5 Tips for Creating a Youth Sports Envelope

Try These Proven Tips to Improve Your Envelopes

Not a week goes by that I don’t have an envelope from a photographer come across my desk that is so bloated and so confusing it’s no wonder their order averages are suffering. The problems on the envelopes are all across the board, but range from poor packaging creation (low margins), poor layout and design, etc.… The one from last week which prompted this post was on a No. 10 envelope, imprinted on one side with the information for the parents to fill out. Please STOP doing this! You are killing your sales.

Rant over. Now let me give you 5 tips for creating an effective youth sports envelope.

envelope_-_high_school_sports_press_1 copy

5 Ideas That Can Have a Big Impact on Your Bottom Line

Most photographers spend the majority of their time and energy focused on trying to book new business, at the cost of missing out on the plethora of sales opportunities right under their nose. In todays post I wanted to give you five strategies that can have a big impact on your sales without booking any new business.

1. Create An Offer that Your Customers Can’t Resist

Over the years we’ve used a number of different techniques too entice customer to purchase a larger package. The key to a success is to make the offer so irresistible that it’s almost impossible to say for the customer to say no. People will take action if the perceived value of the offer it seems higher than the risk.

For example, this season we have an offer for our dance schools that seems to be working great this season. Here’s the deal… last year we ran a $90 average order with dance schools orders, but wanted to try and increase the average this year.

First, we introduced a new 5×10 framed portrait with a retail price of $29. While this product has a high perceived value, it actually cost the studio less than $4 to produce. Since this product has such a high perceived value, we used it as a free bonus item for parents who placed an order of one $125 or more. For this to work, make please make sure you have samples on hand for the parents to see. This promotion has been so successful this year we are about to order another five cases of frames.

We have an exciting new offer we are finalizing now for Fall that looks like it’s going to be a real winner.. Stay tuned.


Xtreme Teams – Digital Team Composites

Hi Gang,

We started shooting high school football again today and I wanted to share with you some of our Xtreme Team (digital team composites) we created last year – I will post an update of some of the cool stuff we are doing this year in a couple weeks. If you aren’t familiar with them, it is an excellent alternative to the traditional team or group shot. We photograph everyone individually on the green screen background and assemble the group digitally. Anyone that has done any large group photography understands the challenges of this type of photography. Here are some of my thoughts after doing over 75+ digital composites during last year.


1. It’s a real WOW product and will separate you from your competition, allowing you to book a lot more teams.

2. In the past when photographing 50 or 60 football players with 20+ cheerleaders it would become quite a production and would take some time to get everyone properly posed and photographed. Look at the college team below, with players, cheerleaders and coaches well over 125 people. Trying to orchestrate that as a traditionally photograph was a real pain in the backside – this whole shoot including each players individual pose was done in about 1 hour.

Also, the coaches love it because they are usually at the front of the line and after their 30 seconds in front of the camera they are done.

3. No risers. In the past when photographing groups this large, you typically working on the football field and have to get there 1 1/2 to 2 hours before the shoot just to set up the risers, lights etc.. No risers required (my back really appreciate this).

4. We now get to shoot in the gym where – where the AC is. Did I mention we now get to shoot in the AC

5. No more bad lighting situations. Since most of the coaches typically want to do the team shot taken immediately after school gets out and before practice starts, you find yourself doing most between 2pm to 3pm in the afternoon. Not the ideal time for best lighting conditions. We even did a couple in the gym with it pouring down rain outside… no more rescheduled shoots.

6. No more missing kids or kids who ended up getting cut in the team picture. Since most of the football shots are taken in August to meet the program deadline… many of the schools have not made final cuts. Most coaches do not want kids in the team shot that end up getting cut from the team. Although everybody is photographed individually for the program, the composite isn’t assembled until the coach makes his final cuts.

7. It also makes it very easy to create the specialty groups. For example, a group shot of all seniors, or all linebackers etc.…

Butterfly Lighting Pattern

Hi guys,

Hope everyone is having a good day. I just finished editing this image for a new training video I am working on about Mastering Studio Lighting. This shot was taken during a set-up where I was demonstrating a butterfly lighting pattern.

Butterfly lighting is frequently used in creating fashion and glamour head shots. This style of lighting is very glamourous and has the effect of eliminating any shadows or wrinkles or lines in the face.

The light source comes from directly above the camera and is in front of the subject. Butterfly lighting is so named due to the butterfly shaped shadow under the nose.

Steps for achieving the perfect Butterfly Lighting pattern

1. Position light approx 5 ft. in from of the subject and directly above the face so the shadow is under the nose. The shadow should not touch the lip.

2. Adjust the light to proper height by moving it up or down watching the catchlights in the eyes. When the light is in the proper position, your catchlight should be at 12 o’clock.

