with is a reminder that what I do does not come easily to everyone. And even though photography is so much more accessible with the advent of digital an a camera in nearly every phone, it has not made everyone a photographer. (Yeah, job security?...)

It also makes me how aware subjective photography is. I am very picky about entering any photo contest. In fact I haven't entered one in years. I have come to realize how much of a disservice I have been doing to myself. If I don't put my name out there I have less of a chance of being noticed.

Perhaps this is the problem, I don't enjoy tooting my own horn. I have known many people who will tell you they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. And the majority have the attitude to go with that. I am so tired of bad behavior being rewarded. (This being said in the interest of full disclosure, my guilty pleasure is The Real Housewives of...)

So my resolution from now on is to make my work available for more eyes to see. Those from outside my regular circle. Rejection be damned!


AK Dragoo Photography

Image • Imaging • Imagination

Where the chickens roost | 1826 Olive St, Coatesville, PA, 19320, United States