Phillip Kitts, currently based out of Manhattan, Kansas, has had a passion for photography since childhood. In fact, he carried this passion into his military career, where he photographed a picture of a Kiowa helicopter flying between buildings in Mosul, Iraq. This image was later published in a local newspaper and magazine in Nevada. 

After becoming medically retired from the military as a Sergeant First Class, Phillip decided to use photography as a form of therapy to help him transition out of military life. This proved very fruitful. Today, Phillip is a full time professional rodeo photographer.

It took a lot of hard work and determination for Phillip to break into rodeo photography. In the early days he called every horse ranch in Kansas and Oklahoma to get somebody to give him a chance – and eventually he succeeded. Phillip and his wife are now in their tenth year of professional rodeo. 


Photo Credit: Phillip Kitts


For Phillip, rodeo is much more than just a sport – it's a lifestyle – and there's not a rodeo that goes by where Phillip doesn’t risk injury or harm. Luckily, he finds this fun and exciting! However, when it comes to the business of photography, the challenge lies in trying to use strobe lights for arenas that are far bigger than a strobe’s ideal range. Expecting equipment to perform at levels outside of its original scope continues to keep Phillip on his toes.

Phillip’s gear

Phillip currently works with a Canon 1Dx Mk III as his primary camera and a Canon 7D Mk II as his backup camera. He uses his Canon 7D Mark II for ‘behind the scenes’ as well as arena work. His go-to lens is a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II and if he can't get enough light (even with strobes) then he switches to a 70mm-200mm f/2.8. 

Phillip owns AlienBees strobes, rents Einsteins when needed, and uses the Raven and the PocketWizard FlexTT5 to trigger.


Photo Credit: Phillip Kitts

Bullseye in the arena

One of the key lessons Phillip learned when he first started using the Raven was the importance of setting up the correct channels and frequencies. 

“Timing is everything in rodeo photography and a missed moment means a loss forever,” Phillip says. “I keep track of my number of misfires and since using the Raven, I've seen a 60 percent decrease in misfires. This is because I’ve been able to identify the right channel using the Raven’s RF Noise Indicator feature.”


Photo Credit: Phillip Kitts

Using the Raven’s SyncView feature to dial in precise timing to optimize image quality has also made a noticeable difference for Phillip. The Raven’s SyncView screen displays a never-before-seen representation of flash pulse intensity over the length of the shutter cycle.

In fact, Phillip has seen a huge increase in productivity across multiple aspects of his work. His performance, efficiency and photo sales are all up. Better pictures result in less editing work, and Phillip believes this is all thanks to the Raven. He now saves numerous hours each day, which he can turn into dollars by going back to the arena to photograph more pictures!



A new path forward 

The image below featuring a Saddle Bronc rider was photographed at a rodeo in Batesville, Mississippi. Speaking of this photograph, Phillip shared, “I would have never been able to shoot this type of image prior to using the Raven. Prior to the Raven, I couldn't get my lights to work together. I had two channels to work with and if I couldn't get everything on those two channels, I was at war with myself.” 

Photo Credit: Phillip Kitts

In this image in particular, you can see how Phillip freezes time. “The Raven gave me the opportunity to match what I needed from my lights with what my equipment offered.” 

In general, Phillip doesn’t adjust his lights on the fly as much as some of his fellow photographers. However, when using Einsteins with the Raven, he now has a tool to put a little more power out in one light or the other. “Having this ability when I’m lighting arenas is a game changer. Being able to provide more power where I need it has improved many aspects of my operation and the big story behind this image is that the setup was a real challenge. I had to put my key lights 150 feet away from where I would have really liked them,” he says.


Photo Credit: Phillip Kitts

With this in mind, Phillip is extremely excited about the massive operating range the Raven has to offer. At 1500 feet (450m), it is the longest of any trigger in the market. 

“The Raven provides range that's simply unheard of. Arenas are typically 250 to 400 feet long, and potentially longer in some venues. Arena width also plays a huge role, with some arenas sitting at 200 to 400 feet wide. “Normally I'm fighting misfires due to distance, but now I don't have any misfires at all,” Phillip says. “Although the range between my lights and my shooting position provides an immense challenge, the Raven has changed all of this. If I shot this arena prior to switching to the Raven, I couldn't have put the lights where I put them now. I would have lost a lot of range.”


Photo Credit: Phillip Kitts

Phillip also shares how he now works fast enough with the Raven that he can turn lights on and off in the middle of a barrel run! “In rodeo, girls run anywhere from 15–17 second runs. In those 15 seconds I can now shoot a picture of barrel one, turn an additional light on by the time they get to the next barrel, and then shoot again with the additional light. That’s pretty rare! The touchscreen capability also lets me focus better on taking pictures without having to take my eye off the camera.” 

Asking why that is so important, Phillip answered, “In rodeo photography you don't ever take your face away from the camera! You never know what's going to happen next!”

Well, we’ve learnt a great deal about rodeo photography from our chat with Phillip, and we hope you have too. To learn more about the Raven, head to the Explore Raven section on our website.


Learn more about the Raven from our Explore Raven section on the website:

RF Noise Indicator

SyncView, HSS and Rear Curtain Sync

Camera and flash compatibilities

Photographer: Phillip Kitts

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