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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Sports Talk 
Thread started 07 Jan 2011 (Friday) 20:13
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How do I get into sports photography?

 
sch_photo
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Jan 10, 2011 09:31 |  #31

Phil makes some very good points none that is more important than: "to do this you need to have a passion for both the sport and your photography."


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Jan 10, 2011 09:41 |  #32

philwillmedia wrote in post #11609103 (external link)
You can "get experience and build portfolios while enjoying the games" without being on the field.

Sports pictures from spectator seats.

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Bought a $6 ticket and sat behind the basket.

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Bought a $30 end zone seat.

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Bought a $15 seat next to the third-base dugout.

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Bought a $10 general admission ticket and sat on a spectator mound.

The trick is to choose events where no one is upset that you have a camera (as was the case with the MotoGP image), or find events where you can get close to the action with only a ticket and not a credential. Usually, that means finding small-time events, minor league and small college games where the attendance is sparse but the action is plentiful and the tickets are inexpensive.

The reason that questions of this type sometimes get pointed responses is that the questioner often wants to start at major-league events without having any experience at sports photography. Those who have spent years at the craft usually feel that a newcomer has to "pay their dues" before they're ready to make what appears to be the big time.

If you want to make any money at this sort of thing, you should expect to spend several years developing and honing your photographic craft, while making contacts with potential customers at the same time. It's not something that's automatic or can be done in isolation. You need to turn off the computer, leave home, and go out and meet people. At the same time, you need to deal with the potential competition and people who may not want you around if they think you're competition.

Often, the isolated nature of photography means that photographers aren't good at socializing, and are more interested in controlling people than working with them. That attitude has to change if you want to make the contacts that lead to business.



  
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squires
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Jan 10, 2011 14:37 |  #33

sch_photo wrote in post #11610288 (external link)
Phil makes some very good points none that is more important than: "to do this you need to have a passion for both the sport and your photography."

Ditto. Part of getting good shots is knowing the sport well enough to be able to anticipate what will happen next. I like to photograph airshows and noticed I was getting better shots of the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds just by memorizing their routines.




  
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Jan 11, 2011 04:33 |  #34

CGNelson wrote in post #11609881 (external link)
So your telling me that if the NFL asked you to shoot the game from the sidelines as a contributor that you would pass on the offer?

The answer would be NO WAY, NO THANKS, NOT HAPPENING!

I CAN shoot the NFL every week, I have an "in" that can get me on the sidelines at the stadium every week they're home if I choose to pull the string. However, I choose NOT to use that connection because I'm not that much of an ego maniac that I just need to be there. Unless there is a client and I will make money it's not happening! Much rather sit home during the NFL season on a Sunday curled up watching the games on TV.

Put a check in there, I'll gear up...and next year I might lose that luxury, but there's going to be a check involved and trying to make a living, not pat myself on the butt, puff my chest out and inflate my ego. Work my butt off for the client that day instead of loafing on the couch!

NOT to mention those shooting for the NFL, and MLB, and NBA, and NHL, and pretty much every organization that has a photography division are 100% against those shooting for free stepping on their toes and only getting in the way of people trying to make a living. Actually many seem to hate spec shooters, where there's a possibility of a check but not guaranteed - so imagine how much farther it goes for those just handing it over free! Not all of them I must add on, but a lot - just read some threads over at sports shooter about spec and free shooters.

Also, people think they need to do this to build a portfolio because only college/pro athletes are portfolio worthy, it's a bunch of BS! They do it for ego, to go where normal fans can't, to get sideline access, to see their name in print (and they're the only one who are reading the credit, it means nothing). They use the portfolio as an excuse or they simply don't know what editors look for, in other words haven't done any homework. The best games I shot last year were the ones that had almost empty stands, not the big fan fair, the freedom to be a bit more creative, that's where you build your portfolio.

