The Sportsman: Kicking Off a Second Career and Having a Ball
Name: Kent McCorkle
Company: Kent McCorkle Photography, LLC
Location: Metro Atlanta, GA
Market: Sports (professional, college and high school), plus local news and company-sponsored events
Bragworthy Factoid: Earning back his initial investment in his SmugMug site within a few months of launching his business.
SmugMugger since: 2004
- First time being accepted by a media wire service to cover sports.
- Breaking into Division I college and professional sports.
- Seeing his work published in Sports Illustrated, on ESPN and in other national publications.
- SmugMug’s shopping cart for print sales
- Percentage-off Coupons
- Choice of print labs
- Proof delay
- Dgrin community
- Digital downloads
Making the most of a moment
Kent McCorkle knows the exact moment he became a photographer. After more than 30 years working in the corporate world, raising a family and flirting with image-making, everything changed with a single email. Although he had enjoyed capturing youth sports, vacations and other personal moments for years, he hadn’t thought seriously of working for profit. Then he was contacted out of the blue by an architectural design firm about photos he’d shot and posted of antebellum homes during a family holiday. Interest sparked, McCorkle quickly sold them the images for publication in a book. Fast-forward to today: McCorkle has settled firmly into sports photography, fashioning a second career out of his passion for capturing exciting moments in youth athletics. Riding the digital photography wave and fueling his interest with online support resources, he honed his skills and bided his time. “The idea of selling photographs had never crossed my mind…[but] after the surprise of selling my first photographs, I began to wonder if parents might be interested in purchasing the sports-action photographs I had been taking of their kids.”
Fit to print
Along with technical mastery, McCorkle has acquired a deep knowledge of the byzantine world of sports photography. His advice for the aspiring and uninitiated? Get your feet wet covering youth sports before attempting Division I college and professional athletics, both of which require extensive credentialing. “The first step is to gain lots of experience photographing sports at lower levels,” he says. “Develop a portfolio that shows your best work. Standards for acceptance by wire services are very high. Compare your work to what you see in major sports publications. You can also visit media wire service websites and see examples.” Photographers must be affiliated with approved media companies to shoot higher-level sporting events; the sports governing associations license the images for distribution. McCorkle suggests honing your craft by connecting with other photographers. “Even at high school games, you may have opportunities to pick up tips and learn techniques from more experienced photographers.”
SmugMug and sports
Citing SmugMug’s “remarkable” customer service, continual innovation and “flawless” order processing, McCorkle considers the service foundational to his business model. From the outset, SmugMug helped McCorkle streamline his burgeoning business needs. He especially likes the one-stop shop aspect. “I started with SmugMug because it offered the ability to create a gallery-based photographic website and sell photos. Order placement and fulfillment were the clinchers for me,” he says. He continues to add SmugMug features to his arsenal, sometimes evolving his workflow to take advantage of SmugMug’s conveniences. “I was slow to get on the Proof Delay bandwagon because every image uploaded to my galleries had been fully post-processed and I considered them print-ready,” he points out. “But then I started using it in order to allow me one last chance to make sure everything is right.”
Pounding the pavement
McCorkle’s business acumen has proved invaluable since his transition to photography. Underscoring the importance of building multiple revenue streams and diverse customer segments, he has cultivated clients ranging from athletes’ families and high school booster clubs to local news outlets and national publications including Sports Illustrated and ESPN. “In all but one case, my freelance work with newspapers resulted from my making initial contact with either the editor, sports editor or publisher,” he says. “Sometimes a simple email expressing your interest in working with the paper is all that is necessary to get the ball rolling.” McCorkle adds that persistence and patience are key. “Each time that I’ve expanded the types of sports I photograph or my customer base, I’ve followed a simple principle from my corporate career. Stated simply, it is ‘gentle pressure, relentlessly applied,’ ” he says with a smile. McCorkle markets his business in creative ways, ranging from hardcopy business cards he passes out while shooting games to requesting links to his portfolio on booster club sites to emailing booster officers gallery links and asking that they forward them to coaches, parents and fans.
Love what you see? Check out our other incredible SmugMug Success Stories.
