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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Great post by John Harrington
Dave Rossman, Photographer
Houston | TX | USA | Posted: 11:00 AM on 10.15.07
->> Check out John's post about the CalSport Media classified ad.

http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com/

He speaks the truth. I wish more young shooters would listen.
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Palm Springs | CA | USA | Posted: 11:06 AM on 10.15.07
->> I saw that ad and was thinkng the same things that John wrote. But good for John, he said something about it and has a broad enough audience to get some people to pay attention!
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Darren Carroll, Photographer
Cedar Creek (Austin) | TX | USA | Posted: 1:56 PM on 10.15.07
->> Here's a link to the whole thing, without having to go to the "jump:"

http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com/2007/10/from-are-you-kidding-me-depa...

To anyone who ever even thinks about "working" for an any "wire service" (or whatever they're calling themselves in an attempt to sound legit) that doesn't pay you for your time, experience, expenses, and talent, please: READ THAT POST.

I loved this part:

"No doubt, several people have already responded, giving credence to the person who coined the phrase "there's a sucker born every minute", even two centuries later."

Actually, there are two suckers in this case: The photographer who buys into this crap, and the Sports Information Director who falls for, and approves, the credential request.

Hopefully those of us who care about this issue can find a way to educate both of them.
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Andrew Knapik, Photographer, Assistant
Lincoln Park | MI | USA | Posted: 1:59 PM on 10.15.07
->> Can someone please copy the post here, my ISP at work will not let me visit a blog.
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 4:22 PM on 10.15.07
->> Phillip, what makes you think there will be well paying or just paying assignments in the future? If companies can get people like yourself and others looking to get a foot in door, to shoot them on spec, why would they pay more?
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Jared Dort, Photographer
The Wu | AZ | usa | Posted: 5:02 PM on 10.15.07
->> The Hebrew meaning of the word "soul" is one's mind, will and emotions.

I think that fits here when John says "selling your soul". What you are actually doing is letting someone else think for you, or tricking yourself into thinking spec is OK.

Don't kid yourself folks, it's not fair to you.
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Scott Greenlee, Photographer, Photo Editor
Crescent Springs | KY | United States | Posted: 5:55 PM on 10.15.07
->> That's why John Harrington is my new Hero!
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Philipp von Ditfurth, Student/Intern, Photographer
Staufen | B-W | Germany | Posted: 6:04 PM on 10.15.07
->> The agency I´m doing that work for does hire photographers on a spec-base only.
That has one major benefit to it: I don´t have to do the assignment if I don´t want or don´t need to.

And I never thought of sticking with them in the long term, really. A friend of mine recently called them "that kamikaze agency", that´s not too wrong if you ask me.
They earn most of their money with paparazzi-pictures and such stuff - and that´s not quite what I call good photojournalism.
I´m already in the changing process, since I need to shift my focus to more reliable assignments/clients. Time to grow up...
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Andrew Knapik, Photographer, Assistant
Lincoln Park | MI | USA | Posted: 8:06 AM on 10.16.07
->> I fianally had a chance to read the post by John Harrington. Thanks John. I have never really thought of spec work that way before. I am pretty new to the field of photography, as it is a second job (and passion) for me.

THis post really opens your eyes to what people expect from spec shooters. I have often thought about contacting CSM, and other agencies that have shooters shoot on spec. After reading this post, it makes me think about why I would ever want to do that.

Darren, thanks for the link to the post.
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 10:04 AM on 10.16.07
->> Well don't I look silly now that Phillip's original post to this thread has been deleted, probably due to the cut and paste of John's entire blog post. Phillip had said that he was taking spec work now as a student becuase, basically, he was getting his foot in the door and he had very little expenses. He said that he was moving towards getting payings jobs.

I was not trying to pick on Phillip, I just wanted to point out that if more and more companies keep getting shooters to work on spec, it would get tougher to find paying jobs.

So I guess that is why I got the Huhs.
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Alan Look, Photographer
Bloomington | IL | United States | Posted: 10:50 AM on 10.16.07
->> http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/340

One of the best articles I've ever read.
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Chris Condon, Photographer, Photo Editor
Ponte Vedra Bch | FL | USA | Posted: 4:10 PM on 10.16.07
->> Why does everyone think you have to have tear-sheets of major-league sports to get work?
I spent most of my post-college years covering anything but! It not the subject matter, it's how you see the world.
I'm much more impressed by someone who spends the time documenting something like a local high-school season/athlete/team and really taking you inside the story. That kind of access doesn't exist at the pro level where everyone has an agent and you're lucky to get more than 10 minutes with an athlete! Most editors can see a good eye in whatever the subject matter is. If you're going to shoot for free, make it something with substance that will define you as an artist, not just another 400mm on a monopod!
Saying you'll work on spec for opportunities down the road rings hollow since we all know the only real opportunity is to get more work for no pay.
No one is saying there's an easy way to become established. Most of those here who are, spent many years shooting very un-glamorous assignments and building solid business practices and good working relationships. No shortcuts!
Is it a tough time to be a sports photographer? Yes! Is the market drying up and being taken over by mega-agencies? Yes! Will video kill the still photog? Hopefully not.
If you compare your photography business to any other "storefront" type of venture (ie computer store), would you give away your product for free, or in hopes that someone will send you money down the road? There is no difference in the business of selling photography.
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Matthew Holst, Photographer
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 5:25 PM on 10.16.07
->> Chris,

ditto
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Steve King, Photographer
Ann Arbor | MI | USA | Posted: 8:57 AM on 10.17.07
->> Alan,
Thanks for digging up that "old" article, that is a good read and I gave you an informative on that one.
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Ben Munn, Photographer
Elk Grove | Ca | USA | Posted: 2:49 PM on 10.17.07
->> Interesting to see so many people rallying against spec. I am going to go against the grain here and talk about what spec shooting has done for me personally. Some of you obviously have a different view and that is fine. The point of a debate though is to at least hear each side. I hope people will keep an open mind.

