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Starting Out
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Starting Out

Hello All,

I think I am close to giving the pro route a go. This would be a side business for me (can't leave current job for a variety of reasons) and I am just looking for some advise.

The business would focus mostly on individual sporting events, individual kids/athletes and perhaps the entire team for the game. I am not looking to get into T/I photos, just the action shots. I have been doing this for a short time, even getting some senior photos from it, just figured it was time to make it official.

I am looking for contracting advise or templates, best practices etc.

Any help would be appreciated.


Jun 29, 2017 at 05:13 PM
CMYK Designs
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Starting Out

A while back, I partnered with a local Police Athletic League to shoot indoor youth ice hockey tournaments. All of the games were shot at a local rink, and I set up to shoot, PP and print right there, while they were a captive audience. I would sell single shots, picture packages and create collages in PS while they waited.
It was a lot of work, but made a fair dollar in the end. BTW, the younger kids from very young adolescent to mid teens sold the best....once the kids are older or can drive themselves, the "parental" emotional purchase attraction is lost.

Jun 29, 2017 at 06:26 PM
Michael White
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Starting Out

I did events about a decade ago and did much better when my daughter manned the sales table while I shot. My problem was I would shoot every run the contestant did then try to sell when alone. You really need to be able to shoot , send images to computer, retouch/cull them and be ready to sell before the event is over, one guy couldn't do it then.maybe today with wifi built in to cameras you could send them to a NAS, and setup a kiosk for them to view the images and take orders but no way to cull/retouch as you shoot.the contestants said do it online so they could order later never sold a single image that way luckily I went with a free site so I was only out time. If you going pro hire a retouched and salesman on commission the returner gets x per image the retouched get x percent of profit unless they provide equipment.

Jun 29, 2017 at 11:41 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Starting Out

Not going to be what you want to hear but what you NEED to hear and hopefully take some heed of IF you are serious about this.

On that note, what is your real goal here?
Are you going into it because you like taking pictures and think of it as an enjoyable hobby and maybe you might make some pocket money to pay for gear or are you actually looking at is as a REAL and proper Business?

The answer to that question makes all the difference.

If it's something you want to do purely for fun, terriffic. You can do what you want, do not need to worry about making profit, the amount you make as an hourly, what you spend or anything else. If this is what you want to do, not a problem.
Just don't try and call your indulgence a business, call it what it is, a Hobby. Nothing wrong with that Unless you try to kid yourself it's something it is not.
You'll get much less satisfaction out of it if you do that and there is no need to try and justify anything.

-IF- you are serious about it being a business and giving business like returns and operating it as such, then that is an entirely different and more serious thing.
If you even have an inkling that you don't have to do all that business " stuff" like business plans, researching the market, worrying about opportunities in the market, costs etc because "You like taking pictures" then don't try and kid anyone it's a business, most of all don't try and kid yourself. It will be a hobby and that's fine as long as you recognise that.

Now assuming it is a real business you want to run, first thing I'd severely question is why do you want to do sports and particularly action shots? Any answer that hints at " Because you like it" is a lead gong and you should recognise you just described a hobby.
The ONLY reason you should want to shoot anything, particularly sports and action sports work at that as a business is because you recognise an opportunity to fill a niche and make profit from that.
You may like shooting it but that should be down the list over Business/ profitability concerns.

Sports is tough. Action is Real tough. To make a dollar from that is. If you want to just take pretty pictures to put up here for oooh's and ahhhs, Target rich environment. There are a lot of experienced players on this board that have been pretty significant and shrew players in the sports photo game that have given it away. You need to respect that and ask yourself how you are going to succeed where others have decided that the returns no longer justified the investment in the many levels that apply.

While the market is saturated with Competition from people like yourself, they are secondary to the Mums and Dads with Kit SLR's and Iphoneys. Yes, we all know even as a beginner in the market you can probably out shoot them and produce pics that will leave theirs for dead all day long and to presume that is the key to your success would in fact be the absolute reason you WILL fail.

The quality factor went out the window years ago. The key influence in this market is price and ability to get what the parents cannot get themselves.
I would normally argue against price being a factor in most other markets but I know different in this one. I'm not talking about whether you charge $10 or $15, I'm talking about if you charge ANYTHING at all.

There are guys right here that are producing stuff that damn near brings a tear to my eye and makes me green with envy at their skills. There are also people producing quality work and have tried all sorts of marketing from basic to brilliant and the majority of them could make more per hour behind the counter at 7-11.
It's not about the quality and it's not always about the moment or a lot of other things. You really have to asses the market you are looking at. The far and best way to do this is go somewhere and TALK to the people there.