I was shooting for a college last year, stayed for the next game to get a couple guys I wanted for stock and was going to be there anyways uploading to the client. The SID of the school playing (not the one who hired me) asked my rate, so I told him. He went on after that to talk about the sucker they have, and that's exactly what he called him - "a sucker who does it free and attends almost every game" was pretty darn close to the quote if not exactly it. He talked about he's not very good, basically ripped the guy the entire time but they used him because he was free.

All I could think about was if every SID who has "contributors" sounds like this, even though I know they don't. I know there's some out there that seriously don't have the budget and have to ask for free images. I know there's some out there that really, and I mean REALLY, appreciate the contributors, but it made me wonder. Made me wonder what happens if that "sucker" one day comes up and says they can't do it free anymore - you think they're going to break out the checkbook? More than likely it's not happening, even if they are one who extremely appreciates the work they've done.

I can understand interns, getting credit, or school paper staff, they're getting something out of the deal, but not those who do the "contributor" thing and call themselves professional, it's so counterproductive to an actual business that it's impossible to do both. The moment you stop doing things for free this big weight comes lifted off your shoulders, it's liberating, and a strange thing happens - you start making money and running things like an actual business.

NOW, don't confuse this with charity work. Charity work is great to do, and a great time to do your portfolio and work on things - but big difference giving for profit organizations free work and getting taken advantage of and charity work.


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CatchingUp
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Jan 11, 2011 06:01 |  #35

MJPhotos24 wrote in post #11616197 (external link)
The answer would be NO WAY, NO THANKS, NOT HAPPENING!

I CAN shoot the NFL every week, I have an "in" that can get me on the sidelines at the stadium every week they're home if I choose to pull the string. However, I choose NOT to use that connection because I'm not that much of an ego maniac that I just need to be there. Unless there is a client and I will make money it's not happening! Much rather sit home during the NFL season on a Sunday curled up watching the games on TV.

Put a check in there, I'll gear up...and next year I might lose that luxury, but there's going to be a check involved and trying to make a living, not pat myself on the butt, puff my chest out and inflate my ego. Work my butt off for the client that day instead of loafing on the couch!

NOT to mention those shooting for the NFL, and MLB, and NBA, and NHL, and pretty much every organization that has a photography division are 100% against those shooting for free stepping on their toes and only getting in the way of people trying to make a living. Actually many seem to hate spec shooters, where there's a possibility of a check but not guaranteed - so imagine how much farther it goes for those just handing it over free! Not all of them I must add on, but a lot - just read some threads over at sports shooter about spec and free shooters.

Also, people think they need to do this to build a portfolio because only college/pro athletes are portfolio worthy, it's a bunch of BS! They do it for ego, to go where normal fans can't, to get sideline access, to see their name in print (and they're the only one who are reading the credit, it means nothing). They use the portfolio as an excuse or they simply don't know what editors look for, in other words haven't done any homework. The best games I shot last year were the ones that had almost empty stands, not the big fan fair, the freedom to be a bit more creative, that's where you build your portfolio.

I was shooting for a college last year, stayed for the next game to get a couple guys I wanted for stock and was going to be there anyways uploading to the client. The SID of the school playing (not the one who hired me) asked my rate, so I told him. He went on after that to talk about the sucker they have, and that's exactly what he called him - "a sucker who does it free and attends almost every game" was pretty darn close to the quote if not exactly it. He talked about he's not very good, basically ripped the guy the entire time but they used him because he was free.

All I could think about was if every SID who has "contributors" sounds like this, even though I know they don't. I know there's some out there that seriously don't have the budget and have to ask for free images. I know there's some out there that really, and I mean REALLY, appreciate the contributors, but it made me wonder. Made me wonder what happens if that "sucker" one day comes up and says they can't do it free anymore - you think they're going to break out the checkbook? More than likely it's not happening, even if they are one who extremely appreciates the work they've done.

