Advice needed - Softball

WirenWiren WirenPosts: 739Registered Users Major grins
edited May 6, 2016 in Sports
Hi Gang! I don't usually post in the sports section, but I do shoot softball every year for my daughters team. Over the years, I have been hired by some of the contracted Photog companies to assist with team photo's and for playoff action shots.

This year, the league went away from the big name, big box sports company and is having a new company step in. The new company only wants the business of the team photo's and doesn't want to deal with the action shots. The league (youth girls softball) asked me to provide the action shots for the season.

We are talking 31 teams (about 450 players). I have time during evenings and weekends to devote in watching/shooting games and plan to organize the scheduled games on my calendar to make sure I am at each teams games at least 3 times (I hope, need to work it out first).

I will be providing the Board of the league with a flyer that they plan to print and email out to parents to inform them of changes in photography for the coming season. I want to make it short and to the point.

Any advice out there? What have you learned works and what potential pitfalls should I avoid :dunno

I want to go into this with a good game plan to make the most money possible. I plan on using Costco to print 5x7's & 8x10's as I don't have my own printer and Costco provides a decent product for a relatively decent price. I plan on charging $5 for 5x7's and $9 for 8x10's and offer a line up of other products on my website...

I plan to shoot throughout the season, posting each game as I shoot into each teams gallery. This way, parents can choose to purchase product online and I also plan to bring prints with me at the games.....

Looking at the schedule, it appears that for the most part, I can park myself at a field (or set of them as there are some back to back) and shoot for the entirety a day and pretty much get each team for an age group.

Leaving you with a few shots from previous seasons as a sample of my work that can be seen in my gallery

20150627299-XL.jpg

20150608146-XL.jpg

P6210750-XL.jpg

I appreciate your looking and any responses I may get

Lee
Lee Wiren

Comments

  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Posts: 1,658Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 4, 2016
    Lee - there's a reason why the local outfit doesn't want any part of action photography. It's a horrible revenue stream. If you're getting paid on spec (print sales after the fact) you should run away. If the league wants you to shoot then negotiate a flat fee for services per game. 10 years ago, you could make some money doing what you're proposing doing. Not any more. There's just not enough people that put value on action photos that are willing to pay for it. The outfit has the right idea - T&I is a much more reliable stream.

    Don't even bother fulfilling prints. Get paid for your services and deliver a disk to the coach with the images from the games.
  • WirenWiren Wiren Posts: 739Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 4, 2016
    Thanks for the response John. Well, I am already pretty much set in stone for shooting this year.

    As others have told me, this will probably be a fruitless venture, but I guess I have to prove that to myself.... I typically make about between $60-100 off of my team alone... so I am hoping that if that trend stays true, I could see at least $1800 and hopefully $3k or more.... sounds like from what you and many others on Fred Miranda's tell me, it is not likely.

    There was the idea floated on Fred Miranda's site that the only way to ensure money on this is to have the league add a specified charge (say $20) per player upon sign up that would go to the photographer of the action shots (me)... at about 450 kids, that would ensure 9k.... minus whatever expenses I may have...... and the idea with that was to make discs of each teams shot for the kids or offer them online for free download.....

    Appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Lee
    Lee Wiren
  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Posts: 1,658Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 4, 2016
    Lee - I wish you luck. Remember, you will always have a bump in sales from people on your own team. Kind of like selling Mary Kay to family / friends (my niece sells it). A portion of those sales are because they know you and a portion is because some people feel guilty NOT buying. You won't get that emotional bump from other teams parents.

    I do wish you luck. Please report back after the season to let people know how it goes. Who knows, lots of things are cyclical. Maybe print sales will start making a come back this year.
  • WirenWiren Wiren Posts: 739Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 4, 2016
    Point well made John... I hadn't even added that equation to the mix. I'm going to look at this as lucky for whatever I get, keep quiet about how much I may earn or how sales went. That way when I approach the board, they are unaware of how (un)successful I was in sales and might be more amenable to doing a contract with a pre-paid fee per child billed at League sign up. I would love to have them raise their fee from $90 to $110, but even if it only went to $100 and I got a for sure $10 per child.. at the typical average of 450 children on the league, it'd be an assured $4500 for 2 months of work! And if I luck out and made a bit more than that this year, it would truly be a savings to the parents/league to entertain such a deal.

