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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos The Business of Photography 
Thread started 21 Nov 2007 (Wednesday) 12:34
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Getting noticed and moving up...

 
namasste
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Nov 21, 2007 12:34 |  #1

I have posted here for a little while so many of you "know" me by now which is why I am turning to you all with this issue. I have been into photography for a while but it wasn't until I discovered sports photography this year that I really found what I love in it. That said, I have been able to get hooked in with our local high school and have been granted full access to any event from the AD (I have been shooting for them since the later part of the football/soccer season).

That's the good news. The thing is, I really want to use this as a means to continue progressing and hopefully it will lead to bigger things. I don't see doing photography full-time until much later in life (I own my own business (unrelated) now and have a family that depends on the income from that. I also enjoy what I do so a total change just isn't a consideration right now. Still, I don't want to think of sports photography as merely a hobby since it seems to belittle it. I do sell images online for the HS parents and also shoot some travel/premier soccer and rec sports for the community I live in. I don't think that qualifies me as a pro by any means but I do hope that I can use those sales to fund my "hobby" and expand my gear.

Getting to the point, what do you all think my next logical step would be? Should I just shoot HS and community sports and hope someone notices me? Should I send photos into local papers and hope they are interested? I'm just not sure. I have tried contacting a couple of folks from SportsShooter that live very close to me just to have coffee and ask them some questions. I guess I'm hoping that maybe I find a local mentor. I've been clear that I am not looking to take their jobs since both of them shoot pro sports mainly (which I am light years from it seems) and I am not looking to be full-time anyway at this point. I've gotten no reply from either. I have also sent some galleries and email to the editors of a couple of area papers and the Sr. Editors were very gracious and sent the info on to the photo editor...again, no response. Thing is, I noticed that one of these papers (more of a local paper as a I live in a metropolitan area) doesn't seem to have any coverage of the HS I shoot for, still, nothing. Am I completely barking up the wrong tree here. Admittedly, I am naive to how this all works so I am just trying to reach out to people I think I should.

Could some of you offer some advice on the best way to network this? I am willing (and have offered) to work as an unpaid assistant for some pro photogs just to gain experience (seems like a win-win to me) but that doesn't seem to work either. Basically (and don't take this the wrong way), it seems like an elite club that doesn't take new members. It gets me down a bit and kinda makes me think I must be spinning my wheels in trying to network. Maybe there too many sports photogs already and I'm simply not welcome? Lastly, I thought about trying to hook in with some of the other guys I see shooting at the HS games but I feel like it's just going to be more of the same. I'm nice to them and we seem to get along well enough since you never know but still....okay, enough already. What do you guys think or what was your experience early on? Did you get lucky, was it networking?

Peace all. Scott.


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DwightMcCann
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Nov 21, 2007 13:48 |  #2

Scott,

You are voicing the complaint that every unconnected photographer aspiring to get connected has made since the beginning of time. While many may disagree with me (they usually do) I am going to suggest that you need to network like a madman and even then it will take a huge amount of luck to make anything of what you have. It is not 'What you know' but 'Who you know' that gets the breaks ... maybe not fair, but this is life, not a kindergarten game.

So, I urge you to have business cards and a website. Whenever you meet someone who is involved you shake hands and pass them a business card. I keep a small stack in my left front pocket whenever I am shooting or around events/photographers/A​D/LD/producers, whatever. When I shake hands upon meeting someone my left hand pulls a card from my left pocket. The business card should have contact information and your website. Your website should have only outstanding work on it.

Newspapers are notoriously cheap and generally don't offer much exposure unless you already have access that others don't ... as I do. They pay almost nothing to boot. But you can make connections through them which is more important than getting photocredit on an image of a HS football game.

About the "other guys": most of them are mindlessly protective of their little niches and very suspicious of 'new guys'. When other togs come to my venue I welcome them, tell them where the heads and bottled water are, where the best shooting spots are, what I am going to do, what they can't do, and if they are Canon shooters I offer to 'spare' their equipment ... if they need a lens or battery or even a body I will share if I don't need it. I am frequently told that they have never been treated so well by a 'house photographer', most of whom stake out territory that they don't want the 'visitors' to encroach on. I know that at the end of the night I am going to have the best images possible and am guaranteed to be paid so why should I be less than cordial. Anyway, that's why you get the cold shoulder ... most High School shooters want to have exclusive shooting rights and anything that looks like it might infringe and take away a sale is very upsetting. But you're better off befriending the AD than the togs anyway.

