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Thread: Sports Accreditation and the fall of photography as a job

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    Sports Accreditation and the fall of photography as a job

    I've been looking at a site about "getting into sports photography" that was mentioned in another thread. (No, I'm not planning to get into sports photography.)

    One of the recurrent themes that pops up here and elsewhere is just how hard it is these days to make a living as a photographer, and the sports site backed that up. Arguments are put up everywhere about how everyone now has a camera, that amateur photography is making it hard for pros, that there are less full-time photography staff positions, that people are earning less and need a day job.

    At the same time, to get access to shoot premium sporting events, you need accreditation - normally based on a (recognised) publication signing the right form, or other proof. I've often wanted "accreditation" but purely from a selfish, non-photography perspective: better locations to view the motor racing etc. and have noted how restrictive it is (justifiably), and how you have to prove your photographic credentials. (Don't launch into a description of how I can get accreditation - that isn't the point.)

    What is going to happen in the future? With less staff photographers, and fewer sports photographers making a living (as opposed to shooting sports), and more photographers shooting sports as a hobby, how will accreditations get determined? I can foresee a situation where the field of potential accreditees is
    so large that it becomes impossible to select on an objective basis; or alternatively, that there are no longer enough "quality" sports photographers to give the sports the coverage desired.

    It seems to me that sporting bodies have a vested interest in keeping the profession of sports photography going - otherwise, they'll loose control of imagery of their product (and may not end up with any at all.) But if no-one is willing to ensure sports photography is a viable profession...

    Any practicing or budding sports photographers care to comment?
    Regards, Rob

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    I don't think this is purely about sport photography. I see it as an industry-wide issue.

    * Some professional photographers used to make a living doing catalogue photography for the retail industry. Now High-Res photos are provided by the manufacturers (mostly Overseas taken), and just inserted into the local catalogue content by a graphic artist.

    * Weddings in Australia have decreased by about 15% in the last 10 years (the number of actual weddings taking place), but at the same time, the number of people trying to get into the industry as a wedding photographer have increased. Just look at forums like AP to see the threads saying "I want to start shooting weddings" or, "I have just joined cause a friend wants me to shoot their wedding, and I need help".

    The entire industry is undergoing a major upheaval.

    There will be those that stand out in their chosen fields, as they have always done, and they will continue to do well, but there will be a lot of attrition on the photographic industry over the next few years. It has already started! How photographers evolve to deal with these changes will be the decider on success or loss. Sport Photography can be a big money earner at the top, for a few. But cause big money is involved in sport, there will also be a lot of people chasing the dream, and most will not succeed.

    The alternative view is that it has been to easy for to long for those in the industry and now, as the industry adjusts, they are finding it difficult to adjust. What is happening in the industry is no different to most other industries. It used to be that people chose a career and stuck with it for life, now people will often change careers 3-4 times in their working life. Photography is just adjusting to this new direction for employment in general and this is difficult for some to accept.
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    Very very few people make a living from ft sport photography, probably less than 12 in Australia, if that....most do also general media or other work to pay the bills. When you find out what the pay rates are even at an elite level you will be disheartened. But most would add that if they could do sport ft they would

    What is slowly happening is that sporting organizations are moving to take control and ownership of images of their sport, hiring their own photographers and providing images to media. A football club in Britain actually banned all media even.

    I'd recommend reading a senate report on sport photography and media done in oz thats a Year or too old now, it actually encourages sporting bodies to provide greater access

    There will always be many happy to shoot a-league, but funnily enough fewer that are doing pro spor shooting at local level, and that's for lots of reasons. My honest view is that 99% of those shooting sport do it for the love of sport, the mone earned is just pocket money in reality compared to th equipment and time cost. I'm involved with sport shooter and a few other international sport forums and very few make decent money, compared to even 10 years ago
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    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    I reckon Darren has hit it on the head with sporting bodies (particularly at pro level) restricting access so that only their paid photographers are getting the images, and then they sell them to media instead of giving a media outlet an accreditation to attend the event. The likes of Getty and stock agencies are no help either, they have wormed their way into the boardrooms of these pro sporting bodies to try and ensure that their people get access so they can on-sell to media outlets as well.