First off, I understand the argument. Hold out for work, don't shoot spec. It takes away jobs from other photographers, it hurts the industry. Is that really true any more though? Honestly, between Getty and AP, I doubt that many places are itching to send salaried photographers to many events. Newspapers are drying up and I personally believe that this has much more to do with the instant access of the Internet versus the physical newspaper that is two steps behind. Honestly, if you want to know who won the Indians/Red Sox game, do you wait for tomorrow's paper or hop on the net and check the score?

How many fulltime jobs for shooting sports are really out there? The consensus seems to be that people shoot spec when they should try to get a full time salaried job instead. Is that really a realistic approach for shooting pro sports? Spec shooting is almost exclusively for the bigger events like NCAA football, NFL, MLB. How many full time jobs are available to do this?

The market has changed. No longer are we dealing with the old constraints that made it make so much sense to have staff photographers. The Internet, wireless transmitting, real-time availability of images etc. has turned this world upside down. The sheer number of people at the biggest games coupled with the number of images available from Getty, AP, Cal Sport, Presswire etc. makes it a no brainer. If you needed an image from the Raiders/Chargers game, would you rather pay a photographer to shoot the game + expenses or pick up a photo from a wire service. Just because the first option is better for photographers doesn't mean that the newspaper or magazine is going to be compelled to do it. I am sure Kodak would have loved for digital to go away so they could keep selling film. The market obviously chose to go with digital though. Do we keep telling photographers not to shoot spec because we are holding on to what the sports photography world used to be but not what it is today? By telling people not to shoot spec, is it going to suddenly make the wire agencies go away?

I have shot for Cal Sport for about four months. I have a different perspective because this type of shooting is basically a third job. I have a day job and photography wise my main source of income comes from youth sports. Cal Sport allows me access to games where I have a decent opportunity to sell images. I don't have the time to work at this anywhere near fulltime at the pro level. I also don't have the time to try and market the images nor do I have the contacts even if I had the time. The last thing I want right now is a $50K job in full time photography. Spec shooting fits my personal needs exactly. It allows me to shoot just the events that I want and it gives me a good avenue to sell images. I realize this isn't for everyone. I wouldn't expect someone who works full time in the business to want to trade that job for spec shooting. I would expect them to at least understand it as a viable option to some people though. For my type of shooting and my availability, is there a better option?

For me, Cal Sport has sold images on my behalf and has gotten me published a couple times in SI and ESPN the Magazine. That isn't something that would have happened for me without them. In addition, it helps my youth sports business because I actively shooting at the pro level. These are things that are a benefit to me and my business. I realize that this may not have value for others here but I would at least expect people to respect that it does work for some. It seems those that shoot on spec are looked at the pariahs. Harbingers of doom to the sport photography world. Spec shooters fill a need. It may not be a need that you want to acknowledge but the business of sports photography does recognize it. If not, we would not have so many companies vying to fill that need.

Just my thoughts. YMMV.
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Andrew Dolph, Photographer
Medina | OH | USA | Posted: 4:06 PM on 10.17.07
->> Ben,

I'm going to defend newspapers here for a minute because I think the entire point of reading a newspaper has been overlooked through your rhetorical analysis of why newspapers are "... drying up" in relation to your response in defense of spec shooting.

You said, "Newspapers are drying up and I personally believe that this has much more to do with the instant access of the Internet versus the physical newspaper that is two steps behind." I have several things to say about your statement.

Last night after finishing my assignments and filing my prep-sports pictures, I headed home, made a bonfire, and listened to the Indians vs. Red Sox game on the radio over beers with a few friends. We swapped stories, listened to the play by play, and after the game was over I went to bed. Woke up the next morning and picked up a copy of the Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon Journal, Medina Gazette, and USA Today. Why? Because I wanted to read thoughtful analysis of the game accompanied by good pictures made by both staff photographers and wire photographers alike, not because I wanted to know the score. Even if I didn't get the opportunity to listen, or watch the game, I wouldn't be looking to the newspapers for a score. And guess what? Much of the readership of all four newspapers mentioned feel much the same way. Don't forget about a large cross section of our aging populous who don't care to surf the internet, either.

Secondly, the really old and tired argument that newspapers are "...two steps behind" is I think an uneducated argument for the difficulties that newspapers are experiencing in today's market. Newspapers will almost always be beat out by television and radio, so long as all three mediums are publishing/broadcasting the same event. Just because a news organization can trump itself with coverage on the internet over physical newsprint doesn't necessarily mean it should. No doubt the internet is a powerful and important medium, just as newspapers are. What we are currently struggling with stems from the insatiable need for up-to-the nanosecond thrust of information down our throats that isn't necessarily as effective or evocative as what is published in newspapers. This struggle speaks volumes about our society and the need for instant gratification. And so, if the cost-cutting and deep gouging by news organizations, wire agencies, or services is indicative of market demand, perhaps this is why we're witnessing a swarm of spec shooters into our market. Just because you can, Ben, doesn't mean you should.

