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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Gannett and US Presswire (cont.)
Dan Routh, Photographer
Greensboro | NC | USA | Posted: 8:48 AM on 09.22.11
->> "So if no money to be made why is it wrong for someone to shoot it for free because they want to?"

Stanley, I don't think it's a matter of right or wrong. Everyone has the right to do whatever they want to do personally. I shoot everyday for free and for spec, in fact, because business sucks so bad these days, most of my time is spent working on my blog. Please come take a look. The difference is I'm not giving away what I shoot to someone else to make money on, and I'm not affecting the market for photography in general and the livelihood of other photographers in particular. I'm working on personal projects to develop a market. So it's not about right or wrong, it's about respect, respect for our profession and respect for other photographers and it's about ethics. Go shoot for clients for free, it's your right. It's not a smart way to make a living, it's not a smart way to keep our profession going strong, and it sure isn't a good way to make friends and influence people on a board like this.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 9:45 AM on 09.22.11
->> Most everyone shoots for someone for free. I do shoot things for mom and dad for example. I am not encouraging people to shoot for free, but I am seeing over and over in more industries than photography where people are using free to make money.

My point was to follow Robert Seale's point that there is no money or path for sports photographers. Maybe my summation is off, but that is how I took it.

On SS we are seeing many on this topic who are making a livable wage shooting for free or for low rates, because they have a business plan that makes it work.

Some will pay top dollar to create an advertising campaign by buying lists, printing postcards and mailing these out to drive people to the websites that they pay someone to help them create. I know of many photographers who have outsourced this which cost them a pretty penny.

Meanwhile I am also seeing some photographer, like those who have already stated they are doing it (not me), that have invested just time to cover sports to use it as part of their advertising campaign.

When you shoot editorial you typically get a credit line for the lower pay. When you shoot for a commercial client they don't give you a credit line. The credit line then is something a photographer can then send emails to potential and current customers to mention something like "Hey did you see my recent photo in _____ the other day? Here is a link to that if you would like to see it?"

My point is know your market. For sports it has changed. I wish everyone who shoots sports would charge a minimum that is equal to or greater than my "Cost-of-doing-business."

The reality is this is simple business math. There is more supply than there is demand.

I think those who are using the access to the major league sporting events to help them leverage other markets where they are able to make a livable wage is smart.

Just because you cannot figure a way to make money giving something away for free--doesn't make those who are as bad business people. If this were the case then Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, and many other free companies wouldn't be around. They wouldn't be making money.

I posted this link earlier, but I think more people reading this topic need to read this book:

"Free: How Today's Smartest Businesses Profit By Giving Something for Nothing" --by Chris Anderson
http://www.amazon.com/Free-Smartest-Businesses-Something-Nothing/dp/1401310...

He also wrote: "The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Seling Less of More"
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 9:51 AM on 09.22.11
->> Wait a minute.... Shooting on spec / free at a pro or d1 event is bad because it will ruin "the" industry ...... telling people to go find a high school game to shoot on spec is okay.... You don't want people on YOUR (generic 'your' not aimed at any one SS'er) sideline but don't mind if they clutter MY sideline.... Explain to me that 'we' want to support the notion that the NCAA should cleanup THEIR sidelines and issue fewer credentials BUT when a state hs body does it, everyone's boxes burst into flames.

BTW isn't this the same website that 2 months-ish ago had a thread about youth/prep sports being a dead market. No money left to be made on youth/prep sports... yada yada yada?

Dave what's a high school football game in TX paying? Tell me that you are routinely hiring stringers to shoot hs games and paying more than $100 bucks.

Like I've already said I have never worked for any of these groups. I don't have a 'job' with any of them to protect and don't need to shill for anyone who does. What drives me batty is seeing the hypocrisy of it all play out.
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Brian Blanco, Photographer
Tampa / Sarasota | FL | USA | Posted: 9:59 AM on 09.22.11
->> Seale,

I agree with 99% of everything you wrote; particularly the part where you wrote that the spec shooters have essentially, "...eliminated {their} own future." You summed it up perfectly right there and unfortunately that's the part they refuse to hear, but rather than say "eliminated", I'd likely say, "SIGNIFICANTLY damaged."

You see, the only part where I tend to disagree with your post, is the idea that there are no longer any profitable opportunities shooting sports action. As we discussed a few months back while driving up the Interstate in that grandma rental car you had down here in Florida, I actually still make a fairly sizable percentage of my income shooting sports action. Of course, like you, the bulk of my income is commercial work but what I make covering games is still quite profitable.

