How I Shoot Ladies Days at Navan Races

December 07, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

On 27 Nov, I was delighted to be back again at Navan Racecourse to photograph their Winter Ladies Day. Shooting these events is always hectic, so good preparation is vital - and here's how I do it. You can see all of my previous shots from Navan  here,  and my previous blog posts about them are here, here, here and here - and they're not all fashion! 


Starting off with Brianán & Joanne - with & without racecard and handbag (all L to R).




Well in advance, a shoot plan is agreed with the client to make sure I get the shots they want. Typically, this includes:-

  • full length, three quarter length and head and shoulder shots of people’s outfits and hats, with and without race cards;
  • VIP and press release shots;
  • images of the fashion judges and the racecourse team talking to the best dressed people;
  •  pictures of the finalist selection and the announcement of the winner(s) – and later with judges, sponsors and logo backgrounds;
  •  mini-shoots of the winner(s), finalists and other eye-catching outfits in front of specific locations such as the parade ring, bookies stands, in the crowds, and from balconies.
  • As time allows, a few shots of other people, especially any “characters”, horses, jockeys etc.

The day before, I check and pack my gear – cameras, lenses, flashes and accessories such as my Demb flash bracket– as well as spares for everything. I charge batteries, format cards, dial in typical settings, and make sure lenses are set to autofocus with image stabilisation on, and flashes to E-TTL metering.


Mini-shoot with Aileen & Lisa - full length, three quarters, and with the crowd and the stand in the background - making sure tall hats are in the frame and clear of background clutter.




Here's some layouts of my favourite shots from the day, put together with Lightroom's print module followed by "printing" to file.



Individual shots of Erin, Colette, Danielle, Margaret (top row), and Julie-Anne, Thelma, Eimear & Katie - and I'm always thinking about the background as well as the subject.



For the rest of this post, I've interspersed a few tips on how I shoot these pictures. Firstly, it’s vital that people look happy and relaxed in their shots –after all, it is a fun day out! So I introduce myself, compliment people's outfits, and chat and joke with them - timing is then vital to catch the smailes. I also ask people out of the shot to crack jokes  – this is works best when they are just behind me so the subject looks at the camera. 


Double acts with Katie & Ann, Mags & Eimear, Colette & Rebecca (top row), Debbie & Bernie, Eilísh & Siobhán, and finally Judge Marietta Doran with best-dressed finalist Nan.


I also look at the weather forecast to see if I might need to plan for sheltered or indoor locations – big hats and wind don't mix well! I also decide how many layers I need myself – comfort allows me concentrate 100% on shooting.  I check the route and any possible delays or diversions due to traffic or roadworks. If I’m not already familiar with the site, I’ll check it out on Google and/or Bing Maps to work out shoot locations. If I am familiar with it, I do it again to look for new angles and locations.


A lady in red always catches the photographer's eye - here's Niamh with Ted, Maria and best-dressed finalist Paula



Next, a mini-shoot with sisters Eilís & Grace - close up, three-quarters, full length and finally with hot toddies and a jager photobomb :-)


On the morning, I re-check the weather forecast, the route, and traffic. I put my notebook, business cards, spare batteries and camera cards in my jacket pockets for quick access. I like to arrive at 60-90 minutes before the fashion judges to check in with at the Course office, get my pass,  set up the cameras and flashes, and make sure everything is working.


Fashion and crowds with Mary, Aileen, Lisa, Geraldine, Rebecca and Collette (below) - the first and third shots were taken with live view at arms length to get a higher angle.



As it's a winter Ladies Day, combining style & warmth is essential for Paula (best dressed finalist), Vanessa, Leah & Mary


My usual settings are around1/60th to 1/125th of a second (faster with longer lenses) at about f5.6 and whatever ISO I need to get a good exposure for the ambient light and and then gently fill with flash softened with my Lumiquest Quikbounce. For shots of individual , I may use wider apertures to blur the background - if I want to do that.

Once everything seems ready to go, I take quick wander around to see if there have been any changes to the location and get my first few shots to make sure the kit is actually working with people! It’s amazing how often something is not connected, flat or just being temperamental. From then on, it's non-stop until after the last race!


As well as fashionable visitors, here are glamour bookies, Mary & Marcella, as well as happy punters.



There are also couples and families - Niamh & Ted; Vanessa and family; Kay & Danielle; best dressed finalist Nan & her boys; and finally Erin & Claire with their partners


After the last race, it's straight home to check through the hundreds of shots and select and tweak the best of them for uploading to a Facebook gallery by the next day. That way, the Racecourse's visitors and their friends can quickly see and share all the glamour of the day. All to encourage them to come back next time . . . or visit for the first time!


Also vital to the event is the Ladies Day team - starting with Hannah getting some video footage, fashion blogger Serena Stack of Unrivalled Chic, judge Marietta Doran with Navan Racecourse's operation manager Amy Harding. In the last shot, the judges Marietta and Pat Mullaney of Navan Town Centre are about to pick the best dressed lady.



Before we get to the ladies winner though, we mustn't forget the guys who made the effort for Navan's first best dressed man prize sponsored by Tony McDonnell Menswear . Firstly we have Stephen Lynch;  then Amy Harding with an enthusiastic group; followed by Stephen Mackin, Coleman Doyle & Rob Geraghty; then best dressed man Aona Oliver Cowley with his uncle, and finally Aona again with Judges Marietta and Pat.



Here's best-dressed finalist Sarah with her friends Sinead and Ally and partners. Check out Sarah and Ally's new Fashion and Beauty Inspiration blog. 



Next is another best-dressed finalist Orla, a Navan regular, with Paul & Mark



And finally . . . here's the winner, Claire Anderson, who matched the racecourse to her outfit! She won a shopping spree at Navan Town Centre and a holiday from Travelmood. She's being congratulated by finalists Nan, Orla, Paula & Sarah;  then she's with Amy Harding, Marietta Doran & Pat Mullaney, next with with some young admirers - and last of all,  the goodbye shot!



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