Finally, you say "First off, I understand the argument. Hold out for work, don't shoot spec. It takes away jobs from other photographers, it hurts the industry. Is that really true any more though?" Not be an ass ... but, yes, it is true. Otherwise, John Harrington wouldn't continue to address the issue online, at NPPA events, or in books. Otherwise Mark Loundy wouldn't continue to write about the problem in Newsphotographer Magazine. Otherwise, we wouldn't be talking about the problem of spec shooting vs. freelance vs. staff positions in social circles and message boards.

Best,

- Andrew
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Colin Lenton, Photographer, Assistant
Philadelphia | PA | United States | Posted: 4:17 PM on 10.17.07
->> Ben,
I don't think that anyone is arguing that you should "full-time" shoot pro sports.

John's point, and everyone else's point, is that there is value in your images. Which you should know because you have had sales to some big time magazines. So if there is value there, why is Cal Sports not sharing in any of the financial risk of sending you to a game?

They should be. They should be paying you at minimum a premium to travel to the game, to own the proper equipment to cover the game, to have the knowledge to shoot the game well and transmit it in a timely fashion, to have health insurance, gear insurance, business liability insurance, etc. etc.

Why not try and shoot these games for someone else who WILL pay you a decent assignment rate to be there, and on top of that STILL get you sales?

It isn't just better for you - it is better for all of us. And I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that we (collectively) appreciate anyone who is not (for lack of a better term) selling out so cheaply.
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Ben Munn, Photographer
Elk Grove | Ca | USA | Posted: 4:43 PM on 10.17.07
->> Andrew first let me say thank you for a civilized response. After writing my original post, I was not sure what to expect but in the back of my mind was thinking of pitchforks and fire.

Your point about newspapers is well taken. I would counter only with the idea that while a newspaper has merit, you can still get many of the same things in an online article. You can read thoughtful analysis, view photos etc. and often times much sooner than in a typical daily. While I respect that many people still appreciate the newspaper, I also submit that a large portion of the population has become an instant gratification, give it to me now society. Additionally, online offers coverage of events outside our own area. If I want analysis of a game or event outside my home area or even in another country, the Internet provides that. It would be far too costly and time consuming to try to get a newspaper or print magazine that had a scope similar to the Internet.

Again I will bring up the idea that because people don't want something to happen or are against the idea of it, this is not enough to stop it, if it makes business sense. The post office would rather you send letters than emails, the mom and pop store wishes you wouldn't shop at Wal-Mart or Target, the brick and mortar store wishes Amazon.com didn't exist. The truth of the matter is that times change. Business dictates what works and what doesn't. Spec shooting meets a need. While it is very unpopular with a large group of photographers, it does make business sense. Simply writing books or articles condemning it is not going to change history. It's here and it probably isn't going away.

For me, I find it a fascinating discussion. What would a person that was not invested in either side say about it? The bottom line for me is it works. No matter what John or anyone else says, it doesn't change that fact.

Colin to address your point, it's fairly simple. In a perfect world maybe all of that would happen. Honestly though, point me to someone who is going to do that for me while still working within the parameters that I have set. Again remember that I don't want a fulltime job doing this. I don't want to cover every event. I set my schedule and if this wasn't working for me, I would walk away.

The common theme that keeps coming up over and over again is basically this: Why I shouldn't shoot spec because of how it affects others and the industry. Honestly, if I stopped shooting spec tomorrow, how would that help anyone? There's someone right behind me waiting to take that spot and their always will be. Really the bottom line is this. What I do should not affect you. If you are best shooter out there, you will rise to the top. 10,000 spec shooters won't change that. What I am trying to get across is the industry that everyone is trying to protect has changed. There are less jobs out there and not because of spec shooters. There's a reason why the NBA has a contract with Getty, a reason why AP provides subscription images to everyone. How serious would I be taken if I asked AP to stop doing that because it is hurting the photography business and my sales? I can't sell an image because everyone is already getting them from AP, do you think they would care. They aren’t concerned with the industry as a whole or how their business plan affects photographers. They are interested in their own bottom line. Which brings me back to my original point. Spec is working for me. When it stops being useful, I will stop shooting.
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Steve King, Photographer
Ann Arbor | MI | USA | Posted: 4:53 PM on 10.17.07
->> Andrew,

I'm siding with Ben here, so line me up in your sights too, and thank you in advance for being thoughtful, civilized, and professional with your response to Ben (me too?).

BTW, many of the images I've posted here were shot on "spec" meaning give back to the community type of work for some small colleges and high schools. I also made money on them from parents and relatives of the players as a part of my long term plan, so don't brand me as someone who gives away his work. Just ask my kids if I EVER give anything away and they'll tell you NO in an instant.

One side note, in Ben's follow up he says that spec is working for him, and me too. My business model is similar to his with a few twists.
I also haven't sold a few images because the AP or Getty provided something very similar to the local papers, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and ESPN the MAG in separate cases that I have documentation for. Was I ticked? Yeah, but I know that can and will happen, and that I'm providing content at least as good as these guys/gals too.

on with it...

