Hosting a Photo or Live Show

Hosting a live or photo show is a great way to give back to your community. Shows are lively and fun, and are also a great way to make new friends! Click on the links below to go to your relevant area of interest to learn more about hosting a show.


Hosting a Photo Show

Hosting a Live Show


How to Host a Photo Show
Once you have entered a few photo shows and gained some experience, holding your own photo show is a fantastic way of seeing other people’s work and a great source of ideas for improving your own photos. Remember, the bigger your class list, the more work the show will be, so start with a small show.

You will be responsible for receiving the entries, judging the show, typing and sending out the results, and returning the results/photos to entrants within two to three weeks after the show date.

So now you have decided you want to hold a show, you will need to choose a date. Check the Show Biz column in the newsletter for the available dates for the next quarter. When you’ve chosen, email the Editor with your selection. (Have a back-up date in case your first choice has already been claimed)

You may choose to hold a points-only show, or offer awards. Ribbons can easily be hand made, or perhaps you`d like to offer a small trophy or rosette to the Supreme Exhibit. This decision is yours.

Entry Fee
The show entry fee should be kept reasonable, dependant upon the size of the show and whether or not you choose to award ribbons and/or trophies. Some people like to hold a photo show to fundraise for a particular event (such as a live show), or to benefit a club or charity (such as AIMHC or Cancer Council Australia). If you are offering prizes, your entry fees can be used to purchase those.

Class list
Next is choosing a class list and naming your show. When starting out, it’s best to hold a small show of 10 to 30 classes. It’s also a good idea to limit the number of photos each entrant may submit, to avoid being swamped with photos! A 50-photo limit, for example, is reasonable for a show that has 25 classes, or a 25-photo limit for a show with 12 classes.

A good class list should have several Champions and Reserves, and a top placing, such as a Supreme Exhibit. Study other class lists in the newsletter to understand how they work.

When you have finalised your list, you can email it to the Editor to inclusion in the newsletter.

Judging a Photo Show
Once the entries have arrived, you will need to make a note of each entrant’s name, note how many photos they have entered, check that the entry fee has been paid, and that a SASE and postage have been included. Then you have the task of sorting through the photos and dividing then into their classes. Before you begin judging, read the Judging Basics page to get an idea of what to look for.

Judge each class in order, and write down the results before moving onto the next class. You may need to continue sorting through photos from previous classes, as many photos are used in several classes throughout the show. Be careful not to leave any photos out of their classes.

Sorting Photos for Judging
A useful way of organising photos for judging during a show is to use a card file system in an old shoebox. Using large index cards, attach index `flags` to the top of the index cards, and number the flags (these numbers will correlate to the class numbers for the show). The flags can be attached in a staggered fashion, which makes flicking through the classes easy! As photos arrive for the show, just sort them into their classes. Starting with class 1 - photos entered in multiple classes can then be slotted into the following classes quite easily, after the preceding class has been judged. You can even include slots for championships, and slip eligible class winners and second place getters into those slots for easy reference - no need to keep re-sorting photos each time a championship comes up! The beauty of setting up such a system is that it can be used time and time again, each time you hold a photo show.

Once you have finished judging, sort out each entrant’s photos and pack them up ready to send back to each entrant. Then type up all of the results, and email them out. If you don’t have email, or an entrant has requested a hard (printed) copy of the results, you will need to print them out. If you awarded any ribbons or prizes, don’t forget to include those with the photos.

Before sealing up envelopes, check the weight with a scale, and if necessary, use the entrant’s extra stamps on the envelope to make sure their photos arrive safely.

How to Host a Live Show
Live shows take a lot of work to organise, but are enormous fun. Decide if you will have a show that has a good mix of classes for all sizes, types and finishes of models, or a specialty show (that focuses on one particular type of model, such as OFs, minis or foals). Don’t hold a large show if you don’t feel capable of handling it all. For a first-timer, it’s best to hold a small, casual show. You can always hold larger shows.

Be aware that you will need to pay directly with your own money for most things associated with the show (such as prizes, ribbons, printing and photocopying, hall hire, etc), as you won’t receive any entry fees or fundraising until much closer to the show. Keep good records so you can see where funds have been spent.

