Youth sports photography has enjoyed steady growth over the past decade, with lots of sideline amateurs taking the plunge into the market. This hasn’t always been a welcome addition to the pros in the marketplace, to say the least. This additional competition, including parents and spouses of coaches “who can do it cheaper”, has also emboldened league managers to ask for ever lower-cost packages.
This creates great frustration with quality-conscious photographers, who understand there’s more to photo day than simply snapping the shutter. There’s a lot of work involved to shoot 250-plus kids in a few hours. Organizing team schedules, having volunteers pose athletes fast, and gathering all of the customer information. That doesn’t take into account time tweaking color in Photoshop, adding graphics, etc. Today’s youth and parents want exciting photos, using exciting graphics and green screen effects. ESPN and TV sports have set the bar high in the way sports are presented visually, and today’s youth sports photographers are competing on that level.
Photographers tell us it’s tough communicating the value of youth sports photography. League officials and coaches think “everyone has a camera/smartphone” and cheap prints can be had for a quarter at a drug store. Also, most coaches are volunteers, and are motivated by wanting as many kids as possible to be able to afford to play the sport. Since photography is often built-in to the sign-up fee, it’s tempting for league officials to keep that portion of the fee as low as possible.
..a photographers’ work is of higher value…
What message, however, are photographers projecting to coaches and to parents when their valued work is presented in cheap plastic baggies or, worse, just loose prints? If a photographers’ work is of higher value than a snapshot made at a warehouse club minilab, it should be presented as if it’s something of value, not an afterthought. Memory Mates and Sports Folders accentuate the prints, increase the perceived value, and protect the print. Also, it gives the customer a way to immediately present the print on a desk or shelf. What good is a print if its left in a drawer.
Every year we have hundreds of non-professionals trying to buy memory mates from us, either as parent that did not receive one or a volunteer that is doing the pictures for the team. We don’t market or sell to non-professionals so we politely turn them away. Assuming families don’t want sports packaging is potentially missing out on making a customer happy.
Ben Tyndell is president of Tyndell Photographic