I'm a stickler to my cost-of-doing-business-calculator and when I shoot sports action for a client I'm doing it to make money and not, as some of the spec shooters have described, as a loss leader, a tax write off, a portfolio builder or a way to impress grooms, etc...

I'm lucky enough to work in a market with: An NFL team, an NHL team, an MLB team, an NBA team, a couple of pretty good college teams, a pro soccer team, an arena league football team, and the Tampa Bay area tends to host a lot of tournaments and bowl games.

I'm still lucky enough to have clients that appreciate quality and professionalism and pay me a fair rate to cover these games, retain my rights and make some sales in addition to a profitable assignment rate (including some commercial sales), but EVERY DAY I see the spec shooters gaining ground behind me. That's why I keep shouting from the rooftops against spec shooting and deals like PATCH.com... not because I'm worried about them taking "food off my table" per se (because to be perfectly honest with you I don't really like sports and much prefer to shoot news and commercial gigs) but because they're destroying a revenue steam not only for me, but also for themselves and anyone who may come after them.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that in some markets there are still opportunities that haven't *yet* been completely destroyed by spec shooters... ask me again in 6 months though, I may have a different story for you.
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Dan Routh, Photographer
Greensboro | NC | USA | Posted: 10:03 AM on 09.22.11
->> "Just because you cannot figure a way to make money giving something away for free--doesn't make those who are as bad business people. If this were the case then Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, and many other free companies wouldn't be around. They wouldn't be making money."

It's true that there are a few folks that have figured out a way to leverage free into profit. They aren't bad per se, they are clever, but if they drag down the profession along the way, they sure aren't making friends. Your argument seems to be that we all ought to be able to make this low fee/for free business model work, while for some reason I doubt that a whole profession based on such a model will actually work in the long run. Some folks will end up smelling like a rose, but as a whole photography as a profession will only suffer and most people won't make it. There will always be more downward pressure.
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David G. McIntyre, Photographer
Beijing | . | CHINA | Posted: 10:31 AM on 09.22.11
->> If one wants to shoot for free and have it mean something, then go find a small charity that you believe in and donate your services and help them get their message out so they can have a bigger impact on peoples lives.

In terms of sports, why should one who is or isn't being paid be there and what is the impact they have on the event that the 30 other photographers there don't?

The bottom line is what has been said before in more than just SS.com message boards: 'I don't care if the person in the picture is famous or not, I want to see a picture that needed to be made and shared with the world and you were the one that made sure it was done."
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 10:51 AM on 09.22.11
->> Dan

It is called capitalism. It is brutal. I am not arguing anything. People shoot for free and will always do so. People who are clever find a way to make money.

Those who a making money are not going to necessarily post here the way they are doing it for one major obvious reason--trade secret.

There are those who for a price will tell you a lot--they put on workshops. If you share with people all you know then they will copy you making you indespensible, unless you find a new thing giving you an edge.

As a pro we are in "business" that means we are trying to make money and get a job. We bid against one another. Those who a smart learn how to see each other as colleagues. However, we still look for ways to distinguish ourselves from one another.

This is the tension of the profession. Learning to work together. Maybe we refer clients to other photographers when we cannot help them and hope for a favor in return from the photographer.

If we are here just to take pictures and everyone have fun we are then in a club and hobbyist.
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Dave Breen, Photographer
Somerset | PA | USA | Posted: 11:04 AM on 09.22.11
->> Hey, Mark Loundy (you remember Mark, right? He's the guy who asked what he thought was a simple question that started this "continued" thread.)

Did you ever get an answer?

(BTW -- What is the record for continued threads? )
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 11:08 AM on 09.22.11
->> ----(BTW -- What is the record for continued threads? )----

Dave, I think when (if) this one wraps up we'll know the answer.
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Michael Proebsting, Photographer
Barrington | IL | USA | Posted: 11:20 AM on 09.22.11
->> Stanley,

It is called stupidity, not capitalism to shoot for "free" and maybe get paid. Why don't plumbers, electricians, painters or anyone else work for free in the hopes of getting paid and making a name for themselves in their line of work? They don't because it is idiotic plain and simple.

"People who are clever will find a way to make money".

I agree, I don't really "blame" the founders of Presswire they took people who willingly work for free or damn well close to it and have parlayed that into a big payday for themselves.

As far as the photographers who shoot for them that are under some delusion that they will make any decent money at all shooting this way, keep dreaming.

I am still waiting for Brad Barr's response to this question:

Will he shoot a wedding on spec and make the images available to the bride and groom for as little or less than $1.00 each?