Send out the program at least a couple of months prior to the show - the more notice you can give possible entrants, the better.

You may need to do a little research to find the best date for holding your live. Contact possible entrants, and see what dates would be suitable for them to attend. The best time for a live show is on the weekend, as many people work or attend school. Avoid long weekends as possible; not only will traffic increase around this time, but higher  accommodation and travel prices may prevent entrants who live further away from making the journey to your show.

If you intend to hire a venue, then have a few dates in mind when you begin the search for a hall. Large spaces for hire are often secured quickly, especially on weekends, so start the search early and have a few ‘back up’ dates on hand should your first choice be taken.

Decide on a venue for the show. Your house or a friend`s house or garage may be fine if it`s a small show. Remember you will need lots of room; as well as space for each entrant to have their own table, you will need room for your judging rings and at least one table to display your prizes and raffle items/donations. If you think you won’t have the room at home, then you may need to hire a community hall or room. 

Consider these places for your show venue:

  • Schools,
  • community halls/centres
  • scout halls
  • dance halls,
  • theatres,
  • senior citizen`s centres,
  • town halls,
  • RSLs,
  • churches
  • civic centres

There have also been live shows held in curious places like airplane hangers, so don`t immediately rule out a suggestion!

When looking at venues for hire, you`ll need to investigate what is available in your local area on the date you have selected, and get details on hire, costs and facilities available. You`ll need somewhere with good, sturdy tables for the models, and kitchen and toilet facilities, which are usually included in the hire fee.

Venues may give their size as a capacity (the number of people it can hold) rather than physical measurements. As a very general guide, a hall that holds around 200-250 people is a good size for a show of around 20 people. A smaller venue that holds 100 may fit a show with ten entrants. It can be hard to imagine the hall set up for a show when you are visiting a hall, so if you are in doubt, err on the side of more space, rather than less.

Check for other important factors, location of the venue, and accommodation and public transport for travelling entrants. Consider availability of parking close to the hall, and take away outlets for those who wish to purchase lunch.

To make it easier for the venue owner and yourself, it may help to describe your show as an art exhibition when beginning to call around for information. You can use a list similar to this to help you note what is included with each venue.

  Venue A Venue B Venue C
Hire fee      
Insurance requirements      
Hall size      
Time of hire      
- What size?      
- How many?      
Close to public transport      

You may have to call many different venues before you find one that suits your needs and budget. Don`t be discouraged! If others have held shows in your area, you can ask them for details of venues they have used previously.

Venue Inspection

Once you have called around, and found some venues that sound suitable, you should organise a visit to look at the hall. Some places like community centres may allow you to drop in at any time (even when the hall is being used), while other places may ask that you make an appointment.

During the inspection, the venue manager may show you around. Here are some things to look at, and ask the manager, while you are there.

  • Lighting. Is all of the lighting artifical or is there some natural light? Is it bright or a dim hall? Where are the light switches, and how do you turn the lights off and on?
  • Storage. Where are the chairs and tables stored? Do you need to put them away (or back in the same way you found them, if they were already out) after the show?
  • Locked doors. Are there any doors, such as to the kitchen, that are locked?
  • Cleaning supplies. Where is the broom, and if needed, a mop and bucket in case of any accidents?
  • Access time. When can you open the hall to set up? When do you have to leave?
  • Keys. Will someone be at the hall to open it for you? If not, when will you collect and return the keys?
  • Alarm. Is there an alarm that you will need to arm and disarm?
  • Heating and cooling. How do you use the heater/air conditioner/fans?

You may want to write these up in a table to keep track of the answers. If you like, you may choose to bring along some photos of other live shows to show the venue manager. Don`t be afraid to talk to them about your hobby!

If you decide to hire a hall, here are some points to consider:

  • Public liability insurance. You will need to check whether your show will be covered under the venue’s own insurance. Public liability insurance protects you and the venue from being sued should someone be injured while at your show. Many venues will allow your once-off event to be covered by their insurance for a small fee, especially if the venue is owned or managed by your local council. For your own safety, AIMHC does not recommend hiring a hall without insurance. Some venues will require you to source your own insurance. From the author`s experience, this can cost over $500 for a one-day show, so avoid these venues if possible.
  • Hire times. Remember to include at least an hour either side of the show to allow yourself time to set up your tables, and clean up any mess afterwards. If luck is on your side, some halls may allow you to set up the night before the show. Explore this option to save yourself time and stress in the morning.