Goooaaaalll! Glossy Finish Scores With Assists From SmugMug and Social Media
Name: Haim Ariav
Title: President & Founder
Company: Glossy Finish
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Market: Youth Sports
Bragworthy Factoid: Official swag-maker for the Florida High School Athletic Association
SmugMugger Since: 2011
- Services 250,000-300,000 customers annually
- Shoots 40,000-50,000 gorgeous images per event
- 5 million+ images generated over last 5 years
- Client list includes AAU, AYSO, Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, Pop Warner, Triple Crown Sports, United Soccer Leagues USSSA and ESPN Wide World of Sports
- Customer service
- Extreme customizability
- Ease of use for customers
- Order branding
- Digital watermarks for Facebook and Twitter distribution
Born of a brain fart
Glossy Finish was born five years ago when Haim Ariav was suddenly inspired to build a mobile photo lab in a trailer and cart it to sporting events, enabling families to view, purchase and retrieve photos on-site. Ariav, a classically trained photographer, saw an unfilled niche: recognizing that, as a “want” industry, photography was taking a hit in a rough economy, he set out to re-brand memorializing athletic moments as a “need” by making it easier to enshrine kids’ sports glory. Redefining how images are delivered on-site is the foundation of Glossy’s business model, unique in the sports photography vertical.
The post-game show
But on-site sales aren’t Glossy’s sole revenue stream. After an event, Ariav’s team uploads its treasures to SmugMug’s cloud and follows through with additional distribution via SmugMug’s labs. Online sales, a significant supplement to Glossy’s revenue stream, run smoothly on SmugMug, along with back office functions. “We rely on the website for 100% of our revenues for events that don’t utilize the mobile lab,” Ariav says. “Using the SmugMug infrastructure, reliability and scalability are key for us. Having access to the various products offered by the labs is a huge opportunity for us to carry out our online strategy.” Ariav’s team uses online proofing to boost non-mobile sales. “Different events may not warrant the use of our patent-pending mobile lab,” he points out. “The success of those depends on customer satisfaction with images and ease of purchase. SmugMug allows us to deliver a successful experience.”
Scoring points with social media
Ariav endorsed SmugMug’s decision to allow digital downloads to have watermarks. “We felt it would facilitate our ability to brand ourselves on social media,” Ariav says. “We wanted to have a presence on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, where so much photo sharing takes place. We know how important printmarks and watermarks are to both our business and our creativity.” Ariav milks every branding opportunity he can out of SmugMug’s tools, even while focused on image protection. “Printmarks turn images from just a photograph into a memory,” he says. “Our logo is also typically part of the printmark. Watermarks deter people from stealing, but we also use them as a way to show what [clients’] prints will look like with the printmark. We are always marketing and trying to keep up brand awareness.”
Owning it from field to check-out
Outlining a strong customization strategy for site design and gallery organization, and a reliance on SmugMug’s advanced customization tools, Glossy also has the Cart Branding feature firmly in the “on” position: “Branding is a huge part of what we do best, which can be seen in our website customization. We [use] Cart Branding so our customers know they’re getting a great Glossy Finish product. We also use the box sticker. We want customers to know who they are getting a package from and, most importantly, thank them for their order.”
Less work, more profit
Ariav used to blanket events with trigger-happy shutterbugs. Now, by sending sales teams to pre-sign customers, he may only capture four or five kids out of 20, but the average order has increased from $25 to $125. “It’s okay not to photograph every player on every field at every game,” he says. “We focus only on those that want and love our photos. It works better for the customer and us.” With SmugMug’s help, this focus on time-saving extends to online sales: “We try to keep pricing as uniform as we can to lessen confusion on our end,” Ariav says. “With the introduction of pricelists it is much easier to organize pricing throughout the site. Now I can set up pricelists for sales and simply move galleries around once the sale is over.”
Making friends with the moms
After cutting overhead and moving from the flea-market, on-spec approach to a more profitable, streamlined system scaffolded on a $20 deposit credited toward purchase, Ariav saw opportunities to reach a larger audience without snapping a photo. Envisioning his business as “an exclusive entertainment club,” Ariav created custom lanyards customers could don at soccer tournaments, showcasing that their kid’s athletic prowess was immortalized by Glossy Finish. The result? A flood of visitors to his trailer.
Taming the technology beast
Photographers didn’t used to discriminate when it came to capturing contacts; Glossy worked hard to collect home addresses and emails. Now, Ariav plays smarter, relying on texting select targets for marketing blasts. His on-site blitzes are wildly successful. “If we have a slow period, we can ping them and—boom!—the trailer fills up. We have a direct connection to our customers. And when we’re done with an event, we have more contacts in our database for future direct and instant marketing.”
Interested in seeing more SmugMug Success Stories? Look here and stay tuned for more as we have them.
