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Sports Shooters: How to Win More Sales

Sports Photography is not an easy game to play. Often done on a speculative basis, success only comes with a really great marketing plan, a solid business plan and a lot of hard work before, during and after the game. 

Getting the Shot

Face. Contact. Action. Ball.

The elements of a great sport photograph. Your ability to get the shot, in sport photography more than any other field, requires more than “F8 and Be There”.  Equipment matters, since you very likely won’t be able to control the light.

Tools of the trade

• Camera body with the ability to take multiple frames per second

• Clean High ISO for low light shooting

• Telephoto lens with a large maximum aperture (fast glass)

• Monopod

• Accreditation and/or permission to shoot the sport

1. Know Your Sport.

The ability to anticipate where the action will be, to predict the drama by understanding the rules and thus the rulings, to be prepared for the ecstasy and agony of the competitors is what will set you apart as a sport photographer.

2. Fill your frame with action.

Minimize distracting backgrounds. Choose the right depth of field. Make sure that the play or the player is your subject. Shoot tight, crop tighter.

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Photo courtesy of

3. Pick the right shutter speed.

In general you’ll want to be freezing the action, so your shutter will need to be fast, fast, fast. If motion blur is desirable to help convey the story or set the mood a slower shutter speed may be OK. You’ll need to ensure your shutter speed is fast enough to prevent camera shake.


Your shutter speed needs to be greater than the focal length of the lens. Using strobes? Balance the flash power against flash duration to freeze the action.

4. Accreditation and/or Permission to shoot the sport.

Meet the sport director for the school or club, the president of the booster club, the director of the league and have their blessing to photograph their players. You should know their needs (year book photos, website photos, championship photos, team photos, etc) and be prepared to include these shots in exchange for the right to photograph the game/league/tournament.

You’ve Got the Shots, Now Get the Sales

You probably aren’t expecting to head out, take a bunch of game day photos, and then put them up for sale, right? While you're perfecting your shooting technique, you should also be putting together a strong business and marketing plan, including building your brand name and recognition, your customer base and your portfolio.


1. Use SmugMug’s drag and drop customizability to add your brand to your website. Use sports photos in your portfolio. Check our tips for a successful website

2. Make sure that your homepage meta description and keywords reflect what you do and where you are located. Take steps to ensure that you can be found in a Google search.

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. He 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.

Kent McCorckle

At the Stadium:

3. Network. It’s likely that you will start out photographing youth sports. Your sport team booster club, team manager, and parents are going to be your biggest fans and referral source so be sure they know who you are.

4. Business cards and printed material: Create your folders or events before the games or tournament and include the URL on your print advertising. Distribute that advertising during the game so people know where to find your photos as soon as they get home.

5. Turn your portfolio shots into print and product samples that show folks what you offer for sale. They're perfect for demonstrating how great their photos will look.

6. If you're working at a tournament or multi game event, have a display set up on-site and show the photos as they come from the field. Generate excitement and get them eager to buy ASAP! Using SmugMug print credit coupons is a great way to ensure you'll make more sales after the tournament.

7. If you are submitting photos to wire services, do so at half time. Sports shooters highly recommend using Photo Mechanic software for the sorting and sending process.

After the Game: Sample Workflow from Shoot to Sale

1. Put your CF card into card reader and use Lightroom to import and copy the files into a folder (organize by date) on your external hard drive.

2. Use the Lightroom Library module to quickly cull all out of focus and otherwise unsellable shots from the set. Mark them rejected by hitting the 'X' key.

3. Use Photo> Delete Rejected Photos to clear out the rejected images.

4. Add keywords and meta data (copyright information, for example) to the whole set of photos using the Synch function in the library module.

5. Use the Lightroom Develop module if minor editing, like adjusting exposure or quick cropping, is needed to get the best image possible.

6. Back to the library module. Set the publish settings up with the File Setting Quality slider to 50%. This keeps your proof images small so you can upload them faster.


Digital Downloads don't get held by Proof Delay so if you're selling digital files, we recommend you keep the slider at 90% and be sure your images are edited enough for final sale.

7. Select all of the images to be published.

8. Use the Lightroom SmugMug publish service to create a new gallery on SmugMug. Having the images already selected puts them right into that gallery. You’ll be able to configure your gallery settings from within Lightroom, too.

9. Hit the publish button, and watch as Lightroom uploads them all into your new SmugMug gallery!

10. Spread the word that the photos are online and available for purchase. Remember that marketing your work is critical to your success. Use email and social media for this. Make sure you contact your liaison with the team, and have them help spread the word, too.

11. Cha-ching!The Who Loves Ya email has arrived, and you know which photos have been ordered.

12.  Open Lightroom, and navigate to the published gallery. Find the image that your customer has bought, open the develop module and edit that file for print. Repeat for each ordered image. Those images will be marked for republishing.

13. Open the publish settings and reset the Quality slider to 90% (print quality).

14. Hit the publish button, which replaces your compressed images with your print ready files.

15. Go to the SmugMug proof delay page for the order and click the ‘send to the lab’ button.

16.  Write your customer to let them know you’ve reviewed the order and sent it to the lab, and to thank them for their support!