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High School Sports: How are Sales?
Marvin Gentry, Photographer
Birmingham | AL | USA | Posted: 4:23 PM on 07.08.12
->> With another year of high school sports about to begin in less than 60 days how were your sales compared to last year?? Are you having to deal with more photographers on the sidelines getting in your way? How do you market them?
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Delane B. Rouse, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | US | Posted: 4:49 PM on 07.08.12
->> Not high school...but youth (ages 6-12) continues to see a decline in # of sales (market penetration) and average sale ($/person).

I think it's directly related to the excellent quality and # of consumer grade DSLR's that the parents have access to these days.
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Marvin Gentry, Photographer
Birmingham | AL | USA | Posted: 9:12 PM on 07.08.12
->> I tottally agree there, I see more photographers who are basing there commission to leagues having to get the league tout a package in the registration so that they both make money. I am also looking more for the action type stuff than the T&I photos.
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Paul Alesse, Photographer
Coram | NY | USA | Posted: 9:15 PM on 07.08.12
->> Sales? What sales?
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 7:49 AM on 07.09.12
->> Marvin - My sales are up but that doesn't mean a thing. When it comes to HS action photographs I have three rules -

1. Never underestimate what parents will / will not buy, how much or how little, or when.

2. Be humble - plan for less and hope for the best.

3. Be aware of the strategic advantage you have over everyone else with a camera. While T&I might be a commodity, action shots are not as no two images are exactly the same unless you shoot next to someone with the same skill level as you the entire game.

Shooting on spec is only small part of my overall business but it's an important one. Many of my ongoing contracts have their roots from spec work years ago.
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Paul Cacciapaglia, Photographer, Assistant
Houston (Friendswood) | TX | USA | Posted: 8:04 AM on 07.09.12
->> My sales have greatly decreased as well. For example, my son plays on two baseball teams and at any given game there are one to three parents shooting the games. One in particular pushes his photos up to his Smugmug site, including the OOF shots, to share with everyone. I still shoot some of the games, but at best I now feel as if I am a Dad with Camera as well. The parents will take the free low quality over my priced high quality any day. At least I get some really good photos of my kid for myself. As far as high school goes I am apprehensive about the start of football season approching. Last year, more and more parents with cameras were on the sidelines. One in particular was shooting the games and emailing the players digital images as well as mailing 11x14's all because it was fun to be out there on the sideline. Truthfully, my sales to the drill team was much better than football. To the point were some games I would shoot thru halftime then go home. I would make three times more from the three minute drill team performance than from the three hour football game. If it were not for the select few really good customers out there, it would not be worth it at all.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 8:26 AM on 07.09.12
->> I would like to throw this question out there: Has anyone gone to the league and asked them to only allow those (professionals) who have standard one or two million dollar liability insurance coverages to be on the sidelines? Having to present an insurance certificate on demand would quickly stop prosumer moms and dads from being next to you and put them behind the fence where they couldn't make the same type shots you do.
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Marvin Gentry, Photographer
Birmingham | AL | USA | Posted: 8:40 AM on 07.09.12
->> I agree with you there Doug! I have not gone that far but I think its a great idea . I have a friend that has been trying to sell the liability insurance idea to churches for years. I know that I do some work or shooting outdoor portraits to seniors and the park I shoot in males us give them proof of liability insurance.
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Donald Montague, Photographer
Orlando | FL | | Posted: 8:45 AM on 07.09.12
->> to answer Doug YES (kinda). 2 years ago a parent went around with flyers saying that he was photographing the league (action pictures). Since I had the T&I contact I was more afraid of parent confusion on the real picture day I informed the league of my concerns and they agreed. and because he was in no way affiliated with the league and not compensating the league he was not allowed to shoot any games. The league was very concerned about the liability issue (as well as getting a kick back) from anyone on the fields. Since that date I have not heard back from that parent, and I still have the contact.
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Michael Chang, Photographer
Robertsdale | AL | USA | Posted: 9:17 AM on 07.09.12
->> Doug: That would be nice, but my experience is that the league is only concerned with the playoff/championship games. They would have to begin to enforce rules throughout the year. Otherwise it would be up to the school.
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Michael Ciu, Photographer, Assistant
Lorain | OH | USA | Posted: 10:24 AM on 07.09.12
->> Our biggest problem here is that the district we shoot for went from 2 high schools 3 years ago to 1 high school. Numbers dropped significantly due to roster limits. Now this year, the district is in great financial distress and has cut 14 fall teams/groups down to 5 leaving only band, football and 3 volleyball teams.
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Mark Sutton, Photographer
Herndon | VA | USA | Posted: 11:47 AM on 07.09.12
->> Although the only thing I did during my daughter's last 2 years of HS Basketball was video each game for her, there were three parents with various Canon's (7D & 50D's) who constantly put images from each game onto their Smugmug sites and the kids had the images all over their Facebook & Twitter pages.

Every time I look to clean out my inbox I run across 2 names that have attachments to them that I keep forgetting that they also were e-mail parents images as well.

