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					Trends & Technology




                                       Shooting the marching band during a football game or at competitions can increase profits when selling online.
                                                                                                     All photos by Joe Ratterman, www.inthezoneimages.com.




Shoot to sell
                                                                                By Larry Thall




                            FotoStudio offers a venue for pros to sell online

                                                 Selling photos online may seem like                   “FotoShare is a Web-based online
                                                 a good idea to photographers, but                   service that allows customers to share
                                                 getting into the market may be more                 online pictures taken at family events
                                                 complicated.                                        – such as birthday parties, graduations
                                                  Launched in 1999, FotoTime Inc.,                   and vacations – with families and
                                                 Dallas, Texas (www.fototime.com),                   friends.”
                                                 offered two major products, FotoShare
                                Joe
                                Ratterman        and Foto Album.                                     Online options
                                of In The         “FotoAlbum is a Window-based                       FotoTime launched its third major
                                Zone
                                Images           multimedia application to help                      product in July 2006, called FotoStudio,
                                shoots a         photographers organize their digital                which is targeted at photographers who
                                variety of
                                sports and
                                                 pictures and video,” says FotoTime CTO              want to make money selling their work
                                events.          Jeff Kelling.                                        online.


48   PMA — April 2007 — www.pmai.org
                                                                                                                              Trends & Technology




                  Ratterman’s biggest-selling sport is football, but he shoots all major team sports at youth and high-school levels, including water skiing.




  “So far, about 70 percent of the pros             biggest category of professionals using                  Ratterman himself has been able to
who use FotoStudio are selling photos               FotoStudio. Photographer Joe Ratterman,                contribute to the FotoStudio site in an
online for the first time,” Kelling says.            In The Zone Images, Stilwell, Kan., is                 informal advisory capacity, “Jeff and I
“Most of the remaining 30 percent have              among them.                                            have had many productive discussions
migrated from similar online services                 A corporate executive during the week,               about what features professional
for various reasons. Some try us because            Ratterman shoots corporate events, family              photographers require to grow their
our print prices, commissions, and                  portraits, senior portraits, and youth                 businesses and offer maximum added
membership fees are lower than the sites            sports team photos. Ratterman got his                  value to our customers.”
with instant name recognition.”                     start in the business with action sports                 One such feature is his ability to track
  The standard 4-by-6-inch print is                 photography.                                           hits on his website. Not only total hits,
10 cents, and photographers are free to               Ratterman doesn’t fit into the old                    but also hits broken down by each game
set their own pricing for their work. As an         “weekend warrior” stereotype, though he                or event, and each photo from that shoot,
example, if a photographer sells a 4-by-6           is hopeful about turning his part-time                 regardless of whether the photo was sold.
print for $5, his profit would be $4.90,             photography pursuits into a full-time                    “I pay close attention to traffic on my
minus a 13 percent order processing fee             business when he retires from the                      website and try to learn as much as I can
from FotoTime.                                      corporate world.                                       about my customers – not only about
  “Being able to study the competition                He’s both business and technology savvy,             which types of photos sell, but also which
and their pricing structure is one                  having invested roughly $20,000 thus                   ones don’t and why,” he explains.
advantage of being a relative latecomer to          far in a high-end Canon DSLR camera                      Team picture sales started off quite slow,
the game,” Kelling notes.                           system, fast sports lenses and studio                  in part because he would assemble and
  Then, too, FotoStudio is what Kelling             lighting equipment.                                    pose players for the photograph, and
refers to as a “fire and forget” service.              “I don’t have a formal background in                 parents would stand behind him and take
Photographers take the pictures, upload             photography, but I typically study quite               the same shot.
them to their FotoStudio account, and               thoroughly before starting anything new.                 “The only reason I was needed was to
are done. FotoTime completes the order              I learned everything I could from those                line up the kids,” he says. “Image quality
and handles all the necessary fulfillment            around me, and then poured through                     alone wasn’t enough for parents to buy
functions, not only for prints but also the         several books on photography.”                         my team picture, despite my ability to
photo novelty items they sell.                                                                             deliver a near-perfect exposure on every
  Each month FotoTime sends a check                 Customer value                                         shot. I had to find a way to make my
and a transaction printout to each                  Ratterman was among the first                           team pictures different, exciting, and
photographer.                                       photographers to use FotoStudio, after                 better, to such a degree parents couldn’t
                                                    previously being a FotoShare member. He                match them.”
Sport and event market                              credits Kelling with having fantastic skills
Youth sports photographers represent the            in website design and functionality.                                               Continued on page 50



