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Team and Individual Questions
Bradley Leeb, Photographer
Champaign | IL | USA | Posted: 12:03 PM on 10.05.17
->> I was approached this past week to do some Team and Individual work for a local hockey league. I've not ventured into this genre before and have some questions to bounce off of those of you who do it, and do it with a degree of success. I want to make sure I've got everything in order before I decide whether it is worth my while. If you have a few moments to send a private message, I have a number of questions about logistics and what-not that don't necessarily need to be out in the public eye.

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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 12:33 PM on 10.05.17
->> Before a conversation can begin, how many teams/players and what rights do they want? Do they want exclusive -- which means you can't sell a headshot to SI if one of the players does well -- or all rights forever, or all rights for a few years, most rights, etc.

Also, which is very important, are the images for their use only or can they give them to AP, USATSI, Getty, etc. to distribute whereupon those agencies can make money off your pictures via their licensing deals and you get nothing?

And keep in mind that if any of the images are for commercial purposes such as posters which is advertising, be darn sure you have signed model releases from everyone for your protection. If the league says they have releases already, have them give you a copy to see if you're mentioned. But then, if the deal is a Work For Hire agreement then it doesn't matter as you'll be working as an employee of the league. And if that's the case, check with your state's labor department to see how they define WFH contracts. In California those who work under WFH get some of the benefits of a regular employee such as Worker's Comp.
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Bradley Leeb, Photographer
Champaign | IL | USA | Posted: 1:14 PM on 10.05.17
->> Doug, this is just your run of the mill youth league team and individual photo/memory mate/buttons kind of thing where I would be selling print packages and so forth to the parents. No commercial usage, and I certainly retain all the rights.

It's for about 200 kids and I'm not sure how many teams that's broken up into. I'm just in the beginning stages of everything. I haven't really been interested in getting into this type of scene before, but a friend of my wife inquired. I thought I'd look into it a bit as far as workflow, templates, costs associated with said shoots, etc. as well as other issues of which I should be aware before saying yes to the gig or establishing pricing for the packages.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 5:51 PM on 10.05.17
->> With that explanation, let me give you two examples of what you may be up against.

A very good and long time friend -- and a veteran LA Times staff photographer -- went into youth sports league photography after being laid off. She bought a trailer, printer, portable studio lights, etc. to shoot team photos and individuals. She's a fantastic photographer and produces top notch imagery. She went out business because every time she set up the group photo and individuals, the parents and friends shot over her shoulder and shared the pictures with the other parents for FREE. Even though the quality was far less, it was still good enough to justify the zero cost.

I did youth country club swim meets for several years, shooting the end of season championships only. The first year I took requests and offered competitive pricing for 8x10 prints from Costco. Sales were miserable because I too was competing against parents and family who were sharing their pictures for free. Starting the second year I switched to printing on a high-end 12-ink Canon Pro-1 printer that cost a grand. Instead of charging less that $10 for a print I charged $30 to shoot a child in particular race/heat/lane whereupon the parents got one 8x10 print from a frame of their choosing. Why? Because you can't compete against free so I priced myself well above it.

That year my sales went from a couple hundred the first year to around $800. With the quality of my work spreading among the parents, the third year netted $1,200 for the two-day event, $1,800 the fourth year and $2,300+ for the fifth -- plus additional print orders. I even had parents contact me a week before the championships to reserve slots for when their kids swam. Some parents became upset because they were too late in reserving a shoot because another parent was faster in claiming my time.

In addition to raising my price and quality, the #1 aspect in making my business model work is that ALL orders were pre-paid via cash or check -- no credit card. I had parents with several children hand me envelopes filled with cash. I even had to hire an assistant to sit at a table taking orders while I shot the meet. And after the morning prelims parents dashed to me to reserve my time for the night finals if their child made it. You can't get better than that.

Now you may say $30 is too cheap to shoot and supply a print. If you're doing only a few kids, yes. But I was booking 20-30 shoots over a few hours -- shoots that were already paid for.

Another aspect of my business model was to sell prints ONLY -- no digital files. Why? Because digital is money out the door. I was selling memories, not snaps. And while everyone got an 8x10 print, numerous parents ordered prints of other frames too, including 16x20s and 20x30s. One ordered a 2x6-foot metal print of their child with arms spread like an eagle doing the butterfly stroke for $500.

In your instance, my advice is to lock down your team group photo and individual shots as exclusives -- a closed set, per se. If parents and family want to do their own pictures too, then they can do them elsewhere. Just don't let them shoot over your shoulder or you'll fall into the same problem of my friend above and go broke.

Create a product that can't be matched, and then protect the heck out of it. That's the key with any successful business.
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Bradley Leeb, Photographer
Champaign | IL | USA | Posted: 10:10 PM on 10.05.17
->> Thanks for the extensive reply Doug. I don't plan on pricing cheaply. I've already expressed that what I can offer may be a better product, but will not be less expensive considering everything involved. I've long since learned that I'd rather be at home playing with the kids or doing work around the house than spending my time on a gig that isn't worth my while. That's why I'm trying to do some research first before I dive in to this one and get a feel for the prep time, shoot time, process time, and associated costs. I want to make sure I do this right and have a strong bottom line for the time involved.

I will definitely make sure that it's a closed set and lay out that requirement ahead of time. That's a good idea to make clear up front. While the lighting scheme I plan to use is definitely something that someone shooting over my shoulder won't be able to replicate, it's not a bad idea to keep that exclusivity.
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Keith Simonian, Photographer
Brentwood | CA | USA | Posted: 11:17 PM on 10.05.17
->> No online sales. Only pre-paid orders.
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Tim Lester, Photographer
Edwards | IL | USA | Posted: 8:50 AM on 10.12.17
->> Brad,
Based on my experiences, I would agree with Keith, pre-paid orders and not online sales.

You will have parents of older kids wanting the same thing they have been getting from previous shooter (hockey puck with pic or magnet with pic) - it's something parents collect to watch their child grow. At the same time, other parents will like a different product offering. It takes some time and you need to work with organization where shoot will take place - ice time is expensive and not easy to obtain at UofI, so on ice images may not be an option. If they want on ice images, make sure they are paying for ice - I have split ice in half letting a team practice on one end while we take photos on other half. If team photo is off ice then finding a location for 10-15 players and coaches can be tricky. If you are taking pictures on ice, if you don't want to fix the ice in post, have a discussion with players and coaches to explain where 'not to skate' to keep the ice clean.
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Bradley Leeb, Photographer
Champaign | IL | USA | Posted: 11:28 AM on 10.14.17
->> Thanks for the feedback everyone, it's been very helpful.
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Carl Auer, Photographer
Arvada | CO | USA | Posted: 3:39 AM on 10.29.17
->> For T&I, prepaid is the only way to go. I did 44 little league teams, all prepaid, and after print costs, envelopes. and misc. cost I walked away with a little over 15K in profit.

For those parents shooting over your shoulder, I try to group everyone in a holding area and bring the kid over to an area I have control of, keeping a fence, or something in the way of parents trying to get close for their own shots. Does not always work, but since their prepaid, I really do not care.
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Ralph Mawyer, Photographer
San Antonio | TX | United States | Posted: 10:56 PM on 11.18.17
->> Bradley, there's a pretty active Facebook group focusing on T&I. Worth joining and reading through, then guessing lots of answers available after that.
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Thread Title: Team and Individual Questions
Thread Started By: Bradley Leeb
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