That's what he and all others do for Presswire.
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 11:25 AM on 09.22.11
->> Let me get this straight ... On Game Day at D1 and Pro events ... EVERYONE ... from the Sports Information Director, the General Manager, the coaches, the officials, right down to the folks schlepping hot dogs and working the parking lots are actually making money ... but photographers should consider shooting these events a viable loss-leader effort to shoot high profile sporting games for minimal fees or free? ...

Really? ... Seriously? ... That's a successful business model? ... allow someone else to make millions from your effort and not expect anything in return so you can potentially see a return elsewhere?

If that is the case ... do you have any spare cash on hand? ... cause I have this bridge spanning the East River you may be interested in purchasing ... I can offer you a really great price ... and you will see a great return on your investment ... I swear ...

I could see the concept if it were used as a true loss-leader ... like buy one get one free, buy 9 and the 10th one is on me, etc. ... perpetual freebies are NOT loss-leaders people ... I don't care what book you read ...

... and seriously ... shooting a portrait session for family members gratis compared with working an NFL game for free as a similar concept is completely ridiculous ... the two aren't even close in comparison ... your Mom is not going to sell you our after the fact and pocket all the proceeds ...

Who is kidding who here? ... It was not "wire services", AD's, SID's or Media Offices that started the concept of shooting for free or for access ... it was the folks actually holding the cameras that came up with the concept ...

It wasn't publications that came up with the idea of applying for credentials and compensating only in the way of a photo credit for use of the resulting images ... it was photographers who came up with that idea ...

It wasn't content consumers who came up with the idea of agency "subscriptions" or "micro stock" bargain basement fees ... it was a few shooters who convinced their comrades they worked with that it was a viable solution to success ... then once they built the libraries, they cashed in to the tune of millions ... and the shooters who helped them build that resource received peanuts if anything at all ...

It wasn't really the law of supply and demand that forced down the value of editorial action sports coverage ... more D1 college and pro sports images are "published" now than ever ... certainly enough to earn a profit for those that created the images ... IF ... PHOTOGRAPHERS themselves had not created the mindset of the end users that these images have NO value ...

Think about it ... the schools, the front offices, the end users, the agencies, the publications, the blogs that use your images are all PROFITING from that use ... yet the most important link in the chain has convinced themselves it brings no harm to anyone by working for free ... and actually suffer from the illusion that they will be rewarded after the fact and what they do is for the greater good ...

Sad really that we are even having this discussion here at all ... I would have thought it is the "Sports Shooters" that should be the last group of folks on the planet that have to be persuaded that what they create actually has value ... and should not be disseminated without compensation ...
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Scott Serio, Photo Editor, Photographer
Colora | MD | USA | Posted: 11:48 AM on 09.22.11
->> I just find it interesting that as this thread rages on (where are we, technically this is Part 6, right?), and professional after professional says how there is no money is sports action photography...there is a Sports Shooter Academy going on where they are teaching what? Sports Action Photography.

And who do you think is attending this academy? Are they Getty and AP shooters, or are they USPW and Southcreek shooters?

Ponder that one...
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Adam Vogler, Photographer, Photo Editor
Kansas City | Mo. | USA | Posted: 11:50 AM on 09.22.11
->> I think Chuck, Brad and Brian and everyone else has been extremely tolerant and polite in all this. They are being a lot nicer than I feel though I haven't really posted in any of this mess.

You see I'm one of those "just starting out guys," so I've read and kept my mouth shut but this is just getting to be to much. I'm angry.

It all seems so simple to me, an easy to remember rule on how to act: Don't be that guy.

You just don't screw over your fellow photographers like that no matter how many BS ways you can think of to justify it. You don't do it on ANY level, pro, college, high school, little league, whatever.

If you can beat someone else's COB great, more power to you, but if you're shooting at a loss and then trying to justify it with some lame excuse don't get all holier than thou when someone calls you on it.

What you're doing is wrong and you know it.

This "I use it as a loss leader," or "I do it for marketing," is crap. You're screwing over the rest of us so you can have fun; so you can be the big shot.

Shame.

Shooting for no money is WHY there is no money shooting sports. And don't give me this crap about,"if I don't take the deal someone else will," any third grader knows better than that.

As for me I'm going to go make some frames, and I'm not going to screw anybody over to do it. I don't care if that means I'm working at Quicktrip next week, at least I'll be able to look myself in the mirror.