I can understand interns, getting credit, or school paper staff, they're getting something out of the deal, but not those who do the "contributor" thing and call themselves professional, it's so counterproductive to an actual business that it's impossible to do both. The moment you stop doing things for free this big weight comes lifted off your shoulders, it's liberating, and a strange thing happens - you start making money and running things like an actual business.

NOW, don't confuse this with charity work. Charity work is great to do, and a great time to do your portfolio and work on things - but big difference giving for profit organizations free work and getting taken advantage of and charity work.

You seem a little sensitive by over emphasizing the 'ego -puff your chest out' comments. IT is possible that there are some decent photographers out there that might not ever get a chance to shoot a game at that level and would jump at the opportunity, if given one- regardless of who ends up with the final product.

I'm not advocating some newbie with a kit lens ought to be down on the sidelines of such games...but there are those of us who are not necessarily in it for the 'money or ego'...but just for the fun and love of shooting action sports. I shoot a ton of local/high school sports. I free lance for two papers. But we don't live in the big city so it's not like I have access to those kind of pro games, but given the chance to go shoot one, I'd jump all over it. Last year, I got credentials to go shoot a pro golf tournament. While I provided some shots four our local paper, I was there soley for the enjoyment of shooting a sport I grew up loving. Had nothing to do with building my portfolio or trying to make a buck.

And without getting contentious here, your statement of "I CAN shoot the NFL every week, I have an "in" that can get me on the sidelines at the stadium every week they're home if I choose to pull the string" has an air of chest thumping to it in my opinion.

I'm just saying...


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Jan 11, 2011 14:55 |  #36

Over the years I have seen this exact questioned asked time and time again and I see the exact same arguments back and forth, paid vs free. While I am in the camp of, if you work you should get paid for the services you provide. I do understand the argument, I'll give my stuff away for free to gain access, but all you accomplish is devaluing your work and the work of other photogs around you. I don't know about everyone else, but for me the profession of sports photography or photography in general is very expensive in the way of time and equipment. Money doesn't grow on trees for me and I have to squeeze quarters out of pennies to make ends meet. Most events I photograph am having to double and sometimes triple dip, agencies to make it work. I have been finding over the last few years that sports writers, that I have freelanced for in the past, have taken up the habit carrying a point & shoots to games and getting pictures they need that way. They definatley suffer in quality, but that is their desission to go that route to save a buck. I understand the economy is rough for papers and news agencies and they have to do what they need to do to survive, but it pains me to have people giving away their work for free. While I would love to jump at the chance to shoot more pro events, I couldn't do it for free, as much as I would like to be out shooting that event you do have to put value on what you do.

I have a pretty successful youth action and T&I side to my business, but this is getting harder and harder as time goes on. With camera technologies getting better and cheaper I find that I am not just competing with other professional photographers, but now moms & dads with a pretty decent prosumer camera and lens. I am constantly on my photographers to get the shots the parents can't get. When I run across a person with the right equipment and attitude I approach them and see if I can get them to show me their portfolio and if their work is good enough I bring them on working for me and show and teach them what I am looking for them to provide. While this does take time out of my day, it is worth it to for me as they are getting paid and the end client is getting what they want and it is one less person I have to compete with in a tight market. I have been approached a few times saying I am teaching someone who could take over the contracts that I have with leagues. While that could happen, but for now my pool of available photographers gets bigger allowing me to reach out farther and gain more contracts. Realistically though, I am loosing potential sales from parent photographers giving away their images to teams and other parents. It's not going to stop, but only get worse.

I am not discouraging anyone wanting to become a sport photographer, just know the road will be rough and will not come overnight. My best advise for someone wanting to break into the business is be willing to put in a lot of hours and work really hard for what you want.


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Jan 12, 2011 22:37 |  #37

CatchingUp wrote in post #11616429 (external link)
You seem a little sensitive by over emphasizing the 'ego -puff your chest out' comments. IT is possible that there are some decent photographers out there that might not ever get a chance to shoot a game at that level and would jump at the opportunity, if given one- regardless of who ends up with the final product.

