Yesterday I received this very simple request, in which I've deleted names/links to save face. The whole reason I'm replying in the sports section instead of privately is because after writing the response felt more people could learn from it, hopefully. For some reason this question pops up all the time even though it's well documented on this site and over at Sports Shooter, literally pages upon pages of answers already exist. Though there's specific answers directed at the issues found with this persons images and approach, others wishing to do the same should be able to put it against their images and how they plan on approaching members of Sports Shooter to "learn the handshake".
Heres my latest photos:
The straight honest answer is no, and for several reasons.
I've recommended two people for SportsShooter and they were both people I met off this board, got to know personally, had long detailed photography & business discussions with them both on here, via email or in person; one even talking with about starting a local business with another shooter we know. In other words I knew who they were, what type of person they were and if they'd fit in on the site.
With your message here I have no clue if you're just copying and pasting the same basic question to every person on this board who shows they're a member of SS or trying to actually address me personally. Have we ever talked on a thread, debated, met at a game, anything? In other words how do I know you, who exactly are you?
There's a lot of threads on here about joining Sports Shooter, and there's of course the multiple pages on their site that point out the what to and not to do when trying to join. You have not accomplished one of the to do's, yet have nailed some not to do's. So let's go over the step by step of joining SS and how to get a sponsor folks.
Get to know a sponsor
The first thing they suggest is to get to know a member after some lurking on the site to make sure it's the place for you. Fact is for some people it's just not the place they want to be after realizing it's not a "great job" or pat you on the back every post type place, there's harsh criticism and blunt responses, yes they'll call you out deservingly so! Most people don't even know why they want to join SS other than to say they're a member, that's not a good enough reason, so if that's your case move along.
Anyways, considering I have no clue who you are and don't remember one interaction with you at all off the top of my head, jumping straight to asking me to be your sponsor is out of line. This is my reputation with the site organizers on the line when recommending other shooters, yes I'm picky when it comes to putting my name behind another, as I should be. Last thing I want is to hear from Brad or any of the higher ups over there saying I recommended someone who has no right being there.
Sending these type of blind requests for a sponsor is unprofessional, the only thing more unprofessional in the joining process would be if a SS member actually said sure why not without vetting the person asking. If they did that, I'd hope SS would drop them or at the very least take away their senior rank and make them start all over again.
Sports Shooter has guidelines for image quantity as well as quality, I'm sorry to say you failed them all. First thing that jumps out is you have sent a gallery of 48 images, none of which are strong images and all of the same sport/game. This is not what they're looking for, someone too lazy to make a portfolio of their best work. SS wants a minimum of five images and max of ten, sponsors may want a bit more to make sure it's not a fluke, but 48 images in a gallery of the same sport, same game, and none of them are of very high quality is not going to cut it.
Of course having a limit of images does nothing to address the problem that anyone can create a good enough portfolio, shoot 2,500 images at one event and have 2-3 to put towards it when they got lucky and repeat a few times until you have 10 strong ones. Trust me, I've hired photographers based off portfolios and been sorely disappointed in the results, one guy had to delete almost 60% of his stuff I hired him to shoot and the other 40% was weak at best! So personally I DO try to take a look at galleries and other factors, but the smaller portfolio is what gets things going, it's your introduction!
This one we're going step by step exactly what SS has on their guideline page.
- All 48 images I don't see one clean background, in fact the images are very poorly framed to begin with that it's almost like the action you're shooting is the background. You need to work on isolating subjects and the action, drastically. Clean backgrounds can be done a handful of ways including just watching what angle you're shooting from, separation using low f/stop, shooting above the action, etc. It's time to pay attention when you shoot folks, it's not showing up and blasting away.
- These images are not cropped, and if you did crop them it'd highlight more problems to deal with addressed in the next few subject areas. There's dead space everywhere, tilted sideways, just not professional quality. We all have a tilt we barely notice while shooting it seems and you need to leave crop room to help take care of that at times, but these are way too loose and honestly no more than what an average parent would shoot. You want to know cropping start looking for examples, they're everywhere! Head on over to SS and look at the top guys pages and how they crop, pick up SI, ESPN, USA Today and see how they crop. Yes for stock you don't do too much to give editors room, but for your portfolio you should be putting the finished product out.
- A vast majority of these images are simply out of focus and blurry. After going through the first ten I gave up trying to count the ones in focus, none of the action shots I saw were in focus and if you cropped them like suggested in the last section they'd just show how badly out of focus they are. If your images are not focused or blurry DELETE THEM, they are not keepers and deserve to be in the garbage can. I don't care one bit about an image that is out of focus, doesn't matter if it's the biggest moment of the game or peak action with great timing - if it's not in focus it's garbage!
HIGH IMAGE QUALITY
- Very important factor here, you need to have properly exposed images that are in focus, cropped right, and clean backgrounds. Many of these images are under exposed and not toned properly, definitely not processed correctly in any sense. Now no professional goes by the phrase "fix it in photoshop", none, zilch, zero. Read once on this board a fake photographer saying his first piece of advice was just fix it in photoshop, it's BULLS**T! Shoot it right in the first place, if you're skills with JPG suck getting it right then go to RAW so you can recover a bit of your mistakes. Overdoing it though is a BIG no-no, people have been fired for editing too much.
EXCELLENT IMAGE SELECTION AND EDITING
- Something I see in portfolios all the time, myself included I'm sure. The choice of images you have sent to show off was very poor, these can't be your best portfolio ready images if you want to join SS. Photographers often choose images that are no good for their portfolio because of the subject in them or they just like them, not because it's the best image that shows your skill level. This is why you see some people on here put together 20-25 images they like and then ask for others opinions, that's the smart way to go as it helps you get others viewpoints. This is how you build trust with a senior member, not sending blind emails like the one shown above.
