Hiring a Pro Photographer... What Do You Get For Your Money?
Professional golf course photography is a valuable asset to a golf club interested in maintaining its market share or in growing its presence. But it’s not inexpensive. And what do you get for your money, if you hire an experienced professional to do the job?
Here’s a news flash. There is no National Union of Golf Course Photographers to set rates, define licensing terms or establish standards for deliverables. Which, in my opinion, is not a bad thing at all. You might say golf course photography is like the Wild West. So in many ways, it’s a buyer’s market. Lucky you! That’s the upside.
The downside is that, with a wide array of golf course photographers available to you... from seasoned pros to newbies just trying to get started... how do you know what you’ll get for your money? If fact, how do you even know what questions to ask a photographer? With ten years of golf course photography under my belt and a long list of great projects in my rearview mirror, I have some thoughts I’d like to share. And who knows? Some of them may even be helpful!
Let’s start with the photography fees and expenses
Many established photographers charge a day rate of up to $3000 per day or more, with guarantees of only 8 to 12 images per day. Yikes! Other photographers charge on a per-project basis, with a set fee and a guaranteed number of images once your project is complete. But with either type of shooter, be sure you know how many images the photographer will complete for review, and how many you’ll end up with at the end of the project.
Travel expenses are also part of the cost, so be sure you understand the parameters, going in. Normal travel expenses will include lodging, meals and transportation. These can vary quite a bit, depending on how quickly you need the photographer so if possible, plan ahead and you may save a few bucks. Another expense you should be aware of up front is equipment rental, which can cover anything from specialty lenses to bucket trucks. Be sure you have a solid estimate of those costs in-hand before committing to the project, or you could find yourself with a nasty surprise after the photo shoot. In my opinion, the quality of a photographer’s work is the most important consideration, but if you’re wavering between two photographers, knowing exactly what you’ll get for your money can be a deciding factor.
Beware of photographers who have a rate for on-site photography and simple color corrections, but charge additional fees for retouching. If you’re not familiar with the term, retouching is the more detailed and exacting editing that results in a truly finished photograph. This can include simple processes like cleaning up divots in a tee box, or much more complex issues in a photograph as needed. There aren’t too many photographers who tack on retouching fees, but it’s a question you should ask, just to be sure.
Reviewing and Selecting Images
When your images are complete, how will you be able to review them? I don’t know any photographers who will release high resolution images prior to the completion of a sale. Digital files live forever, so having unlicensed images floating thru the ether makes every photographer nervous. There are essentially two options for reviewing your images… contact sheets or online galleries. Contact sheets will probably be digital files, emailed to you. Be sure the images are large enough to allow close examination. What I provide my clients… and what I recommend… is an online gallery that allows for full screen viewing of images. Images formatted for online viewing won’t be full resolution images, but if you can see them full-screen, you’ll be able to catch any troubling flaws so you can request additional editing by the photographer, if needed.
Licensing is perhaps the most important element of your image purchase, because your image license defines how you may use the images. Read the photographer’s license carefully and be sure you understand the terms. If you can get a sample license up front, it’s best. Just ask. Most professionals will be happy to provide a sample license.
Here are the kinds of things an image license will cover:
Once you’ve selected the images you wish to own, you will receive your image files in a digital format, either via download or on a disk or thumb drive. A Caution: Do not distribute your master files. Store your master files on a secure drive, make copies and use that set of copies for distribution as needed. Otherwise you’ll find yourself one day in search of a file that magically walked away. If this happens, your photographer will more than likely have an archive and should be happy to send you a replacement.
How Can You Use Your New Images? Let Me Count The Ways!
There are many reasons for a golf club to maintain a library of quality photographs. From using them on its web site, to providing marketing materials to outside organizations holding events at its property… from having current images for the club’s newsletter, to selling framed prints and gift items in the golf shop, the list is fairly extensive. Understanding the full spectrum of potential uses for your new images may be the best way to benefit all segments of your club.
Here are some potential uses for your new images
For the Marketing Communications Team
For the Golf Pro Shop / Merchandising
I typically am hired by management and marketing teams to provide images for their club’s marketing communications program. But I also work with golf pros and merchandising managers to offer framed prints and other products in the golf shop featuring these new images. Obviously, Hole-In-One Awards are something every golf shop offers, and a photo of the hole, the scorecard and even the ball, beautifully framed is a proven seller. But given the success that some of my clients have had selling framed prints, and even using framed prints and gift items for tee gifts, it’s worth giving some thought to using your new photos to generate a new revenue stream.
A Word of Caution
Framed prints don’t come with the support of an international marketing program like Titleist or Taylormade. It will be up the golf shop staff to shine a light on these items if they are to sell well. The first club that ever sold framed prints of my images had a merchandising manager who loved my work and enthusiastically supported the sale of prints. In the first year, she sold almost $10,000 worth of prints. When she had a baby and left the club, her replacement told me, in so many words, “Golf photographs don’t sell in pro shops”. She then moved the prints she had in stock into a back room. In her first year, print sales totaled $80. Same club. Same old me. Different merchandising manager.
I suspect that this article may have raised as many questions as it’s answered, so if that’s the case, please don’t hesitate to contact me at your convenience. If there’s anything I can do to help you and your club, I’ll be happy to do so.
Keywords: cost of photography, dave sansom, golf course photography, image licensing, photography, professional photographer
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