If you are a minor (under 18 years), you legally cannot sign a contract. Your parent/guardian must do this for you, so make sure they are involved in the entire process.

Some of this information may not be discussed with the venue owners until after you have inspected the venue, but it is best that you try and ask questions about all possible circumstances so you are not caught unawares on the day of the show.

Venues may charge you an hourly fee, or a flat fee for the day. You will be hard-pressed to find a venue that does not also charge a bond (a dollar amount that is kept as security in case the hall is damaged during your hire term). This will be returned after the hire period if the hall has not been damaged.

Hall hire will most likely be the most expensive item on your planning list. Expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $500 on the hire cost alone. Since you should be hiring the hall at least several months before your actual show date, you will need to pay for your hall hire out of your own pocket. Make sure to keep good financial records so you can recoup your costs later.

Most venues may allow you to pay the bond as a deposit (to hold your booking), and then pay the actual hire fee closer to the show day.

Class List
A good, well-balanced class list can be hard to create, so look at class lists from other shows for inspiration. Decide whether your show will be a speciality show or open to all makes and finishes. You may want to make your show a DUN qualifier - a show that awards DUN cards to first- and second-placing models that allows them to compete at the Down Under Nationals Championship Live Show. There are additional fees for this - visit the Down Under Model Horse Society website for more information.

Be aware that the more superior places (champions and higher) that you award, the higher this will push your ribbon bill. Try not to dilute your class list too much just to squeeze in a few more champions, as this can also minimise the effects of winning a superior award in the first place.

Ribbons and Rosettes

Many shows offer satin ribbons and rosettes for Champion and higher placings. If you want to offer these prizes, then you will need to place your order early, so that the manufacturer has enough time to produce your order. (The AIMHC forum has a thread of some ribbon suppliers you may like to use.)

A common prize method is to award paper or cardboard ribbons for placings (1st-6th, or 1st-10th), flat satin ribbons to Champions and Reserves, and rosettes for Grand Champions and higher. You can of course award anything you like - sashes, chocolate and certificates are all awards that have also been given out at other shows!

Show Rules
A show packet or program is a file that includes information on the venue, such as location, transport, and packing, as well as show-specific information that addresses class requirements, tag information, table information, lunch breaks, etc. Your packet should also include your class list and an entry form. When someone enquires about your show, this is what you should send them. Encourage entrants to ask questions if something is not covered in the show packet.

Rules will vary with each show, but consider covering things such as: number of models allowed per class per entrant; breed regulations; what type of tack is allowed in certain classes; whether only certain brands and sizes are accepted or whether all brands and sizes are welcome; etc. Be sure to include an area that notes that no responsibility will be taken for any damaged models or accessories and that entrants show at their own risk.
If you are holding a raffle, include information on this in your packet, and list the names and details of anyone who has donated prizes.

If the show is being held at home, ensure that any young children are informed not to touch any of the models, and pets are kept well away from the showing area. Upon nominating models for the show, the entrant takes on the responsibility of accepting the rules as set down in the program.

Entry Fees
Live show fees can vary depending on what costs are involved with running the show. You may chose to have an entry fee of 50 cents per model per class, or you may set a flat entry fee, which can range from $10 to $50 per entrant. If holding the show at home, you`ll only need to cover expenses for ribbons, trophies, prizes and catering. If holding the show at a hall, you`ll need to consider room hire fees too.

Include extensive show fee information in your show packet that covers questions like: How much is my fee if I only bring two models, or 76 models? Is the fee for each model, regardless of the number of classes, or is it for each class entered?

You may like to offer an ‘early bird’ offer, in which entry fees are discounted for entrants who send in their forms early. Many entrants wait until the week before the show to send in their entries, which can cause a lot of stress for you.


