Knockout Sports with Shanna Smith
Knockout Sports – Wow!
A Case Study with Shanna Smith
Smith Photo Group
How long have you been in the sports photography business?
We had operated a low-volume, high-end studio for more than 10 years. About three years ago, we expanded into high-volume photography, providing sports portraits through school contracts and little leagues.
Being used to low-volume work, we were shocked by the time required to fulfill orders for sports. When we expanded, we did so with the help of H&H Color Lab. They made it easier on us through their excellent customer service, software and training.
Tell us about your decision to offer green-screen extracted images with designed graphics for sports.
After completing our first year of sports, we wanted to offer more cutting-edge products to present ourselves above and beyond the sports competition in our area. We began offering green screen for high school sports, using extracted individual images and providing composited prints.
How did that decision work out for you?
Sales skyrocketed. However, we were spending so much time behind a computer to create them that we quickly became overwhelmed.
We could not stop, though, because now we had other schools and leagues wanting us to do the same for them. Our middle schools began asking if they could get the same thing, and we simply did not have time. We used the excuse, “We offer it only to high schools at this time.”
How did you design your extraction sports graphics last year?
We would photograph players on green screen, extract and then create a unique template in Photoshop to match their sport and school colors. We would do this for every high school player. This really made us stand out!
How long would this take for each team?
We would spend hours perfecting a set of templates for each sport. Then, because we were using extracted images, it would take hours to create a sports mate, buttons, magnets, etc. for each player. This made for long nights, weekends and less time with family.
How did you learn about H&H Knockout Sports?
Eventually, we received a phone call from H&H asking why we had stopped using their templates. They noticed we weren’t using them as we had the year before. We explained why we moved to green screen, and shared our concerns over the amount of time we were spending in Photoshop.
H&H called to tell us they had listened to our concerns (and others who were in the same position) and had been working to come up with a system to help volume sports photographers. They explained Knockout Sports and asked if we would be part of a beta program. We jumped at the chance!
Their design team worked with us to get a form designed, and then we photographed three little leagues we had done the previous year. Those leagues had requested green screen in the past, and we always had to say no. This time we explained we were offering a new service that would give them the look they desired.
How long does it take you now that you are using H&H’s Knockout Sports?
We photographed the kids traditionally using strobes as main/fill light, with sun as a kicker. We always use four lights for green screen-and only had to use two for this. So simple. The amount of time to do the shoot was cut almost in half, not to mention setup and teardown time.
Back in the office, we uploaded the images into hhschools-no Lightroom, no Photoshop. We culled, cropped and ordered images just like we would any other project. H&H ordering software, hhschools, knew what images needed to be extracted and which background to use via the background library we had chosen earlier when we set up our Knockout information in the software. This saved us dozens of hours behind the computer.
When we received the first order of Knockout images, we were very impressed. We have extracted subjects from difficult backgrounds like trees and buildings; we all know it is not easy to get good results. H&H has nearly perfected how they extract from any background, leaving us wondering if we will ever use green screen again. This makes our jobs and lives easier. The templates and backgrounds offered are much more creative than the generic templates most labs offer.
Your business was part of the beta program for H&H Knockout Sports. Tell us about your experience.
At first, we were scared to step out of our comfort zone due to our satisfaction with our sales averages. Parents loved their images. We polled parents who ordered Extreme Sports packages (what we call H&H Knockout Sports), and all gave rave reviews.
However, as one of the first to use the H&H beta program, there were some flaws. When designing our form, we left things off that were on our previous form. This caused some confusion and led to our sales average being about the same as the year before. But we did have higher participation.
Most parents ordered Traditional Packages over the Extreme Sports Packages because they did not understand the process, and because of our mistake when creating the form. Those parents were disappointed when they saw what the other parents who ordered the Extreme Sports packages received. They all said they wanted to order Extreme Sports packages in the future.
Based on what we learned, we contacted the design team at H&H and worked together to improve the form, and also added back the things we’d left off. We have no doubt sales will be higher and that next time we’ll have more Extreme Sports package purchases.
Now that the beta program is over, will you offer H&H’s Knockout Sports Program to all your schools and sports leagues?
Providing extraction for sports has tremendously increased sales in high school sports programs, and we are excited to be introducing our new Knockout form to our schools and sports leagues in January. H&H has been wonderful communicating and working with us regarding the changes we felt needed to be made to improve the program for everyone. Best of all, it knocks hours off our workflow. We are comforted knowing H&H has our back by doing the work for us.
What recommendations would you give to someone who wants to introduce Knockout Sports to their business?
If you’re doing extracted sports images, we highly recommend using H&H as a silent employee to do the hard work, giving you part of your life back. We also recommend using the H&H design team if you are introducing Extreme Sports packages to an already established school or league. The design team can help make your Knockout packages and pricing as similar as possible to your original form. This helps eliminate confusion for parents.
Most importantly, communicate with H&H Color Lab when you have a challenge in your business; they can help, and they listen. When we first told them of our wish to provide sports mates with an extracted individual image, we had no idea how far they would run with it. H&H has gone above and beyond to help our business grow and save us time and money. We are blessed to call them part of our family business.
Award-winning photographer Shanna Smith is known for her high school senior and newborn portraiture, and her studio excels at other genres as well. She is active in photography organizations and teaches photography and Photoshop classes to professionals and the public.
Craig Smith specializes in sports photography, and he’s won awards for his work, which has been published in newspapers and magazines. In the studio, he offers a unique style of portrait that focuses on sets and lighting design. He is often seen shooting on the sidelines at high school sporting events and University of Oklahoma football games.
Shanna and Craig are members of Professional Photographers of America and the Southwest Professional Photographers Association. They compete in and judge photographic competitions throughout the year. Most importantly to the photography community, the pair continues to give back by speaking at local and affiliate photography guilds, including Professional Photographers of Oklahoma.