Rant over, bring on the inappropriates and the anonymous e-mails.
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Dan Routh, Photographer
Greensboro | NC | USA | Posted: 12:15 PM on 09.22.11
->> Capitalism. I took economics back in college and I actually understand the concept. When I hear the term now, however, all I can think of is Walmart, what their effect has been on the retail business in this country and the way their business model has been transferred into our profession by us, the photographer. For all you young guys, I'm sorry to say that I long for the days when I didn't worry so much about how cheap I had to do something, rather, I spent all my effort trying to figure out how to produce things better. I competed against other photographers based on how good my work was, and that is the way I wish things still were. I won some, I lost some, but I knew that if I put more effort in, I won more than I lost. Forget about that I hear now. All you can do is adapt to the new model or die. Photographers are the reason things are the way they are (along with a really bad economy of course). We can change things for the better if we educate ourselves and do something about it. If we spend all of our time justifying why free can be a viable business model, we will continue our slide.
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Chris Curry, Photographer
Houston | TX | United States | Posted: 12:22 PM on 09.22.11
->> Recently I switched over to shooting weddings and the problems seem to be worse.

One photographer advertised on Craigslist, "Will shoot your wedding for half of what your photographer will".

He asked couples to get a quote from a photographer and he would match what they would do and only charge them half of the amount. I really don't know how he makes a living, for instance, half of my cost on photo albums is printing - I would have to offer that service for free. Same with web hosting. I don't know how I would afford second shooters at that rate either, yet he claims that he can do it all for half as much.

His eagerness to get started really undermines the integrity of the business. While, yes, I have my clients sign contracts, they question why my prices are what they are and want to negotiate even after the ink is dry on the contract.

It really doesn't get him any work; It just makes a mess. Suddenly clients want a guest portrait station for free or want an extra day of shooting at their rehearsal dinner for free all because someone contacted them and told them he could do the same thing for 50% less.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 12:30 PM on 09.22.11
->> IF there's a bright side to me regarding this ongoing thread it's that I'm seeing people WITH A BUSINESS plan speak up.

Stanley, you're right, capitalism is brutal. So is Michael when he says so is stupidity.

I remember a conversation with Tom Dahlin, a member, the lead photographer for Viking Update and a consistent contributor to SI. Like me, Tom has another career. We commented that being a NFL photographer is like "being a member of the club" and I think that has something to do with some of what we see behavior wise. I've never received any business because I shot NFL, it was because I could PRODUCE GOOD QUALITY WORK.

Pricing is an art form.. it really is. Over my career, I've trained a lot of people for professional selling. Funny thing is that the inexperienced ones sell the lowest amount with the lowest margins. As they gain experience, the margin goes up, the volume goes up, and customer satisfaction does also. Is there a similarity with this thread?

Absolutely. People with weak business skills ( or no business skills) give it away. The ones with experience know better.

If there's anyone on this board who knows about loss leaders, it's me. In my other business, I use them. I know how to turn them into profit. ( One example: I'm giving a accessory away right now for FREE that usually sells for hundreds of dollars with a purchase of the product - by the time I'm done, my margin will be well in excess of 40% - unheard of in that industry)

Someone posted that being a sports shooter helped them to build the other side of the business. Total BS from what I can tell. If it does work, it's the occasional exception and not the rule nor something that anyone should copy without a very good business plan, a firm grip on COB and some damn fine marketing and pricing skills.

For those of you that "get it", I will say I think much of this discussion is a waste of time. There will always be inexperienced people and those who do not possess the business skills who will pollute the pond. (This is why you always see me telling college students in here to take more business and less photography coursework). There will always be people ready to take advantage of them.

We can only do what works best for us. Brian said it best, he has clients who respect him and pay for quality. That's the niche. It won't be big enough for everyone - but the reality is, no matter what sector of business you compete in - it never is. I dominate that niche in my business because I am a Willie Sutton marketer. Sutton, a famous bank robber in the 1930's, was asked why he robbed banks. His response "cause that's where the money is" is what it needs to be about - not being a member of the club.

M
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 1:24 PM on 09.22.11
->> Dan, Facebook et. al. are not giving a product away for free. Their product is not the Facebook website. Their product is the users themselves.

--Mark
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 1:27 PM on 09.22.11
->> Dave, I've gotten some answers, but I still would like to hear specifics on Gannett's specific plans for USPW.

