Choosing the Right Photographer For Your Youth Sports Picture Day Part II – Innovation

In our last article we talked about old school vs. new school photographers. Now let’s get an understanding of how that translates into choosing a photographer for your picture day.

We have been touching on how digital technology has revolutionized the photography industry. It has also revolutionized the products and services available by today’s youth sports photographers. When choosing the right company to do your youth sports photos make sure that they are taking advantage of what is available to them in the way of digital products.

The first sign of a lazy company is lack of innovation

If a photographer comes out to your league board meeting and has nothing to show you but prints, don’t walk, run away! Old school photographers are those who get set in their ways. It is easy to only offer prints for sale because they don’t have to hassle with processing additional orders. Now, that seems crazy to most of us but it is very common in this industry. With youth sports picture days you are not just dealing with a few orders, rather, you are dealing with hundreds or even thousands of orders from a single shoot. A sure sign you are dealing with a one person operation is a limited number of products.

The best youth sports photographers will have a large product selection available for parents to buy. Parents get bored with just another picture day. Look for someone with a variety of innovative products from which to choose and you will see parents get excited about picture day again.

Make sure they do the work

There are many youth sports photographers out there who pass a lot of work onto the leagues. Look for a company who makes it easy on you.

Make sure they do the picture day schedules. This is important not just because it makes your life easier, but a good youth sports photographer should understand what goes into making a successful picture day.

It is not the leagues job to staff picture day. Look for someone who doesn’t require league volunteers, this is a sign that they are willing to spend the money on proper staffing. All photographers should have assistants to help pose the children and make sure they look nice. Always ask if photographers have assistants for every photographer.

A lot of the good youth sports photographers out there today have the ability to ship the products directly to each parent. This is a great option for some leagues and is a sign of a good company. However, if the products are being delivered to the league, make sure they are going to be sorted out by team and clearly labeled. Basically, you want to be able to hand the products directly to each coach. Some companies even offer to ship the products directly to a coach or team mom for a small fee. This is well worth a few bucks to free up resources for all of the other things volunteers do.

Beware of the “I take care of everything” guy

We talked earlier of how one shoot could potentially have thousands of orders, right? Well, if you are dealing with a youth sports photographer who shoots multiple leagues it is easy to see how they could be dealing with thousands upon thousands of individual orders. When you combine that with all of the different volunteers to be dealt with it isn’t hard to figure out that requires a team of people. If you are working with a representative from a youth sports photographer who tells you they handle everything, watch out.

The reality is there is a ton of behind the scenes work that needs to be done to make sure things run smoothly. This cannot be done by one person; rather, it takes a strong team of people. Good youth sports photographers will have staff members assigned to work with a league representative directly. You should have multiple layers of contacts at the company and you should get to know the person planning your picture day.

Lastly, make sure to understand what happens when parents have questions or complaints. Regardless of how good a youth sports photographer is, there will always be mistakes. When you are photographing hundreds of children sometimes parents are in a rush and their handwriting cannot be easily read and something might get misspelled. Find a company who makes it right when things go wrong. Good companies will have dedicated people to take calls from parents, correct orders and handle customer service issues from each parent. If parents have to call the league first to report a problem, that is a red flag.

Beware of Price Focused Photographers

If all a company wants to talk about is how cheap of a price they are then they obviously don’t value their service that greatly. Neither will your parents. Remember that photography does take some talent. Many companies hire kids for $8 per hour with no photography experience, put the cameras on “P” (automatic mode) and click and pray. Low ball pricing is a good way to spot these companies. Look for a fair price but understand that they are in business and have to make a profit. It only takes a few low ball photographers to drive the quality of photography in a marketplace right into the dirt. Look for quality and overall value for your money.

Probably the most important thing to consider when choosing your youth sports photographer is reputation. Look online. The best youth sports photographers will have good testimonials on their website and more importantly, good reviews on sites like Google and Yahoo. Ask for references of customers with similar sized programs as well as some references outside of your sport. If you are a soccer league, ask for references of football or hockey leagues. These sports are a little more complicated to shoot and require more experience. Also, ask for long term references. Good companies will have long term relationships with other leagues and organizations. A long list of loyal, long term customers is more valuable that you can imagine. This is a very competitive industry so if someone has been using a company for a long time, that means they are doing a great job.

The last thing to consider is your own feelings. Go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, keep looking. There are a ton of companies out there. Just make sure to do your research. If you are reading this article you are obviously doing your homework. Just make sure to follow at least some of our advice.