Today’s guest post is by sports shooter and Smugger David Evertsen of Phabulous Photos. Any event shooter understands how tricky it is to manage and organize large volumes of files, particularly when parents, friends and fans are beating down the door to see photos and buy prints. Since the fall sports season is ramping up, we thought this post would help you manage your workflow and feed happier customers. Here’s how he used a program called Photo Mechanic and SmugMug’s Smart Galleries to give his fans the pictures they want to see.
For the past 3 or 4 years that I have been shooting high school sports there’s been one hurdle: Parents only want to see their own child when looking through sports pictures on my site. While they enjoy looking through the galleries, it’s a completely different story when it comes to choosing prints to buy. Sports galleries are quite large and it becomes a chore for parents to look through everything to find shots just of their child.
Then think about how one photographer shoots many games per sport, several sports at a time and the problems start to multiply.
I’ve used Smart Galleries from time to time on my site combined with simple keywords assigned in Lightroom, but I needed something more powerful that could help simplify the keywording process without writing a sentence for every image. Here’s a solution that worked for me.
Step 1. Build your Code Replacement file in Photo Mechanic
I started working with some other photographers that are required to caption and upload images to a newspaper or press site and noticed they used a product called Photo Mechanic from Camera Bits. Photo Mechanic uses something called Code Replacement. This feature is perfect for photojournalists and sports photographers: they create a simple code replacement file that acts as a library, so that they type a few keystrokes and the info (like name, position, team and number) is automatically entered into the captions. This means fast, consistently accurate information with minimal work.
First I need to show you what code replacement is and how it saves me time. Code Replacement is a form of short hand that allows you to enter in anything you want by only pressing a few keys.
Here is an example of five of keywords I put on an image:
1; bk1 ;Kevin Kyle; Boone Varsity Baseball; 2010-2011
And here’s what that means, so you can do something similar for yourself:
- 1 – Players Jersey Number (used for reference in file)
- bk1 – A SmugMug keyword I use to build my Smart Gallery
- Kevin Kyle – The player’s name.
- 2011 – Year, also used to build my Smart Gallery.
Now what keys did I press to get the bold line above added as a keyword in Photo Mechanic for the picture?
“1” and “\“
How this works: You build a master list of shorthand codes you want to use and define which keyword terms you want entered when you type each code. This is just a simple text file that Photo Mechanic will use to automatically plug in keywords when you type the right codes.
Tip: Remember that SmugMug keywords have to be an minimum of 3 letters to work unless you enclose them in quotes.
Step 2. Choose Your Keywords
Let me show you what I had to think out before I built my code replacement file. You’ll want to write up keywords and macro codes that make it simple for you to remember but are specific to each event you shoot. I had to create a master list of sports that I use all year round so I don’t mix up the schools and sports. That would cause disaster!
Here are a few additional example sports in the same format as the above example:
bl Boone Boys Varsity LAX
bjl Boone Boys JV Lax
bgl Boone Girls Varsity Lax
bt Boone Track
bs Boone Varsity Softball
bjs Boone JV Softball
Make the codes easy to remember – after all, the point of this is to make your job easier.
What does the Code Replacement file look like? My file is really long and includes all the sports I shoot. As the seasons start the numbers and names of the players per sport are added. The final file can contain many schools and many different sports. Here are just a few other examples:
bk1 1; bk1 ;KEVIN KYLE; Boone Varsity Baseball; 2010-2011;
bk2 2; bk2 ;FRANK THOMAS; Boone Varsity Baseball; 2010-2011;
bk3 3; bk3 ;TRIPP CABLE; Boone Varsity Baseball; 2010-2011;
bk4 4; bk4 ;MITCHELL BOMBER; Boone Varsity Baseball; 2010-2011;
Tip: Use semicolons between the terms to ensure that they get entered as complete keywords in the SmugMug gallery when I upload.
Step 3. Create your Smart Galleries
Smart Galleries are an easy way to automatically group together your photos by keyword. At the beginning of each year I go in to the season and set up a team subcategory (Under a custom school year category) and then individual Smart Galleries (one for each player). In this case, I’ll use one Smart Gallery to pull in the photos with the “bk1″ and “2010-2011″ keywords in one place.
I make one gallery for each player on the team. Then I go into settings for each gallery and add Rules to pull in the keywords:
Rule #1: Include > My Photos > Keyword > 2011
Rule #2: Include > My Photos > Keyword > bk1
Then I’m done. Setting up the Smart Galleries takes a little time at first but you only have to do it once.
Step 4. Apply your codes in Photo Mechanic
Next I finish my post processing. I do my adjustments and use Lightroom’s bulk keywording feature to automatically enter the first portion of the Code Replacement macro, bk\ , to all of my files. This saves me time later.