--Mark
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 1:42 PM on 09.22.11
->> Michael, while we all eagerly await Brad's answer I have another question for him. On his website he says he sells his services as a "photo coach". I'm curious if he "coaches" his students on shooting for free and giving away their product. Inquiring minds want to know.
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Dan Routh, Photographer
Greensboro | NC | USA | Posted: 2:28 PM on 09.22.11
->> Chuck is in the building. :)
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Michael Proebsting, Photographer
Barrington | IL | USA | Posted: 2:48 PM on 09.22.11
->> All this crap is giving me a headache. Why can't we go back to the good old days where I could ask on sportsshooter questions like:

"Where can I buy a ticket to fly on the space shuttle," "What are the bathrooms like at the airport in Kabul?," and "What is the best place for mexican food in Hong Kong?" only to get an immediate, courteous and factual response from Frischling.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 3:27 PM on 09.22.11
->> Chuck I don't know about Brad BUT I DO know that I paid to attend a seminar held by some industry heavyweights.... One of said heavy hitters has multiple websites. HUGE hit rates. Part way though the talk he throws up a shot to illustrate the concept he was talking about and injects "The shop keeper LOVED the FREE PRINT I gave him after the shoot". So being the A-hole I am I piped up.... How do you make money giving away prints.... The answer had more curves than a 19 year old on a brass pole.... and probably more practice as it easily slipped from his lips.... I make money when someone sees the print and hires me to shoot for them.... k... I let it rest...

Same seminar said icon throws up one of his sites. Pretty, minimalistic to the minimum. No ads.... No Buy Now for the images.... The images are self sourced and self funded.... MANY OF THEM are hanging on the subjects walls as :::rim shot ::: FREE PRINTS::: So I ask again albeit from a different tack.... How do you monetize the site? I swear to Christ I was || that close to crapping when I get fed the a line straight from the Facebook movie about the site having to be cool not profitable.... It was about this time that I figured out EXACTLY how free prints and websites that generate $0 BUT cost hundreds if not $1000's a month get monetized.... Idiots like me pay to learn that we need to beef up our public speaking skillz more than our photo skillz. So in once sense or another FREE does work as a way of making money. I'm sure he makes a fortune selling books, and seminar seats, and licensing his name for a bevy of specialized gear.... Another member here sent me an email to tell me that at the seminar HE attended this person talked about shooting his kid's youth games and then burning and giving away CD's. WTF? But again it's working for THIS guy because without constant feed of fresh images for people to ooooh and ahhhh over no one would give a crap about buying his books or CD's or seminar seats. That's why the guys saying that they shoot an NFL or NBA or whatever and use it to drive traffic to their studio aren't getting any static from me. Clearly the concept is working for at least one big name.... And it completely and totally sucks. And I can't change it. And I can't run MY business looking over my shoulder. I've just had about as much of the "free" arguments as I think I can stomach. Can't we just run around with water pistols and squirt out cigarettes and tell smokers that burning tobacco puts out greenhouse gases?

I'm not putting a name to the icon simply because he isn't a member here and can't respond. So out of fairness and the ABUNDANCE of others just as iconic as him doing the same thing I will leave him in obscurity.
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Dave Einsel, Photographer, Photo Editor
Houston | TX | United States | Posted: 5:23 PM on 09.22.11
->> @Eric: It has been a few years since I left my position at the newspaper but while there, I routinely hired stringers to shoot high school sports for $150/game. From that, I expected a few images for the paper by deadline. The photographer owned all rights to those images. They might get three games in a weekend.

Is that a great deal? No, but the small group of photographers that were my main stringers also covered news and features so they stayed pretty busy. Also, if we got a call from someone looking for a freelancer, I would pass along an appropriate stringer's name for the job.

As for shooting spec on "your" sideline, I agree.
A couple of years ago the kid was playing JV soccer. I went out to shoot most of his games so his mom could watch him play and still have pictures of him. There was no one like yourself out there shooting or I would have sat and watched with her. Other parents started asking about the pictures so I posted PhotoShelter galleries where they could buy prints of the best 20-30 from a game. Youth sport is not my business and a number of parents were friends but I felt they had to pay something for the work. A few did but not many.

Turns out a CPA was shooting games as well and giving the kids everything he shot because he liked soccer. There was also another dad out there giving it away.

Since then, I just sit in the stands.
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Scott Miller, Photographer
Sorrento | FL | | Posted: 5:47 PM on 09.22.11
->> Michael P... I was kind of hoping for Pepsi vs. Coke myself
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 6:00 PM on 09.22.11
->> Dave that is BY FAR the single BEST game rate for a hs game I have ever heard of. Then again TX hs stadiums rival D1 venues here so my hat is off to you.

Around here a hs gig pays a flat $50. I remember being told that I would NEVER get a stinging gig for one of the local papers because I was refusing to sign a rights grab after they had already run the images and agreed (different editor) to my terms. I made them PROMISE to not use me and reminded them I charge interest on late payments. Mind you I wasn't even stinging for them, they were licensing images after the fact because they hadn't sent anyone in the first place.

