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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Rate for shooting college games
Shelley Burger, Photographer
Westport | CT | US | Posted: 7:27 AM on 10.26.17
->> I have been asked to shoot a variety of sports for a smaller D1 Northeast university and they have asked what my rate is. Suggestions on rate structure? Per game? Priced with retaining rights or releasing? Thanks
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 1:44 PM on 10.26.17
->> NEVER quote an hourly or day rate if you can help it because the bean counters will surely use that against you. For example, let's say you quote $60/hour. They then use you to do two headshots that takes 10 minutes to shoot, which also requires a half hour prep and another hour of post. They'll expect to pay you $10 because that is the prorated price on how long it took in their minds regardless of setup and post work to shoot the pictures. Also, a football game takes longer than basketball, and a track meet even longer. The per-game rates AP, Getty and others pay freelancers vary depending upon the sport, and so should your rates.

Also, what rights do they want? In-house only or to give away your pictures for free as handouts to the likes of ESPN, Sports Illustrated, etc. where the big bucks are? And for how long? A year or perpetuity? Can they sell your images as prints or digital files to parents, booster clubs, etc.?

I've done many jobs for visiting college teams -- basketball, swimming and WAC track/field championships -- where I charged a flat rate of $10 per image for limited use. That may seem cheap and it looks cheap to the colleges, but it turns out well for me in terms of volume and retained rights. At one basketball game a school ordered 25 photos which equated to $250 for the athletic department's use ONLY on its website. That means I pre-sized the images to 100 dpi at 500x700 pixels, plus I embedded a copyright photo credit into the upper left corner of each image -- not next to the image on the page, but in the image itself. They said they would credit me so this is how I did it.

For the WAC tourney several colleges gave me a list of athletes they wanted pictured in their varied events -- again at $10 a shot. At the end of each day I made a culmination of $500-800 which is far, far greater than what you'll get shooting the same number photos for AP, Getty, USA Today Sports Images, etc. where they retain all rights. And afterwards I sold 8x10 prints of the kids to their parents for $25 apiece which earned me hundreds more.

Another key part of my college contracts is that they are licensed to them only for as long as the athlete is with the school. The licensing ends once he/she graduates or departs. While 95%+ of the kids will never go on to greatness, some will. And when that happens those stock files you have will become gold when ESPN, Sports Illustrated and others need them for profile pieces of the once-kids for stories.

When determining which rights my clients want when they don't give me their needs up front other than all, I bid very high. They naturally ask why so much. My reply is so they can use the photos as billboards in Brazil or building wraps in Wisconsin whenever they want. After their shocked look wears off they say they will never use the images in those ways. That's when I ask why are they then wanting to pay for rights they don't need because that's what happens with full rights. At that point money vs rights vs perpetuity is realized and they come back down to reality whereupon my price comes down too and we sign a contract that makes both sides happy.

What I found with the athletic departments is that they are more than happy to license web-res photos with embedded credit for only as long as the athlete is there to save their own budget money -- screw everyone else; let others pay for their needs out of their own budgets.

Also make sure that your contract is NON-exclusive so you can sell to newspapers on the spot too. In addition to the schools I was shooting for I also marketed images of the winning athletes to the school's hometown papers... for a fee. I made more money and the school was happy for the extra publicity that didn't cost them a dime.

Don't be shy in asking what their budget is. If they say they can pay you 10% less, accept it provided they give up 10% of rights -- rights they do not need. That way you maintain your value and don't become known as a cheap discount photographer. Also ask what they've been paying in the past to other photographers, who they were, and why they desire your services. It shouldn't be hard to find out who the earlier ones were on your own. If you're a lot better, then use that to justify your pricing. Just keep pushing that they are paying for QUALITY first, not quantity. If you fall into the commodity game you've reduced your worth down to alumni and students with cameras who are willing to give away their pictures for free in exchange for a sideline pass.

Just keep this in the forefront of your mind: Photography and your services are not a hobby. They are a BUSINESS just like the other businesses they contract with. You may need to explain that your "rate" does not pay for just your time, but also covers your overhead such as medical and camera insurance, your kid's college expenses now or when they grow up, your retirement, CPA, etc. just like the college pays for the SID's livelihood outside of work.

One more thing. Be sure to have in your contract that NO rights are granted until payment is made in full. This way if there is a falling out and they refuse to pay what's due you'll have the right to sue for copyright infringement. And that means really big bucks provided you spend $55 every couple months to register your images.
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Kevin M. Cox, Photographer
Galveston & Houston | TX | US | Posted: 8:58 PM on 10.26.17
->> Great post Doug!
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Tim Cowie, Photographer, Photo Editor
Davidson | NC | USA | Posted: 9:09 PM on 10.26.17
->> I don't care to contract based on a number of images sold only because you are spending the time and effort to shoot the game whether they buy 30 photos or no photos.

I want to walk away knowing I made a specific amount, or at least a minimum amount.

I contract out on a per game contract rate and allow for media rights only.

I would like to say that my rate is standard but it depends on a number of things. First, is it a contract rate with a school that guarantees me all of their business or an individual per game rate.

I wouldn't say there is a set rate as it depends on what it is. I guess I would say it ranges from $250 to $500 per game. There are some schools (typically BCS type schools) that want you to give up the rights to your photos. If I choose to do so, my above rates double or more.
 This post is:  Informative (1) | Funny (0) | Huh? (0) | Off Topic (0) | Inappropriate (0) |   Definitions

Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 12:07 AM on 10.27.17
->> Ditto and kudos to Tim and his doubling/tripling to give up rights.

FYI, I used the per picture price only as an example on only one way to monetize an event -- for limited dollars they get limited rights.

A per game flat rate is also perfectly okay, but you need to specify how many photos they get for that amount with an option for more for say a per picture extra fee. This way there is no confusion. If you don't they'll want everything you shoot the same way many wedding clients do -- if you shot it, it belongs to them whether it is in focus or not.
 This post is:  Informative (1) | Funny (0) | Huh? (0) | Off Topic (0) | Inappropriate (0) |   Definitions

Tim Cowie, Photographer, Photo Editor
Davidson | NC | USA | Posted: 9:05 AM on 10.27.17
->> I agree, it is for an edited version (sent via DVD/ftp or some other agreed upon delivery) with a specified number of photos for post game gallery.

I know some would disagree, but I believe the absolute worst thing you can do for your business is literally "dump" all of your images on the card to the client after the game. I believe every image should be cropped and edited before giving to client. As well, delete all bad or poor images.

I see way too many people dump images. They may charge less doing so, but all I can say - at the end of the day, you probably just gave me your business.
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Shelley Burger, Photographer
Westport | CT | US | Posted: 9:12 AM on 10.27.17
->> Thank you both for such informative posts. Very helpful and much appreciated. Great tips. Off to the negotiating table now. And, yes, I cringe at the thought of a "dump" of all photos.
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Walt Middleton, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 2:46 PM on 10.31.17
->> Tim has it... There really is not a set rate. Markets, schools, what sport, usage rights, any residuals possible, all play a part. I'd also second the never dump cards thing. And add to it. Never deliver raw files.
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Thread Title: Rate for shooting college games
Thread Started By: Shelley Burger
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