Spit-shined Backstop

September 6, 2017

 

 

Playoff season is upon us. Let's talk about what you can do to make your photographer’s job much easier. Your job is to help them create photos that are not just records to mark time, but actual tools to sell your product.

 

We’ve spoken in the past about getting your stadium ready for an impromptu media visit. Today we’d like to take you through some items to consider when setting up your stadium for the season and special events. Following these simple rules will help you have better pictures, draw in more fans and increase your sponsorship revenue.

 

Before we get to the how, let's take a second to think about the why. Why go to any trouble? Creating photography-friendly backdrops gives your local photographer better opportunity to sell their photos to newspapers, magazines and bloggers, as well as outlets the media uses to source materials such as the Associated Press and Getty Images. Media interest means free press for your club!

 

Placement

There are three money shots for any baseball or softball photographer - a play at the plate, a batter in the box and a pitcher in the windup. No matter whether you are placing structures or sponsor banners, you need to be mindful of what you are putting into these three prime locations. Keep in mind, pitchers and batters are both right and left-handed so you need to be looking at, essentially 5 different angles of the field whenever you consider the background for the most basic of photographs in your sport. 

 

Avoid backgrounds that create lines

 

Lines, both vertical and horizontal, make it difficult to crop photos into the best possible shot. 

 

Many stadiums in Europe use tin structures, such as the one pictured above, to help them offset structural costs. While they are convenient, and can look great with a fresh coat of paint, be sure they are being placed somewhere that makes a lot of sense for a photograph. 

 

It can be awkward to have to cut a building in half, or snip off the top, to get a good close-up of a player. We've seen a lot of these structures next to dugouts. That is, perhaps, the worst spot, to place them because it makes it really difficult to get a shot of the batter without the structure taking up at least a portion of the background. 

 

Keeping in mind that sometimes you have no choice about where to put your sheds, seriously consider their color. As you can see from the example above, the structure is a good muted Red, and it matches nicely with the team uniforms. The uniforms are a brighter, different, shade of red so they pop off the background. However, the darker the color, the better the imperfections show. You also notice any irregularities straight away like that open door. 

 

While white might seem like a great neutral tone it will pop in a photo. Furthermore, if you are a baseball stadium, white makes the ball invisible in a shot. We recommend shades of green, gray or brown. All these colors blend nicely in ballpark surroundings and will not cause any distraction to the eye in a photograph. While black or dark blue are absolutely neutral colors, we don't recommended them because they are strong colors, often included in uniforms. That they are not in the gam's natural color palette will make them stand out.   

 

 

Advertising

Sponsors are awesome! They pay the bills and keep us playing. One way you keep them happy is by including their advertisements in your photos, getting them live shots on TV and, in general, helping them to promote their brand through your own. 

 

If your sponsor is going to be in the sightline, make sure their banner has an appropriate background to compliment a close-up.

 

As the professional in your stadium, it is your responsibility to your client to advise them in ways that guarantee their advertisements will get seen and included. This means telling them that hot colors, like bright pink or neon green, will likely get blurred out by a photographer in a shot. Furthermore, if they want to include photos of people in their advertising, then that advertisement will need to be placed further away from the primary shooting locations. 

 

You have to do this because, if your team hires a photographer to come in and take shots at an event, the photographer is doing what is best for their client. You are their client. They are going to take shots that help you sell your product. Your product is the game. When you have bright colors or other faces in the background, they can draw the attention of the eye away from the subject of the shot.

 

As you can see in the three examples here, no matter what the photographer does in a situation like this, either their client, or the client's client, will be unhappy. If the photograph is kept at a wide angle, then you lose the action amidst the banners. When you zoom in, the frightened woman is a distraction from the play at the plate. When you crop the photo to try to eliminate the woman, therefore upsetting the advertiser, you are still in a pickle because they top of the bat is within the advertisement so now you are cutting off the name of the advertiser in the middle.

 

This causes a horizontal line problem for the eye. This is, in part, because there are three horizontal lines happening at once. You have the top of the dugout, the top of the blue banner and the middle of the print. Without perfect angles, both in the banner hanging and the photographer's angle to the action, a slope will always occur. 

 

When you have sponsor banners that need to be in a good location for photos and/or TV shots, be sure to hang them evenly with the top of a structure.

 

Try to avoid hanging something that relies on vertical lines, like one of the sheds, against a horizontal background or visa versa. This makes it hard to find good cropping spots when the edges will match.

 

Is there a good line in the advert that allows for slicing the shot? Do the advertisements have so many colors or forms that are dominate that seeing the batter, or a close play at the plate, around them will become difficult? 

 

Especially consider the colors and the color of the ball. If you are a softball stadium you have a few more choices thanks to the ball color but baseball has to be especially mindful of white backgrounds if they want great photos of the ball and the sponsors happy to see their advertisements in the backdrop.

 

The whole reason to give a sponsor that kind of placement is, in part, their hope for more visibility through photos taken at the stadium. If the photographer has to blur it or, worse yet, cut it all together, that does neither the club, nor their advertiser, any good.

 

When you are setting up the banners, we recommend having your local photographer stop by and help you create great angles so that you ensure the banners not only hang straight but that, with a player in the box, they won’t be cut in odd ways on cropped photos. Keep in mind, nearly every print publication uses a square cropping, so the space side-to-side, not just top-to-bottom, needs to be considered. 

 

We suggest having a recognizable logo of a product, for example, show within the frame with some good white space - in this context blank, not actually the color white - around it.

 

This gives the photographer an opportunity to take the shot from a few different angles. It also allows for some motion in cropping without sacrificing either the shot or the opportunity for you to resell that advertising space to the same client the following year at a premium because you can show them how often they appear in your photos.