As for all the HUH's if you don't understand something and REALLY want to know (other than the identity of the hevy weight) email me through my member page. No sense going through life wondering all the time.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 6:04 PM on 09.22.11
->> For those of you waiting for Brad's answer...don't hold your breath...I received a refreshing, flowery email from him this afternoon and it said (among other pleasantries)-

"I'm not posting in that thread any longer so as not to add gas to the firestorm that rages out of respect for the companies whose names are involved."

so there you have it. another day in paradise!
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 8:53 PM on 09.22.11
->> Not good to post emails here on the board -- even in part.

--Mark
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 9:22 PM on 09.22.11
->> "I think Chuck, Brad and Brian and everyone else has been extremely tolerant and polite in all this. They are being a lot nicer than I feel though I haven't really posted in any of this mess."

Check the end of the last thread. Got a few notes I'm not the only one to receive it.
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 9:30 PM on 09.22.11
->> Also, I have to ask - where are people getting this conclusion that there's no money in sports photography?

Sometimes it's just the people not making anything from it that say the industry is dying.

It's a niche market. Always has been. There never really was a lot of room... If anything, it's expanded with digital, sports-specific distribution models, being able to license and transmit work globally in seconds.

I think there are just more people not making a profit off it. And they're vocal because they're frustrated.

Back to work. Photos due to a client tonight. :)
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 9:30 PM on 09.22.11
->> Mark, you're just sore that I left out the "good stuff". (kidding)
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Brad Mangin, Photographer
Pleasanton | CA | USA | Posted: 9:36 PM on 09.22.11
->> Israel- there are two Brads in this thing...

Also- back in the day the sports market was HUGE! There were a ton of folks making a nice living back in the day. Of course you had to manual focus and shoot chrome.

The trading card business was very good to many of us. It has all but disappeared today.

- One of the Brads
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Simon Wheeler, Photo Editor, Photographer
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 9:49 PM on 09.22.11
->> I hesitate to poke my head above the trenches but here goes. It seems to me that photography has become like being a musician or being in a band. With the advent of digital cameras making it much easier to make technically decent photographs photography is now a hobby that anyone who can afford the camera can pursue. There are no additional costs once you've bought the gear and it doesn't cost many $ to get a Rebel and a 75-300 zoom. Its like buying a guitar, once you've got the instrument you can play it as much as you like for free, at home, or in a bar or where ever for little or no money if some venue owner is willing to host you. A camera owner can now take a bunch of photos and you don't even need to get a bar owner to like your stuff to get "heard" as a photographer, you just post your photos to a website to be seen, or give them away to your friends or your local AD or a "photo agency."

A few really good musicians or at least those with some marketing savvy are making a living, a very few are getting rich, but a huge majority are just playing for the enjoyment of it. The same is now true for people with cameras. Back in the days of film it was really expensive to get a lot of enjoyment out of photography as a hobby and if you wanted a job at a paper or a magazine that would cover the costs of consumables you had to be really good to get a job. Now to get a living wage job you still have to be really good and be good at the people aspect of the job but like being a musician you have to stand out from all the people who are just doing it in their spare time for the sheer fun factor of the hobby. Unfortunately it has become almost impossible to do so shooting sports, mostly because most publications are willing to settle for good enough and any GWC can provide that.

I am not not in anyway advocating for photographers giving away their work. But I think the world around us has changed and will never change back. What used to be a profession or a craft with some serious barriers to entry has become available to everyone thanks to image sensors and autofocus.

I think to have a living wage job in the field one has to bring more than just average pictures. There has to be journalism, pictures that rise above the general level of seeing the world, a knowledge of the local community to anticipate when something exceptional might happen, an ability to light portraits or arenas. These and others that I can't think of after a fractured 4 assignment day spread over 11.5 hours are what separate those who have jobs from the hobbyists who are giving it away. Its also pretty frustrating for those of us who could manually follow focus a 400 2.8 wide open as a running back broke up the field towards us in the rain. Ok I could go on all night but will stop myself here.

Simon Wheeler
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 11:20 PM on 09.23.11
->> Column off to the editor today. Thanks for the help!

--Mark
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John Korduner, Photographer
Baton Rouge | LA | United States | Posted: 10:09 AM on 09.25.11
->> I am unsure about what is more impressive, the longevity of this thread, or the consistent homogeneity of opinion fueling it?

However, one previously accepted practice triggered my curiosity. When I started following this site, it was common for staffers and "professionals" to solicit card runners for professional events in the classifieds. They openly disclosed compensation was unavailable, but stated the chosen assistant would benefit because they could gain experience and expand their portfolios with pictures taken during "down time."

