Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Jeff Gump, Gump Solutions, about insights from the recent SPOA conference, trends in sports photography, digital delivery, and much more.
Gump has been sharing his experience with photographers throughout the country for more than 25 years. Groups like SYNC – SYNC Sports, SPAC, SPAA, PPA, Texas School, PSPI, and regional and state associations have called on Gump to share his vision for High School and Youth sports photography.
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Produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning
Erin Manning 0:02
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau.
Gary Pageau 0:10
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Photo Finale and Advertek Printing. Hello again, and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Jeff Gump of Gump Solutions of St. Augustine, Florida. And Jeff, you need no introduction, actually.
Jeff Gump 0:33
Oh, hey, Gary, nice to talk to you. You know, it was great running into you a couple of weeks ago. It's boa? Yeah,
Gary Pageau 0:39
yeah. Yeah. So before we get into spolin into trends, can you just kind of do a brief overview of gum solutions and what you offer for the volume photography industry?
Jeff Gump 0:51
Well, Gary, about 10 years ago, I started doing coaching and different photographers, you know, if I would be around the country doing speaking sessions, people would come up and say, how can you help my company? You know, we do the 100 schools, but we just don't do sports, well, in sports is kind of my gig. And so I've taken over the last few years I've worked with, you know, handful of companies helping them in their sports program, and in the consulting capacity, and then I have photographers that reach out and need help coaching. And so, you know, I offer a year to year programs, you know, I don't really do much smaller than that, just because if people are going to come to me and ask for help, it's not something that happens overnight. Right? That's just like anything else. Give me 12 months, and I'll make a difference for you.
Gary Pageau 1:45
And you also are involved with something called speaking volume, talk a little bit about that.
Jeff Gump 1:51
About three or four years ago, my pal, Eric Miller and I decided we would so many Facebook groups that are out here on the market, we decided to put a group together just talking about schools and sports. Um, it wasn't it wasn't an interaction type. Facebook group, it was pretty much we both kind of talk a little bit about what we're doing in the business and some things and tricks, different techniques that are out here. That happened in our day to day life. Right. And, and again, we just there's not a lot of interaction. And we're out of 1000 members, and we come on a couple of times a week, during what we do.
Gary Pageau 2:33
know, it's I mean, I enjoyed it's very, like you said Tips and Tricks kind of thing stuff you can look at and take away. I think Eric is mastered the short video format,
Jeff Gump 2:45
if you will. Yeah, absolutely. He is sure it makes me look good.
Gary Pageau 2:50
So speaking of looking good, you were looking good at Spa in Houston a couple of weeks ago, it was a pleasure to see you and so many other industry members there. I think the attendance was well over 300 very well attended event. And props to the spa team, David Crandall and Claudia denser and dois. Crandall and all the other officers who made that happen. It was really kind of a in my opinion, as an observer is really almost a throwback event to the heyday of the pspa. But on the other hand, there was also a lot of initiatives there. And I think that's where SPOA is distinguishing itself from pspa. And you were on hand taking some notes. Can you talk a little bit about the things that the initiatives and the programs that they talked about that you think will impact the sports in schools business?
Jeff Gump 3:41
Well, first of all, as I arrived, I've come from the MVP events for a couple of days. So basically, you go across the hall, and that's where a spa was. So when you walked into, into the room into the court, into the hallway area, and you saw all the banners and you saw everything was first class, I mean, it like you said it reminded me of the pspa days, the BMA days. I was totally impressed. They had a little gallery over with, with old camera gear that we that photographers have used over the last 100 years. It was nice, but it was there were different faces. We were seeing, right photographers in my peer group that I that I hear from on social media, you know, talking about, you know, certain software's or what camera equipment to buy, or how to do things on Photoshop. This was a business. It was all about a group coming together and in talking about the business of photography, I mean, the really neat thing is they put a group together with yearbooks. Yeah, gearbox has been the biggest hiccup in the whole industry. You know, it's kind of a battle between and photographers and nearby companies, but it sounds like hearken to each other. So we're time. The yearbook. And photographers are going to meet either I make changes, very excited about that. IDs. Another hiccup, right? We have is, you know, buying machines and going in and having buy these, and then people losing them and having to make more and how much do you charge is has been the standard Id kind of card, right? Going into digital IDs. You know, I didn't know much about that. I learned so much at this event. It was unbelievable. Accreditation, with amazing something they're putting together something that SPAA a years ago, Frank Hatfield, putting something together trying to do accreditation, it looks like it's coming together here with SPOA. Sony jumped on board, got to meet Sam, with Sony, and you know, the initiative she's doing talking about, you know, camera gear, and all these different schools that people use anymore. Buyback type thing, which is citing didn't really know her well, but love her. I mean, I think everybody glued to her. And I just think that I'm looking forward to next year. I didn't know much about high school sports. So I kind of threw my name in the hat and said, Hey, guys, maybe I can help you with the high school sports part of it. And so maybe we'll be able to do something with them in the future.
