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Author Topic: So you want to shoot sports?  (Read 2585 times)

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« on: May 15, 2012, 11:40 »
This cracked me up:  http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com/2012/05/usa-today-us-presswire-at-us-olympic.html?m=1

(bold is mine)

"USA Today staff photographers with decades of experience covering sports were told last week that, well, their services wouldn't be needed in London. USA Today Sports Media Group Company, which now owns the US Presswire photo wire service, known to some as the "let's all work for photo credit, press-file hot dogs, and a few stock sales" photography operation, decided that they would choose the team going to cover the olympics this year, save for just one well regarded USA Today photographer."

Plus this: "If there was any doubt that the staff will be wet behind the ears, you need look no further than the list of those credentialed - Richard Mackson's teenage kid seems to be credentialed as a part of the team of pros going over and she either just (or will soon) graduate from...wait for it... high school."

One person commented, that's a big camera, it must take good photos.  :D Or something in that vein. And for some background US Presswire has often been mocked in the media rooms. I never knew why? Upstart photo media agency, low pay, but the established agencies and some well known pros would make fun of them. From their site: "Founded in 2004, US PRESSWIRE was developed by industry-leading photojournalists to supply high quality, newsworthy images on deadline." I didn't know that low pay meant NO PAY! (sold to Gannet/USA Today Sept. 2011)

So I did some more searching and found "...all of the photographers who agreed to work for free just subsidized U.S. Presswire over TWO AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS to help conduct its operations in 2010." Oh, I see, it was a work for free food and media credentials operation, then it was profitable on the backs of cheap staff (hey remind you of microstock anyone) then the company which is making a profit, is sold and the original owner walks away with his pockets full of money. The market is diluted and prices for everyone else's work has been undercut. (hmm, remind you of microstock new agencies, price undercutting and ruining the whole market?)

A related comment on Sports Shooter: "Considering the degree of coverage major sports leagues receive, it will be very unlikely to receive much revenue over the long term from royalty sales, especially if the images can only be sold for editorial use." So true, and shooting minor leagues and things with less coverage can add a small edge, but the demand is even smaller as well. When I shoot or work some events, the series and sponsors have hired shooters who travel with them, or someone local who gets a contract for the weekend. The royalty sales are minimal and the events are well covered by insiders.

Some people have referred to it as shoot the event for credentials, on spec., and hope that you make some sales. Hmm, sounds like? MicroStock!  :D There was also some criticism of US Presswire in the past for offering subscriptions (oh horrors) and free photos, in hopes of getting clients to buy from them later. Deja Vu all over again?

How's the pay? Full time pros reporting, $375/$400 range for an assignment. That's an incredible rate in comparison to the $100/$125 payments that Gannett is making to USPW photographers under the new deal.

While USPW comments drove me to write this, they aren't the demons that some make them out to be, just some agency that is also a news service. Just like Micro they are playing on the hungry and just like Micro, if someone wants more for their professionals work, there's someone else in line, willing to work for less. It doesn't always mean the quality or experience will be there, but with digital cameras and all the "auto this and that" it's easier for new people to make good pictures.

They aren't going to make stunning photos, or do something past cookie-cutter shots, most of the time, but they will produce respectable News Editorial images. You really do get what you pay for and a seasoned pro, didn't get their by accident. Hey, same for MicroStock. The people on top didn't get there by accident! It's hard work and paying attention and providing what the customers want, with a bit of creative spice.

Best I could find USPW sold for around a million dollars, maybe less because Gannet also acquired the debt, which is reported to have been half that. Still a nice pay day for the original owner and on the backs of people working for snacks, beverages and hot dog. (or a Chili's gift card?)  :o Heck I never even got a gift card, I must really be a bottom feeder? Oh but a check or PayPal deposit makes up for that. If I wore baseball caps I'd be set for life. I have a Rubbermaid full of them, all never worn.

While I get over the business aspects, I'll mention something that is often overlooked. If you are a fan of a sport, don't shoot it. You don't get to watch or enjoy anything all day long. You need to show up for the photo meeting, usually 7AM or so to get the photo vest. When the event has cleared out and everyone else is going home and many times, at home already, you are still editing and uploading images to distribution. The life of a sports photo is roughly 12 hours at the extreme end, and often if you aren't the first one to file (as in 15 minutes) someone else will get published. The buyers after that first surge are few and far between.

If you are freelance and don't know someone with the sponsors, promoters or the venue, don't bother applying for credentials. If you have a legitimate publication and can get a letter from the editor, sent to the media person at the event, who reviews credential requests, you will very likely get access.

Those people standing on the sidelines or close to the race track, are working! They aren't spectators. It's dangerous and closely regulated. While in the media center, asking for an autograph, will get you banned and invited to leave immediately. Or in some restricted areas, shooting any photos of the participants and you won't be invited back.

In the end I was amused at how many ways MicroStock has so many of the same issues, complaints and financial similarities to sports photo agencies, wire services and especially the photographers as professionals getting undercut by competition. It's a tough market, any of them.

By the way, Iowa Corn Growers put on the best track lunch anywhere

Here's the SkyDrive site for fun stuff and the annual road trip to Newton Iowa for a race there. It's got to be one of the nicest, friendliest places I've every worked. Not to say the others aren't! Heck I don't know a place that I don't like and enjoy... This one just stands out and I look forward to it every year.

This is about as close as I've come to a blog and it's nothing but some pictures from each year of the weekend road trip to Iowa and back.  8)

Had to go to a tiny, the big one has characters that didn't work right:  http://tinyurl.com/bvaq7kd

Preview: http://preview.tinyurl.com/bvaq7kd (for those who don't trust Tiny URLs, you can see where it takes you, before you click through)

Must be Spring I'm just having fun all over the place?
« Last Edit: May 15, 2012, 11:49 by RacePhoto »


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