Admittedly, I haven't seen similar ads recently, but the practice of unpaid internships makes me question the moral outrage speculators created.
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Pat Lovell, Photographer
Bloomington | IN | US | Posted: 10:15 AM on 09.25.11
->> @John,

There is still a classified ad that runs from time to time to work an NFL game as a card runner (no pay) but you get the experience to shoot the game when not running cards.

I've also seen a few others that offer a fee to do the same. The ads generally don't last in the classifieds for more than an hour or so, before they are gone.
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Sam Morris, Photographer
Henderson (Las Vegas) | NV | USA | Posted: 4:12 PM on 09.25.11
->> John, if I were to hazard a guess, I would say that there is no moral outrage because running cards is not an industry or a viable career path. Being able to shoot during the downtime/gain experience at a big event is merely gravy.

Again, it is just a guess.
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Lance King, Photographer
Fayetteville | NC | USA | Posted: 5:34 PM on 09.25.11
->> Just got home today from Morgantown, WV. While at the LSU/WVU game, a photographer (whom I’ve never met) asked me about some of my work (that he noticed on my laptop). We talked about it for a few minutes and then he popped the question – “Do you mind me asking how much they pay (concerning my client)?”

Really? From several clues, I could tell he’s an experienced photographer. But, really? I refused to tell him - citing basically, my personal business. Does everyone need to know what everyone else makes?

While driving home from the airport, I noticed many cars had some type of advertising for car dealerships. Can you believe that? I mean, these car owners are working for free! They buy gas, insurance and spend time in their vehicles to give away free advertising…
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Dave Einsel, Photographer, Photo Editor
Houston | TX | United States | Posted: 9:15 PM on 09.25.11
->> It's simple. Card runners should be paid just like assistants and interns should be paid. The amount is up to the people involved. It is the correct thing to do.
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Nhat V. Meyer, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 2:08 PM on 09.26.11
->> Just an fyi regarding card runners... We don't use them often, only during playoffs, but when we do they are paid $75 and we buy them a meal (lunch or dinner)... If we can't pay them (if the budget doesn't allow) then we don't have runners. They usually work 3-5 hours. Like Dave said - they should be paid. They aren't required to have expensive cameras or computers or transmit a gillion images. They get cards from remotes and photographers and deliver them to a pic editor... When not running they are free to watch or shoot the game (for personal use only-this is highly stressed to them) as long as they are not blocking any fans/photographers or getting in trouble.
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Anantachai Brown, Photographer
Jacksonville | FL | | Posted: 4:19 PM on 09.26.11
->> "Really? From several clues, I could tell he’s an experienced photographer. But, really? I refused to tell him - citing basically, my personal business. Does everyone need to know what everyone else makes?"


Not to beat a dead horse, but here is a sample of why prices get undercut. How can you blame folks for undercutting the market or doing work for cheap. I've been banned and name called from previous discussions of this nature a couple years ago, but this discussion on still going on. This issue isn't going to change or get better. The question is, are you prepared for a new profession when that time comes?
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 8:53 PM on 09.26.11
->> It has been my experience that most people who don't want to discuss their rates are usually working for dirt cheap or free.
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Anantachai Brown, Photographer
Jacksonville | FL | | Posted: 9:22 PM on 09.26.11
->> I wonder who the inappropriate came from...:) I 2nd that.
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Chris Curry, Photographer
Houston | TX | United States | Posted: 10:09 PM on 09.26.11
->> Lance,

I can't believe someone asked you how much you were making for shooting a game. The nerve of some people.

Just curious, how much did you make?

Just kidding.
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Sean D. Elliot, Photographer, Photo Editor
Norwich | CT | USA | Posted: 6:39 AM on 09.27.11
->> given all this discussion of business models and cost of doing business and such now would seem like a good time to slip in a little plug for the NPPA Business Blitz this week in St. Louis:

http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2011/09/blitz.html

and then Oct. 7th in San Jose and Nov. 10th in St. Petersburg.