I'm not advocating some newbie with a kit lens ought to be down on the sidelines of such games...but there are those of us who are not necessarily in it for the 'money or ego'...but just for the fun and love of shooting action sports. I shoot a ton of local/high school sports. I free lance for two papers. But we don't live in the big city so it's not like I have access to those kind of pro games, but given the chance to go shoot one, I'd jump all over it. Last year, I got credentials to go shoot a pro golf tournament. While I provided some shots four our local paper, I was there soley for the enjoyment of shooting a sport I grew up loving. Had nothing to do with building my portfolio or trying to make a buck.

And without getting contentious here, your statement of "I CAN shoot the NFL every week, I have an "in" that can get me on the sidelines at the stadium every week they're home if I choose to pull the string" has an air of chest thumping to it in my opinion.

I'm just saying...

Sensitive? That's what it is, it's people doing it to do it and brag to their friends and say "I was there". It's not business, it's not because it really helps them, it's just an ego boost. There's a point in anyones career that you have to get past that point, nothing more than that. For the fun and love of shootings sports can be had anywhere, it doesn't have to be at a major athletic event. If you truly love shooting sports there's little leagues, high schools, summer leagues, etc. all over that would love to have you there and actually notice when you are there. Going to just shoot it and give it away to the local paper because you love the sport, that's the ultimate example of ego, doing it for yourself and don't care about undercutting anyone or the profession. Shooting it on spec though, getting credentials without a solid pre-paying client, is completely different. You go and shoot on your own, someone wants images you charge, simple business - some do very good at spec, others do not and do it for the wrong reason (ego).

Not sure how what you quoted is "chest thumping", how is knowing someone and not using that connection a chest thump? Seriously, oh yea I know someone, woo hoo, come on! It's just an example of the exact opposite IMHO, a chest thumping would be gloating about knowing someone that gets you into events even though you have no right being there, and without a client, or potential client afterwards to get the images used, I'd have zero right in being there.


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ZXDrew
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Jan 13, 2011 10:54 |  #38

MJPhotos24 wrote in post #11629346 (external link)
a chest thumping would be gloating about knowing someone that gets you into events even though you have no right being there, and without a client, or potential client afterwards to get the images used, I'd have zero right in being there.

I agree. It doesn't sound like MJPhotos was "chest thumping". I read it as, he could get in easily, but doesn't becuase he shots sports to make a living, not for the thrill of being there.

It seems like there is a point at which being there to capture the moment, the excitement becomes a regular feeling. If I'm not getting paid to shoot, there just isn't a big thrill to be "there". Im not saying I'm anywhere near the level of most of the guys here. At first when I started it was a thrill just to shoot, just to be "there". Now that being "there" is a regular occurance, unless I can make money the excitement just isn't enough. And by "there" I mean anywhere you regularly visit, for me its a running/cycling event. For some it could be a regular season NFL game. Who knows.


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Jan 13, 2011 13:09 as a reply to  @ ZXDrew's post |  #39

+1 to MJ


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Jan 13, 2011 13:18 |  #40

MJPhotos24 wrote in post #11629346 (external link)
Sensitive? That's what it is, it's people doing it to do it and brag to their friends and say "I was there". It's not business, it's not because it really helps them, it's just an ego boost. There's a point in anyones career that you have to get past that point, nothing more than that. For the fun and love of shootings sports can be had anywhere, it doesn't have to be at a major athletic event. If you truly love shooting sports there's little leagues, high schools, summer leagues, etc. all over that would love to have you there and actually notice when you are there. Going to just shoot it and give it away to the local paper because you love the sport, that's the ultimate example of ego, doing it for yourself and don't care about undercutting anyone or the profession. Shooting it on spec though, getting credentials without a solid pre-paying client, is completely different. You go and shoot on your own, someone wants images you charge, simple business - some do very good at spec, others do not and do it for the wrong reason (ego).