So, networking is essential, but you want to network with the folks that pay, not the other togs. The AD, the coaches, the principal, the PR folks, the media (although that's not going to pay much if its newspapers), promoters, athletes and their parents (especially the star players), and that sort of person. Just keep in mind that 80% is luck. I didn't get lucky until I was 58 (after about 40 years of networking.) Don't get in too much of a hurry.


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namasste
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Nov 21, 2007 14:12 as a reply to  @ DwightMcCann's post |  #3

Wow, thanks Dwight! I did read something you had posted about how you handle networking at concert events before but it's great to be reminded.

I guess it's also reassuring to hear that these little fiefdoms have always dominated the scene. I was thinking it was me there.

Here's what amazes/angers/frustrat​es me...a local music portal placed an ad for 2 photogs to shoot concerts. Based on the ad, I had the qualifications (maybe more in some regards) that they sought so I emailed the guy and presented him with my work and background. Mind you, this was unpaid work but I saw it as a great networking opp. Think I ever heard back? Then I contact a local paper who has good local sports coverage but absolutely nothing for the HS I shoot for. I mention that I have full access per the AD, show them my gallery, and mention I'd simply like to freelance this school for them. Think I heard back? Point is, if I ran my business like these guys (my non photo biz that actually pays my bills), I wouldn't last a week. What's it with these guys? I mean, not to sound harsh but since when did the photo editor of a small local paper become so important that they felt it okay to abandon basic professionalism? I guess I just do things differently and like you, feel my work and professionalism will set me apart. I had no idea it was all so provincial. Kinda sucks. A lot!


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DwightMcCann
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Nov 21, 2007 14:29 as a reply to  @ namasste's post |  #4

Aha, you have learned well, Grasshopper ... "It Sucks". If you don't like it well enough to ignore this basic fact, as well as a lot of other grief, you may want to consider a change of goals. There are a million guys out there with 20Ds, XTis, whatever, and they can all create images. What sets you apart? Do you put a remote camera behind the backboard for BB? Do you put one behind the goal for Soccer? You must network like crazy and find some sort of "gimmick" (this really isn't the word I want but you get the idea) that sets you apart. And then you need LUCK.

And remember, you are going threaten a lot of guys if you up the ante! There are threads in here by guys like this ... they don't want any tog to give anything for free (like they did) because they feel it dilutes their thing. I say that if they aren't so much better on some dimension than the freebies then they need to change professions.

So, it sucks, the competition sucks, the opportunities suck ... big deal ... life sucks. But there are successful guys out there so it must be possible, eh? Just make up your mind, don't take yourself too seriously (this can be tough) and push on. If you don't like it, then don't do it, but don't feel sorry for yourself ... a lot of other guys are thinking they'd like to do this but don't have the balls to even try! :rolleyes:


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crazyskillz07
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Nov 21, 2007 14:36 |  #5

DwightMcCann wrote in post #4360252 (external link)
So, it sucks, the competition sucks, the opportunities suck ... big deal ... life sucks. But there are successful guys out there so it must be possible, eh? Just make up your mind, don't take yourself too seriously (this can be tough) and push on.

That is the best advice I have heard so far.... and it was not even directed towards me... Thanks.... lol


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namasste
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Nov 21, 2007 14:46 |  #6

crazyskillz07 wrote in post #4360288 (external link)
That is the best advice I have heard so far.... and it was not even directed towards me... Thanks.... lol

couldn't agree more, thanks again D!

Just so you know, I'm a currency and bond trader by background. Spent time in the pits and believe me, it gives you thick skin! I'm not sweating the fragile egos or whatever out there, I just think it's ridiculous on some level that there seems (in my area) to be a surprising lack of professionalism. If anything, it makes me want to actually try to go after some of these guy's businesses to show them that they aren't the only one's who can do this. Basically, push me, I'll probably push back. Obviously, I understand that reputation is part of networking so I would keep that in mind and would much rather build bridges if possible. That's what I've been unsuccessfully trying to do and I guess the real source of my frustration.


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dmwierz
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Nov 21, 2007 15:19 |  #7

Scott,

Dwight has responded while I assembled my answer, so I apologize if we cover some of the same territory.

I can't answer for what is "normal", nor can I say that my way is the best way and it certainly is not the only way. All I can say is what has worked for me, so far. Disclaimer - I haven't been at this all that long, so maybe another, more seasoned pro can also weigh in.

Dwight is correct. Nothing is gonna come easy. This is a tough business, and the work is hard. Far from being the glamorous job most people think it is, there are long hours, frequent physical discomfort, not much money, a lot of frustration, etc., etc., etc.. It ain't going to be served up to you or anyone on a silver platter. You're gonna be turned down WAY more times than you'll get what you're looking for. Hang in there, and keep at it.