The one parent who wanted to make money simply gave up because no one was buying his images.

You just simply can't compete with FREE...
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 1:26 PM on 07.09.12
->> Doug wrote: Has anyone gone to the league and asked them to only allow those (professionals) who have standard one or two million dollar liability insurance coverages to be on the sidelines?

I really don't see this limiting the number of PWC on the sidelines. Think about. The poorest people on sidelines aren't the parents, it is the full-time/part-time professional. The guy or gal stringing for their local daily or weekly won't be covered by the client's insurance, nor will the client paper increase their usage/assignment fee to cover the increased cost of doing business. In my neck of the woods, the cost of the certificate means very little to most of the PWC on the sidelines, probably just an extra hog or two, may be a calf at the market.

Most parents who shelled out money for a DSL, 80-200 L, computer gear and give away photos won't have a problem dropping the $$$ for a liability policy to continue doing something that brings them attention from the other parents and kids as well as getting pictures of their kid. And don't kid yourself, it would still be worth it to them.

Honestly, the only winner in the scenario is the insurance companies, not the PWC, the shooter, the athletes/kids or the so called industry. So what are you going to do when the six parents, all with their certificates, show up all season long?

As Kevin Krows stated above: "Be aware of the strategic advantage you have over everyone else with a camera."

For several reasons, the amount of money spent on action photos has declined and it will continue to fall. Accept it. What Kevin is talking about goes beyond having a camera, lens and website to sell photos.

Remember this: People buy memories, not photos. The sooner you incorporate this axiom into your business model, the greater the opportunity for success.

What advantage do you have over everyone else with a camera, 300mm f2.8 and a smugmug/photoshelter website? Make a list right now. If you can't think of any, you will be just another whinny photog in the sports photographer herd. Off the top of my pointy head, I can come up with ten bullet points for just my website alone. Generally, I could care less how many people are on the sidelines at a game (as long as they are all polite and let me do my job). The more the merrier because it doesn't affect what I do with my images.

Bang your head against your keyboards 20 times, click your heels three times, it's time to adjust your thinking.

Your time is better spent creating a product/service/business model/niche or find a combination of all four that moves you away from speculative work and the rest of minnows on the sidelines. Once you find something that works, then you have to look for the next combination and the next and the next one. It is a continuing cycle and as soon as you rest on your laurels you will find the competitive strategy you once had diminish. Kevin has executed this very well and continues to do so.

Remember this as well: People may just look at photos, but capture a magic moment and they will spend their bottom dollar for memories.
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Carl Auer, Photographer
Arvada | CO | USA | Posted: 2:19 PM on 07.09.12
->> I was having pretty good sales in Alaska up until this year. Football was probably the biggest, but overall not enough to really make it worthwhile on Action only. End of season stuff, like senior poster, slide shows helped make it worthwhile for me, and then picking up senior photos and some families help. This past year however, things just tanked in the 49th state. Kind of worried to see what the Denver high school scene will be like this fall.
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Richard Orr, Photographer
Longmeadow | MA | USA | Posted: 6:35 PM on 07.09.12
->> In 2004-2005 my online sales from college and high school sports amounted to about 35% of my gross revenues.

This past year, I grossed about ten percent more overall. Online sales represented about 6%.

Needless to say, I am glad to be making more. I am glad I wasn't counting on online sales.
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Richard Orr, Photographer
Longmeadow | MA | USA | Posted: 6:40 PM on 07.09.12
->> Doug: I actually pitched that to one of my college conferences. In fact it was not due to sales, it was an issue of injuries. I got whacked with a foul ball. I was ok, but it shattered my monopod. In some of my venues, parents get in my way, but also get in the way of the game.

I suggested they not allow ANYONE on the sidelines without insurance, or a helmet.

They were still talking about it.
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Randy Sartin, Photographer, Assistant
Knoxville | TN | USA | Posted: 6:44 PM on 07.09.12
->> The business is a'changing. Imagine that :)
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 9:32 PM on 07.09.12
->> Another alternative or additional limitation to weeding out the unwanted is to have the league also insist on the shooters having a business license -- something all freelancers have or should have anyway. Those who shoot for a newspaper would be exempt.

As to those leagues who only take notice during playoffs and championships, point out to them that a person could be injured just as bad during a regular season game with the league being a deep pocket to any lawsuit for allowing unauthorized people on the sidelines. Pointing out the vulnerbility of a league's pocketbook will get their attention pretty darn fast. Just emphasize that they don't have to go crazy and cause grief for pros; they aren't the problem, but the solution.

And if you really want to get down and dirty, turn the prosumer's name over to the state sales tax people. Many years ago an acquaintance of mine in another state got fed up with being whacked by wanna-be shooters undercutting him by selling photos on the cheap. He took one of the flyers the person was handing out and anonymously gave it to the tax commission. The wanna-be wasn't charging sales tax. With the government looking for every penny it can collect they came down on the wanna-be with fines, an audit and collection of uncollected sales tax. He also got an IRS audit for unreported income. After the guy went through the financial colonoscopy he was never seen on a sideline again.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 11:37 PM on 07.09.12
->> Mr. Pizac wrote: "Another alternative or additional limitation to weeding out the unwanted ..."