When I did sports I made sure to talk to as many parents and senior participants as I could. I asked questions about that they liked. I made up stories to see what their reaction and feedback would be and I busted a gut to get inside their heads and understand their real wants and what pushed their buttons even when they didn't know. And I did it EVERY single time out.
Ask the question. They will soon tell you.

I was successful while I did it not because of any wonderful photography, I'm average at best, but I made good money and paid my investment back in my trailer and every dollar I sank into the setup in the first 3 of the quiet season months because I asked questions and gave the paying customers what THEY wanted as best I could. Stuff whether I think it's a good photo or way to do it. The objective was for them to pull their money out their pocket and give it to me, not for me to subsidise myself.

I'm not saying you can't make money from sports and events because there are people doing very well from it but I am saying it's about as far away from easy and straightforward as you can get.
When it comes to Business I think it's safe to say I'm a lot more cluey than the average shooter and have put in infinitely more time than most learning about business principles. Sales, marketing, advertising etc. Because of this knowledge and as a business person that isn't interested in anything unless there is a GOOD return in it, there are only a couple of things I'd look at doing in the sports/ events market and they would require manpower, investment in resources and effort I am not and could never see myself motivated enough to bring together.

The bottom line is, as tough as photography overall may be, there are a lot better opportunities than the sports market. With the exception of the landscape/ art market, sports would be about the last thing I'd look at myself and I did it for several years. My fear if you like, is not because I had to give it away because of lack of returns, but because I saw so many other people a lot smarter than I go down the same path. It's like if they couldn't pull it off with what they did and where they are, how the fk am I going to do it? Some may call that defeatist, I call it reality.

The answer was I couldn't pull money out the market the way it changed so I got out and then found something far better that I wish I had done all along!
I'm all for doing what should not be able to be done and I have certainly achieved that over the years but there are some brick walls of reason, circumstance and reality that are not going to give way for any amount of positive thinking that ends up being kidding ones self.

Now Please don't think I am trying to put you off this, be assured of it!
Most of all, prove me wrong. When you do I'll pester you endlessly until you tell me how you have managed it and what formula you came up with.

Before You do ANYTHING more, you need to do your homework.
First thing I'd say is can the parents take pictures similar to those you will take yourself? Ie, what is the access like? If it's kids on a football field, forget it. You can have pics of the sweat droplet on the end of their nose with your long lens and they will pass on that justifying the pic on their iphoney where you can't tell if it's their kid or a spot of fly dirt on the screen 9 times out of 10.

What is the pay to play cost of what you want to cover? If it's $5 a game for footy or soccer or whatever, that's another big strike. If it's equine where the horse, gear and things like trailer etc is a $20K investment plus $100 in fuel to get there and back home or even ? $300-$1000 a term for ballet lessons, Now you are in the right ballpark!

Is anyone else shooting this work? If so, what are they charging? A decent amount or are they giving the farm away because " They like taking pictures" Or " People won't pay anymore in this area". If the market has been bastardised and conditioned to an unrealistic price level, you'd want to be a lot better than I am at marketing to go in and try making a buck on soiled ground like that no matter what you do.
What can you do that they are not?
What do the potential clients actually want to see? Chances are and I'd put a lot of money on it, if I got a list from them and one from you of what the clients want to see in their pictures, the lists would be miles away.
Like I was discussing recently, when I shot horses they couldn't even give a damn if the pic was in Focus. As long as that horses ears and tail were in the right position, in their eyes it was a winner and they DID buy them. Too many times!
You're probably thinking of all the great technical merit you can bring to bear on these events and while logical, it would also be off the mark as to filling the need the clients have.

After you have taken the pics, whats your marketing plan? If you are going to put them on a site on the net for them to buy, it's a hobby because the chances of you getting any sort of returns to call it a business are next to none. You can watermark pics till you can't see what the subject is any longer and they will still steal them... if you get them to look in the first place.
If you were to say how else can I do them in this game and there was no other way, I'd say that's your answer right there, there is no merit to the market, go do something else. There are other ways like prepaid, all inclusive for the team and other things you could look up here.

The best advise I could give you it to write a business plan.
Oh yeah, I know, this is a simple thing and you don't need to go to all that trouble and seriousness.
Except for the fact you absolutely, unequivocally, imperatively DO.