    Sporting bodies want wide circulation (sometimes worldwide) for the imagery from their respective games, and outlets like Getty can offer that distribution from one place.

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    Photography is becoming an exclusively PART TIME job in many fields as it's simply no longer possible to actually make a full time living from it in many fields.

    I know the OP is not complaining (and this isn't directed at the OP) but it's interesting to me how people will on the one hand often enjoy and take advantage of the fact that it is so much easier to do the work and to actually get photographic work now (compared to E6 film days) whilst on the other hand bemoan just how poor the rates often are and how difficult, often impossible, it is to actually make a living from it (in many fields). It was easier to make a living when photography was harder to do and valued appropriately, that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. It's a double edged sword.

    No buyer cares how poor the rates are and if you can survive on them. If you go out of business there are 10, 20 people behind you to fill your place and as long as this remains the case there is no reason for the rates to be any higher. This isn't going to change any time soon so get used to it. If a buyer can get a similar job (even a 'poorer' job in many cases) from some one else but for much less money, then more often than not, a struggling business will take a cheaper job. Most of the magazines that I know of are struggling compared to say 2-5 years ago.

    Look at Redbubble or flickr to see how high the standard of photography is from rank amateurs (by which I mean some one who is not trying to earn an income or even make a living from it)! This is largely because the technicality of photography, that held many back from having a crack, no longer exists. Only the creative elements remain so the creativity and standard of photography that I see today far exceeds the norm of say 10 years ago. This is largely the same reason some pro fields become cheaper because the gap that differentiated their work is in many cases becoming non existent. It's simply much easier to do the same job, and many amateurs are competing with ft pro's. Photography is very much a commodity (in most but not all cases) and it is priced accordingly.

    There will always be a massive amount of money to be made by the right person in the right field, but that's not what we are talking about here. We're talking about the fields were an average shooter can compete easily with an above average one. If Mario Testino or Tim Griffith or Dan Winters shot the kinds of jobs the OP was talking about then they might be working part time stacking shelves at Coles to support themselves too.

    Any event, be it sporting or musical or whatever, is a privately owned entity and the access and rights to it can be controlled by the organisers, with very few exceptions. The organisers are concerned with their own profits, or maybe the interests of the sport or artists involved, but certainly not under any circumstances any photographers. It's nothing personal, it's just business...

    JJ
    Last edited by jjphoto; 18-12-2010 at 10:41am.

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    I have done a lot of sports photography and I agree with the sentiments of the posts above, it isn't easy. And even if it is it won't pay well enough, and you will have difficulty recouping your equipment costs. For instance a Nikkor AF-S 400mm f/2.8G ED VR lens is a big investment and this is the kind of lens I work with to do what I do, the depressing fact is I have had this lens since mid 2008 and it still hasn't entirely paid for itself.

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    i hear you :-)

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    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Othrelos View Post
    a Nikkor AF-S 400mm f/2.8G ED VR lens is a big investment and this is the kind of lens I work with to do what I do, the depressing fact is I have had this lens since mid 2008 and it still hasn't entirely paid for itself.
    *Trading of gear is not allowed on AP : post removed : Admin*

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    Darren aka Kiwi is definitely the person to listen to on this topic. Sadly the reality that the prospect of part time photography is all to real to define all areas of photography in the future. Why ? because the value of photography has been literally decimated by simple lowering of expectations, knowledge of what is good and what is bad, and simple market forces - ie the issue (excellent topic btw) is not limited to sports photography.
    William

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    Can't wait till organizers-promoters start charging for the privilege of shooting their events. The sad thing is some will pay.
    Thanks Steve
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    I don't think that will happen. I do think the day if the freelancer is all but over with Getty and others having pretty much tied up the market for the big stuff

    There will always hopefully be a few pennies for local stuff, but as William says most are quite happy for rebel
    Mum's free Facebook photos from the sideline.