--"Secondly, the really old and tired argument that newspapers are "...two steps behind" is I think an uneducated argument for the difficulties that newspapers are experiencing in today's market."

His point is not uneducated at all.
In a free market society like the Democratic-Republic country that we live in this is not uneducated, just unbiased from being in the golden handcuffs of a single employer, and not driven by the free market to provide useful goods and services on a daily basis to publish or perish. Most people see that most newspapers and magazines are what they've been for 30+ years or more, besides a fancy remake of the masthead or adding whizzy colors here and there. Being two steps behind is what the perception is.
*** This statement is not meant to demean or put down anything that anyone here does for a living. *** So please don't flame me or shout me down for that.

What I'm saying is that perception is reality for everyone, and your reality is formed from your daily work and lifestyle formed by it. Those "outside" of a staff job who want to do this work really don't have a lot of options other than to give up and cede all this viable work to others, or struggle through shooting spec (or something like it but NOT WFH!) to make something happen. I would love to shoot assignments for the local dailies, magazines, AP, Reuters, Getty, etc., but that's not happening since the dailies have regular staff to pay and keep busy, as does the AP, Getty (don't get me started) and others.

..."This struggle speaks volumes about our society and the need for instant gratification. And so, if the cost-cutting and deep gouging by news organizations, wire agencies, or services is indicative of market demand, perhaps this is why we're witnessing a swarm of spec shooters into our market. Just because you can, Ben, doesn't mean you should. "...

In my 20+ years working and selling in the IT market (computers, software, databases, security, etc.) I've been through a number of large shakeups that make this print industry issue look very familiar. I've gone through a small shake up about every 2yrs, and a major one every 4-5 years, and I've been through FIVE (5) RIFs at Fortune 500 companies during that time, so I know what it's like. These changes are pure hell, and there is nothing you can do to prepare yourself except to be awesome at what you do, stay networked, know your market, stay positive, and be prepared.

All this gnashing of teeth over "spec shooters taking away assignments and our jobs" is one step you have to get over. Work every day like its your last, and prepare every day like it's your first. Put out a good solid, honest, hardworking effort for your employer/client and you will be (re)paid.

As far as whether Ben can, should, or would shoot other than on assignment from a full time employer, why not? He can, he should, and he and others will. I think I will too.
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John Green, Photographer
Redlands | CA | US | Posted: 5:09 PM on 10.17.07
->> Apparently shooting on spec is the SportsShooter equivalent to coming out of the closet during Thanksgiving dinner! Mom, Dad, I shoot on spec, can you ever forgive me?

It always humors me when people Like Darren Carroll and the other “elders” on SS equate working on spec, as working for free, or even worse, as giving images away. I see he is now accusing CSM and other outlets on another site mentioned in this thread, of driving down prices. I can’t speak for anyone other than CSM, but we charge industry standard rates, and we pay the photographers above industry standard rates. Why? Because we understand, and value, the hard work of the photographers that contribute to us. Also, we don’t ask them to do anything, that we aren’t willing to do ourselves. We didn’t invent “shooting on spec” we are just trying to compete to the best of our ability in the current environment. I don’t think a lot of places would be in business if they were paying $400 day rates to their photographers, sad but true. We work tremendously hard to provide opportunities for the photographers that contribute, so if you think it doesn’t cost us anything (as you mentioned on another site) you are sadly mistaken. Our dream was to create the type of Agency/Wire Service that we would like to shoot for. We decided to invest our capital, our time, and our heart and soul, no matter how daunting the task, and take control of our destinies, instead of have the terms dictated to us by others. If that’s destroying the industry, then industry be dammed. Jobs are leaving to China. Small businesses are being decimated by big businesses. The world is changing, adapt and survive!

The ad we placed is honest, and straight-forward. We are looking for a photographer in a certain area, with certain skills, to shoot under certain financial conditions. If this is agreeable to you, great, if not we understand, good luck to you. We believe in being honest and I wish Darren would just come out and speak the truth as well instead of calling people derogatory names for not adhering to his ideals of how the industry should be. I believe the truth is, that this threatens “his livelihood” and he is gravely concerned about “his livelihood.” For that I apologize, it’s not our goal to threaten anyone’s livelihood. Unfortunately, we can’t stop pursuing our goals because they affect your goals and vise versa I’m sure.

There’s the way it should be, and there’s the way it is.
Sgt. Barnes. Platoon
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David Ahntholz, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cleveland | OH | USA | Posted: 5:41 PM on 10.17.07
->> Just because "that's the way it is," doesn't mean "that's the way it ought to be."

Ben:

I think the issue is comparing the costs of doing business, versus the money that you make from sales of the images. To me, comparing the costs of equipment/wear and tear/service contracts/long glass/insurance/repairs/computers/mileage/parking/food/equipment depreciation and my intangibles of time and skill as a photographer, divided into how much the spec assignment (might) pay, make it a no-brainer on whether spec is a smart business decision.

Yes, there are always other intangibles ... things like how you can market your business, or the possibility of future assignments from those who saw the image(s), that are a benefit and tough to monetize. But personally I find it hard to justify unless there is consistent money and work that will cover my costs and pay my salary. Maybe you are making enough from sales that it is a smart business decision.