WHO ARE YOU?
- This has been established I have no clue who you are, so maybe you could explain when sending a blind request to sponsor. Seriously folks, do you go around town outside the office building you want to work at and ask the first guy in a business suit that comes out to go to his bosses and recommend you for a job? That's completely asinine and so is blindly sending emails to those you don't know. If you're going to contact a member then do so in a professional manner, tell them why you want to join, what your portfolio currently looks like, reach out and try to show them who you are.
If you don't get an answer don't take it personally either. I'm going to tell all reading this right now the chance of me sponsoring anyone is pretty much zero. I'm too busy to try and give workshops online one by one, and that's why I choose to post things on this board so as many people as possible can learn from it. Though at times it gets old with some people only wanting to listen to what they want to hear and any kind of truth is viewed as "mean", I do know there's still people out there that want to learn and don't mind how harsh it comes across (I call those people the "adults in the room"). I know they exist because I get messages from them more frequently.
CAN YOU WRITE?
- First thing that jumped out to me, besides how short this message actually is, was the spelling and grammar mistakes. First off it's not a referral, it's a sponsor, I can refer people to the site all I want, but doesn't mean I'm going to sponsor them to become members. Yes I know I'm splitting hairs here and it can be seen as a referral to, but to me it's a bit more than that - referral to me is sending someone to an open site like Exposure Manager that literally anyone can sign up for. Sports Shooter on the other hand my name is forever attached to who I sponsor so I just don't view it the same.
Second you say "heres my latest photos:", I say nay-nay, it's "Here are my latest photos". Even though I don't recommend either of them as a stand alone like that as stated several times as it's not professional, can at least spell correctly. You're trying to get a professional photographer to sponsor you for a site, look and act the part.
Also, not one image has a caption - not a single one. Where's the caption, who is that in the photo, why are you shooting it, what's the deal? Where's the info?! AP style captioning is the most accepted, some agencies and places make exceptions but for the most part it should be AP style sent in with every single image.
ARE YOU A "ONE HIT WONDER"?
- With this they talk about how many images, in other words don't send in one image trying to join. I don't see any images I'd consider portfolio ready, you have a LONG ways to go. When someone sends in a portfolio for me it's about more than that, all the portfolio does is get my attention. I often head on over to the persons site and check several things like galleries, pricing, bio, writing, etc. to see if they did their homework in pricing, shooting, site design is even taken into consideration.
Before taking the steps to ask for a sponsor here's what you need to do and ask yourself.
1) Ask yourself why you want to join, what's the reason? Is it because you just want to be a member there like it's the cool kids table at lunch in middle school - if the answer is yes then don't join, it's not for you, you're not at that table, move along.
2) Ask yourself it it's worth $25/year? If you even thought about it, move along. Seriously it's $25, something you'd blow at the bar in 15 minutes without hesitating!
3) Ask yourself if you're good enough, if you doubt yourself you're not.
4) Ask yourself again if you're good enough, we've all seen too many people on this board and honestly over at SS that are not very good photographers but have the thought in their head that they're Walter Iooss! I've hired some from SS who were good and others who were horrible, I thought I'd get a pro hiring from there and was proven dead wrong, they just put enough images in and faked the rest. Stop listening to your friends, parents, etc. and look at it compared to the best out there.
5) Lurk, find out if the site is for you and if you need what is available to pay members only. Most of the site is free so joining is not a necessity, if it wasn't for the need to use the guide every so often (that is seriously out dated) and partake in a few discussions I'm interested in I may not be a member anymore, everything else like articles is free!
6) Look at the date you bought your gear, if it ends in "months" instead of "years" then don't bother trying to join. In another few months the next thing you might want to be will come along making it useless. Just because you bought a kit in January doesn't mean by September it's time to go pro or go home.
7) Ask yourself if you're a pro, a hobbyist, or just a GWC. Seriously, do it. You'd be surprised how many people say they're a pro when they're just a GWC, want proof - look around. You know why consumer confidence in people hiring photographers sucks? They hired a "so called" pro and they delivered garbage, so they think all pros are crap. I hear it all the time from teams and other places saying they have a guy that shoots pro quality, then I take a look and it's awful! They think that's pro, no just because a guy charges doesn't mean it's pro, it means he fooled someone into paying it.
If you're a professional all the stuff mentioned in this thread should be easy. This is not just for full time pros but part time as well, there's some great part timers out there.
If you're a hobbyist some things may be lacking, you may not know some certain things about how the media works and how PJ is. Not an excuse, need to learn it, but joining really is not a necessity for you unless maybe wanting to head towards being a pro.
If you're a GWC there's really no place for you. Sorry but GWC's are not what SS is about, it's professionals and those working to be professionals. The "I'll trade all my images just for a credential" crowd is not well liked, just read the message boards! It's one thing to want to learn from the best but you can do this without being a member, even the best of the best still go to workshops and learn from others, talk, etc. Seriously, do you join a biker gang because you want to ride a motorcycle?
So, finally, all this info is readily out there and this is just repeating what's been said before in different places, I guess it just doesn't get through to people sometimes so they ask the same questions again. This is my thoughts towards it, others may differ, but when I see posts like I see here about SS it drives me crazy that people don't do their homework enough to have these questions answered already as all this info is already archived on the net, so guess you can just consider this your cheat sheet.
/rant-ish type long post that I did instead of doing what I should of been doing.