An Interview with Seth Francis of Team Photo Shots

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of my favorite photographer-firefighter-hockey-coaches, Seth Francis. Seth has been doing sports photography since 2005 and I was thrilled when he agreed to be one of our early beta users. His company, Team Photo Shots Photography of Cranston, Rhode Island, was the first to execute an entire league from start to finish the PhotoDay Way!

I recently talked to Seth about how he’s using PhotoDay and how it is affecting his business. Below are some highlights from our chat. You can watch the complete video interview here.

Tell us about your business and how you started.
I’ve been in business since 2005. I specialize in youth sports photography, that’s where my passion lies. It all started with me taking pictures of my stepson playing hockey and baseball,  then I was asked to shoot the league.

My first league job was a total disaster.  But I learned, I paid attention to my mentors and I grew. Now I shoot 10,000-15,000 kids a year either in action or volume photography.

Tell us about your workflow and some of the pain points you’ve faced.
We did a lot of stuff in house. Envelopes. Envelopes are a pain point. You have to get them ready for the leagues. You always need more, because everyone forgets their envelope. Then you have to walk parents through how to use the envelope and form. In some of our leagues, the parents don’t all speak English, so it’s even more confusing. Everyone has to fill out paperwork by hand, but everyone’s handwriting is different. What’s an “a” what’s an “e”? Who knows!

The shoots themselves were fine. That workflow went smoothly, but we still had to take time to get order numbers, and shoot barcodes at the end. We needed all the info from the league, who is on what team etc. It’s a struggle, some teams are organized others aren’t.

There were just hours and hours of backend work – data entry, getting stuff ready for the lab, sending stuff over, getting all the pictures back, making sure everything is correlated, spelled correctly, getting it back to the league.

PhotoDay takes a huge stress load off. Tech moves us forward. It makes our lives better.

How has your business changed over the years?
My wife and I had actually scaled our business back greatly because we were overwhelmed with all the work we had to do. When you’re capturing shots of 10,000 to 15,000 kids a year, 50-60 organizations, stacked on top of each other, it’s too much. We had two or three people doing data entry, but when you do several leagues in a weekend or week, it began to pile. It became an impossibility. It was affecting our lives and our marriage, so we scaled back. I didn’t want to get out of the business. I love it, I love the kids faces, the parents faces, the smiles.

I’m a fireman, so I go into people’s houses and see our photos. Or I go into a business and see our sponsor plaque. They don’t know it was me that took the photo. It’s cool and rewarding. But the back work was a huge overload. So, when I found out about PhotoDay, I asked to get in.

We did a Lacrosse league. It was a brand new league and they were blown away.

What was the parents’ reaction to no forms?
“What? How do I order, what do I do?” We gave them a paper with info on how to order  and they got it. Parents used to ask “Why am I gonna buy pictures before I see them?” Especially today, people want to see pictures before they buy them. No one buys anything sight unseen anymore.

If a company is doing it the old way, with order forms, then parents are putting trust in the photographer to make sure they’re choosing the right image. With the PhotoDay way, we have the opportunity to take more poses and and share more images, giving the parents more choice. We don’t have to worry about writing down the image or frame numbers or shooting barcodes.

Tell me about your upcoming season. What are you thinking? How will this impact your fall season?
I have a football league that I’ve been shooting for many years. They were considering trying someone new just because they wanted some new ideas and new proposals. They liked it when I explained the PhotoDay system. “We don’t  have to get order forms a week or two before the event and get them to coaches?” “Nope, no need.” “How will parents order?” “We’re going to take pictures, poses, sibling shots, We don’t even need to know who the kid is. We don’t need the database. It’s irrelevant to us because parents can order whichever images they want..”

I sent them a sample gallery and they were so excited. They see that the shoot will go quicker with no paperwork and no order forms. Not having to get forms to coaches, having a faster shoot, that’s relieving pain points for the leagues.

Any feedback from parents or leagues about FaceFind?
With my lacrosse league, several parents used FaceFind. At first, they were a little confused. But, I explained about uploading a photo and then they loved it. They loved being able to choose individual and group photos. They loved going online. The was a smaller shoot, so I could upload pictures in my truck at the field and I had parents looking before they left the field.

Look, leagues love to be hands off and PhotoDay lets them be hands off. I really think this is a positive change for the whole industry.

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