I don't judge you for doing spec work, but I know that these agencies really do hurt the industry ... and we are helping. Why would any publication pay for coverage (as they used to) when they can get almost unlimited images from spec agencies from any ball game for so little cost?

I don't know a lot about the Cal Sports/Presswire/Icon contracts, but I generally think agencies that ask (or require) so much from a shooter, but give so little in return is a little insulting.

I read John's blog often, and it continually reminds me that we have to value our work (the business of photography) and look out for our own interests first ... and not just get caught-up on the lure of shooting high profile sports.
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Tim Gruber, Student/Intern
Roanoke | VA | USA | Posted: 5:52 PM on 10.17.07
->> http://www.aphotoaday.org/apadnews/2007/09/nospec.html

http://www.no-spec.com/
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Ben Munn, Photographer
Elk Grove | Ca | USA | Posted: 6:29 PM on 10.17.07
->> David, you pose good questions. Again I can only speak specifically for me. I have equipment because I shoot youth sports. I have insurance for the same reason. The cost to shoot a game for me equates to transportation and as you mentioned, wear and tear on the gear. For me it's a great trade off and I have gotten business in my youth sports photography from people seeing images I shot on spec. So again, it has worked out for me.

The way it was is very different from the way it is. The reality is that spec shooting is here, it is a viable option for some photographers and publications use it as a tool to get images. For me, the option is to shoot spec or not shoot at all. I enjoy shooting spec and it has worked out for me. I am sorry if that offends. That's not my intention but at the end of the day I have to look out for what's best for myself, my business and my family as I am sure everyone else is doing here.

David also you mentioned that the wires expect so much from shooters and give so little. For me they have helped me to get images sold and publsihed. I personally feel like the situation has been mutually beneficial. Nobody is forced to do anything they don't want to. If spec doesn't work for you, by all means walk away. When it becomes a liability instead of a benefit, that's what I will do.
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Michael Sackett, Photographer
Sterling Heights | MI | USA | Posted: 6:58 PM on 10.17.07
->> I love the comment by John about "coming out of the closet"...I actually was waiting for Ben to address the issue because I know he's been successful with CSM. I've been shooting for CSM and Icon for about 3 months now and honestly, they are who have given me the break to get into some "big time" venues. Is that everything, no, but I feel that to get my portfolio to a point where the AP, Getty and larger local newspapers will look at me, I need some bigger shots.

I've shot for over 20 years and have done a lot of stuff...weddings, parties, PR and finally the last 3 years I've concentrated on sports and have never loved anything as much as shooting sports. I've read constantly, shot nearly as much and grown in my skills rapidly.

Like Ben, I've made money to buy my equipment from shooting prep and youth sports. Not a lot of money, but enough to buy equipment and pay for a few vacations. Yes, I have a "day job" that pays my bills, but believe me, if I could make $40-50k/year shooting...and not weddings every weekend...I'd be doing it. Unfortunately, I've got a lot of, "you have a very impressive portfolio Mr. Sackett, but is all you shoot high school?" Not from the parents that have supported me...shooting spec...for the last 2+ years, but from the Getty's, Detroit Free Press', etc.

I don't think CSM or Icon really expect too much out of you. They pay for my parking pass and other than gas I'm in and out of the venues with very little cost. I can write the mileage off as a business expense and I get to shoot what I want to be shooting in a well lit venue. Do I yearn for more room like at the local high school gym or field...do I yearn for the crappy lighting or mediocre play...not a chance.

By shooting for the wire services, I've been able to learn how to use Photo Mechanic correctly, write correct captions and transmitting photos quickly after a game. None of that came from my HS shooting experience.

In the end, will I make more shooting prep sports, probably, but I'm also out there waiting for a chance to move to the next level...whether it's for an AP or Getty or a newspaper. Do I think newspapers are dying, yes unfortunately I do. Do I still read a newspaper every day...yes I do. I love to look at the photos..compare my work with the guys I was shooting next to or try to figure out how I could have shot it different.

I want to make money shooting...and I do make some shooting spec...but I really wish people would look at it as a building block toward getting paid.

Flame away...but I am standing behind Ben and Steve.
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Tim Gruber, Student/Intern
Athens | OH | USA | Posted: 8:55 PM on 10.17.07
->> Michael,

I don't even know where to start. You seem like a smart enough guy, but you're saying in order to get some bigger shots you need to be shooting at a "big time" event?

I can't recall the last time I ever looked at a portfolio and said, "Damn only if he or she had more images from the NFL or PAC 10." Good pictures are good pictures just like bad pictures they can be made anywhere. Given the choice I'd take a high school event over a pro event any day.

"you have a very impressive portfolio Mr. Sackett, but is all you shoot high school?"

