Why Including Pictures in League Registration Fees is bad for Your League

Why Including Pictures in League Registration Fees is bad for Your League

History of Photography in California

California is the only place in the entire country that has prepaid leagues.  Everywhere else in the nation leagues use picture day as a very successful fundraiser.  To best understand how this came about we need to look at a little history.  About 15 years ago, a youth sports photographer had what seemed to be a great idea at the time, to have leagues charge an extra in the registration amount and include a photo package in that price.  This worked great for that photographer, as he was getting a fair price for the package, .  However, he certainly didn’t realize what would happen over time with this option.  As in any competitive business, a price war began.  Youth sports photographers all started to beat the other photographer’s prices and many of the high-quality photographers were driven out of business.  This drastically reduced the quality of photography in California as companies popped up all over the place that were focused completely on price and quality was not an issue.

Southern California has more youth sports leagues than anywhere else in the country.  As you can imagine, this means we have more youth sports photographers than anywhere else in the country also.  Because there are literally thousands of leagues to market to, shady businesses are able to stay afloat because there are so many leagues with which to work.  Also, because leagues have executive boards that can change pretty frequently, a particular league may not realize that they were burned by a photographer in the past if the board is new.  This also makes it hard for customers to stay loyal to one photographer since the decision makers change from year to year.  All of these things allow sub-par companies to stay in business and they continue to prey on leagues and provide low quality products and services.

To buy or not to buy, that is the question.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons prepaid leagues are causing themselves so much trouble.

The parents feel that they are your customer, not the photographer’s.

When the league is buying the photo package, the parents automatically view themselves as the league’s customer.  This means if there is a problem with the pictures, they call the league, not the photographer.  This causes considerably more work for the league, not to mention the stress of dealing with parents who might have a problem with their photos.  Instead of calling the youth sports photographer, the parents call the league.  Now, any good photographer will allow all calls to be made directly to their office, however, because parents view the league as the responsible party who bought the photos, they almost always call a league representative first.

Many photographers who focus on prepaid leagues cut costs by passing work onto the league.

There are many youth sports photographers out there who quote an extremely low price to get the business.  However, they have to cut the costs somewhere.  Part of the cost cutting is done by eliminating staff by passing work onto the leagues.  Some of the common things the leagues are forced to do are;

Scheduling – Leagues are asked to create their own picture day schedules.  The problem with this is that most people outside of the photography industry do not understand what goes into making a successful picture day.  The best youth sports photographers will work with you to create your schedule to make sure picture day is a success. Staffing of Picture Day – To save money, low quality youth sports photographers will simply send out a photographer, maybe two photographers and ask the league to provide traffic control, assist the photographers and to basically run the entire shoot.  This is not the leagues job.  Good companies will have staff to work at the shoots to answer questions and pass out extra order forms to parents who forgot theirs, make change, etc.  Also, photographers should have assistants to help pose the children and make sure things run smoothly.  When choosing a youth sports photographer you should always ask if photographers have assistants and if they do not, you should continue to look. Getting behind on picture day – The one thing that causes more complaints from parents is picture day not staying on schedule.  Now, any photographer can get behind on picture day depending on the situation.  However, it should be the exception, not the rule.  The two issues above, scheduling and understaffing, greatly increases the chance that your picture day will run behind.  When the photographer isn’t creating the schedule and they under staff the event, it is a recipe for a disastrous picture day. Inexperienced photographers – Another common cost cutting technique done by low quality companies is hiring people with no photography experience to take the photos.  They will put the cameras on automatic mode and train a kid on how to push the shutter button.  This is not quality photography.  This causes washed out images typically poorly composed that do not impress the parents.  Good youth sports photographers only hire true, professional photographers with experience in the field.  At my company, we only hire people who have a strong history in photography and they are then put through our training to understand how to shoot for our methodology. Sorting of Photos – Another way low cost companies save money is by having the league sort all of the photos.  They simply ship boxes of photos to the league and you are responsible for sorting them out by team and getting them passed out to the parents.  Not only is this time consuming, if the league misplaces photos they are the ones responsible for replacing them.  So when the parents call to complain (that call being to the league, not the photographer), the league has to call the company to see where the photos are.  Some companies then charge the league to replace the missing products.

Why allowing the parents to choose their photo package is best

The reasons listed above should be enough to convince leagues that prepaid is not the best way to go.  However, there are additional reasons that “parent’s choice” is the way to go when considering how to run your youth sports picture day.