Sure it's a lot of fun, too, and much better than my previous "career", but don't be misled into thinking having the "best seat in the house" is what it's all about.

I have been in Sales more than 20 years, so networking comes natural to me. I'm sure, though, that anyone who is willing to work hard, not be afraid of rejection (or have their feelings hurt when, not if, this happens) can do as well if not better than I have.

I have shot almost every time I can, at every level, under every challenging situation imaginable, covering virtually every sport. I have driven a lot of miles, worked some games nobody else wanted, and above all, worked very hard. I to be the person companies call when they need something covered because they know that I will work them into my schedule when I can.

I've shot some on spec., some for fixed fees, some for hourly rates, some for day rates, some for base plus commission, etc. Pretty much any and every way possible. I've made enough money to more than pay for a LOT of equipment and keep my family eating.

If I have the chance to cover an event that will make me more contacts, or teach me something, I go out of my way to do it.

Networking is key, as is promotion. Dwight emphasized networking with those that pay, over other photographers. I'm gonna respectfully differ a bit. Of course it's essential to get to know the folks who pay, however I have also gotten opportunities by getting to know the local shooters. Befriend them, help them, work for them, show up early to an event to help them set up their remote. Make it clear you DON'T want their job, etc.. Become their ally, and not their competition.

Now, as far as networking with those who pay, this is where being a sales guy comes in handy.

The same day I covered my first youth event, I set up a pBase gallery, and maintain this currently. I include my web site in all my emails and at the bottom of my signature on boards like this. I keep it up to date with the latest stuff I've shot, and always try to answer the folks who leave me comments. I have business cards I hand out to EVERYBODY.

Your thought that this is an "elite club that doesn't take new members" isn't exactly like I see it. Many current pro shooters are hesitant to share info with a newbie because (again, IMO - I might be wrong):

  • They fear you will take their work - you are a threat to their livelihood. They figure "why should I help my prospective competition?".
  • They think you're just a hobbyist who isn't worth their time.
  • They're just not that friendly.
  • They never had anyone "teach" them anything and don't feel like doing it for you. In other words, they've worked hard to get where they are and don't feel like making it easier for you, or anyone else.
  • They're snobs (like any other walk of life, these folks exist in photography).
  • They wonder "What's in it for me?".
  • They're too busy shooting to help you out.


In my experience, the better the photographer is, the more likely they are to offer assistance. I suppose this has to do with them feeling secure in their position and/or skills, or that they are inherently good people. Some of the most helpful, cordial and professional pro's I have met have been the most talented, and are some pretty recognizable names.

Having said that, every, and I mean every time I shoot in a new geographic location, or cover a new sport or at a new venue, there are people who ask "who is this guy, and why is he here?". I know this 'cuz I hear it from the other shooters I know. Most shooters aren't openly friendly, but I don't let this bother me. Keep positive and smiling. Actually, most PEOPLE aren't openly friendly, but get to know them, and many people, photographers included, are pretty good guys/gals. Photog's are can just be more than a little reserved, for some of the reasons listed above.

Something else I have done is stretch when I get the chance. However, I never stretch beyond my level of confidence in my abilities. Putting it another way, don't be afraid to take risks, but do so wisely.

I started out shooting lots and lots of youth stuff, and still do a lot of this work. In fact, most of the money I make comes from youth stuff. This isn't to say there isn't money in pro and college sports photography, but folks like Getty, AP and Reuters, not to mention the staff photographers at the major publications and local newspapers pretty much have a lot of this market covered several times over. Because of this, freelancers like me fight it out for leftovers, table scraps, and some not-so-desirable assignments.

Ask yourself what you hope to accomplish? Do you want a full time job at a local paper? Do you want to be a staff photog at SI (good luck)? Do you want to be a freelancer? Do you want to do this full-time? The path you follow might be a lot different for each of these destinations, and your chances of success will vary widely.

Keep trying with the local SportsShooter folks. Many of the best contacts I have made have been through the SS site. NE Ohio should be FULL of good shooters. Taking them to lunch or breakfast is exactly what I've done, so don't be discouraged.

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DwightMcCann
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Nov 21, 2007 15:27 |  #8

Thanks, guys! Scott, forget looking for the "professionalism" thing ... just put it out of your mind ... it serves no useful purpose for you to obsess over it! Just be professional yourself. You will find it 'out there' when it's there but looking for it will never do you any good.

