Schools, Sports Teams, & Dance Recitals (Oh, My!)
In the kingdom of professional photography, volume photography is the less-glamorous – yet altogether more cunning – a member of the royal family. Schools and sports youth teams may not hold the allure of wedding photographs and newborn portraits, but they lead the profitability pack in more ways than one, and many would argue that they take a less aggressive emotional toll than their better-known counterparts.
At least, that’s the rumor.
Struggling sports and youth photographers may question the reality of a sustainable high-volume business model. We’re here to tell you how it’s done.
Let’s get started.
Steps to a Profitable School and Sports Photography Business
Youth sports photography can be fun yet exhausting. From youth player portraits to actual game shots, you’ll never run out of subjects to photograph. However, sports photography can be overwhelming if you don’t follow a process.
To make sure you’ll have a smooth workflow, these steps and tips can help you make youth sports photography a lucrative source of income.
Step 1: Understand the Workload
Photographers in sports photography face challenges, unlike any other photography business genre. A single high-volume sports photography job will include the following tasks for thousands of photographs:
- Manually record image numbers, grouped by subject
- Rename and resort all image files for clarity and accessibility
- Create a gallery for each subject and upload each subject’s photographs to their gallery
- Assign a unique password to each gallery and distribute the login information securely to parents and/or schools
- Receive orders and maintain bookkeeping, including all taxes, commissions, and fees
- Fulfill orders, and receive, sort, and package products for delivery
With so many details to manage, every minute of your youth sports photography time is valuable. An overlooked task can add hours to your workload later, cutting into the pursuit of other photography business as well as much-needed personal time.
Step 2: Know Your Numbers
You understand the scope of sports photography, but how do you know how much you should be – and could be – earning?
Begin by evaluating your personal financial needs: the income necessary to keep a roof over your head and nutritious food on your table. Next, consider your sports photography business’ financial needs – the funds required to sustain and grow your sports photography business from a wobbly toddler into a full-fledged contributing member of society.
Someone who understands the relationship between time invested and money earned is Randy dela Fuente, the founder of the brilliantly-simple Snapizzi workflow tool for high-volume photographers, including sports photography and school photographers.
“Think of your business as race car,” says Randy dela Fuente. “Your job is to make it faster by shaving every possible thousandth of a second off of each lap.”
This means understanding where every penny is spent, and where every minute is dedicated in sports photography. Aside from the anticipated expenses of equipment and staff, school photographers must also track funds to be rebated to client schools, teams, or organizations. Additionally, costly bonding and insurance are required before a youth sports photographer can even be hired for a volume job in most municipalities.
Step 3: Track Your Inefficiencies
Spend enough time with Randy dela Fuente and you’ll hear him use two terms:
- Validated Learning
- Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
Simply put, validated learning means collecting data about your sports photography business, learning from that data, and making business decisions based on what you’ve learned.
A key performance indicator (KPI) is a measurable portion of your sports photography business. Sales-per-client, social media comments, the number of help emails received: all are KPIs and help identify your photography business’ successes and shortcomings.
“Decide what KPIs are important for you and start tracking your performance,” dela Fuente encourages.
“You’re doing a disservice to your business if you only look at the bottom line number and don’t have a deep understanding of how you got there. If you can measure it, you can improve it!“
The Snapizzi team uses Geckoboard to measure their KPIs, allowing them to constantly monitor the company’s growth and performance.
“But you can start with a simple spreadsheet!” says dela Fuente. “The point is just to start!”
Find a solution that works for you, and keep consistent records. At the end of each job, each season, and each year, you should be able to compare and contrast your profit margins, your time investments, your earnings-per-customer, and any other growth factors that impact the longevity and success of your photography business.
Step 4: Implement Time-Saving Solutions
“When I was establishing the pricing for Snapizzi,” dela Fuente explains, “I asked 65 photographers, How long does it take to post 4,000 event photographs of 1,000 attendees with a separate gallery for each attendee? They told me 12 hours – for the time and labor, the sorting and uploading.
Then I asked, What is the value of an hour of your time? On average, photographers said $45, meaning that 4,000 photograph costs $540 of the photographer’s time – and that’s just the post-shoot workload.”
The good news? Snapizzi can complete that same project in about 20 minutes. For those of you not prone to offhand mathematics, that’s a 13,400% financial savings – not to mention a time savings of 12 hours!
Snapizzi costs only $39 to use and becomes an especially effective tool when paired with ShootProof.
“The combination of Snapizzi and ShootProof allows a high-volume photographer to focus on growing their business,” dela Fuente adds.
“You can move forward with your day, confident your order fulfillment system is completely automated.”
Step 5: Embrace Your Success
Dela Fuente understands that it can be hard to treat hours like cash, but he insists that it’s necessary – not merely for the success of our businesses, but for our own personal well-being.
“Even if you don’t accept your time’s monetary value as an incentive, there is no denying the opportunity cost,” he evaluates. “I can think of a hundred other things more productive to do with your time than manually trying to manage the production of thousands of photos in a high-volume photography business.”
This is the truth many photographers overlook: that our worth is evaluated both in dollar signs and emotional weight.
Imagine you’re at home, sitting on your sofa, eating dry cereal out of a mug and staring into space. In that moment, if someone offers you $50 to make a portrait, you’ll likely do it. After all, what else do you have going on?
But if you’re rushing to catch a flight to the coast for a long-awaited vacation with your sweetheart, there’s no way you’ll forego those plans for a job – not even for a $5000 portrait. That’s because the dollar value of our time directly correlates to the emotional value of our time. And we have to understand them both in order to build a thriving, sustainable sports photography business – and a rich, fulfilling life.
Additional Tips on How to Build a Profitable Sports Photography Business
Hire Good Assistants That Can Help You
Depending on your youth sports workflow or style, photography assistants can help in various ways:
- Take photos of another game that has the same schedule as your assigned match.
- Coordinate with coaches and parents.
- Do crowd control.
- Contact schools and sports organizations for photoshoot sessions.
- Prepare players and ensure the team is complete for group photos.
- Manage props, especially if individual shots require players to kick or throw a ball.
Know the Sport and Focus on the Action
Being an action sports and school photographer requires understanding the sport, including its goals and rules, to help you anticipate where the action will be.
For example, one wrong move from team A can ensure victory for team B. After seeing that team A failed to secure the shot, move fast, and capture the winning faces of team B players, as well as the reactions of the coaching staff, families, and supporters.
Follow a Shot List
For group portraits, ensure that the poses and framing are in uniform. You don’t want teams to think you have preferences because they have different styles for serious group photos. For creative shots, that’s where you can have more freedom of instructing poses depending on the sport.
When it comes to games, it’s your job as the school photographer to ensure that all players have solo photos. Have you taken pictures of the coaches? Do you have shots of the half-time cheer dance performance?
Keep in mind there’s probably a local paper or school publication that’s going to write a story about the game. While taking pictures, you’ll notice the possible star players from all teams, which means newspapers would want a photo of them.
Process Photos Immediately
Let’s say there are five photos per player, and you’ve photographed 60 of them, which equates to 300 pictures. Add around 50 group photos, 350 game shots, and 50 crowds shots. This means you have to edit 750 images before you cover another tournament tomorrow!
We’ll say it again.
You make the photographs.
Snapizzi makes the connections.
ShootProof makes the sales.
You make it to the airport in time.
HUGE thanks to Randy dela Fuente for sharing his insights with us! Now, Regain your time with your own fast and efficient Snapizzi setup.
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