Many live shows hold a raffle during the day. Sales of raffle tickets will help you to cover the cost of the show. If you would like to hold a raffle, think about asking people in the hobby, such as tackmakers, propmakers and artists, as well as general hobbyists, if they would like to donate to your show.

Be polite (this is very important!) when asking, and gracious with whatever donation you receive - the person you are asking is donating from the kindness of their heart, and they do not have to give you anything at all.

If possible, give back to your donor - you could send them a `certificate of appreciation`, advertise their name at the show, etc.

A well-stocked raffle prize table at Mini Mania Live Show, 2011.

A good price to sell raffle tickets at is $1 each, or six tickets for $5. Have this information in your show packet, announce it at the start of the show, and then again before you draw the raffle. After lunch is a good time to draw the raffle.

Consider how you will record your results on the day of the show. A common system is to assign a unique exhibit number to each model. Models are then shown with hang tags (small tags tied onto a hind leg, including model information on one side and the identifying number on the other). Some shows use entry cards (flat cards similar to the hang tags, but are collected by the steward instead of writing down information to record results).

As this is your show, you can choose whichever option you like, or invent your own system. Make sure that your method is clearly covered in the show packet so that everyone is aware.

Catering facilities will vary depending upon the size of the show and location. Normally, tea and coffee making facilities and perhaps morning/afternoon tea should be provided by the host, costs for which can be incorporated into the show fees. Other beverages such as cans of soft drink, etc can be made available for entrants to purchase, as well as lunch. To keep costs down, it’s best to keep the catering simple. If there are take away outlets nearby, entrants can purchase their own lunches, or the host can provide lunch for a fee to cover costs.

Tables and Chairs
Whether the venue is at home or a hired venue, you need to ensure there is enough table/bench space on which to stand entrant’s models, and to use as show rings. Models are usually laid on their sides prior to being moved to the judging tables, to prevent the domino effect should the table be accidentally knocked. One table per entrant is a reasonable allocation, but it doesn’t hurt to have spares.

You should have at least two show rings; while the first ring is being judged, entrants can place their models into the second. A separate Champion ring is also very handy, as this saves time by not having to call back models when judging for superior places. You should also have another table to hold your ribbons and prizes, and if you are holding a raffle, to display the raffle prizes.

Chairs should be provided for entrants to sit down, plus another table that will hold any ribbons and prizes. Your judge will probably want a chair between divisions, and they may like a table for their things as well.

Depending on the size of the show, you may wish to have guest judges, or do all of the judging yourself. Your judges should be knowledgeable in the area that you are requesting them for. You may have one judge for the entire show, or several judges.

It is a smart idea to offer your judges something in recognition for their efforts in judging at your show. You may offer them reduced or free entry into your show (if they are not judging the whole show), complimentary raffle tickets, a gift, free lunch, etc. If your judge has travelled a distance, they may request a small payment towards their expenses. Whatever you decide to give to your judge, make sure they know you are grateful for their contribution.

If you are judging, and like to touch and pick up the models in the show ring, you must state this very clearly to any entrants before you begin. Ensure you wear a pair of clean cotton gloves to prevent marks or staining.

It’s highly recommended to have a non-shower act as the ring steward during the show. This person will be responsible for calling classes, checking that all models entered for each class are present in the ring ready for judging, organising ribbons for the judge, advising entrants when to remove models from the ring, etc. If you like, you can keep a list of what models are entered in which classes, and cross off each model when it arrives in the ring for judging. While you can have your judge record their results for you, your show may run quicker with the use of a steward.

Setting up the Hall
Set your tables up in a way that gives easy access to the show rings to all entrants. How the room is organised will depend on size, how many competitors, etc, but it is useful to have the judging rings towards the front or centre, and a table with the ribbons/trophies etc close at hand by the show rings.

Entrant tables should be set up clear of the judging area. Walking space between these areas is needed as competitors and judges will need to be able to move around feely without knocking into tables. Competitors with large numbers of models will need plenty of table space for organising their charges, but those with only a few models may be able to share their table with another competitor.

After a Live Show
Remember to thank the steward, judges and any other volunteers for their efforts in putting forward their time, money and effort to hold the show. A happy and appreciated judge will be more likely to host another show, so make sure they know you enjoyed the day.