Not sure how what you quoted is "chest thumping", how is knowing someone and not using that connection a chest thump? Seriously, oh yea I know someone, woo hoo, come on! It's just an example of the exact opposite IMHO, a chest thumping would be gloating about knowing someone that gets you into events even though you have no right being there, and without a client, or potential client afterwards to get the images used, I'd have zero right in being there.

My only issue with your assessment here is that you assume anyone shooting a pro game and not getting paid to do so is obviously wrapped up with their ego and bragging rights and has no business being there on the sidelines.

I beg to differ.

If I 'know someone' or get credentials to be there, it's really no other photographers business as to why I am there. If I conduct myself in a professional manner and respect other photographer's space, then so be it.

I've been shooting a lot of local sports for years. Football happens to be my favorite sport to shoot. And most sports photographers would know that as the level/quality of play rises, so does the quality of action shots captured during the game.

Personally, I don't think I'd want to fight with the crowded sidelines on a weekly basis of an NFL or college level game. But that doesn't mean I would pass on the chance to shoot those games from time to time. And it would not be about stroking my ego; which is what you seem to think would be the only reason why anyone not getting paid would be there.


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Jan 13, 2011 14:09 |  #41

@CatchingUp - I do not mean to butt in on your spat with MJPhotos, do you shoot a majority of the time for professionally or just for personal use?


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Jan 13, 2011 14:41 |  #42

ZXDrew wrote in post #11633528 (external link)
@CatchingUp - I do not mean to butt in on your spat with MJPhotos, do you shoot a majority of the time for professionally or just for personal use?

I shoot for two newspapers in the area. I do a number of the T/I shots for various leagues in the area as well as the local schools doing their yearbook T/I shots as well.

That doesn't include the weddings, family portraits, Sr. portraits I shoot regularly as well.

Photography is my second job...supplements my teaching job.


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Jan 13, 2011 14:47 |  #43

Let me offer a personal case/point here. I live in NE Texas and LOVE to shoot football. As stated, I shoot for two papers. But I generate a lot of traffic on my website because of my sports photography which generates a lot of other paying gigs.

When our local school's football season ended (no playoffs) I was interested in shooting some games at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas for the 5A playoffs. I went online, applied for credentials and got to go.
I am 51 years old...and am not out trying to impress anyone. I like shooting football...and was not disappointed at all with what I got that day. It was fun being there...saw some great games and got some great pictures.

I even have some friends whose son played in one of the games so I got some nice shots for them.

The level of play was so much better than what I am accustomed to shooting...and so I was totally in to the challenge of shooting a faster paced, harder hitting game. I'd love to go shoot some college ball next season. It has nothing to do with being on an ego trip. And that I suppose is what ruffled me when I first read that comment.


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Jan 13, 2011 15:22 as a reply to  @ ZXDrew's post |  #44

To MJ and those that +1 him. Can you offer up some of the steps you took to get where you are and some advice along with the other don't dos?

I read the article that someone posted up above and clearly this guy did some of what has been stated here; shot for free to build his portfolio until he got to a point where he felt he was good enough to get paid for his work and he appears to be very successful in this business.

With that said, I enjoy shooting sports action and one day I'd love to do it professionally, but only after I retire (have a safe paying job) but will continue to hone in my skills. I realize I have to crawl before I can walk so I began by shooting a little football league team this past fall. A co worker asked me shoot her son, but I still spoke to the Commissioner and the coaches to make sure it was ok - and it was. At first they hardly spoke to me, but then after the parents kept telling them to check out the photos, they began to notice me. Then they informed the parents that I will be shooting the games. It's always good to get buy in and become a familiar foe to the parents. It cost them $0 for me to shoot the team games, but I did not give any photos away for free. I sold them to some parents - notice I said some parents. Some parents are just cheap lets face it. I was told my prices were $1 or $2 more than one parent's even though their child look like ants in the pictures, but it did not matter because it was cheaper. I explained to them that there are costs involved: cost to get to game, PP, equipment and I do all the printing in house, my time. The parent took the card to Sams club for printing straight out the camera. Then there's the parents that ask me for lower prices and I stated that my prices are firm and already priced well within the market - my motto, they can take or leave it, but I expect folks to negotiate.

