We recently chatted with Sean Bass, a photographer based out of Mentor, Ohio. Sean is the owner of Lake Photography, and he specializes in creating artistic sports composites. Sean purchased his first DSLR in March of 2010, two years later he started Lake Photography, all while working a full-time loan officer job at a bank. Sean started out doing custom sports imagery with no volume work. Eventually, he expanded his business to include volume sports team and individual photography for schools and leagues in 2016. During this time, he implemented Next Gen Photo Solutions. He states, “it’s the only way I have ever shot volume photography.”
NG – What kind of tools do you use for post-processing before utilizing Next Gen? Explain your workflow now and why you changed your system to using Next Gen.
SB – I send all my images to Next Gen for extractions when I’m working on a custom team or individual job. Being that I wasn’t working with any leagues prior to 2016, I didn’t have a workflow process prior to Next Gen. Before 2016 I didn’t have any interest shooting volume because there want a way to offer composite based team build efficiently that would match up with my company’s branding of being different and offering exciting sports composites.
Being that I’m the only employee beside hiring help on large photo day shoots, efficient workflow is critical to me. For example, if I shoot 100 images for senior banners then follow up with a league of 400 kids within a few days of each other, I need to turn those jobs around in the time frame I set with those customers. That’s tough without a plan. Here is how I do it. I scan and upload all 400 photo day order forms to Next Gen for data entry by Tempo along with the images. The next day all my orders have been entered into the system, and then I can process the job. The Next Gen Production team will get working, creating all the print-ready team and individual artwork need to fulfill the orders. Once that’s completed, it’s ready to be sent to NEO Pro imaging for printing. This part can’t get any easier, I send them an email with the FTP link for the images and the excel data file. Done. While this is happening in the background, I’m creating all of my custom senior banners. My banners are not drag-and-drop but an actual custom piece that can take a while to complete. If I was trying to build my volume work and custom work myself, I wouldn’t be able to keep up and would get burned out quickly. Outsourcing makes a lot of sense to me because it’s like having a back-office staff without the expense. Sure, there is a cost to outsourcing, but not nearly as much as carrying employees through slow times, and there is also a value to work-life balance.
NG – When we spoke at the last conference, you referenced “dynamic posing.” Can you explain this better and where and when you realized this is what players, leagues, and parents wanted?
SB – Dynamic team posing is a must when the team size warrants it. Using a cool background and posing the team bleacher-style will look just OK. However, when using a cool background and at the same time dynamically posing the team members will create another level of excitement. Do a test and show both versions to parents. In my experience, they always pick the dynamically posed team. It may take a little longer getting thru a team on photo day, but that is a small price to pay for injecting some excitement back into the process. It’s been paying off for me because my business has grown aggressively from referrals, which I think is in large part because of the quality of the imagery, which all starts with posing and expression
NG – What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started doing volume work?
SB – I never had a volume photography job that went terribly wrong because I didn’t know something about my own processes. I’m still doing things basically the same way as I did on day one besides tweaking a few things to be more efficient. Don’t overthink it, but over-prepare. Don’t cut corners, and maintain a high level of service. Being that both my volume work and my custom work are consistent with Lake Photography’s brand, they help each other get new jobs. My custom work has brought in many volume jobs, and that’s where the money is at.
NG – What is the one service that Next Gen offers that most clients are unaware of, and how do you utilize it for your business?
SB – Not sure if everyone knows about the data entry service or they don’t want to spend the money on it, but that is a huge time management value for me. The last thing I want to do is key in hundreds or thousands of orders during a given week. I don’t want to dig the ditch I want to tell someone else how deep to dig it, then concentrate on more important aspects of my business. This is the same mindset when it comes to compositing hundreds of virtual team images. I will build the team layout in-camera using storyboards, shooting dynamic poses, and let Next Gen do the actual team build.
More of Sean Bass’s work can be seen here.