Business Opportunity - Stock Car Photography

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by Destin, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Hey all, I’ve just been presented with a “business opportunity.” I’d like your opinions.

    We have a local stock car dirt track in my county. They have Saturday night races all summer as well as some special events in the fall. The photographer who has been shooting the races for the last 10 years is retiring next year, he claims he’s getting too old to do it anymore.

    I’ve known him and the track owner for a while. They’ve both approached me and offered me the opportunity to be the track photographer next year. It’s a big commitment and requires me to give up most of my saturdays all summer.

    The gig doesn’t pay, but they also don’t ask for photos other than a slideshow for the end of year banquet. I’d be getting exclusive rights to photograph from the midfield and pits, and they’d give me a small shed in the spectator area to sell photos out of as well as allowing me to hang banners around the track, etc.

    The track has about 70-100 cars on an average night with several hundred spectators. But it’s mostly the same people every week.

    I’m just not sure the money is there to make it worth my time. Are the same people really going to buy photos repeatedly every week that are essentially the same as the week before?

    This would be ALOT of wear and tear on my gear between shooting in dusty conditions and high volumes of shutter actuations. It would be a full day of editing/prepping every week in addition to a full day of shooting.

    Anyone ever tried anything like this? Have any input? I’m leaning towards turning it down but want opinions from you guys.

    Current photographer doesn’t track his sales very closely but claims that “he sells a lot of photos.” He hasn’t been able (or willing, idk) to give me sales numbers.


     
  2. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    You'd be committing to a job without knowing what you might gain from it. I could think of a few dozen other ways to spend my time.
     
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  3. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It sounds to me more like something you'd do for the love of it rather than the money. That said, have you talked to the fellow who's retiring and asked him what sort of coin he pulled down?
     
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  4. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    He says he’s making money. Won’t say how much. That’s a huge red flag for me.
     
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  5. waday

    waday Do one thing every day that scares you Supporting Member

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    I've made money just walking down the street!

    Yeah, it might have been that penny I found, but I made money! ;)
     
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  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Yep! What I would do is come up with a figure that you feel would be reasonable for the amount of time it will take and say, "Based on the passed three years, could I reasonably expect to make around $XXXXX.XX per season?" If they say no or won't answer.. don't walk, RUN away.
     
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  7. SCraig

    SCraig Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Track photog at the local round track is there every week and he seems to sell photos every week. One of my friends is a car owner (albeit one with more money than sense sometimes) and he will buy every shot the guy takes of his car. He also sells some to the somewhat-local racing newspapers (they track what's going on at tracks in the region).

    Is he making money? I doubt it. As you said it's a lot of work and he'd have to sell a LOT of prints (4x6 print for $5) to show any profit whatsoever.

    Edited .....
    Forgot to mention that the beginning of the season is going to be your best time. After 1 or 2 races, especially on dirt, the cars are going to get beat up and dirty and nobody will want photos of them. From there on focus on the action on the track; passes for the lead, accidents, anything of interest to the drivers and/or owners.
     
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  8. TheLibrarian

    TheLibrarian TPF Noob!

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    Your hut is in the spectator area. Do you think you could sell merch and advertise your other photo business to the general public? Would it be worth some random track, car, stadium pics on mugs and other junk vs how much you'd have to pay for a small batch of printed idk what that stock car people might buy (beer mugs, sleeveless tees, trucker hats, pendants)? Must you go every week and could you send an underling in your place if you don't want to go sometimes? And could you put the tracks logos on your trucker hats?
     
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  9. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Most tracks have rules that cars that sustain body panel damage on a race weekend have to be repaired before they can race again. The cars don't necessarily have to be re-painted, but body panels have to be bent back to close to their normal shape, or replaced (depending on the class).

    Cars that are properly prepared also get washed and inspected after the races because leaving a car dirty car is a quick way to a DNF (Did Not Finish) the next weekend.

    The car owners that race in the top classes are usually the ones with the deepest pockets.
    A competitive late model stock car (often the top class) these days is costing close to $100,000 for the chassis and engine.
    A spare engine and chassis parts can easily add up to another $75,000.
     
  10. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Are you saying I should do it because they have a lot of money?
     
  11. CharlzO2k

    CharlzO2k TPF Noob!

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    I've done this, was actually the first foray into photography I had outside of high school. My experience was as such:

    I bought a new EOS Rebel XS 35mm and a zoom lens, and a basic flash, so obviously it's a film vs tech thing now. But, I also found that the spectators didn't care at all about the quality of the image. They wanted the car in the picture, and in focus, and that was it. You learn relatively early on in the season who the favorites are, but always make sure to get some of every car. Ever driver has a family and would like something to show off, even if it's in the end. Time some of the pictures of the slower cars so that when they're about to be lapped, you can frame it to look like they're ahead of someone, and not always at the end. They appreciate the look of success. Everyone does.

    Because I had film, I would fire off a half dozen rolls of film or more, then go to the local Walmart and have 1-hour developing done, double prints (would take 2-3 usually for the number of rolls, I was fine with that). Restock on film, and go home and sort them out.

    I had binders for each class of racing, and tried to generally sort them by car number as best as I could. At the time, I sold every photo at a price point of $1.00 but obviously that's different nowadays, and will vary on the tracks.

    I also took photos of the winners, every week, usually a few shots. Some for the binders, one for the local paper to print, and one I would blow up to an 8 x 10 that I would hand deliver to the drivers in the pits the following week. 99% of the drivers loved that touch.

    I definitely made a profit at it, but to what extent, I can't say it was. I was also young and spent a lot of it outside the hobby. I paid my sales tax, I bought my film, and I paid the developing, and I basically spent the rest on like, McDonalds lol.

    I would say that editing after the fact is going to be secondary, unless it's a REALLY high end dirt track with high expectations set by prior photographers. Just find a price that is fair to the spectators, that allows for not only profit from you printing them (again, you don't likely need anything high-end), and then also to account for travel, time spent, and wear and tear (btw, even after two seasons at the track, with regular cleanings each night, the camera and lens never suffered - my son is using it for one of his classes at college as we speak). If you can't factor all of those in, and price the photos realistically for where you'll make money, it might not be something worth pursuing. But, I did have a blast doing it, and it wasn't very often that I felt it was a job every week.

    Misc things: Make sure to talk with the track officials, and racers too that you can. Find out the safe zones, and if they have any particular expecations. My uncle co-owned the track I was at, so I had free reign, and admittedly might have been a little closer to the tires in the corners as I should've. With moderns lenses, that shouldn't be an issue though. I also had a scanner headset set to the same frequency the track officials used so I could listen in, on the rare event they needed me to move, or if something was changing and I needed to move.
     
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  12. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I appreciate the feedback guys. I’ve decided that I’m going to turn down the offer to be the exclusive photographer, but will offer to fill gaps occasionally if they need me to. If they can’t find anyone to be there every week I’ll go once a month or so, but I’m not willing to give up my entire summer.

    I’m finding myself increasingly interested in travel and landscape photography over other forms, and want to keep my weekends in the summer open to chase that passion. Less money? Probably. But photography isn’t my primary income so that isn’t my deciding factor.

    Thank you to everyone for your input!
     

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