Hiring a Pro Photographer... What Do You Get For Your Money?

July 26, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

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.

Editing Extras

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:

  • What form will your deliverables take?: Images prepared for use on your website are not suitable for print, so if you have print uses in mind, be sure you will receive a set of high resolution images.  A high resolution image will have a minimum resolution of 240 PPI, but 300 PPI is more common.  Web Ready images will be delivered in a resolution from 72 PPI to 100 PPI.  
  • Color Space:  Color Space is just as important as resolution, and you should know what you’re getting.  There are essentially four “Color Spaces” in photo world, and each has its place.  The largest color space, and the one most photographers favor for their creative work, is ProPhoto RGB.  Close, but not quite as large, is Adobe RGB.  The sRGB Color Space is the most common color space for deliverable images, because it is the de facto standard for all internet presentation of images, and most digital printing labs prefer to receive sRGB files for printing.  The fourth Color Space is CMYK.  If you plan any offset printing projects, your image files will need to be converted to the CMYK Color Space.  Offset printing companies can usually do a good job with this conversion, so ask your printer if you’re doing any offset work.   
  • Exclusivity: If you want to be the only entity using images of your club, you need an exclusive license.  However, exclusive licensing is more expensive… often triple the cost of non-exclusive… so if you don’t absolutely need exclusivity, save yourself some money.  I work with many international clients, and to date the only one who has asked for an exclusive license was a major International hotel.  After we got the lawyers calmed down, and everybody understood that my non-exclusive license allowed them to do everything they wanted to do, they were very happy with a non-exclusive license.
  • Limited or Unlimited Use: Pay very close attention to this part of your license.  The purpose of an image license is to define limitations, so this is the heart of the agreement.  If use is limited, be sure that the limitations are acceptable.  Or ask that they be changed.  Nothing is cast in stone, so feel free to ask for any changes you require.
  • License term: For how long may you use the images? Some licenses are sold per-year, while others may have longer terms.  Some, as mine are, are permanent.  If you want to maintain a library for archival purposes, a one or two year license obviously won’t do the job.
  • Geographic limitations: Can you only use your images locally?  Regionally?  Nationally?  Worldwide?  You may have no interest in marketing your club in Bulgaria, but you may want to submit an article about your club to a golf magazine with international reach, so be sure your license allows it.
  • Attribution: Photographers, like writers and other creatives, want to be given credit for any published use of their images, and most licenses will  require it.  Publishers are very familiar with giving proper attribution, so it’s generally not a problem.  If you, on the other hand, find it irritating to have to ask a publisher to put “Copyright 2018, My Photographer” next to a photograph in a magazine article or book or on your web site, be sure to discuss this with your photographer before you agree to a deal.
  • Assignability:  There will be times when you may want to give another entity… a person or a business… one of your photographs for their use.  Be sure you understand the limitations in your license, because there probably will be some.  Giving an image to a company hosting an event at your club to promote that event (and your club) is one thing, and is usually acceptable.  Giving an image to a writer or publisher to use in a book (from which the writer and/or publisher will derive income) is quite another, and may require a separate license, as well as an additional fee.  
  • Altering Images: If you want to give your marketing and design team the right to crop, retouch, add elements or otherwise alter an image, be sure your license allows it.
  • Model Releases: If you’ve had photographs done that include people, and those people are readily recognizable, you will need model releases.  Your photographer may or may not supply those releases, so this is an important topic for conversation prior to hiring a photographer.

You’ve Made Your Image Selections.  What Now?

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!

_ROB4069_ROB4069 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

  • Web Site
  • Club Newsletters
  • Advertising/Marketing, from magazines to broadcast
  • Submissions to Publications for articles
  • Trade Show Booth

For the Golf Pro Shop / Merchandising

  • Sale of Framed Prints and Gift Items
  • Tee Gifts for Internal and External Events
  • Hole-In-One Awards

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.


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