Gary Pageau 6:28
Yeah, it was definitely a vibe that you got that is kind of been building over the last couple of years that I think has been happening in just the volume space. There's a lot of technology happening. A lot of business processes happening, a lot of changes in the way volume and sports photography companies are doing business, right, where they're kind of marketing direct to parents, and coaches, and superintendents little more differently than they were in the past.
Jeff Gump 6:56
Yeah, I agree. I mean, they had a superintendent actually come and speak right from the Houston area and kind of gave us a lot of insight on what's going on in the market and what they're looking for. And also clarifying to us how important school pitchers still are, right? Not something that's going away. So that was exciting to listen to him as well.
Gary Pageau 7:18
That was one of the things I think that I really learned, having been involved myself with SPOA for over a year now. But just understanding how important Google Photos are to the actual schools and districts themselves as a piece of technology as a piece of information that they need. And the way they were able to get school photography determined as an essential business, I think was a turning point, I think for the industry.
Jeff Gump 7:45
Yeah, and see doing sports photography. I wasn't even aware of that. Right. So and heard out, you know, it makes a lot of sense now, because I'm the school photography companies to be out of business for a year, year and a half, right? Again, spouse stepped up. Yeah, and made it happen. And what's really neat, Gary is taking it to another level, you know, we're talking about school and sports. Doing those types of events where you actually shoot, what I would do is go out and you shoot each one of the students say that are playing on the, let's say, the volleyball team in the fall, take a hit on each one and get their information. And now shoot action shots of me playing the facial recognition will actually pull them out, put it into a file, mom's sitting in the stands, can be looking at pictures that you're shooting, every kid is playing on the on the court. And that's something nobody has been able to do before. So really excited and that feature to school environment.
Gary Pageau 9:08
So let's talk a little bit about that. There's been a lot of things happening in the sports area specifically, with people trying to make money off action photography route, like, you know, everyone's familiar with GF crew with what they're doing was sort of the you know, the paid model, getting away from the spray and pray sort of model. There's Now Candid idea that's more along that line where you're not just spraying and praying, right. I mean, you're you're actually targeting parents, is that correct? Or the diver could target parents if that's what they wanted to do.
Jeff Gump 9:40
Yeah, the method that that glossier is doing is something that we come sports photography, spotlight photograph, it's 15 years ago, we go out and we would go to the meeting before the tournament, we will need forms and each person Each coach would give it to the team on team mom would hand them out to all the players on the team. Yeah, we would ask them for $10. And when their next game was and what number and so forth, they would turn him in. And we would send photographers to the different fields, which is very similar to what velocity is doing. Right? That's the only way it's going to work so lossy is doing is fantastic. What we're doing here with, with now Candid is we're shooting them, these are our customers. I mean, we already have to shoot that game, right? It's part of the contract. Now we have an opportunity to make a few dollars from shooting it instead of in the past, we shoot it, we give the images to the yearbook, yearbook uses two of those images for the yearbook. Nobody ever sees any of the other images. Now, this gives the photographer an opportunity to make some money on all those events that they're photographing. Were in the past, they could.
Gary Pageau 10:57
So what is the output option for that, because you always hear about, you're selling sports photography, that there isn't a lot of opportunity for output, right? actual tangible products, you're basically selling something that a kid can put on his maxpreps profile, or something like that, or share on social media, but I would think there's still an opportunity there for hardcopy output of some
Jeff Gump 11:21
sort. Yeah, and I agree, especially the seniors, you know, you're getting photographs, if they can put in their applications for going off to college. That's a big deal. Um, but we're having a lot of people that are doing digital downloads. Yeah, we have a lot of people that are doing hardcopy, alright, still eight by 10s. And five sevens are still popular, it's not as popular as they used to be in this situation, right? But there'll be, they're able to see their images before they order. And that way, if we always say, shoot to sell, if you're a good photographer, and you're shooting good images, then you're going to make good money. Sure, where a lot of times the school photographers will send somebody out to do the team photos that just spent all day photographing headshots, you know, a secondary headshots or elementary headshots, and they're like, oh, man, now I gotta go shoot a football game, or I got to go shoot a volleyball game. And they're not it's not as intuitive as, as photography specializes in sports,
Gary Pageau 12:20
right? You know, one of the things that SPOA did that was kind of interesting as they had their national photo contest. And you could see the the examples of the work there. And I was impressed from the sport standpoint, what photographers are doing? Well, you know, there's smoke machines, and there's graphics, and there's all this stuff, does that stuff really sell there is that really what you need to be in is sort of the special effects side of the sports photo market.