Really? I find it hard to believe that any editor would dismiss a solid portfolio based on if it was from the pro or the high school level. I don't need to see an image from a pro event to know if you can shoot sports or not.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 9:14 PM on 10.17.07
->> So if I have a really SOLID portfolio of 9 year pop warner football players SI might give me a shot at an NFL game ??
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Steve King, Photographer
Ann Arbor | MI | USA | Posted: 9:29 PM on 10.17.07
->> But Eric,

YOU don't have a solid portfolio of Pop Warner football players, so you're turned down without a doubt from access to SI, sorry. But you can still buy a copy, on newsstands now. What were you thinking? :-)
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 9:42 PM on 10.17.07
->> Actually Steven I get SI free. 20 years back my dad got in on some sort of waiting room magazine list. When I moved my studio the company followed me to my new address. I've been getting Time, Newsweek, SI, AARP, Readers Digest and maybe 10 others for years. Once every six months they change a few titles but for the most part I get the top six or seven mags in the nation and a dozen lessor titles at my studio for free. I keep hoping that MAD makes the list but not yet :)
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Crystal LoGiudice, Student/Intern, Photographer
Rock Island | IL | USA | Posted: 10:12 PM on 10.17.07
->> Tim,

About your comments to what Michael was saying about having photos from bigger sporting events in one's portfolio. I could be wrong but my take on what he was saying is this: Having good photos from larger sporting events in your portfolio shows that you have had the experience covering an event where there are far more obstacles in the way of getting that great shot (whether that be game action or emotion) The difference between shooting a High School sporting event and shooting a professional or large college game is great. Not in how you follow the action or what you choose to shoot, but everything else including parking, getting a spot in the media room, getting around on the sidelines, interacting with other media, dealing with media restrictions (which are always far greater than High School), transmitting photos and not to mention trying to get a unique shot from the 10+ shooters next to you.

Now don't get me wrong I think shooting night High School football or HS basketball and coming back with a great image is more difficult than shooting in a well lit college/NFL stadium or arena. I also think you can get great sports images from any sporting event but having the experience shooting larger college and pro events is important.

Well, that is just my opinion.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 10:20 PM on 10.17.07
->> Crystal VERY well said. You may speak for me anytime.
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Steve King, Photographer
Ann Arbor | MI | USA | Posted: 11:11 PM on 10.17.07
->> So I'm now hating on you Eric, since you're appropriately sarcastically glib AND you get SI, Time, Newsweek and a bunch of others for free. I'd never leave the bathroom.
And now to top it off you also get someone else to speak for you too, and well I might add. You have people. I'm moving to Mass to stalk you. ;-)
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 11:58 PM on 10.17.07
->> David,

I wouldn't use $400 per day as an example of a lot of money. It really depends on how many such days you can bill per year. Most freelancers work 80-100 days a year. At the most, that works out to a gross billing of $40,000. After taking out ordinary business expenses, there's not really that much left that can reasonably be called a salary.

--Mark
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Louis Lopez, Photographer
Fontana | CA | USA | Posted: 12:45 AM on 10.18.07
->> "At the most, that works out to a gross billing of $40,000. After taking out ordinary business expenses, there's not really that much left that can reasonably be called a salary."

Which would bring the freelancers pay more in line with a staff postion at the majority of the papers around the country, at least the freelancers are smart enough to keep the rights to their images.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 1:01 AM on 10.18.07
->> Mark,

What do they do the other 9 or so months of the year?
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Aaron Bernstein, Student/Intern, Photographer
Bloomington | IN | USA | Posted: 1:20 AM on 10.18.07
->> http://www.poy.org/64/06/second_01.php
http://www.poy.org/63/06/second_01.php
http://www.poy.org/63/06/third_01.php

Looking at work like this and noting the recognition it gets makes it pretty clear to me that one doesnt have to shoot big events without having costs covered to advance themselves in this industry. Shooting on spec bottoms out the freelance marketplace, period.
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Dirk Dewachter, Photographer
Playa Del Rey | CA | USA | Posted: 1:37 AM on 10.18.07
->> Work a full time job elsewhere.
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Andrew Villa, Student/Intern, Photographer
San Jose | CA | United States | Posted: 3:00 AM on 10.18.07
->> whoever marked Aaron's post "huh?"

I think Aaron's point is that, you don't need to shoot Pro sports to make great images.
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Michael Sackett, Photographer
Sterling Heights | MI | USA | Posted: 8:52 AM on 10.18.07
->> Crystal's comments are exactly what I'm speaking of. And Andrew, yes your clarification of Aaron's points do make sense.

Crystal's pointing out what people handing out press credentials are thinking makes sense. If I have to hire a guy that's been to larger venues, has no problem conducting himself, isn't asking the pros for autographs, etc....vs. a guy that's new to the biz, has nice pictures, but hasn't experienced that...who are they going to go with. That's what I'm getting when talking to the larger papers. Tim, my portfolio was dismissed because of that reason...believe it or not. Maybe it was a polite way to say your work isn't what we're looking for, but it planted the seed.

Aaron and Andrew, your point is well taken, it doesn't matter who you are shooting for or where you are shooting. A kid crying after a flag football loss can be just as impactful as a pro crying after losing the Super Bowl. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I'd much rather shoot at a lower level where I can show up 10 minutes before the game and only have to deal with the AD of a high school or league president (who won't let you shoot a flag football game from an end zone...I'm still angry about that one).

I just want to be able to work at the next level and based on what I've been told and have experienced...I'm looking for ways to get more experience and have more to show for myself. Am I going to shoot on spec for the next 10 years, nope, but for now I'll do it and take a little heat for it.
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Palm Springs | CA | USA | Posted: 9:30 AM on 10.18.07
->> Is the real issue too many photographers trying to shoot the same things which are the same sports and the same games as everyone else?