Here's a tip: the most important thing for corporate/business client is to be reliable and self motivated. I didn't really appreciate that until I started my business. If a vendor let's me down I am no longer their customer ... I do not care what the reason/cause ... I am a business, not a charity. By the same token, I do everything I can think of to be 100% reliable. I get to gigs an hour early in case there are issues. For big events I get there two hours early ... which saved my butt this year because an event was scheduled two hours earlier than the last two years and no one told me ... so I was 'on time.' I used to go to my boss at the casino to find out what to shoot ... he never knew for sure so he'd tell me, "Just go figure it out!" When I'd ask him if he was happy with my work, he'd say, "If I'm not talking to you then we're great!" Took me two years to really "get it!" It is because he needs people who are 100% reliable, don't need to be supervised, are proactive in seeking out opportunities (like putting cameras in the lighting truss which I do for fights), can navigate the complexities of having a dozen sponsors, contributors, producers, etc., involved in an event, and always provides 110% or more. What he doesn't need is someone else who needs his attention and/or guidance in the middle of an event in which he has 20 people who REQUIRE his guidance hanging all over him. It took him over 2-1/2 years to ever say a good word about the quality of my photography and even that was "left handed" because that's so low on his list it isn't visible ... it is a given and therefore of little consequence.

So, quit being frustrated. You have one life. Get out there and do your thing. If they don't like it, tough. If they don't like you, tough. If you don't get the work you want, tough. It's all tough. That's understood going in. Think of the thousands of actors in Hollywood who are tending bar and waitressing ... it's about the best analogy I can ever think of ... there is huge talent doing that. Most of them will never make it even with huge talent. They just haven't gotten a break. They may never. If they don't like it they go back to Podunk, Ohio (that's in the NE) and live their lives trading pork bellies, having sex and watching their kids play ball. It's all OK except for feeling sorry for yourself or blaming it on someone else!

I've gone on way too long on a topic that I have already written reams about. Remember, I was 58 before I got my break and then immediately had a quadruple coronary bypass ... ya' just gotta' keep pressin' out!


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namasste
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Nov 21, 2007 16:34 as a reply to  @ DwightMcCann's post |  #9

Dennis, and Dwight, again, I thank you both for your candor and willingness to share. This is what makes this board great. I wrote a lengthy reply and just deleted it. In the end, I will take all you have both said and give it some serious consideration as I greatly respect both of your opinions. For me, this isn't about having my feelings hurt (few strangers could ever get to me in that way). I really just wanted to understand why things are the way they seem and figure out what, if anything, I should be doing differently. I'll take your advice, stick with my website and talk to as many folks as will give me the time. Hopefully somewhere in there, I'll catch a break. I have to be honest in saying that it's really not about the money or about having the best seat. For me, it's very akin to playing sports themselves. It's about becoming the best I can at what I am doing and having others see that. Just kinda how I'm wired I guess.

Thanks again guys. I gotta scoot as I have a girls varsity hoops game to shoot tonight. Who knows, maybe I'll make a connection there that will turn the tides...Peace.


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namasste
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Nov 21, 2007 20:37 as a reply to  @ namasste's post |  #10

Got some good shots tonight but wanted to mention that I did make a good contact from another local paper. This guy was awesome and even offered to let me try his transmitter after I commented on how nice his strobe setup seemed. I declined but thanked him quite a bit. We exchanged cards and I guess we'll see what happens. He seemed genuinely interested in discussing using me as another area tog with his editor. I guess there are two sides to every coin, huh?


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Nov 23, 2007 05:38 as a reply to  @ namasste's post |  #11

Scott I understand your frustration and you have been given some good advice already so I won't re-hash any of that.
I think I may have an answer tho as to why you didn't get any replies from the SS guys, they may be just too damn busy and forgot to get back with you. I almost always reply to an inqury I get from my SS page but, I have had some strange emails from there too. I get 2-4 a week it seems like and almost always it is someone asking for advice or help.


I may be more like Dwight in the "helping a guy out" area. I have no problem with loaning a lens to the opposing teams photographer, usually a student shooting a 20-70 or someother not so great lens for football. Last Tuesday I loaned my 70-200 to a lady who was the coaches wife shooting their team at a swim meet. I didn't look at the lens she had before I stuck it in my bag but, I think it was an 85 at the longest reach. She used the 70-200 I had and loved it. Her husband even came over and thanked me for letting her get a feel for a pro lens LOL.
Am I protective of my "territory"? Yes to a certain extent but, I keep my clients happy with results, I am depenable and they know I am in this for the long hual. I have shot games on my birthday, wedding anniversary and even came back from out of state to catch the last 3 quarters of a game in a light misting rain the day of my grandmas funeral. I missed the get together with all of my cousins and aunts and uncles but I see most of them once a year anyway.