    Maybe this year is one of those, "work in the trenches to lay a foundation" type of deals..... deal.gif

    Lee
    Lee Wiren
  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Posts: 1,658Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 5, 2016
    Lee,

    Unless you are giving them a kick-back, why on earth would they go through the hassle and bad PR of increasing the fee just so you can make money? It's a headache they don't need. Heck, even with kickbacks it makes no sense for them. Kickbacks work on T&I or would work on action if people bought action. But, why would they incur the bad pr and hassle of upping the fee by $10 just so the league gets $3? I get why a photographer would make this suggestion because it benefits the photographer, but it doesn't benefit the league and it's bad PR.
  • FergusonFerguson Major grins Posts: 1,257Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 5, 2016
    But they might have an opt-in on the paperwork for joining the league. That could be argued is a convenience issue, not a price increase, and unlikely to generate any bad PR. You could offer then a small percentage of that fee to pay for the administrative hassle of collecting the check marks and giving you a list.
  • WirenWiren Wiren Posts: 739Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 5, 2016
    johng wrote: »
    Lee,

    Unless you are giving them a kick-back, why on earth would they go through the hassle and bad PR of increasing the fee just so you can make money? It's a headache they don't need. Heck, even with kickbacks it makes no sense for them. Kickbacks work on T&I or would work on action if people bought action. But, why would they incur the bad pr and hassle of upping the fee by $10 just so the league gets $3? I get why a photographer would make this suggestion because it benefits the photographer, but it doesn't benefit the league and it's bad PR.

    Well, I know that they take a kick back for the T&I. That is why they left the big box company... the kick back was not as large, the packages overpriced and the accounting of what the kick back was supposed to be compared to the reality of what they received was less than it should have been...... headscratch.gif

    The new company doing the T&I are offering packages starting at $3 less for the least expensive option, and they are giving the league additional kickback money that will be more than what the big box company offered (or even gave).

    I can see your point about whose pov should be considered and who benefits from the headache of potentially bad PR... very good advice (which I appreciate). I hadn't thought of offering any kickback to the league... I guess if I make no money for all of my work and I tell them to forget it unless they opt for the increased league fee to give me a defined pre-paid amount. I am well known throughout the league for shooting games with other companies and for my shots (which many like to see). I could hope that by giving the option, my work and history with the league will help sway them to my advantage and if not... well, I guess I can do without the headache (which is what so many suggest anyways)....
    Lee Wiren
  • WirenWiren Wiren Posts: 739Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 5, 2016
    Ferguson wrote: »
    But they might have an opt-in on the paperwork for joining the league. That could be argued is a convenience issue, not a price increase, and unlikely to generate any bad PR. You could offer then a small percentage of that fee to pay for the administrative hassle of collecting the check marks and giving you a list.

    ....hmmmm, I think this would be an extreme headache for them and me... trying to let individuals "Opt In" for the Action Shots deal.gif would mean identifying each of those players on each team so that I only shoot them and not those that Opted Out....

    nice idea... but too hard to carry out and make successful.
    Lee Wiren
  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Posts: 1,658Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 5, 2016
    Lee - now you're starting to see why so many of us have gotten out of the action photography business. So much work on the business side of things unrelated to actually shooting. Comparatively, T&I is so much easier of a business model. Guaranteed income, tribal expectation that there will be T&I offered and a guaranteed revenue stream. And, a whole lot less time.

    Action photography is more fun to do. But, it's so much work for so little pay. I'm not saying don't give it a go. Just trying to help you understand why so many people have stopped doing it.
  • WirenWiren Wiren Posts: 739Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 5, 2016
    johng wrote: »
    Lee - now you're starting to see why so many of us have gotten out of the action photography business. So much work on the business side of things unrelated to actually shooting. Comparatively, T&I is so much easier of a business model. Guaranteed income, tribal expectation that there will be T&I offered and a guaranteed revenue stream. And, a whole lot less time.

    Action photography is more fun to do. But, it's so much work for so little pay. I'm not saying don't give it a go. Just trying to help you understand why so many people have stopped doing it.

    I am starting to see that light... and I appreciate hearing it from so many folks... you, as well as Paul Alesse (on the Fred Miranda forum) among others have given extremely salient points on the madness of it all.... but hey, gotta bite that carrot, right ne_nau.gif

    At least I'll have the fun of that shooting and hope to give the league a reason to ensure they have my photography skills for next season and will want to find a way to pay for it, even if it doesn't make me rich.

    I know so many folks, on the board and parents with kids playing across the age groups and many of the local sponsors that it will be good to deliver them my images and hopefully with them knowing who I am, I will come out better than what the history you all tell me of shows.... I will be posting images throughout the season to be sure and will let you all know what the outcome was revenue wise...

    Thanks for all of your time bowdown.gif

    Lee
    Lee Wiren
  • FergusonFerguson Major grins Posts: 1,257Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 5, 2016
    Wiren wrote: »
    ....hmmmm, I think this would be an extreme headache for them and me... trying to let individuals "Opt In" for the Action Shots deal.gif would mean identifying each of those players on each team so that I only shoot them and not those that Opted Out....

    nice idea... but too hard to carry out and make successful.

    I would just shoot them all, and the ones that opted in, you pull out and print, the others you make another pitch to somehow for the shots at a somewhat higher price since they did not pre-order.

    If a decent percent opt in and you deliver something good before the season is over, you will get some follow up orders from their friends once they see them.

    Of course if only 5% opt in, it doesn't bode well.