Does each photographer actually have something to add that is different?

Essentially it seems to me that it is too much product in the marketplace which drives down prices. That is turn drives down the worth of the photographer.

I truly empathize with the reasons for shooting spec. But I question whether or not it is a sound path. It looks like...

Shooting on spec, making little or no money for a couple of years, to try to get into a marketplace that is already over-saturated where prices and value are also under downward pressure and you will then also make little.

That is just the way it crosses my mind. Personally I would choose a different path and shoot something else.
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Darren Carroll, Photographer
Cedar Creek (Austin) | TX | USA | Posted: 10:04 AM on 10.18.07
->> Michael (and others),

A long time ago, I, too, thought that "big time" stuff in a portfolio was the key to getting freelance work. Various other folks have already pointed out the spuriousness of that contention so I won't belabor the point, but...

If you'll permit me a brief digression here: A few years ago, I took a portfolio to Sports Illustrated. I hadn't really shot for them that much, but I'd assisted for them for years, and thought it was time to show them what I could do. In my portfolio was (in my mind) the most amazing football picture I'd ever taken; A Texas receiver staring over his shoulder, ball on finger tips, defender hanging off him--you get the idea. It had everything. Action. Big-time sport. Impact. Timing. You name it. Yeah, I was ready. This picture proved it. I couldn't wait until the editors saw it.

Steve Fine took a brief glance at it and said, "So what? I get this from Tielemans every week." Then he flipped the page. End of discussion.

The moral of that story? If you want to walk into S.I., or Getty, or any other place that sees a ton of sports images on a daily basis, with a portfolio of pro football quarterbacks dropping back in the pocket, running backs coming though the line, baseball players hitting a ball, or Tiger Woods following though on a tee shot, all of them in there solely because they're from "big time" sports or of big name athletes, you do so at your own peril. Nobody cares. Instead, show a portfolio amazing behind-the-scenes high school images that blow people away. Trust me--nobody's going to ask about your ability to pick up a credential at will-call or find the high-speed line in the media center. What matters is what is reflected in your work, no matter the subject--your talent, your vision, your ability to utilize light and shadow and color and composition to communicate visually.

Now, if you still think you MUST be able to prove a familiarity with big-time events to make yourself more marketable, I wholeheartedly suggest that, rather than running around sinking money into equipment and shooting for free for "agencies" that want nothing more than to take advantage of your inexperience and burning desire to get into "big" events, that you consider assisting.

Yes, assisting. Contact photographers in your area. Offer your services. Everything I learned about the inner-workings of "big time" events--from the Final Four to the Stanley Cup and NBA finals to pro and college football, I learned not while shooting, but while assisting--both in college and, afterwards, for S.I. I also met some amazing photographers and editors along the way, and established many relationships that, to this day, are the bedrock of my career. How's that for the "building block" that you're looking for?

You're looking for experience? You want to see how things work behind the scenes, and to reassure editors that you can function at these "big time" events? As an assistant, you can. And you can get paid to do it, too--paid for your time, effort, and talents. Up front and guaranteed.
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Michael Sackett, Photographer
Sterling Heights | MI | USA | Posted: 10:05 AM on 10.18.07
->> "That is just the way it crosses my mind. Personally I would choose a different path and shoot something else."

Ian, point well taken and maybe that's where I'll head. I have the luxury of shooting spec and still have a full time job that pays my bills. I would trade my full time job for a full time shooting job in a second, but it hasn't worked out that way yet.

Eventually I'm sure if things don't pan out, I will look for other avenues in photography. Sports shooting is where my passion is right now and I want to improve and hopefully along the way fall into the right thing for me. I can't say I have the same passion when I shoot a wedding or PR event.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 10:11 AM on 10.18.07
->> ->> Is the real issue too many photographers trying to shoot the same things which are the same sports and the same games as everyone else?

Ian I agree with you, and yet when any attempt is made to cut the number of photographers at an event and issue imagery from a central or pool source holy hell breaks out. Everyone agrees that there should be a reduction in the number of photogs on a sideline they just believe that THEY shouldn't be the one removed. It's always the other 3 people on the line that don't belong there.
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Michael Sackett, Photographer
Sterling Heights | MI | USA | Posted: 10:21 AM on 10.18.07
->> "What matters is what is reflected in your work, no matter the subject--your talent, your vision, your ability to utilize light and shadow and color and composition to communicate visually."

Darren - this is probably the best piece of advice garnered out of this whole discussion.
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Steve King, Photographer
Ann Arbor | MI | USA | Posted: 10:26 AM on 10.18.07
->> Ditto, for both Eric and Michael.
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Palm Springs | CA | USA | Posted: 11:31 AM on 10.18.07
->> I would like to point out another thread just started by Brian Schneider. And I in no way wish to diminish or demean Brian in any way. It is just an example of the diminished value placed on photography. Only one of many I am sure.

http://www.sportsshooter.com/message_display.html?tid=26869
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Marie Hughes, Photographer
Fremont | CA | USA | Posted: 1:22 PM on 10.18.07
->> Michael you say "I have the luxury of shooting spec and still have a full time job that pays my bills. I would trade my full time job for a full time shooting job in a second, but it hasn't worked out that way yet"

Can't you see the contradiction here? The reason that you can't trade your full-time job for a ft shooting job is that there are too many people like you who don't have to make a living from shooting and so shoot on spec.