Last year I had a guy actually hand me his camera during a football game and ask me to set it up for him. I had no clue as how to operate it but, I looked at what he had and told him what he needed to do. Now if he doesn't know his equipment well enough to change settings then I can't be the fix for him as I don't have time during a game to figure it out. It wasn't much longer and he disappeared from the sidelines so I figure he couldn't change the ISO, which is what he needed to do. It was one of those N cameras and it may as well have been a piece of equipment from another planet.
That experience did kind of turn me off on conversations on the sideline for a while tho. Then a student from another school came over witha D60 one of the first games of the year this year and said she couldn't get it to work. Could I figure out what was wrong? It just kept showing an err code. I shut if off, turned it back on and handed it back. Shot the next play and took the camera back and checked it. Fired off two frames and it err coded again. I popped out the cf card (a lexar), replaced it with one of my own San Disk cards and it worked fine. She said she had some more cards and would switch. At the end of the game she actually came over to our sidelines and hunted me down and thanked me!!! WOW I was surprised by that. She asked if I had a business card which I gave her and on Monday afternoon I had an email from her school newspaper sponsor thanking me for helping her out. She said that I saved her bacon because she never thought of changing cards.
Thing is she knew how to approach me. She waited until it was between plays before she asked for help.

For every guy who won't help someone out there, there are probably 10 who will. Don't give up and don't be discouraged but, also remember when someone asks you for help what it was like to be turned down.


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Nov 23, 2007 09:47 as a reply to  @ IndyJeff's post |  #12

Great advice IJ, thanks a ton. It's funny b/c since I have posted this, I heard back from one of the SS guys and I think we are going to get together. I also made that contact mentioned above at the game I shot on Weds. Go figure. I'll keep at it and take the optimistic approach that there are more good guys/girls out there doing this than the other way around! Thanks again, I appreciate the advice and you taking the time to share it.


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Nov 23, 2007 14:07 |  #13

That's good to hear, namasste.

I am trying to take the next step as well and all of my inquiries to local media outlets have received no responses. Frustrating, for sure, especially when most of those I contacted are small weekly rags with seemingly no working photog on staff. I dunno, I guess I'd rather they replied and said, "Sorry, your pictures suck" rather than no reply at all.

Guess I'll keep pressing on ...


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DwightMcCann
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Nov 23, 2007 14:14 |  #14

I provide some courtesy images to a couple of small local weeklies. They almost all get their images from their writers who carry some sort of P&S or Rebel type body. They come to me for some events because they know that I like to support them and will always oblige with courtesy images. But you need to remember weeklies are generally little Mom & Pop type situations with people who virtually volunteer their time. The added burden of dealing with an additional person is staggering for such a small shop. Even responding to the ten guys a week who offer to shoot is a burden. Wanna' see for yourself ... go see them in person at their offices and you will get a much better perspective, I think. This should in no way be a put off for you. Keep in mind that there are zillions of guys wanting to get some photocredit ... what have you done to set yourself apart?


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Nov 23, 2007 16:04 |  #15

What's wrong with a Rebel-type body? :cool:

I've worked for media outlets, both large and small, and realize the daily demands. Currently, I'm part of a two person media/tourism company and it's go, go, go. Even with a busy schedule, I always reply to inquiries because I think communication is healthy. But I understand not everyone is like me, and harbor no ill feelings. It's just a frustrating experience when a simple response to a seemingly win-win proposal could take less than 30 seconds.

"What sets me apart?" Great question, and something I really need to think about as I continue down this path and define myself. From an image capture standpoint, probably nothing when compared to other aspiring amateurs at the same point in their quests to break the ranks. I am, however, a local high school varsity baseball coach with 10 years in at the same school, run the team's website (external link), have a link to their website ... all things I believe a local weekly covering local high school sports would consider positives.

Like I said, it's just frustrating when something seems to be a win-win situation and nothing comes of it.

Promoting myself better would definitely help, and I plan to get some business cards and pass them to people of interest when I am out and about shooting sporting events.

This is a great forum. Thanks to all.


MkII x 2 | Rebel XT | EF-S 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 | 17-40mm 4 L | 50mm 1.8 | 85mm 1.8 | 70-200mm 2.8L | 300 2.8L IS | 1.4x & 2x TCs | Lowepro Slingshot 300 AW | 580ex II
Four Seam Images (external link)
http://rallycapphotogr​aphy.com (external link)

  
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