I then open Photo Mechanic, click on the folder I created when I exported and double click on the file information. Up pops the info window where I can save and change the keywords. Then I press “1\”. The opening “\” (added by Lightroom to all my files) and the closing “\” (that I just typed into Photo Mechanic manually) means, “look up in your designated code file and insert the following line.” The string of keywords gets entered:
1; bk1 ;Kevin Kyle; Boone Varsity Baseball; 2010-2011
When I am done with the keywords on each individual image I click the Save button in the info pane and it brings the next one up. I do not keyword every player if I can’t tell who they are or if they are on the opposing team; they are not the primary focus of the shot.
It takes only about 10-15 minutes at the end of my processing to add the keywords.
Step 4. Upload Your Photos
I then use Photo Mechanic to upload to the team gallery and my work is done. When all the images are uploaded I make a lot of customers really happy because the Smart Galleries automatically pull in the specific photos I’ve set for them. I did the initial leg work but SmugMug does all the heavy lifting for me. I realized how important this was for sales when I set the Gallery Download price for my galleries and sold a bunch of player-only photos.
Each sport is different and the complexity varies by how many players are on each team. But even if a player plays only a few times in the season, you can easily find them by keyword. Then you can keep looking to shoot more shots of them later in the season.
I hope this helped you learn how to do something that will make your customers able to find the pictures they want to see and purchase them easily. I have talked to people on the Digital Grin forums that are using this workflow for all types of sports where the participants have numbers. Quick Code Replacement combined with Smart Galleries saves you time and helps drive up your sales.
Other links you’d like:
Photog Tip of the Week: Five Tips for Dramatic Adventure Photos with John and Kelsey of Azimuth Photo
John Borland and Kelsey Gray of Azimuth Adventure really know how to get the adrenaline going. They’ll climb anything that stands still, which can provide truly incredible and unique perspectives for photography. Since summer is quickly approaching and you’ll soon be planning your own outdoor thrills (maybe free climbing in Yosemite!), we thought a few tips might come in handy.
Rock climbing and photography go hand in hand. By its very nature, climbing puts a person in a rare position with a unique perspective of humans interacting directly with the earth itself, pushing limits and performing amazing feats while often surrounded by some of the greatest scenic views on the planet.
It’s not easy though: getting in position for the shot often requires technical skills and experience only acquired by many years of practice and instruction. To keep this short, we’ll forgo the knot tying and anchor rigging and just stick with a few of the simple tips and tricks that will make it a little easier for readers to bring home a fantastic piece of adventure!
#1: Be There and Have the Gear
The single most critical tip for getting great climbing photos is simply to put yourself through as many adventures as possible and ALWAYS have your camera on your person and accessible, no matter how difficult the terrain or weather becomes.
A small dedicated camera bag is perfect for this. Every climber’s preference is different, but between the two of us our favorites are a fanny-pack style bag large enough to hold a body and a lens or two, or a small lightweight backpack style that can be unslung easily to access your gear. Whatever you use, make sure it has a rain cover and is durable enough to take the abuse that will inevitably come.
#2: Get High and Think Ahead
Getting above or at the same level as the climber is critical to avoid the dreaded “butt-shot”. Additionally, positioning yourself with a perspective that puts the action in front of a beautiful backdrop or some interesting rock features and textures will immediately set the stage for a great shot.
#3: The World Is Not Flat
Get creative with your composition. Often a slight rotation to shift the “horizons” of the cliff and ground is just what is needed to add a sense of depth. The unconventional framing can also emphasize a tiny detail that would otherwise be missed.
#4: Climb, Climb, Climb
The more you get out there and perfect your own system of rigging and shooting in vertical terrain, the easier it will be to take more winning photos to bring home.
And finally, we’ll leave you with perhaps the most important part of climbing photography, and one which SmugMug helps with enormously: Share your photos with the world!
- John and Kelsey
Spring has nearly sprung, sports fans! If you’re a fair-weather photographer, you’ll soon be blowing the dust off of your gear and heading to the track, course, court, or diamond. We’ll offer some tips we hope will make your photos a home run. Today’s Photog Tip of the Week comes from Master Support Hero and sports pro, Steve Mills of Downriver Photography.
What makes a great sports photo?