                                                                                                                   PMA — April 2007 — www.pmai.org       49
Trends & Technology

  He accomplished this by incorporating         have a sales tent, on-site printing, or a lab   customers view and purchase images, as
Memory Mate elements in his team                in each city or town.                           well as other photo novelty products.
photos, adding features such as text and         Kelling also takes pleasure in seeing            “The small FotoTime logo in the upper
visual graphics, and then combining the         small-business people who once used             corner of their website is the only thing
team photo with the individual photos           FotoShare are now upgrading to                  that might tip off a customer there’s
into a single easy-to-frame image. Sales        FotoStudio and are finding creative ways         an outside company involved with my
improved.                                       to turn those same photos into new profit        business,” Ratterman notes.
  Ratterman shoots all the major team           centers.                                          Branded envelopes are the only
sports at the youth and high-school levels,      “I’ve been amazed at what some of              fulfillment feature that also indicates
as well as waterskiing. His biggest seller by   them have done. One client operates a           third-party involvement, and it occupies
far is football. In terms of straight print     pedestrian rickshaw-type carriage service.      a high-ranking spot on Kelling’s small list
sales, 4-by-6s sell best; but he’s happy to     During the ride, a photographer takes           of imminent upgrades.
report, since starting last summer with         photos of his customers at predetermined          Additional support services are offered
FotoStudio, he’s also beginning to sell a       scenic spots. Pictures he once posted           to FotoStudio users, including such
fair number of 8-by-10s, as well as larger      for customers to view free, he now sells        functions as online reports on who
prints, such as 11-by-14s and 16-by-20s.        through FotoStudio.”                            bought what from which domains, and a
                                                 Though FotoStudio shares the                   marketing section.
Entrepreneurial spirit                          FotoTime home page with FotoAlbum                 The ICC profiles from the lab can be
FotoStudio members differ from the               and FotoShare, each pro client is given         used for proofing profiles. This allows
competition in many ways. They don’t            a custom domain through which their             for a preview of how each print from the
                                                                                                Fujifilm Frontier will look, and simply
                                                                                                requires a calibrated monitor and Adobe
                                                                                                Photoshop use. It gives photographers
                                                                                                the tool they need to see how an image
                                                                                                will look before committing to having it
                                                                                                printed.
                                                                                                  Kelling markets FotoTime mostly
                                                                                                online through ads on Google, various
                                                                                                computer and photography magazines,
                                                                                                and blogs.
                                                                                                  Ratterman’s philosophy may be different
                                                                                                from other sports photographers. “I
                                                                                                like to shoot where the action is, and
                                                                                                that means I won’t always get a shot of
                                                                                                everybody on the field. I look for the
                                                                                                action and emotion when it happens, and
                                                                                                try to get moments worthy of publishing
                                                                                                in a magazine. I will also try to capture
                                                                                                some sideline action, which often
                                                                                                includes the officials, cheerleaders, and
                                                                                                other nonathletes.
                                                                                                  “Parents buy images they can’t get
                                                                                                themselves. Even if I don’t get the
                                                                                                athlete’s face, as long as the parents can
                                                                                                tell it’s their kid in the photo and the
                                                                                                action is good, then I have a pretty good
                                                                                                chance at selling the photo. More than
                                                                                                selling photos, however, my goal is to
                                                                           Ratterman likes to
                                                                                                capture those brief moments in time
                                                                           capture the action
                                                                           and emotion.         when athletes are at their best!”


50   PMA — April 2007 — www.pmai.org