And this always gets me smiling when a parent says that I can have a 4x6 printed for $.13 (an arbitrary price), but then I say but you need an image and that's not free.

I know the assistant coach at one local high school that I asked if they had a photographer. He stated that the local newspaper photographer is there, but can't sell to the parents. He said he woud talk to the HS AD to see if I can shoot for the team.

Also, my co-worker gave me the contact information for a gentleman that shoots alot of sports in our county so I will contact him, too. I am just trying to get started even if I have to shoot for someone at the moment. I just need the experience and exposure.

Sorry for the ramblings


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Jan 13, 2011 20:26 |  #45

To me that's ego, shooting for local papers to give it away just because you love the sport. Could I see doing it once in awhile for the hell of it, sure why not, but not if it's going to be undercutting someone else, myself, the profession, or it's for anyone that is going to be using it for their gain. I've made that mistake, almost everyone has, and it's just that - a mistake. Giving my stuff away to a paper for free and getting nothing in return, that's getting taken advantage of in my book and at this point in my career it's not going to happen. I only wish there was someone earlier on to tell me that when I first started!

Spec is different, you go shoot and don't give it away, nobody else gets it unless they are paying for it. There's people who do well with spec, and will go shoot and practice at an event just because they can get in. However, they are not giving anything away after the game just to be there. There is no trade images for access happening. I respect that guy a hell of a lot more than I do the guy trading access for images. That guy has a goal, to practice and possibly make money, not just be there.

I love shooting hockey, football & baseball - only two of those make me any money (87% baseball, 7% football, 6% basketball & soccer**see bottom**). I shot a league for hockey for about a quarter of a season on spec, not paid to be there, but trying to make some money from it. After it just wasn't worth it, even though I loved being there, I stopped. I was making others do work they didn't need to do, the media director had to issue a pass that was basically wasted - the team photographer, newspaper photographer, and myself rotated around places to shoot. By not having me there, it freed up more room for them to work a little more independently. Not an issue in football, but depends at times as the sidelines are often over crowded with God only knows who.

There's also this myth that you need the faster paced games, and it sounds like you're talking high school (5A?), creates better images for a portfolio. It's just not true! You want to impress someone, that's what a portfolio does and is for, then you go find something that is slow and crappy and make it look amazing. Anyone can capture an NFL player making a great play, now go to a youth game and make that 6 year old look like an NFL player and you really will impress someone. If your market is youth (18 under) then you're playing them right into your hands, you've shown what you can do with their age group already. Any schmuck can get T.O. in his prime making a great play, or dropping a routine one (just saying), but not everyone can make the average little leaguer look like a big leaguer.

One thing is, being the state photographer here, that 5A game you shot. Was there an official photographer? Were you there shooting and giving your friend images undercutting the official photographer? I can't say if there was or wasn't, but have gone through it when it's happened. This past year there were at least 7-8 of these people who got passes at the state games giving images away undercutting me, even though there's a signed contract saying the company I shot for had the exclusive. Sure they had no problem saying yes to that pass for the thrill of it, and sure they don't care one bit about undercutting. They care about being able to say they were there, giving away the CD to everyone and getting the pats on the back, that's all, it's ego.

Methodical - read only the first sentence so will try to reply later, going to dinner with one of my first editors and another photographer while working in AZ.

** That's a really rough estimate off 2010...and I enjoy shooting soccer and b-ball, any sport really, just those three out weight the rest as it's what I grew up watching or playing.


Freelance Photographer & Co-founder of Four Seam Images
Mike Janes Photography (external link) - Four Seam Images LLC (external link)
FSI is a baseball oriented photo agency and official licensee of MiLB/MLB.
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