Monday, April 17, 2006

Setting Up Youth Sports Galleries

Reposted from a post I made at

With little league upon most of us, I thought I would start this thread to give tips for those of us who shoot an sell online. I bring this up today because I recently have had three or four people ask me to look at their online galleries. All of them needed help, but one stood out as it required me to click 5 times after opening a gallery to view just the first image. When I was done, I had 6 pop up ads and a new friend lurking around in my computer that ad-aware had to find for me. The one gallery I looked at had 273 photos and the first two pages were of the pitcher throwing only three pitches. Ok, so if my kid is playing left field or hitting 6th in the order, and I am on page three now and have not seen anything but one player so far, I get board real quick.

Now these are just some of my tips. I encourage those of you who do sell online to share some of your tips that make things easier for you.

First things first. Have permission from the league prior to shooting a game and posting images. While games may be played on public fields, it is not ok just to start shooting and selling without the officials giving the ok. Never add information about the players on the site like names or addresses (duh!) and respected the wishes of anyone who wants their child's photo taken down. Have password protection of your galleries as an option in case parents or the league asks for it.

For youth sports, I find a mix of action and sportraits work great. As Paul said in one of his posts recently, go tight. Be sure your images are coming out of the camera properly exposed with correct WB and in sharp focus. Try your best to get your horizons straight and compose so you do not have to crop. Lenses are not long enough to reach the center fielder? Shoot an inning down the line in the outfield area then. If your lens will not get you the shot, then move to where it can.

When you download your images, take the time to go through and delete your junk photos. Missed shots, OOF, etc. etc. Please, do not post these. When I shoot 3 games in a day, this step alone can take only about 5-10 minutes. If you download correctly, you should be saving your images to two places (at least that is how I do it). One set to archive and one to work from. So as you delete, your archived originals are not being touched.

After you have done the first quick edit. I like taking the photos from each game and putting them in their own folder. I then go through again and tag the best shots to post. If I shoot 300 photos in a game, I will post anywhere from 40-80. Yes, I could post more, but why make the parents go through photos that look the same? With a 20D or 30D, you are looking at 5fps and with the 1D series, 8fps. So you shoot off a burst of the pitcher throwing, and again, and again. So you have up to 24-30 photos of the kid throwing 3 pitches. Do not post all of them. Pick your best shot from the wind up, the apex of the throw, and the release and post only those. Same with batting. Kids tend to swing the same over and over again, so, while you may have a lot of shots of a kid swinging because you were trying for that great Bat on Ball shot, is there really any need to post every single shot of the kid swinging? If you post you best, you have a better chance of selling it than you do selling 3 or 4 or 10 of the same kid doing the same thing.

Once you get your images down to a browsable number, post. Do not worry about doing any work on the images now. After all, you exposed correctly, right? You had the WB set right and they are in focus? So, what ever you use for your host, upload the photos. Any work I do on my pictures is lost in the translation during the resize and web presentation to my galleries, and I do not want to work on the same photos twice.

To cut down on workflow, I like to shoot youth sports in large jpg (more images per card), with sRGB and the saturation, contrast, and sharpening bumped to +1. Why? Let's say you shoot 6 games in two days. You have every shot you posted purchased in 1 weeks time. Do you really want to have to process 300 images? I will take a test shot from the game, and create an action for it for printing. Basically what it will consist of is a tweak of the curves (maybe) or levels (again, maybe), boost the saturation a little, and sharpen. If I get an order, I can open the image, run the action I named 4-29-06 game 1 and move on. If I have a bunch of shots? I run it as a batch for each game. It just makes things easier. And it is real easy to set up. I have a shortcut in photoshop that when I open my test image (any shot from the normal circumstances in the game) I hit a short cut that starts recording a new action which I name. When I am done, all I have to watch out for are shots that the action will not work with (dug out shots, slow shutter speed stuff...etc.) With practice, this gets easier and makes the workflow easy.

When creating a gallery, make it easy to find/view. I absolutely can not stand going to look at photos, clicking on a link and having a new window pop up. Click on the image to see a larger version and have another window pop up, and please, do not use a host that has pop up ads. Easy navigation is key. While you may think a lot of html gimmicks look cool, remember who is browsing your site. Mothers with little time on their hands to spend an hour trying to find the images of their kid you took last week.

Tackle your orders quickly. Never make a customer wait longer than they have to. If you are doing the printing and postage and stuff, get custom envelopes/mailers. Make it look professional. If you rely on a lab to print and send your stuff out, make sure you know what the quality is to make sure it will suit you.

I will not talk about pricing or different products to offer because that all depends on your individual talent, location, and competition.

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