The problem with this is one will become consumed with weeding away competitors at every turn, instead of nurturing one's gifts and talents to grow firm roots and abundant branches to bear fruit.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a respected Zen masters once said, "People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong...Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?"
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Richard Uhlhorn, Photographer
Chelan Falls | WA | USA | Posted: 12:13 AM on 07.10.12
->> My question has always been the same; How many prints do parents need of their child athlete?

I sell a few prints in each sport I cover but my primary income comes from advertising on our community website at We run galleries of photos and keep the community up on how the various teams are doing on a weekly basis.

The funds to pay for this come from local businesses who are more than willing to pay for advertising to support the teams.

So I get paid through them to cover our communities sports programs and don't have to worry about selling prints. Parents can purchase prints if they want through my Photoshelter or my league website.

I get more and more parents wanting CD's of printable images after the school year.
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Mark Perlstein, Photographer, Photo Editor
Plano | TX | USA | Posted: 6:21 AM on 07.10.12
->> Doug, in 40+ years of freelance and in 3 different states. I have never had a business license, nor have I ever known another freelance photographer that has had a business license. Commercial insurance yes. State tax ID yes. What are you referring to?
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 10:18 AM on 07.10.12
->> Different cities have different rules and regulations. Here in Utah when you incorporate yourself into a business many cities need you to have licenses. This is especially true if you have a studio/store front.

Not having a license is something that isn't readily investigated by local governments, but having one can keep you from getting shut down and fined. And having one has helped in me personally in gettings gigs. When meeting with a potential client who is talking to other shooters I've pulled out my license card from my wallet to show my legitimacy over fly-by-night wannabes. On occasion I've gotten the job simply because of the license. Clients don't like to be held liable for any problems if they hire undocumented help. A license is documentation.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 11:27 AM on 07.10.12
->> There is only one way to win the battle, be better than the person beside you. Better not just at the photography, better at marketing, selling, making friends. Those are the keys to succeeding in this segment of the business.

Around here there are plenty of fields that aren't fenced in. The only line on the ground is the foul line and how close you and the spectators are willing to stand to it comes down to a judgement call between the fans and the umps. Those fields that do have a fence the difference between where I'm standing and the parents are standing is a whopping 3 feet and in most cases not even THAT....... because I want to be close enough to the parents to strike up conversations.... build relationships that will bring in portrait sittings.... get the inside scoop on who's in line to replace the members of the board who are leaving.... The reason that the mom with the rebel is so popular giving the photos away isn't because she's giving the photos away.... it's because everyone LIKES her and socializes with her. If you want to go to a hs or youth game shoot it, and expect people to come to your site just because you handed them a card or flyer, you don't have a grasp of the youth/prep customer.

On the subject of licenses, what is in it for the league? Unless you are paying them for access and protecting your sales will put more $$ in their account, why would anyone at the league level want to do it?

As for the state tax agency.... good luck with that... you may find that what was once a smug mug site selling $2 prints becomes a flikr site where the full res files are made available for free...

Win the war not the battle.

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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 12:58 PM on 07.10.12
->> I agree with Eric ... our time and effort is more valuable when invested in making our product the best it can be, rather than becoming the "sideline police." In the end, WE too are guests on the sideline ... it is NOT a right to be there, it is a privilege for everyone granted access ... I'm not sure it should be the folks on the sideline should be the folks setting the rules ...

I haven't noticed any significant increase or decrease in online spec sales for HS sports action .... it amounts to a little over 30% of my business. It seems that action sports for youth and HS level can be fickle based upon locale.

I can't see lobbying to the schools to restrict who is on the sideline. You have to be careful what you wish for ... the next set of PWC's may see through this method and up the ante to a form or level we may not wish to adhere to just to gain access ... are we not seeing too much pay-to-play mentality already in the industry? ... In my mind, the last folks I want to upset are my potential customers ... and the folks who actually pay the taxes for there to be a team, event and venue for me to work at ... something about biting the hand that feeds you and all that ... In the end, I seriously doubt if I were successful in preventing parents from having access, would ensure any stability in my sales whatsoever ...

I NEVER worry about who else is on the sideline unless they directly or repeatedly interfere with me in my duties. Only in extreme conditions have I ever voiced my displeasure with school/league officials ... more often than not ... it was about one of my fellow media members, not a parent seeking images of their own kids.

Again, I don't really care who I share a sideline with ... heck, even when some of the parents do shoot for themselves ... they still buy some of my images ... because ownership of good equipment, combined with access, is no guarantee they will capture the moment they intended ... all too often parents are quite emotionally attached to the event at hand to actually invoke the self-control needed to separate themselves from the moment in time to recognize and capture a great opportunity.
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Thread Title: High School Sports: How are Sales?
Thread Started By: Marvin Gentry
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