3. Position reflector about waist level below the subject to help fill in the shadows under her chin caused from the overhead light..

Technical Stuff:

Main light: f9.0
Background light: f8
Edge lights: f5.6
Fill: Silver reflector
Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 85mm
1/100 sec @ f9
ISO 100

Tip: The main light metered at f11.3, by exposing at f9 she was technically slightly overexposed.

Let me know if you have any questions.

The Set-Up


Lighting Black On Black

This is a shot I took a couple months ago for a training video I was shooting. I thought shooting the black dress on the black background would have a lot of impact. The key when shooting a black object on a black background is to create separation from the background. The best way to create separation from the background is creating highlights on the black dress. This was accomplished by placing two edge lights behind the model at a 45 degree angle. See lighting diagram below.


Main light – 4′ x 6′ softbox
Fill – 4′ x 6′ silver reflector
Edge lights – 1′ x 4′ soft box


Window Light Photography

This  shot was taken during a seminar at my studio a last month ago with Rick Ferro.  It was raining outside and we had promise as part of the class to do some available light shooting. So we placed the subject next to the window in the lobby. 

Window light is one of the most beautiful (and cheapest) types of light a photographer can use. 
Where do you think soft boxes came from? Photographers trying emulate this beautiful quality of light in the studio. The easiest way to understand window light is to think of the windows as a very fixed soft box.  Therefore, the size of the window will affect the quality of light just like the size of the soft box in the studio will affect the quality of light on the subject. The larger the window, the softer the light. 
The biggest difference between window light and a soft box is in the studio you can move the soft box in relation to the subject to achieve the quality of light and the lighting pattern you want. When working with window light you will have to move the subject in relation to the window.  For the image below, we positioned the subject to achieve a short lighting pattern on her face and  used a  silver reflector as the fill (see set shot). 


I love shooting wide open whenever possible and shot this one with my Canon 85mm set at f2. This allowed the limited depth of field and takes the viewers attention away from the rather blah background. 

Technical Stuff:
Main light: Window
Fill: Silver reflector
Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 85mm
1/500 sec @ f1.2
ISO 400



The set-up.


My New Toy – Photogenic Varibeam

I love the look of the old style Hollywood glamour photographers from the 50’s and love the lights they used. Yesterday I just found and purchased an old Photogenic – Varibeam Fresnel 1000 watt light to add to my collection of lights. It is great for getting the lighting used in the 40s and 50s Glamour shots. This particular unit has control to make a spot or flood on the unit. Then with the special Projection lens attachment you can do precise focused spots of light in beams hence ” Varibeam”. It is also great prop for retro Hollywood look. Weighing in at over 50lbs., it’s will not be part of our on-location arsenal.

Although, it’s not really about the equipment – it’s about how you use it. Painting with Light…. placing light where you want it, not blasting with a 4×6 softbox. Not that’s there is anything wrong with that, this style of lighting will separate you from the rest of the photographers.

I will be posting on this topic some more in the upcoming weeks. Here’s a shot taken using this style of lighting. By the way… it’s great for Black & Whites – just like the Hollywood Glamour of the past.

Hollywood Glamour

Lighting Black on Black

This is a shot I took a couple week ago for a training video I was shooting for StudioStyles. I thought shooting the black dress on the black background would have a lot of impact. The key when shooting a black object on a black background is to create separation from the background. The best way to create separation from the background is creating highlights on the black dress. This was accomplished by placing two edge lights behind the model at a 45 degree angle. See lighting diagram below.

1723 178

Main light – 4′ x 6′ softbox
Fill – 4′ x 6′ silver reflector
Edge lights – 1′ x 4′ soft box

Black on black diagram2

Studio Lighting with Photogenic Mini-Spots

This set-up was done using 5 tungsten continuous light sources. The lights used for this set up are Photogenic Mini-spots. These lights are a lot of fun to work with, and provide a will you can only achieve with his style of lighting. We use these lights a lot for Hollywood style glamour and when doing character studies.

05_continuous light_IMG_5940-1
A couple things to consider when using tungsten continuous lights are:

1. Make sure you get lights that have focusing capability.

2. It it is also important to be able to control the output of the lights. For this particular light we had to purchase third party Rio stats
to be able to control the output

3. You will also want to lights that can accept barn doors. This is critical for light control.

 05_continuous light_Amanda 2A7Y7149

Simple One Light Set-Up

Studio lighting doesn’t have to be complicated to get great results. This is a simple 1 light set-up using a Bogen MonoSpot aimed directly at the subject

Check out the pull-back shot below to see my exact lighting set-up.

I was sitting on the stool in the bottom left of the frame. I started right next to the light and then rolled around getting different angles.

Here’s one of my favorites from the session.