For years, printed forms and checks were the standard for volume photography ordering.  And while those options are still relevant and useful in many situations, more photographers are taking their ordering online. 

There are several different ways to facilitate online ordering, from the simple and free to the specialized and complex.  In this article, we’ll identify what you want and need from an online ordering solution, including security and ease of use.  We’ll also talk about four different solutions and the pros and cons of each.  So let’s get started on creating a path for volume sports photography online sales.

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This article is written for volume sports photographers, but these solutions will work for just about any volume type of photography, including schools, dance companies, or step-and-repeat events like proms or Santa sessions.

Volume Sports Photography: What Level Are You?

Before we jump in and start talking solutions, let’s identify your needs first.  Would you identify yourself as:

  • A Rookie Volume Sports Photographer.  I’m new to school and sports photography. I have a few small jobs lined up with less than 50 athletes total.
  • An Amateur Volume Sports Photographer.  I have several schools and sports jobs under my belt and photograph 50-200 athletes or students a year. I want to maximize my profits and don’t mind handling some extra tasks if it means keeping more money in my pocket.
  • A Seasoned Pro Volume Sports Photographer.  I want to focus my photography business on volume sales and will be photographing 300+ athletes per year.  I want a completely hands-off solution for my schools and sports that includes online proofing, ordering, and automatic order fulfillment.

Keep your current needs and budget in mind as we delve into these volume sports photography solutions for online sales.  Look for a solution that fits your needs right now.  You can always scale up later if you find you really enjoy volume photography and want to make it a big part of your business. Some of these solutions take an investment of time and money, and might not make sense if you’re only handling one or two high volume photography jobs each year.

Solution #1 – Prepay Paper Forms and Direct Invoicing

The situation: You are photographing your daughter’s soccer team. The coach asks you to take team photos and individual photos and provide a way for parents to order prints.  You want to accept cash and checks, but also want to have a way for parents to pay with a credit card.  You don’t need online sales so much as a method of accepting payments online.

The solution: Create a paper order form and price list so customers can choose what products they’d like to order. Provide an envelope for cash and checks, but also provide a method for paying with a credit card through direct billing.  For example, customers could text a copy of their completed order form to your phone and you prepare an invoice to send via e-mail to pay for their products.  Their order is not considered submitted until you receive payment.

This option is great for professional photographers relatively new to high volume sports with a few small jobs.  It’s also a simple solution for experienced high volume photographers who want to keep their prepay procedures in place but need to be able to accommodate a small number of clients who want to pay online.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • No proofing abilities.
  • Time-intensive as each invoice needs to be created and tracked individually.
  • May require some follow-up on your part to ensure invoices are actually paid.
  • No automatic image downloads.
  • You will have to manually track and print the order form and include it in your order fulfillment.
  • No ability for automation.

One alternative is to purchase a physical credit card reader, like a Square Card Reader that attaches to your phone.  You could accept credit cards the day of your shoot by running them through a card reader connected to your bank account.  This ensures you receive a payment, but does require parents to be present during your session.

Solution #2: E-Commerce through your website

The situation: You hate, hate, HATE anything with paper and want to handle all your sales online.  You have 25-200 athletes on your schedule for the year and want something that can be hands-off after the initial set up.  You have a website but no gallery hosting software and don’t want to pay for a 3rd party provider.

The solution: Set up an e-commerce site on your website selling your volume photography packages and add-on items.  Provide parents with the link and direct them to the site to purchase all their prints and products.  Use a product like Woo Commerce through a WordPress site or find an e-commerce solution through your web site provider.  Sytist is another popular choice for photographers including sports shooters. Once orders are complete, you’d print out the orders and fulfill them manually through your lab.

This option is great if you have more than a handful of athletes each year and some web design savvy.  

Advantages:

  • Allows you to do true online sales and skip paper order forms all together.  
  • No individual invoicing.  Customers select their own products and enter the information themselves.
  • Allows you to leverage the work of setting up your store across current and future customers.
  • May be able to create coupon or discount codes.
  • Allows you to fulfill multiple products through different suppliers.
  • Self-fulfilled lists allow you to sell different products from different vendors.
  • May allow for automatic notifications to customers after completing an order.  

