Ever wondered about life in the equine industry? Join us as we take a comprehensive look into different careers and give you the inside scoop on these distinctive jobs. Our goal? We want to learn about these cool jobs too, and we hope you'll gain a new appreciation for the behind the scenes work we usually don't get to see - and maybe even find some inspiration along the way!

July: Equine Photographers

Kelsey Keathly of Norfleet Marketing & PhotographyEquine Photographers capture high-quality images for their clients highlighting their equine partners. In order to succeed they must have an excellent eye for composition, and extensive knowledge of camera equipment and settings. While some photographers specialize in farm calls for private sessions, others serve as horse show photographers. Some specialize in a specific breed or discipline, and many find niche markets such as stallion conformation shots, foal sessions or branch into family photography. This career is unique because it combines an expertise in photography with the knowledge of equine behavior and patience. An Equine Photographer is not only tasked with capturing sharp images with great lighting, they must also ensure that the horse is positioned perfectly with ears up, every hair in place, and the desired expression. These elite photographers are able to capture not only horses, but the passion and bond between people and their equine partners.

To learn more about this exciting career, we sat down with Kelsey Keathly of Norfleet Marketing & Photography. Kelsey grew up showing paint horses, and acquired her Bachelor of Professional Studies in Management, with a specialization in equine business management, from Cazenovia College in 2017. During her time at Cazenovia, she ran her small business, Norfleet, but held a variety of other positions within the equine industry including contributing writer for GoHorseShow.com and Director of Advertising for East Coast Show Apparel. She jumped in full time with Norfleet in 2018. Kelsey now travels to barns and fairgrounds across the country, photographing horses and the people that love them. She can often be found accompanied by her other half, Dustin, her daughter, Kailee, and her loyal dog, Sadie.

Q&A with Kelsey Keathly of Norfleet Marketing & Photography

Q: How did you get into photography and what services do you offer?

A: I do a little bit of everything. I actually started my business, Norfleet Marketing & Photography, in 2011, offering graphic design services- the photography part came in 2017. Kelsey Keathly of Norfleet Marketing & PhotographyMy business currently has 4 segments- show photography, portrait photography, graphic design & branding, and business coaching.

I like to say that I became a photographer by accident. Growing up, I'd take photos of my barn friends with my mom's point and shoot camera, so I always had photography in the back of my mind. My senior year of college, I was working for GoHorseShow at the Congress. I wanted to take better candid images for them than what I could get with my cell phone, so I invested about $400 in my first DSLR camera. Having a media pass at Congress felt pretty cool, and I was hooked! I spent that winter photographing IHSA shows, determined to get my timing perfect. In New York, where I was living at the time, there weren't too many official photographers- many of our paint shows were left without an OP. So, when I wasn't showing, I'd take pictures. Those exhibitors at paint shows- many of which I'd been showing with most of my life- became my first models for portrait work. I started traveling pretty early on in my photography career, thanks to the network of friends & clients I'd gained through my show career & marketing business. In 2018, I went full time with Norfleet, and in 2019 my family moved to the Midwest. From there, my little business has grown to heights I never could have imagined, and I'm so beyond thankful.

Q: What is your favorite type of project to work on?

A: I know this answer is going to sound like a cop out, but I really can't choose one type of project. Kelsey Keathly of Norfleet Marketing & PhotographyI'm so fortunate that I've been able to build a business that allows me to work on such a variety of projects, for some incredible horsemen and horsewomen. However, I feel most fulfilled when working with people who are just as excited and passionate about horses and the horse industry as I am. One of the core values of Norfleet is confidence. If a portrait session leaves a typically anxious client feeling fabulous, or a branding project leads to a fellow entrepreneur feeling excited and prepared to put their business out into the world, I know I've done my job.

Q: What tips or tricks would you give to someone starting out in the business?

A: Oh, I could go on about this forever! To help reign me in a bit, I'm mostly going to be talking to other creatives- but this can apply to literally any business.

  • Being a creative entrepreneur is only about 20% creating and 80% everything else. Much of the "everything else" is customer service. It doesn't matter how great your art is, if you don't develop an incredible client experience, your journey is going to be pretty tough.
  • Focus on building community with your fellow entrepreneurs, rather than viewing them as competition. There's enough room for everyone at the table, there's no need to trample others to build your own empire.
  • Make sure you're running your business legally from day one. This means paying taxes and carrying insurance.
  • Price yourself profitably. You won't get anywhere giving your work away. Yes, even if it's just a part time gig. Even if you have a full-time job or a family member or spouse to support you so this is just your "fun" money. If you're charging money for your services, it's a business- not a hobby, and certainly not a charity. If you don't feel confident enough in your work yet to charge a profitable rate, continue doing free work for friends and family to hone your skills. You'll thank yourself later.
  • Take the time to lay a foundation for your business, rather than just throwing things at the wall and hoping it sticks. Determining your core values, developing a mission and vision statement, identifying the demographics and psychographics of your ideal client, performing a SWOT analysis, and creating goals that are both measurable and attainable are all steps I recommend implementing before you launch your business, as well as revisiting annually.

Kelsey Keathly of Norfleet Marketing & Photography

Q: How do you keep learning and grow your business?

A: The number one thing I do to ensure continued growth is surround myself with a network of like-minded individuals. I talk every day with other photographers, designers, and entrepreneurs. This has given me a sounding board for ideas, a safe place to vent about problems within my business, and constant motivation to never give up. Along with my network of friends and peers, I also consume hours of content daily related to marketing, business, mindset, and the entrepreneurship journey- including podcasts and audiobooks.

I also make a point to take time to work ON my business, not just IN my business. Every year, I take a hard look at the previous year's analysis of my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and re-evaluate for the upcoming year. I use this to set an outline for myself for the year of what I'd like to focus on each quarter. Each quarter, I look at this outline, to check in on how I did the previous quarter and make a plan for the upcoming months.

Q: What should owners/trainers/grooms do to prep for a photo shoot with you?

A: Lunge. Your. Horse.

No joke, I have "lunge your horse" in my client's welcome guide 4 separate times. Even the most been there, done that horse lights up when the camera comes out.

Q: How is the current situation with COVID-19 affecting your business?

A: I'm fortunate that I've been able to build a business that is at least somewhat disaster-proof. By having a multi-faceted business, along with an outline of my goals for the year, I was able to easily pivot from shooting horse shows and traveling for portrait sessions to working on branding projects. I also used this time to develop more online education content that I had originally slated for the fall. That being said, the longer I was unable to travel, the more strain I started to feel. In my state, we were on stay at home orders until May 30. This caused me to lose some of my largest and most profitable shows and portrait trips. On a personal level, I'm very much an extrovert- not traveling, reconnecting with old friends, and meeting new people definitely hits hard. As shows start back up, I am excited to get back out there and see our show business get back on track.

Q: What can customers do to support you during this time?

Kelsey Keathly of Norfleet Marketing & PhotographyA: I've really been pushing for anyone who's interested in a session with me to fill out my inquiry form. I'm using these inquiries to determine what areas I travel to first as soon as Stay at Home orders are lifted.

This goes for all small businesses, not just my business, but communicate with us! Interact! For many of us, all we have right now is social media. When people comment on my posts, interact with my Instagram stories, reply to my email blasts with kind words, share their favorite photos myself or my show team have taken, my day is made. The good news is that those are all things you can do for free!

To learn more about Kelsey's company and see more of her work, visit:

  • Published:
  • Updated: 6/30/2020: 10:18:36 AM ET
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