I don't think shooting on spec is always evil. If you know your market and know you can recoop your expenses and have some profit left over taking a spec job, then go for it. But too many people who shoot on spec do so with the idea that they aren't going to make money *now* doing that, but that some day, somehow, this will lead to some sort of job that can pay the bills. But for every person it does work out this way for, there are thousands of others for whom it doesn't.

Wishful thinking isn't a business plan, but for most people the idea that low- to no-paying spec work leads to good-paying work is wishful thinking, plain and simple.
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Chris Condon, Photographer, Photo Editor
Ponte Vedra Bch | FL | USA | Posted: 4:50 PM on 10.18.07
->> OK, so you shoot major-league sports on spec for whatever personal reason you have. You admit that it's not for the money as you have other sources of income. Let's look at it another way. I'm not trying to be a smart-ass, just point out another perspective.
Consider your reaction if someone came in to do your day job "on spec". They'll work all the hours you do, supply all their own equipment and materials, produce quality results and the boss only has to pay for finished product they actually use. After all, it's only a hobby for them! How does that affect your career?
If we are talking about youth sports, how about the "Mom with a Rebel" who starts shooting games and giving pics to all the other moms... I've heard that can get pretty ugly.
We are talking about photography as a business, not a hobby correct?
If you are taking spec assignments because of the "cool factor", you are not advancing your career.
If you truly want to gain experience, I second Darren's suggestion. Good assistants are hard to find. If you want to see how it all really works, learn from those who have already been there. Would you gain more spending a week working for Darren, Robert Beck et-al covering a golf tournament, or chasing Tiger by yourself?
I'll also reiterate that I'd much rather see a portfolio full of non-famous subjects portrayed with a great vision than a re-hashed SI cover.
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Mark Peters, Photographer
Highland | IL | USA | Posted: 4:57 PM on 10.18.07
->> And hoping that the competitive universe able and willing to provide a substitute for the same work that one does remains small - thus artificially cutting supply and inflating the compensation of the fortunate few left - when entry into that profession is relatively easy, suitable alternatives in many forms are readily available and the end use customer is willing to accept (and pay for)a level of quality that is less than the art produced by the highest performers, is also wishful thinking, plain and simple.

Other than one devined as a simple tax shelter, name me a single small business that starts life with the expectation of losing money forever. There are many however that expect to lose money for a period of time before becoming profitable. How many of those businesses are profitable out the gate? How many of them struggle to make a name for themselves, to gain the entry into the market that is necessary to establish a base business. Of course spec shooting is an acceptable business model, just as any speculative business is. How many small businesses open up with a guaranteed cash flow in hand?

Why do you believe that photography should be exempt from the natural workings of a competitive market place?

Want to blame someone? Start with Canon and Nikon - the manufacturers of that wonderful, relatively inexpensive easy to use digital technology that allows rank amatuers to rapidly become proficient enough to produce suitable results. It may not be art, but it meets the end user's needs. And the end user defines what's acceptable to them and what they are willing to pay for, not me or you.

The list grows from there.
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Mark Peters, Photographer
Highland | IL | USA | Posted: 5:03 PM on 10.18.07
->> Chris -

I've been fighting downsizings, rightsizings, layoffs, reengineering, etc. for 20 years. Having others come into an industry willing and able to do the same task for a lower cost is a fact of life. Outsourcing, consultants, young guns, you name it. It is happening constantly.

Why do you think there are so many call centers in India? Because they provide superior service? or because they're cheaper than U.S. based labor?
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David Harpe, Photographer
Louisville | KY | USA | Posted: 5:40 PM on 10.18.07
->> Re: Spec shooting

Preaching the no-spec gospel is great if it helps round out your sense of accomplishment. But it's very hard to convince someone NOT to work, with the nebulous goal of preserving a market that you and others are currently working in successfully. End of the day people will do what they personally feel is the best plan for their particular situation, even if to a more experienced person it seems like suicide/bottoming out the market/etc.

Photographers want to shoot. It's very difficult to convince them not to shoot, with the idea that it's "better for everyone". It's very difficult to convince someone who is just getting started to "stay home" and not gain experience when they have an opportunity that might make them money while gaining experience.

Beating up on the guys that provide the service under bad terms may make you feel good, but in the end it really won't change anything. The customer is driving this equation. The photographer is just filling the need...and there will always be another one that (as hard as it might be to believe) has never heard of John, Mark, etc. or Sports Shooter.

The customer wants lower cost content, and they are finding providers. Are they getting the same level of quality that could be gleaned from a more experienced (read:more expensive) photographer? Probably not. Will the person filling the need be able to last more than a year doing this type of work? Not the customer's problem. The customer has decided that it's not worth the extra expense to have high quality, reliable talent. And so it goes. Basic market dynamics.

If you want to change the equation, you have to start with the customer. If you can convince the customer that it's not worth it to hire these guys and show them an obvious advantage, you're on the right track. If that is an insurmountable goal, there's really not a whole lot you can do about it.

There will always be a select few publications that value above everything else high quality content and are willing to pay for it. Shooters that can work at that level will be able to dictate terms and be successful. Then there will be the other 90% of the publications out there...in a continuous race to the bottom.
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