Higher quality photography – When you do not have to worry about getting the cheapest possible price on buying packages for the entire league, you can be a bit pickier when choosing your youth sports photographer.  Many of the high quality companies do not even work with prepaid leagues anymore because it is too hard to compete with the low quality competitors.  They have changed their focus and have become high school sports photographers or school photographers in San Diego and other areas of California.  My company still works with both prepaid and parent’s choice leagues and we provide the same level of service regardless of what the leagues choose in regards to prepaid packages.  That being said, many leagues are starting to realize how beneficial it is to go with the parent’s choice method. More product variety – Most of the low quality companies out there are very limited on what they offer for purchase by the parents. Since they are only focused on volume, they only offer prints and a few other items.  The best youth sports photographers offer a large variety of products for the parents.  This leads to happier parents and less stress for the league. Fundraising – This is probably the most beneficial aspect of parent’s choice.  When leagues choose not to buy the package for the parents they are able to get a donation based upon the proceeds from picture day.  This can translate into thousands of dollars for the league.  We all know leagues are not-for-profit organizations and money can be tight in many cases.  Since you are already doing a picture day, why not take advantage of it as a fundraiser?  This also ties into the benefits of choosing a youth sports photographer with a large variety of products available for sale.  If there are more options for the parents to buy, more money can be donated back to the league.

A large percentage of leagues are now moving to the parent’s choice method for their sports picture day.  However, a common concern we hear when consulting with leagues on what method to choose is; will I get a ton of complaints from unhappy parents who are expecting something for free?

This is a very valid concern and I understand that a league might hesitate if they think they are going to have a mob of angry parents wondering where there free pictures went.  Quite frankly, if I was a board member on a league (and I have been) I would have the same concern.  However, based upon surveys we have done our customers, most parents are not expecting something for free on picture day.  Our surveys indicate that 82% of parents were not expecting anything to be provided by the league on picture day.  These surveys were done with customers from existing prepaid leagues.  Many of the parents only learned that they were getting something for free when the league told them about it prior to picture day.  When asked if getting free photos from the league was a deciding factor in choosing the league almost all of the parents said it was not a factor.

Now, if you ask me if you will get complaints when moving to a parent’s choice picture day the answer is yes, you will get some complaints.  However, we all know when you are dealing with hundreds of parents that complaints are going to come about a whole host of issues.  The reality is the level of complaints you receive because you do not provide a picture package is considerably less than you will get for low quality pictures and poor customer service.

In the end, what it all boils down to is what is best for the league, the parents and more important, the kids. I can see how leagues might think the parents are benefitting from getting a “free” picture package.  The reality is, if they are getting a low quality product taken by inexperienced photographers, then how is that better for them?  Based upon my experience, parents would much rather pay for quality photos with a variety of products than to get low quality prints for free.  That is why you should take all of these factors into consideration when choosing your youth sports photographer.

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History of Photography in California

California is the only place in the entire country that has prepaid leagues. Everywhere else in the nation leagues use picture day as a very successful fundraiser. To best understand how this came about we need to look at a little history. About 15 years ago, a youth sports photographer had what seemed to be a great idea at the time, to have leagues charge an extra in the registration amount and include a photo package in that price. This worked great for that photographer, as he was getting a fair price for the package, . However, he certainly didn’t realize what would happen over time with this option. As in any competitive business, a price war began. Youth sports photographers all started to beat the other photographer’s prices and many of the high-quality photographers were driven out of business. This drastically reduced the quality of photography in California as companies popped up all over the place that were focused completely on price and quality was not an issue.

Southern California has more youth sports leagues than anywhere else in the country. As you can imagine, this means we have more youth sports photographers than anywhere else in the country also. Because there are literally thousands of leagues to market to, shady businesses are able to stay afloat because there are so many leagues with which to work. Also, because leagues have executive boards that can change pretty frequently, a particular league may not realize that they were burned by a photographer in the past if the board is new. This also makes it hard for customers to stay loyal to one photographer since the decision makers change from year to year. All of these things allow sub-par companies to stay in business and they continue to prey on leagues and provide low quality products and services.

To buy or not to buy, that is the question.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons prepaid leagues are causing themselves so much trouble.

The parents feel that they are your customer, not the photographer’s.

When the league is buying the photo package, the parents automatically view themselves as the league’s customer. This means if there is a problem with the pictures, they call the league, not the photographer. This causes considerably more work for the league, not to mention the stress of dealing with parents who might have a problem with their photos. Instead of calling the youth sports photographer, the parents call the league. Now, any good photographer will allow all calls to be made directly to their office, however, because parents view the league as the responsible party who bought the photos, they almost always call a league representative first.

Many photographers who focus on prepaid leagues cut costs by passing work onto the league.