    I've moved to a prepay model as much as possible or I shoot purely for fun and fully realize that I'll make pretty much bupkiss

    I haven't done any pro level sport in 2010, just too much hassle and not enough money to stomach and I've been lucky enough to cover sport at the highest level and unless I'm actually working dont think I deserve or should to be there just making up the numbers or effectively working for free

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    I am older than I look. peterb666's Avatar
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    It is a combination of everyone trying to make a buck out of the battler (i.e. many accreditation processes involve paying a fee), too many in the business, cheap stock photos, photo libraries like Getty that pay next to nothing (and sometimes nothing) for images they resell, cheap dSLRS and lenses that make good equipment (not necessarily pro equipment) available at low prices, every dog mum and child with a crappy camera in their phone etc...

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    I am older than I look. peterb666's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atky View Post
    Can't wait till organizers-promoters start charging for the privilege of shooting their events. The sad thing is some will pay.
    Application fees for permits and paying for photography rights are already here in some fields of photography. I have been to (admittedly non-sporting) events where cameras are banned because there is an “official” photographer that is paying a fee to have exclusive rights to taking photos.

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    Quensland raceway wanted payment from a photographer for state level events I think it was, it was posted on another site can't find the post to link to but from memery nthey were asking $250 for a meating dont think anybody paid but it was tried.

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    I recall that and also the Furore it created

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    My point was not so much the issues of earning a living (and obviously it is hard) but how will sporting organisations choose who to accredit, when there are no media organisations effectively employing photographers (either salaried, paying for their images or commissioned.)

    At some point in the future, if the trends above continue (and I have no reason to doubt this), photographers will be paid (even more?) of a pittance for their sports photographs - and won't bother except for fun. Look at Kiwi's statement above. Who will the organisations accredit? What criteria will they use? (Because the ones that fit today won't fit in the future.)

    I think atky is off in the wrong direction, and to some extent so is jjphoto - the premier sports organisations need good quality images out there. They need to keep their sport in the forefront of the public's mind. The control that is occurring is about the quality of the image, and the image of the sport (not really a pun) - they don't want pictures of players sneering, they want pictures of players being heroes. But if the sports organisations don't start paying the photographer, and the news organisations don't, where will they get the *quality* photographs they need.

    From what I have seen, top end sports photography requires skill and some pretty decent gear. Who's going to dish up $10k+ for a big lens and not have it pay for itself? Unless the sports organisations step in, the people they'll be accrediting are those like me - who just want a good spot to see the game - because those will be the only ones who apply.

    (BTW, Othrelos - "Pays for itself" is a mixed concept: Are you looking for profit to cover the expense of the lens? Or are you looking for profit to cover the yearly depreciation of owning the lens. Also, if the lens is the price of entry, you don't make any money if you don't have it. From what I have seen, the big tele primes hold value pretty well - so if you sold it today - {no trading intended rick} - you'd maybe drop $2k? So depreciation could be seen to be about 10% per year - and IMO this is the figure you need to be covering in income - not the $10-15k of the lens cost.)

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    You'll find getty, smp etc have a line-up of candidates 2 years long. Supply will exceed demand for as long as I'll be shooting don't worry about that

    Out of say 8 photographers at a soccer game say there will be one from local news, a staffer, probably one getty staffer and one shooting on spec, same from smp, and maybe a photographer hired by the home club ( but prob actually workiing for free/access), maybe someone from aap

    That will put about 2000 images on the market for every game theoretically. Based on supply and demand work it though where the money is.
    Not many freelancers get access, to get access you need media support, media are locked into contracts and dont need you

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    And, my 400 cost $11k 18 months ago, I've seen them selling for $7k

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    And, my 400 cost $11k 18 months ago, I've seen them selling for $7k
    depressing isn't it? though I have a canon EF 200mm f/1.8L - and those still fetch stratospheric prices.

    "Can't wait till organizers-promoters start charging for the privilege of shooting their events"

    whether you like it or not that will probably happen at some point in the future. The Adelaide botanic gardens slug you with a $500 location fee if you're doing commercial photography there, I feel so sorry for the wedding photographers that have to shoot weddings there because that only just makes it difficult to financially absorb such a fee. At womad festival in Adelaide, they give official photographers a pretty rough deal.Though I worked for the fringe festival and their policy on professional photography is much more relaxed. but then again I was keeping my gear to the minimum and using the stealthiest cameras I own (Leica M9 and Pentax K-7)
    Last edited by Othrelos; 18-12-2010 at 11:02pm.

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