http://www.nppa.org/professional_development/workshops_and_seminars/busines.../
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Lance King, Photographer
Fayetteville | NC | USA | Posted: 10:35 AM on 09.27.11
->> I've always followed a simple rule - what I make is my business and what everyone else makes is not my business.
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Anantachai Brown, Photographer
Jacksonville | FL | | Posted: 10:40 AM on 09.27.11
->> By the looks of these discussions....its everyone's business now.
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John H. Reid III, Photographer
Gates Mills | OH | USA | Posted: 7:20 PM on 09.27.11
->> Since I am one of the people who has offered the field photo credential in exchange for running cards I'm going to explain the thought process that led me to make the offer. In 2002 I switched to digital. The team needed CF cards run up from the field to the press box during the game to update the internet. During that season the guy who shot video for the team would get a card from me at the end of each quarter and run it up. This was difficult for him, as he had other duties that conflicted with running the cards. At that time (as I'm sure many remember) there was a thread at least once a month that was basically "I contacted (xyz professional team) and asked to get a photo credential to help build my portfolio, and I was turned down. How do you get credentials for pro games?" I thought this was an opportunity to help out young (or more accurately new to the industry) shooters. I made a point of saying that if you had been to a pro game, you should give someone else a chance. The team (quite generously - you try getting a photo credential to a pro game with no affiliation) agreed to allow me to make this offer. When they have one they give me a parking pass. As Pat Lovell noted, I would put up the request, and within 30 minutes have 25 or so replies. People would offer to go to any game anywhere, They'd be glad to fly to any city for the opportunity. I never took advantage of someone like that, I didn't want people to have to pay a large sum of money to do something for free. And as to the free issue, if you were being paid you would NOT be shooting. I wouldn't even really want to see you with a P&S camera. If you're being paid you're hauling a 600 or 400 (whichever I'm not using) when you're not running cards.
For a variety of reasons, none having anything to do with the people who have actually run the cards (two people didn't show up for the games) I am going through other channels for the most part to find people. Trust me, I have a good number of connections, and there a plenty of people who simply enjoy the chance to see the game up close from a perspective they otherwise couldn't get. (BTW, they quickly learn the field really isn't a great seat!)
I have received plenty of criticism for having made the offer. I have received some positive feedback, as well. When I first made the offer it was with the intention of letting a new shooter get an experience that A. Lots (and lots and lots) of people really wanted, and B. One which they would have found EXTREMELY difficult to get any other way (outside of getting a news organization to assign them.) I still from time to time make the offer. Given that many people are willing to shoot photos and provide that content FOR FREE for the opportunity to shoot at a pro game, I don't think it's that bad, since I make it clear they can shoot anything they want (within the rules), use the photos as they want (again, within the rules), and they do not have to provide any of their photos to me or the team. Everyone who has done it has enjoyed the experience, to my knowledge, and several people have told me it helped them "get a foot in the door." I'm happy for them.
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John H. Reid III, Photographer
Gates Mills | OH | USA | Posted: 7:28 PM on 09.27.11
->> I'll respond to another issue raised in this thread separately here. I too have been at games (D III mostly) where people have seemed way (way, way, way) too interested in the pay arrangement I had with whomever I was working for that day. I'm glad to discuss photo things ad infinitum, but I've known many people who have given out seemingly innocuous information, only to see it used in an attempt to undercut them, so I'm going to be VERY circumspect if you start asking a whole lot of questions about how I'm paid. If I know you well, that's a different story. Most of my friends in the photo business either A. Already have a client with whom they are happy, or B. Don't shoot sports!
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Andrew Knapik, Photographer, Assistant
Lincoln Park | MI | USA | Posted: 10:29 PM on 09.27.11
->> I was one of those people who responded to John when the offer was made, and I can say it was a great opportunity. I did learn a few things that day at Ford Field in Detroit.

One of the most important things that I learned was that I got an opportunity to assist (as I did have a job to do) and that I love to assist. I was able to watch and learn how to act - in the media room, on the field, and while interacting with other photographers on the sidelines. I have since been able to assist another NFL team photographer while in Detroit and I would do it again in a heart-beat. I was also able to assist an SS member while in town on assignment for SI, and I learned more from each of those jobs.

I will admit that photography is not my full-time profession (I teach middle school math). Helping John on the sidelines was done with full knowledge of what my expectations were. Has it opened a few doors, yes. Would I do it again - sure. Would I do it again for free - no. Is this a knock on John - not a chance. He presented me with an opportunity, I accepted, and thanked him for it. It has opened a few doors, and for that I am thankful. I will consider it my internship. Do I want to be on the NFL sidelines again as a paid assistant - hell yes!!!! Do I want to be on the NFL sidelines shooting for free - hell no!!!

So many people knock working for free, yet our own Tim Mantoani suggested in his talk that was posted here from the Lighting Luau that he did it and would recommended. Working for free is not a bad thing, we have all done it. We just have to pick what we will do, and for how long.
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Thomas E. Witte, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cincinnati | OH | USA | Posted: 11:35 PM on 09.27.11
->> " Working for free is not a bad thing, we have all done it."

No we "all" haven't.
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