    The better bet of course is just get the league to fund you. But others have pointed out how hard that is.
  • jmphotocraftjmphotocraft GWC for hire Portland.ME.USAPosts: 2,972Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 11, 2016
    I've done exactly this, with a very similar size league. I did it for 5 years. I made it work, but after the thrill wore off it wasn't worth it enough to keep doing it. The hourly rate is bad, but it's a nice amount of money in total. I think the most I netted in one season was $5k. It's basically a 2nd full time job, so be prepared that it will take you away from a lot of family time, and your day job will be affected.

    I wrote a post-mortem of my LL career with descriptions of the different business models I tried here: http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=247779

    You said "the most money possible". Well, the answer to that for action shots is on-site printing or order taking, such that people have to buy or order a print or download right then and there. This means having an assistant and view/order stations, and if printing on site it means printers, paper, ink, etc. I didn't do any of that. Major capital expense, but it creates urgency and can result in a feeding frenzy. I have seen other photographers do this and it works.

    If not printing on-site, whatever you do, DO NOT self-fulfill print orders. Tried that once, horrible experience. Use SmugMug instead.

    If you have specific questions I'm happy to help.
    -Jack

    An "accurate" reproduction of a scene and a good photograph are often two different things.
  • jheftijhefti Hyperope Posts: 734Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 11, 2016
    I mostly do collegiate and professional sports shooting for the wire services, so you can take this advice for whatever it's worth.

    I very occasionally shoot youth sports as fundraisers for my kids' teams; usually tournaments with lots of teams and players, and mostly soccer. The only really successful shooters there are displaying and printing on-site. Their work is mediocre, not necessarily because they aren't good photographers but because they are just trying to get a few shots of every player, which leads to a lot of mediocre-to-bad images.

    I'm not set up to do this--and even if I were I have no interest--so I put everything up on a website and make sure everyone at the game has access to it via getting people to hand out flyers with the information and a few snazzy images of the pros playing. Then, all prints are ordered through the website, and offered in a variety of sizes. I also offer the option of downloading really low rez images for social media uses, as well as the full resolution digital files. The main issue is that you don't want to spend all you time on fulfillment. And you want to give people choices, from small images to put on mom's desk, to large poster-sized prints.

    However, the main, crucial and overriding thing you need to do, above all else, is to get those images up really fast--same day fast, or even as the games are progressing if there's a way. You can be sure that there will be parents there with cameras, and those images will get around quickly. Once they do, everyone at the games will forget about your flyer and all those great images you took. FWIW I tag in camera, upload only the tagged images, and use LR presets I've created so that the edit is basically just a crop. I can crank out several hundred images in an hour and get them uploaded. I also used to state in the flyer that images would be available online within an hour, so people can actually view and order them from their phones while they are having lunch or dinner.

    The few times I've done this I've netted $3-4K for a weekend's work (though admittedly the days are really long and cover 40-50 teams over the two days!) I should also say that the younger the players, the greater the sales. If you have a choice, shoot the younger ones. Most of my sales were from the U8-U12 teams.

    Thankfully, I don't do this sort of work anymore--my kids are in college! Last time was about three years ago.

    Good luck!

    John
  • Brett1000Brett1000 Major grins https://www.flickr.com/photos/photoscw/Posts: 816Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 6, 2016
    Wiren wrote: »
    Thanks for the response John. Well, I am already pretty much set in stone for shooting this year.

    As others have told me, this will probably be a fruitless venture, but I guess I have to prove that to myself.... I typically make about between $60-100 off of my team alone... so I am hoping that if that trend stays true, I could see at least $1800 and hopefully $3k or more.... sounds like from what you and many others on Fred Miranda's tell me, it is not likely.

    There was the idea floated on Fred Miranda's site that the only way to ensure money on this is to have the league add a specified charge (say $20) per player upon sign up that would go to the photographer of the action shots (me)... at about 450 kids, that would ensure 9k.... minus whatever expenses I may have...... and the idea with that was to make discs of each teams shot for the kids or offer them online for free download.....

    Appreciate your thoughts on this.

    Lee

    yeah, from what I've heard it's tough to make money off kid's sports - probably because everyone has a camera !

    16920979965_30ee721c7b_b.jpg
  • johngjohng Sports Shooter Posts: 1,658Registered Users Major grins
    edited May 6, 2016
    Brett1000 wrote: »
    yeah, from what I've heard it's tough to make money off kid's sports - probably because everyone has a camera !
    It's not just that - it's how people utilize photos now. Let's face it - if you actually print photos - how many action shots do you really need of your kid? There was a novelty market for this a decade ago. And it was something new so it really took off. Now, not only has that novelty worn off, but images are now not printed as much as shared via social media. So, it's more about RIGHT NOW as the image will be posted and forgotten about in a day, to be replaced by new images of what is happening RIGHT NOW in that person's life. With such a consumption model, paying for content makes no sense.

    That combined with everyone having a camera and so many teams having a parent photographer with a DSLR and giving away the photos - it's just too difficult to find the few customers that still are willing to pay for quality results.

    Very different than markets where the output is still PRINTED photos - senior pictures, T&I sports, portrait, wedding, etc.
Sign In or Register to comment.