Disadvantages:

  • No proofing abilities.
  • Requires manual tracking and order fulfillment.
  • Requires some web design knowledge and effort.
  • May require an additional fee based on your web hosting service. But there’s usually no commission if you’re paying for an e-commerce platform.
  • This may require an extra fee from your web-hosting company.
  • Requires a third-party to handle credit cards, like Square.  
Use Gallery Hosting Software to Host Volume Photography Jobs

Solution #3 – Using Existing Gallery Hosting Software

The situation: You’re primarily a portrait photographer who’s started dabbling in volume sports photography.  You already pay for gallery hosting for family and senior clients through a company like Shootproof.  You want to leverage that relationship and fee to accommodate a small number of volume photography jobs you have each year.

The solution: Use what you already pay for!  Set up your volume photography prices as a new price list with your current gallery hosting provider.  Create a gallery for each volume photography job you shoot and give that gallery link to your team or league and allow them to order online.  You can create a self-fulfilled price list to run the job through your volume print company, or use a connected lab and pass the drop-shipping costs onto customers.

This is a good solution if you photograph a relatively small number of athletes each year and already pay for gallery hosting/ordering software.

Advantages:

  • Leverage software and fees you’re already paying for.
  • Can be set up for prepay OR allow proofing or images.
  • Allows for upselling after a prepay option.
  • Can accommodate multiple galleries, including action photography sales.
  • Images look beautiful displayed in galleries.
  • Self-fulfilled lists allow you to sell different products from different vendors.  
  • No need to learn/monitor additional software.
  • May be able to create coupon codes or discounts.
  • No need for 3rd party to accept credit cards, it’s usually built into the software.
  • May have automated marketing options such as gallery is closing notifications.

Disadvantages:

  • More labor-intensive, especially if you need individual, password-protected galleries for each athlete.  You must build the price list and each gallery manually and take care of getting the right password to the right parent.
  • Requires self-fulfillment of orders with your volume lab or passing drop-shipment charges onto your customer.
  • Fewer payment methods are available to customers.  
  • May have to pay a commission on your orders, depending on your gallery hosting software and pricing tier.

Gallery Hosting Software Providers

If you don’t already have gallery hosting but are considering it as an option for private and volume sessions, here are a few ideas:

  • Shootproof
  • Zenfolio
  • SmugMug
  • Pixieset
  • Sytist
Volume Online Ordering Providers

Solution #4 – Volume Online Ordering Provider

The situation: You’ve decided that volume sports photography is your thing and you want a turnkey solution for handling online orders for teams and individuals.  You want, and are willing to pay for, a platform that handles everything for you.  You want ALL your ordering to be completed online.

The solution: A specialized volume photography online platform.  These online solutions are designed to handle larger orders and minimize the work you have to do to fulfill orders.  You set up your price list and gallery, upload the images and the software takes care of the rest.  Most providers offer prepay and proofing options.  Parents access their gallery via a link you provide and order with a credit or debit card.  Then the software sends the order to the printer without any additional input from you.  Orders can be bundled and shipped as a single order or mailed to individual parents.

Advantages:

  • Simply your photography workflow!  Once you create price lists and upload images, most of your work is done.
  • Reduce errors.  Because you aren’t inputting orders or names into the system, you reduce the chance of mistakes.
  • Secure galleries with ease using individual QR codes or face recognition software.
  • Allow for upselling after a prepay option.
  • Quickly and easily create coupons, discount codes, etc.
  • Provides automatic notification options such as gallery is open, gallery is closing, coupons will expire, etc.
  • Receive ordering statistics to improve future jobs.
  • Some providers have built-in editing services such as touchups, green screen replacement, creation of memory mates, social media sharing, and more.
  • Batch print and ship orders to fulfill as a job OR allow parents to ship directly to their home for a small shipping fee. 
  • Handle orders from multiple sports teams at once. The software helps match group photos with the right athlete or provide different discounts and deadlines for different sports teams.

Disadvantages:

  • Less money in your pocket.  These services require a paid subscription to the service and/or a commission on your order.  
  • Limited lab options.  For auto-order fulfillment, you’ll need to use a partner lab of the software.  Your volume lab may not be a provider.
  • Limited product offerings.  For auto-order fulfillment, you are limited to the products offered by that lab.
  • May require you to change your photoshoot workflow to incorporate QR code cards or using an app to identify players.

Volume Online Ordering Providers

Below are a few volume photography online ordering platforms to consider.  The price and structure varies slightly by each company, but they all work in about the same way.  You’ll need to evaluate each to see which platform best meets your needs and budget.

Increase Print Sales and Increase Profits

Online sales is a great marriage between our digital world and traditional prints.  Finding the right way to sell your photos online for the current stage of your sports photography business is important.  But once you find the right solution, you’ll increase your profits, decrease your workload and get beautiful prints and products into the hands of athletes and parents alike.