There are many youth sports photographers out there who quote an extremely low price to get the business. However, they have to cut the costs somewhere. Part of the cost cutting is done by eliminating staff by passing work onto the leagues. Some of the common things the leagues are forced to do are;

Scheduling – Leagues are asked to create their own picture day schedules. The problem with this is that most people outside of the photography industry do not understand what goes into making a successful picture day. The best youth sports photographers will work with you to create your schedule to make sure picture day is a success. Staffing of Picture Day – To save money, low quality youth sports photographers will simply send out a photographer, maybe two photographers and ask the league to provide traffic control, assist the photographers and to basically run the entire shoot. This is not the leagues job. Good companies will have staff to work at the shoots to answer questions and pass out extra order forms to parents who forgot theirs, make change, etc. Also, photographers should have assistants to help pose the children and make sure things run smoothly. When choosing a youth sports photographer you should always ask if photographers have assistants and if they do not, you should continue to look. Getting behind on picture day – The one thing that causes more complaints from parents is picture day not staying on schedule. Now, any photographer can get behind on picture day depending on the situation. However, it should be the exception, not the rule. The two issues above, scheduling and understaffing, greatly increases the chance that your picture day will run behind. When the photographer isn’t creating the schedule and they under staff the event, it is a recipe for a disastrous picture day. Inexperienced photographers – Another common cost cutting technique done by low quality companies is hiring people with no photography experience to take the photos. They will put the cameras on automatic mode and train a kid on how to push the shutter button. This is not quality photography. This causes washed out images typically poorly composed that do not impress the parents. Good youth sports photographers only hire true, professional photographers with experience in the field. At my company, we only hire people who have a strong history in photography and they are then put through our training to understand how to shoot for our methodology. Sorting of Photos – Another way low cost companies save money is by having the league sort all of the photos. They simply ship boxes of photos to the league and you are responsible for sorting them out by team and getting them passed out to the parents. Not only is this time consuming, if the league misplaces photos they are the ones responsible for replacing them. So when the parents call to complain (that call being to the league, not the photographer), the league has to call the company to see where the photos are. Some companies then charge the league to replace the missing products.

Why allowing the parents to choose their photo package is best

The reasons listed above should be enough to convince leagues that prepaid is not the best way to go. However, there are additional reasons that “parent’s choice” is the way to go when considering how to run your youth sports picture day.

Higher quality photography – When you do not have to worry about getting the cheapest possible price on buying packages for the entire league, you can be a bit pickier when choosing your youth sports photographer. Many of the high quality companies do not even work with prepaid leagues anymore because it is too hard to compete with the low quality competitors. They have changed their focus and have become high school sports photographers or school photographers in San Diego and other areas of California. My company still works with both prepaid and parent’s choice leagues and we provide the same level of service regardless of what the leagues choose in regards to prepaid packages. That being said, many leagues are starting to realize how beneficial it is to go with the parent’s choice method. More product variety – Most of the low quality companies out there are very limited on what they offer for purchase by the parents. Since they are only focused on volume, they only offer prints and a few other items. The best youth sports photographers offer a large variety of products for the parents. This leads to happier parents and less stress for the league. Fundraising – This is probably the most beneficial aspect of parent’s choice. When leagues choose not to buy the package for the parents they are able to get a donation based upon the proceeds from picture day. This can translate into thousands of dollars for the league. We all know leagues are not-for-profit organizations and money can be tight in many cases. Since you are already doing a picture day, why not take advantage of it as a fundraiser? This also ties into the benefits of choosing a youth sports photographer with a large variety of products available for sale. If there are more options for the parents to buy, more money can be donated back to the league.

A large percentage of leagues are now moving to the parent’s choice method for their sports picture day. However, a common concern we hear when consulting with leagues on what method to choose is; will I get a ton of complaints from unhappy parents who are expecting something for free?

This is a very valid concern and I understand that a league might hesitate if they think they are going to have a mob of angry parents wondering where there free pictures went. Quite frankly, if I was a board member on a league (and I have been) I would have the same concern. However, based upon surveys we have done our customers, most parents are not expecting something for free on picture day. Our surveys indicate that 82% of parents were not expecting anything to be provided by the league on picture day. These surveys were done with customers from existing prepaid leagues. Many of the parents only learned that they were getting something for free when the league told them about it prior to picture day. When asked if getting free photos from the league was a deciding factor in choosing the league almost all of the parents said it was not a factor.

Now, if you ask me if you will get complaints when moving to a parent’s choice picture day the answer is yes, you will get some complaints. However, we all know when you are dealing with hundreds of parents that complaints are going to come about a whole host of issues. The reality is the level of complaints you receive because you do not provide a picture package is considerably less than you will get for low quality pictures and poor customer service.

In the end, what it all boils down to is what is best for the league, the parents and more important, the kids. I can see how leagues might think the parents are benefitting from getting a “free” picture package. The reality is, if they are getting a low quality product taken by inexperienced photographers, then how is that better for them? Based upon my experience, parents would much rather pay for quality photos with a variety of products than to get low quality prints for free. That is why you should take all of these factors into consideration when choosing your youth sports photographer.

Andy Stockglausner is the owner of MVP Studios, a Photographer in San Diego. MVP Studios offers youth sports photographers in San Diego,school Photographers in San Diego along with traditional photography services. MVP serves all of Southern California.

Article from articlesbase.com


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