 

Event Planning

 

In the shot above, where does your eye first land? If you said the yellow top of the tent you have located not only the right answer but the problem. This tent happens to be medical aid so, naturally, you want it to stand out in a crowd. What you don't want however, are things that are meant to stand out, directly in the site line of shots at home plate. 

 

Try not to use brilliant colors in your theme color schemes. If you are using red, orange or yellow make sure to pick a muted shade. These are all attention colors and our eyes naturally go to them. As we mentioned above, not only can white create problems seeing the ball or distinguishing the players wearing home whites, it can be quite boring in large quantities across a photo landscape.

 

Colors like shades of blue, green and docile tones of red, yellow and orange can all enhance the festive atmosphere and feel of an event in photos. If you want bright colors then vary them rather than sticking with a single shade. Also consider using them strictly as accents rather than primary color pieces. For example, use light gray tents and then have your event logo in a variety of bright colors. Print up some nice signs in those colors to distinguish certain areas within the tents. That adds pop to the tents, giving off a festive environment, without making them a photographic attention grabber. As a bonus, it will make giving directions during your event much quicker. The photo that opens this piece is a great example. This will give more of a party atmosphere and no one color will take the eye’s attention away from the subject of the photo.

 

Field Design

 

One simple way to make your field look great from any angle is with grass paint. It not only helps add a festive atmosphere to play, it makes for great photos. If you have more skilled groundskeepers, with the right equipment they can also take time to cut designs directly into the grass. 

 

One other thing to note about the stadium above is the consistency in their outfield signage. Notice that every banner has to match the team colors and that they are spaced a consistent distance apart? This adds great visual on a few levels.

 

By having that space between the signs, that white space we discussed above, it allows photographers the opportunity to frame their shots both with, or without, your sponsor's sign in the background. What's more, every sponsor's sign gets individual photographic attention. There is no risk of getting a competitor, or part of someone else's sign, in the shot.

 

Every sponsor knows they are not your only client but they all want to feel as if they are when they see shots for their advertisement at your field. This is important. When you go back to the advertiser at year end, asking for them to renew for the following season, don't you think that sale will go more smoothly when you can show them the individual care and attention they received in your stadium? 

 

 

Home Field Decor

 

Consider painting your team logo and a nice visitor sign over the respective dugouts. Well maintained, this adds a nice visual effect to a photographer’s ability to frame the photo and it gives depth to the shot.

 

If you are going to include advertising over the dugouts consider keeping the color scheme neutral as pictured above. As you can see, here as well, the spacing between each logo leaves lots of room for the photographer to crop the photos as needed without having to cut off the advertiser's message. At the same time, the advertisement is in the background and the action of the game is what grabs the observer's attention.

 

 

Flags

Flags are great. If you have event, team and/or country flags, let them fly!  The color adds a spectacular background to any shot.

 

Be mindful however of how and where they are placed. Make sure if you are hanging them by hand that they rest straight and in line with one another. If you are putting them up poles, make sure each flag is raised to the same height. You won't be able to control what the wind does with them but symmetry is imperative to a great shot.

 

Best Seats In the House

 

When considering stadium improvements and fan incentives, look to your stands. Where do the majority of your fans sit and why? If they are not sitting in and around home plate, in the inner horseshoe of the stadium, consider why that is and try to improve the situation.

 

If there is too much direct sunlight, consider offering sunblock with the team’s logo on it in the team shop and give a small sample size away at the start of season to anyone willing to sit in those seats. You might also consider a free drink coupon later in the season. These small incentives can make a big difference for your team over time.

 

When we talked about dressing the crowd, the point was to fill in spaces where a camera would be looking for a special event. The truth is, you never know who is in your stands and why they are there. Maybe a local reporter got a tip from a friend to check out the game. Maybe a traveling journalist happens to be a fan of the game and wanted to see how it is played locally. Let’s say it’s a blogger who documents all their experiences with accompanying photos.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if you found photos, or footage, of your stadium, looking packed, on a regular bases? Photos you didn’t have to pay anyone to take? Small changes can make that happen.

 

The more full your event looks, the more people want to be at your games. If the media catch wind of a good thing happening in their area, and they aren’t a part of it, they’ll want to be. All this leads to more people in your park and that, in turn, allows you to sell more - more food, more merchandise, more sponsorship packages that are of greater benefit than simply survival funds.

 

When you can show sponsors that your stadium offers them a value-add, rather than being simply community goodwill, then you can start asking for the value that goes along with that and, you know what, they’ll pay it because they can see the proof in the exposure.

 

Expert Advice 

 

We asked European Softball photographic legend Dirk Steffan for his advice on small things that make a big impact on his daily work. Here's what he had to say. 

 

  • Trash Cans: Keep them off the fences and hidden in the back corners of the dugouts.

A lot of great candid photos can happen in a dugout. No one wants to see the community moment, or amazing shot, ruined by a poorly placed trash can. Many teams sneak their bins right next to the helmet/bat holding area tucked in the back corner of the dugout. Perfect! 

 

On the fence line, you don't want to get a great shot at the plate ruined by an overflowing trash can. 

 

  • Storm Fencing: One of those bright colors we didn't think about is storm fencing.

Many teams use it toward the end of their season as the weather changes. Consider rolling it up during the games. There is just no way to blur out an entire fence and often times, those fences are neon colored because the grounds crew needs to be able to see them through snow. 

 

Where To Start?

 

At the end of the day it really comes down to the basics - color, lines and consideration. Beyond that, consult a professional, your local photographer. They have ideas, we promise, they're just too polite to speak up. 

 

 

 

 

 

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