So you love sports and you are looking to expand your sports photography business? A great option is to add Team and Individual pictures to your product offerings. This is a very fun and profitable volume business. To do this you need to know how to get started and be organized.
Create your packages
First thing that needs to be completed is to decide what is going to be offered. Team and Individual Photography is not like the traditional portrait photography. You are not trying to sit down post session and up sale the customer something bigger and more expensive. You are typically handling hundreds of individuals in just a few hours so there is no way to sit down for In-Person Sales after the session. T&I photography is all about volume and fixed package offerings.
As you are working to create your package offerings you will need to decide upon a lab. My best recommendation is you choose a single lab that has a great product line for sports. I personally use HH Color Lab (http://www.hhcolorlab.com/) because I like their product offering and packaging services. There are others that many like to use that have volume services such as Millers Photo Lab (http://www.millerslab.com/), Nations Photo Lab (http://www.nationsphotolab.com/ ) and ddlab (http://www.ddlab.net/ ). I know there are a few more that I didn’t mention so feel free to post your favorite in the comments section.
Once the lab has been chosen it is time to figure out what products to offer. I have found that the more items you offer the smaller the order. This is because when you have too much to offer the customer will be overwhelmed and will just choose the smallest package. So I keep it simple and have four packages and small amount of A La Carte items.
Use Prepay envelopes
Prepay envelopes are the ones with the tear-off envelope that allows the customer to put their cash or check and seal it up. You can get these in a variety of ways from simply printing your package info on a piece of paper, to ordering blank envelopes from places such as Mackay-Mitchell (https://mackaymitchellphotopak.com/category/prepays) or you can have your lab create and print your envelopes.
I work with multiple organizations that all have different needs so I like to order blank prepay envelopes and I print (actually I take them to my local copy store to print) the package and order information as needed. When you are just starting out this is a great way to have some flexibility as you tweak your pricing and package offerings.
Be sure to get the prepay envelopes delivered about a week before picture day. I try to deliver the envelopes to the team contacts so that way they can hand them out to the players. Get them out too soon and the envelopes get lost and wait too long and they won’t reach the families in time so a week is about right.
Note: Not being able to accept credit cards can cost you about 25% or more in sales. I use Square but there are many options out there from Paypal, Stripe, PPA and your local bank. Do some research to fins a solution that best fits your business model.
T&I Photography is all about volume so pricing is very importing. Like all businesses you need to know your costs and you need to know how much of a profit do you want to make. Here is an example of how I calculated my costs and profits:
Example Package C Includes:
Memory Mate Holder
8 Wallets (1 sheet)
Sell Price $22
Example Package C Costs:
8×10 Memory Mate $1.48
Memory Mate Holder $0.57
8 Wallets (1 Sheet) $1.14
Prepay Envelope $0.25
Prepay Envelope Printing $0.11
Commission Replacement Item $1.00
Sales Tax %8.9 in my area $1.96
Total Cost: $5.51
Gross Profit: $13.49
We still have to pay Business and Operations Taxes which can vary from State to State so my final profit is closer to $10-11 for this package.
$11.00 does not seem like a lot but remember we are talking about volume photography. Normally you have 100’s of players and if you average out the profit of $9 – $12 then it quickly adds up.
A note on prices: I know there is this whole psychological effect of pricing something that ends in .99 but we are going to be dealing with a lot of cash sales. Coins are a pain and providing change is also a time factor. This is one area where prices that are even dollars makes everyone happy including the customer.
I can tell you right now that one of the biggest pain points for a coach during the season is picture day. Having kids standing around and trying keep them from running off and delaying the team picture is very stressful for a coach. I know when I was a coach I never liked picture day. That is actually what I use to set myself apart from my competitors, I look at the whole process as a coach and do whatever I can to minimize the standing around.
In order to keep things moving smoothly it typically takes 2 ½ people. At least one person on Camera (that’s me) and one person covering the Order table collecting all the envelopes (that’s my wife and I pay her with Ice Cream). The ½ person usually comes from the team. For older (High School age) teams I grab a team captain and the younger teams I usually grab a coach or a team parent to write down the names of the players in the order I am taking their individual pictures. This is probably the most important part of the whole day, if you miss just one player the entire team’s orders will be wrong forcing you to reprint the entire teams order at YOUR cost.
I always take the individuals pictures first because there is always that late player. This allows for that late player to arrive before team pictures. Once the individuals are complete I line them all up for team picture and we are done. A team of 16-18 players will typically take me just less than 15 min so I schedule my teams for every 20 min.
A little tip: take every players picture regardless of whether or not they ordered. I typically get a handful of “I forgot to send money, can I still order my kids pictures?” after each session. If you don’t have the kids photo you just lost a sale.
As soon as I get home I pull the images from both my cameras then I back them up. I pull them into Lightroom and cull the pictures then export them into a folder for each team. As I mentioned above I use HH Color Lab so I will have to load the project into their ROES system.
After the images are loaded then I pull all the data from the prepay envelopes such as names and items ordered. Once all that is entered then I am ready to upload to the lab for printing and packaging.
One thing I like about my particular lab is they will package and label each order in ready to deliver envelopes. They are also grouped by team so they are pretty much ready to handout to each team.
There are many options of how to deliver packages to the teams. One is to deliver all the packages to the organizations picture coordinator and let them hand them out to the teams. This is simple but does not always guarantee the pictures will be delivered in a timely manner. This can cause a few upset families contacting you about when they will receive their pictures and while it is out of your hands it is not a positive image for your business.
Another method is shipping directly to each family directly. This is a great option and again the lab I use can also provide the picture orders in ready to mail envelopes instead of the regular portrait envelopes. However I have found that collecting the correct amount to cover the cost of shipping is a bit difficult. If you simply bump your package prices up to cover the shipping cost you appear significantly more expensive than the previous photographer. If you add a line item at the bottom of the order form for shipping a fair amount of people “forget” or “didn’t realize they had to add it to the total.”
I found the best compromise is to ship an entire teams order to the team coordinator\coach. This has been a very quick and cost effective method. The Shipping cost above of $2 per order will average out per team to cover the shipping of a small box of pictures.
Another great tip when delivering the pictures is to slip into each order a full color flyer describing your other photography services. I like to advertise my Senior, Family and Headshot services. This has brought in quite a few new clients.
Landing an Organization
My first organization was my son's soccer club. They had not had a team photographer for a couple of years and I took my sons team pictures. Word got around and a few more teams approached me about taking their teams as well. The next year I approached the club and now 3 years later… I have also a few other organizations such as a couple of football programs, volleyball clubs and a basketball club. I was able to get each one of these organizations by simply sending an email to each organization introducing myself. Every one that answered simply said thanks for contacting us our last photographer has not responded so we are in need of a new one this year.
Once you get the positive contact from an organization you will need to be ready with your “Sales Pitch.” Basically the organization is going to want to know “what's in it for them?” The organization is about to let you sell directly to their members and make a pretty significant amount of money. They will want something in return. For the most part it is a simple commission of %15 – %20 or sometimes a bit more so don't be surprised if you are asked to provide a commission. Simply build it into your costs (raise the prices appropriately). For my business I haven't paid a commission yet because I use my experience as a coach to provide some extra services. I offer to provide headshots for player cards (many travel teams must have a picture ID player card). I also use the commission replacement items from my lab (cost $1 ea) to provide a free product to each player. This is usually a bag tag or a magnet photo that has a significant value to the user but costs me a small amount. With these two items I have been able to land each client without any commission.
If you choose to jump into this business keep coming back as I will have an article on using Green Screen for volume photography as well as an interview with 3 successful Team and Individual photographers.