Look online and find a template and work through it. It will bring up so many questions and make you think about so much that you would never have thought of... till it was possibly too late. You will come across simple things and the 2volt light will come on and you'll think "Ship, I never thought about that!" and you'll be forced to come up with a solution before you get too far into it. You may well also find that you find flaws in your original ideas or recognise much better opportunities doing something slightly different.

My original sports market was going to be Dogs. I even applied for and became the Official photographer for the biggest and pretty much only dog sports organisation in the state. That was about 9? years ago and I still haven't taken a single frame of a dog sport to this day.

After all my grand Ideas and planning, took me one trip out to an event and a few conversations with with owners/ participants to realise that was going to be a lame duck. Pretty clear that Dog owners weren't big photo buyers for a number of reasons the 2 main ones being they tended to be older tightarses and, they could take their own pics all day long every day including during competitions.
I got an opportunity with the horses so went for that. Had big dreams of where I could take it but even having the biggest on site View station and printing setup in the country was not near enough to realise that ambition and there was NO sport I could go to that would improve the returns I was making. What I did was successful and Profitable, it was just never going to reach the level of what shooters in the states did with our much smaller population here.

I am going after limited T&I this year because it IS a good money earner for me. There are plenty of clubs I can go after and I can offer them things others do not to make bundle the rest of the competition into more of a me or all the rest type deal rather than them or them or them or ..... me.
And it's not the size of the packages or price I compete on and push. Its things that I understand in what clubs/ the decision makers are looking for that I am amazed so many others don't.

Now, if you get that far, don't make the endlessly repeated mistake of under pricing your products with the flawed notion of starting out cheap till you get more established and then putting your prices up later.
I can't express my real feelings about that idea for risk of insulting so many that do this.
No, stuff it, they need to be insulted and woken up for their own good. It's an idiotic and moronic idea that defies any rational logic. It is a perfect example of why shooters should spend more time looking at and educating themselves in business principals than masturbating over what useless hand holding feature the next new toy is going to have in a years time or debating bullshit over the possible 1/20th of a stop of light fall off on the bottom left hand corner of a lens for a camera they don't even own.

Don't go into this unrealistically. Do your homework, ask the questions and treat it as a business in all aspects.... Unless you are only wanting to earn tiddly wink money as a hobby and then you can forget all I have ranted on about and just go have some fun with it!

Jun 30, 2017 at 07:13 AM

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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Starting Out


Forget about shooting anything on Spec (speculation), the market doesn't support it.

Don't forget to count all your time... From the time you leave your house until the time you get home, culling and PP time. I would say I can cull 400 photos eliminating any oof, or cut off players etc, and do minimal edits (truing vertical, exposure, cropping (to make better than MWAC) in about two hours, and to kick off the upload to a website for distribution. So maybe 30 min travel each way to a two hour game gets you to five hours, and any sales or marketing time.

Don't forget to include other real costs- gas/tolls, camera maintenance and repairs (shutter replacement due to higher usage), increased likelihood of dropping equipment necessitating a repair etc. Plus extra computer storage cost per year, plus insurance, and even a backup camera.

Shouldn't be too hard to get a team to pay a commissioned fee for a game of action shots and one team photo for about $300-$500 to get the jpegs. At the lower end, you'll be at $60/hr minus expenses.

Jul 01, 2017 at 03:40 AM
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Starting Out

glort has pretty much covered it but the two takeaways I would add are:

if you are looking at this as a real business then from day 1, track expenses and taxable items (and keeping receipts!) because the last thing you want is to meet a tax man who starts asking about income and tax paid - once you get on their wrong side it can be a nightmare. It is also a very good discipline to get in case the business takes off and shows how viable any further move to paid work can be.

Second, is a successful business is less about image quality and more about getting on with people. How many times do I hear professional photographers complain they spend less than 20% of their time actually taking photographs? I have seen (and know) mediocre photographers who are successful because they can manage people and sell themselves; just as I have known technically gifted photographers who can do neither and failed miserably in business.

Through our local photo club I have met a couple of retired people who started photography, taking pictures at local events (school sports,local sports clubs) and got a reputation as someone who would help out, and started to get invited to go on team trips for free beer, free food and some pocket money. That now pays for his gear upgrades but he is by no means a full time pro.

Good luck whichever way you go and I hope it succeeds.

Jul 03, 2017 at 02:47 PM
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Starting Out

Not to discourage you, but I doubt you will be able to make it worth your time. I wish you the best and please keep us updated.

Jul 31, 2017 at 02:07 AM

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