Splashing mud and digital cameras may seem like strange bedfellows, but in my case they’ve become partners in a photography business that’s driven off-road thrills right to the bank.
I have a personal passion for taking part in the growing convergence of technology and photography, especially outdoors. Nothing’s more pleasurable than walking a trail through the woods with a cool, 67-degree breeze, and getting a fantastic photo along with it. Add to that the excitement of a car rally and the chance to make a business out of it, and, well, life is good.
Over the last two years, I’ve shot multiple off-road Jeep rallies around the U.S. with a staff of 10 photographers. Contracted by Jeep Jamboree USA—a separate company from Jeep, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler—we set up photography workflow centers at events, which allows us to deploy photographers and download, present, and sell images onsite.
Paving the Way
Developing this onsite turnkey operation required trial-and-error to understand how the rallies operated, what process best applied to the events, and, most importantly, how to optimize sales by capturing that “after-race high” when drivers were most likely to purchase photographs.
Typically, we set up with the inspection and registration teams. We tag Jeeps with numbered stickers, give drivers corresponding cards, and enter those numbers into online folders. The next morning, when the vehicles are staging, we shoot them as they come through, over, and under outdoor obstacles.
Generally each photographer shoots about 600 to 800 images; as many as 8,000 images are taken from one rally. During the day, we download images into the online folders, process them quickly, and create galleries using Printroom.com’s Pro Studio Manager software.
To further streamline our operation, we shoot images requiring minimal editing. How? By training photographers in the sport—often those who own Jeeps or who have a passion for the sport—they are able to take photos the Jeep drivers appreciate more, thereby increasing their sales potential.
Using a new version of Pro Studio Manager we’ve been beta-testing, by early evening we present images to the drivers on a bank of four to nine computers. Designed as a turnkey operation with multiple stations, where customers can view galleries without being linked to the Web, the setup gives drivers the option of reviewing images of themselves right on the course, then selecting and purchasing images on the spot—while still in their cars. This is far better all around than dealing with the tedium and hassle of onsite printing.
Back at the studio, after the Jamboree, I go online and my “traveling server” automatically uploads images, orders, and credit card and shipping information to Printroom.com, to process and fulfill the day’s orders.
Before resolving our workflow issues, the Jamborees were daunting events requiring enormous resources and a turnaround time that seemed impossible. Applying my background in network television, I used Pro Studio Manager connected to the Internet with a huge satellite dish atop a Winnebago. With Newton’s and Murphy’s Laws tag-teaming against me at all times, I realized I had to work onsite to achieve an optimal workflow and financial feasibility.
Today, with virtually all the bugs out of our system, we can focus on our relationship with the drivers and get great shots of them and their vehicles. Many of these “weekend warriors” don’t realize how cool they look in their Jeeps until they see the shots of themselves plowing through the mud, bouncing through ditches, and catching air—all irresistible sales opportunities.
Real-Time Field Shoots
What I’ve found in this niche market is not unlike what most photographers find in weddings, events, sports, or any other “real-time” field shoots: You must know where, when, and how to get the “money shots,” and you have to do your due diligence in pre-production. Talk to people, establish onsite logistics, know where and when things are going to happen, know the event or sport, and work with the advantages and limitations of your environment.
By getting my workflow established and optimized with Printroom.com’s Pro Studio Manager, we’ve seen mud-flaps turn into greenbacks.