SmugMug Success Stories: HoofClix

HoofClix Gives Creative Ambition Full Rein

Name: Mark Lehner
Title: Owner/Photographer
Location: Greer, SC
Market: Equine photography
Bragworthy Factoid: HoofClix trotted out 606,705 SmugMug photo-views in February

Career Highlights…

  • Shot 2,500 unique riders last year
  • Takes 75,000 photos yearly; team shoots about 7,500/weekend
  • Whoa! – 33,000 pictures in four days at Nationals
  • Photographed the US, Canadian and British Olympic teams
  • Snapped some of Three-day Eventing’s biggest names, including Philip Dutton, Boyd Martin, Becky Holder and Leslie Law

Favorite features…

Bridling at the artist label

“I don’t consider myself an artist per se. I consider myself a technician and an athlete. I recognize athletic moments and know how to find the spot on the course where an athletic moment will take place,” says leading equine photographer Mark Lehner, whose work has been featured on the covers of Eventing and Practical Horseman. Lehner’s being modest—he’s a member of an exclusive group of equestrian pros who have the deep knowledge and creative instincts needed to capture vibrant, unique shots of horses and people in action. (To clarify: This involves facing huge animals with hooves.)

Spurred to shoot

Lehner, who started college intending to be an architect but was counseled out of the program after professors told him he had no “artistic” talent, segued into amateur photography after taking an undergrad course. With no formal program available, he evolved his hobby into a passion, later marrying it to his lifelong work with horses. Bequeathed a legendary family tack shop by his horsewoman mother and the father of equestrienne daughters himself, Lehner invested in several digital Nikons in 2003 after witnessing the labor-intensive nature of using film to photograph horse shows. Web-based HoofClix took off at a gallop.

Hoofing it

Knowing Lehner’s habit of posting pics quickly following events, HoofClix’s customers frequently opt to review photos later offsite. “SmugMug’s gallery hierarchy really fits into the way I organize my shows by venue, show date and rider,” says Lehner. “If someone organizes his workflow in that manner from the start, equestrian or not, he can help his customers quickly find their images once they land on SmugMug.” Lehner makes the most of SmugMug’s website and gallery customizability. “It’s the simplest way I know to let people get right to what they are looking for–pictures of themselves,” he says. Other SmugMug features that help streamline Lehner’s business are proof delay and price lists. “[Proof delay] has changed my whole workflow. I used to edit every image before uploading, which caused delays. Now I upload only low-res batch-processed images, set each gallery to proof delay and correct only purchased images.” Lehner also likes the improved price lists: “Now I can create a new list and apply it to a gallery, and, in reverse, see which galleries have a pricelist assigned to them.” Calling SmugMug’s shopping cart for print sales “the simplest way there is to purchase,” Lehner says its design makes “intuitive sense,” all of which spares him time better spent shooting and managing higher-level business concerns.

Sharing the love

Lehner has used SmugMug’s Facebook publishing tool extensively. “I am really involved in social networking, so I enjoy [it]. It’s easy to use, and I already know that it’s brought people back to buy.” Typically, after he shares a SmugMug-hosted gallery via Facebook, he checks for a spike in traffic using Insights metrics. He likes that you can even place a “Buy” button in the Facebook image flows. “People are always in the mood to look at pictures,” he says. “This is a much friendlier way to get them to visit your site than a stream of nagging reminders to look at proofs.”

Reining in photo theft

In a time when copyright infringement is epidemic, Lehner contains it by limiting proofs to medium size and using a variety of elaborate watermarks for different situations, one with strong language detailing legalities and inviting witnesses to report theft if it is discovered somewhere other than Lehner’s site. He uses a different watermark to indicate that an image has been purchased for online use. SmugMug’s watermarking functionality gives him the range of options he needs. “In the digital age, the biggest challenge is a catch-22,” he says. “If you don’t put your photos online, they can’t purchase. If you do, people will use screen capture, upload them to Facebook and steal them. My online [watermark] and print mark are different, so I can see instantly if an image was bought in print form, for instance, then scanned without permission and uploaded to the Net.” Lehner, who spearheaded an industry effort to prevent theft, emphasizes the importance of features like right-click protection and watermarking. “SmugMug has done all it possibly can short of engineering a way for me to reach through the screen. I also do a lot of social networking to help find stolen images, reach out to coaches and trainers and try to educate new riders on how they should treat proofs.”

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I'm a freelance documentary photographer who loves travel, rangefinders, medium format film photography, and everything in-between.

7 thoughts on “SmugMug Success Stories: HoofClix”

  1. You really are an artist with your photography. Congratulations, and I love seeing all the beautiful horses! I have never seen any so beautiful.

  2. I am so appreciative that my daughter Anna has had the opportunity to work for you, Mark. You have given her much experience, exposure, and praise. Thank you so much for letting her be a part of your team. God bless!

    Barb Ehmen

    1. Barbara, it has been MY pleasure indeed.. Someone else seems to have taught her responsibility way before I got her… She may have moved of to Jacksonville, but she’s still part of the team. Pretty good for someone who walked up to me on course in a rainstorm and handed me her resume..

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