In a word: Drama! With today’s amazing digital cameras shooting in excess of 10 FPS, it’s tempting to be a ‘machine-gun-mama’ holding down the shutter release anytime there’s action, rattling off shots from your dSLR Uzi. Fight the urge and use it sparingly! After your memory card stops sizzling and your batteries return to something below 500 Kelvin, you’re almost certain to have some ‘keepers’. You’ll likely capture the bat hitting the ball, but it takes practice, restraint and discipline to look beyond, to the player’s wide eyes and the self-satisfaction of their first home run and capture the shot you really want. Drama.
Know your sport!
For great sports photography, it’s essential to know your sport so you can anticipate the decisive moment. The swing on the pitch, the slide to home, and the frustration of a strike-out are all important decisive moments not only to anticipate the action, but the emotion of each. If you’re not sure what a flag on the field means, or what a feat running 100 yards in 9.4 seconds is, you’re sure to miss some drama.
Isolate your subject(s)
One rule of composition says, ‘If it doesn’t contribute to the scene in some way, it’s best left out’. This is especially true in sports photography. Nearly every sport has tons of distraction. From refs, to spectators, to sponsors, they all compete for attention in your frame. Don’t let a screaming spectator steal the scene from your slugger. Use a respectable telephoto lens to fill your frame with drama and adjust your aperture to control the depth of field, blurring out the blight. If most of your shots show the whole infield and cause viewers to hunt for the action and drama, it’s time to upgrade your lens.
Get a Proper Exposure
Most cameras have a number of different exposure modes including spot metered, center weighted, and evaluative metering. Most are pretty reliable if you understand how they work. I’ve often heard, “It was such a bright, sunny day, but all my photos came out dark!” followed by cursing their camera. Regardless of the exposure mode you choose, the camera will look at the metering area you defined (a spot, the center, or the whole scene) and crunch some numbers to come up with a value for that area. That value will be considered the middle value for the scene. This means if your metered area consists mostly of bright clouds, sky, or player uniforms, the camera will now consider them the mid-tone! This turns your bright whites into something near middle-gray, and your whole scene turns dark. To combat this, add exposure compensation to let your camera know, ‘these whites should be white!’ then check your camera’s histogram for proper levels (see Canadiann’s histogram tips from last week).
Optimize Camera Settings
ISO: The old standards still hold relatively true with 50-200 for bright sunny days, 400 for overcast, and 800-3200 for downright gloomy, with even 6400+ for twilight sports. Newer dSLRs can handle high ISOs with surprisingly little digital noise so don’t be afraid to push it.
Shooting mode: Just say ‘No’ to sports mode! AV (Aperture Priority) is my favorite for outdoor sports. It allows you to control the depth of field [depth of focus], and lets the camera worry about shutter speed. Consider bumping up your ISO for a faster shutter speed if needed.
Shutter speed: How fast is enough? This depends on three things: Mood, Sport, and Lens.
- Mood: A fast shutter speed will freeze action. If you want to convey motion or speed with some motion blur, a slower shutter speed will be required. (1/60th of a second will blur most bat swings, where 1/250th will freeze most)
- Sport: Formula-1 racing will require a faster shutter speed than badminton, to freeze action.
- Lens: For hand-held photography, your shutter speed should exceed the focal length of the lens to prevent camera-shake. Example: With a 200mm lens, you’ll want to shoot at a minimum of 1/250th. Many cameras and lenses now have image stabilization that compensates for hand jitters that cause camera-shake, which allows you to shoot at even slower shutter speeds without noticeable blur.
I hope these tips inform, inspire, and encourage you to get out there and get shooting. We’ll be looking for all your action-packed artistic drama on SmugMug!
As summer draws to a close, most of us are ready to stay indoors in the warmth. For others, the changing seasons mean getting out and catching the best of nature’s offerings.
Brian Grossenbacher expertly captures the wild, breathtaking experience of the hunt in his beautiful, journalistic photographs:
Get a feel for the outdoors in his other galleries here.
Commercial photographer Kevin Winzeler shoots perfectly-lit, perfectly-timed portraits for for his advertising clients. Take a peek at his pulse-pounding portfolio and get ready to be inspired!
Added bonus: Get a behind-the-scenes look in the videos gallery and see how he crafted each shot.
Ever wonder what’s down there in the deep recesses of the earth? Crystal clear blue waters in forbidden springs, but untouchable by most.
Jill Heinerth is one of the lucky few that can show us. Her cave diving photos are the result of professional diving training mixing with fantastic skills in digital media.
Jason Hummel of Alpine State of Mind has a love of the wild outdoors. From his galleries we see a most breathtaking view of the Pacific Northwest, where he travels grueling paths to the summits to bring us glimpses of an untouched territory where few others dare to go.
Many more peaks, valleys, and everything in-between are captured here.