Event Photography – Burst Mode vs Single Shot

Posted on March 7, 2019

I read a comment on social media not too long ago, which got me thinking about when I use burst mode vs when I use single shot within event photography. 

The comment was from a photographer responding to a thread that was asking for recommendations for a fun ride. They said that some photographers will get up to 10 photos of one rider, most of them unwanted. And that the event organiser should consider booking a photographer who doesn’t use continuous shooting. It made me think. Why not?

My general rule when shooting Cross Country is to ‘burst shoot’ from the first good take off to the last good landing shot (I use a Canon 1dx mk II which has 14 fps, meaning over a decent size XC fence you may have 4-6 shots, plus a couple of canter shots after the fence). A sequence that may look something like this…

I’ve had several people over the years purchasing their entire sequence over one fence. Now surely, as a business, that’s a good thing right? I’m going to share with you below some of the pros and cons of burst mode, and where I use one shot in my event photography. 


For dressage, I shoot on one shot. No ifs, no buts. In Dressage, people tend to only like the more traditional, correct shots of each movement so burst mode isn’t needed. The key moments within each movement are so quick, they could be missed if burst shooting. The sound of continuous shooting can also be distracting to horses in the silent environment of dressage.


For Showjumping, I usually get 2-3 shots of each jump (a traditional take off then the next 1 or 2 that follow), plus normally choose 1 or 2 good oxers to get a full sequence with landing. This normally means per Showjumping round, you’d have around 20 to choose from. 


As mentioned, for XC photos I photograph from the first good take off shot until the last good landing shot (maybe 3-5 shots per jump depending on size of the fence).


  • More choice. If a horse jumps a fence well, the rider may buy a take-off, mid-air and landing shot. We’ve also had customers buying all of their photos! More choice often equals more sales. Happy customers, happy business!
  • Each horse is individual and it’s impossible to know as a horse comes towards the XC fence you’re covering, how it’s going to jump it. Some horses are neat in front. Others are loose in front and good behind. From a rider’s perspective, my best horse who has jumped at HOYS, Hickstead and international shows with me will rarely get a good take off shot, instead reaching her ‘best’ point in mid-air (pictured below). She normally looks her best in mid-air or landing and if I’m at a show where the photographer is only taking take off shots, I know I’m unlikely to like any of the photos!
  • Other situations we’ve had arisen are if a horse ‘leaves a leg’ or gets the take-off wrong. Horses are remarkable creatures and can manage to sort themselves out in mid-air, meaning you can still get a good landing shot from a jump that didn’t look pretty!
  • This takes me onto my next point which is when it goes wrong. Falls. We’re often asked why we continue shooting in event of a fall and that could be an entire blog in itself, but it comes down to 2 points. 1) Some people like to see them. 2) It helps medics and/or vets/physios to see exactly what happened and what treatment is needed based on the photos. This, of course, is not a reason we burst shoot but has been helpful on a number of occasions.


  • Takes up more space on computer/hard drive/website.
  • Increases shutter count quicker, meaning the shutter will need changing sooner.
  • For Showjumping, or if all images were in one gallery, it may mean searching through more images to find your own. Though currently, Showjumping is the only discipline we don’t file in rider folders, meaning for Dressage and Eventing, the number of images within each folder won’t impact the viewing experience for others.

So, what do you think? Do you prefer to see a whole sequence of your jump? Or do you always prefer the traditional take-off shots? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Jasmine x

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