Jeff Gump 12:48
Most of that what you're seeing is what the companies are doing for their senior photos. Right, exactly. And then in studio, so they're not sports photos, like we're shooting where we're going out and shooting team photos that are, you know, like you said, manipulate him with smoke and gels and stuff like that. You know, that they're trying to make the big bucks. I mean, mark it down here. I mean, there's, you know, 12 to $1,500 packages to these seniors. Yeah, they want to be different. They have do that type of photography. I haven't had anyone in the high school senior situation in a long time. So I haven't had to go to the studios, at done. So I really can't speak on what they're ordering from senior picture day. But we don't know to that extent, when we're doing high school pitcher, I hear different
Gary Pageau 13:39
things in the market about where the sweet spot is like, you can't make money in high school. It's all clubs, sports, or things like that. What is your opinion on that sort of belief that you should focus on one or the other.
Jeff Gump 13:52
Garyun is one of those things that something that David actually said, in Houston, he said that, depending on how good the team is, they respect their coach and the authority within their school tend to be the schools who spend the most money. Right. And I agree with that 100%. It's all about how the students, the athletes respect their coach and respect their program. And if you if you're working with more schools like that, your by rates are gonna go up quite a bit more. Now, when you're doing high school banners, which is a business all in itself. Yeah. That's a tradition type thing. That means now, all most high schools because that was 10 years ago, when that started. I have started a tradition and they will continue to buy these banners. Now. What's happened in that market, unfortunately, is it came out at $150 for a four by six banner 10 years ago, and now it's gotten down to where they're doing 75 Now And you got photographers giving them for free and giving them as part of the commission back to the school. So that market has been heard a lot. Yeah. However, you you still going to have those schools who have a good program, who, who, as I said, respect their faculty, their coaches, and they tend to the buy rate is, is quite a bit more than those who don't. So focus on this, right. You know, sometimes you don't have a choice, you got to take the good with the bad, right. But I typically try to focus on those schools.
Gary Pageau 15:37
That makes sense, you want to focus on, you know, the optimal customer, but like you said, if you've got a contract with a district, you've you've got to do it. Right. And that's yeah, that's sort of challenges with volume. Right.
Jeff Gump 15:47
But you know, Gary, all I've done since 1988 34 years is volume. No, I mean, I did in the beginning, we had to do weddings, we had to do boudoir, all those kinds of things in the beginning to get our feet wet. But then that was 83 to 85. But then in 88, I realized that volume was where it was. Right? And, and the success of volume is, is the people who work for you, your staff for people you surround yourself with, because you know all these big companies, we're only one individual, we might be the management. But unless we surround ourselves with good photographers, good personnel in the office, and so forth. It's a struggle in this business. And that's why so many little guys in the business where it's just a husband and wife or husband by himself doing it by himself. Yeah, they don't know about staffing. They just want to do everything themselves. But for me, it couldn't be that way. Right. I had Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville at one time. And I had to have people at all different locations. So I depended on all my staff. And without them I wasn't asking.
Gary Pageau 16:58
Yeah, that's one of the challenges that I kind of learned from talking to people at SPOA was, you know, with, with with a certain implosion of a very large player happening in the marketplace, creating opportunities for smaller people to get accounts. It's also a double edged sword, because you have to staff those accounts and firing photographers right now is very, very difficult.
Jeff Gump 17:18
Yeah, we see that on social media every day where these photographers are talking about, you know how difficult it is. It was interesting. Also, I'm sure you're familiar with Pat Cahill, his daughter. She had a picture on social media today. And it was a staff photo, right? Every person in that photo, and let's say they were 30, staff members, every one of them were female. Right? And the male in the group, and interesting, believe it or not, Gary, my office staff and 90% of my photographers were female as well. You know, most of them are college kids.
Gary Pageau 17:56
And why is that? Why does that? I mean, I'm just curious why you think that's the case,
Jeff Gump 18:02
I think, punctuality important. The penmanship was very important in my business were children, and the balance the mom role, the teacher role, and it just worked out great. I'm old
Gary Pageau 18:21
enough to remember when there was a lot of and there still is, you know, some some sexism in the, in the place where, you know, women can't shoot sports, it's crazy. You know, but it's really more of a connection, especially when you're doing volume, you you've got a very short time to connect with somebody. And I would say that women have an advantage on that. In that
Jeff Gump 18:41
regard. I would say now, Gary, that half or more than half of the photographers in the market right now are female. No longer a male dominated profession anymore. And my market here. It's, we have four companies that work the market, and two of them are female, and two of them are male. Right? Interesting. My salespeople, they were female. They were moms and they, they were compassionate. Yeah. Yeah. That was
Gary Pageau 19:13
one of the things I was really I don't know, if you had a chance to see Cindy galleons presentation MVP from photo Texas. But she was talking about how she started in the business. And a lot of it was empathy towards the subject, you know, the the student that, you know, that that that student was the most important person in the world to the mom, and the job was to get the best picture possible for the mom.
Jeff Gump 19:38
Absolutely. And the most important needs to be the most important person in the world to that photographer during that three or four minutes as well. Right.
Gary Pageau 19:49
Right. Exactly. Yeah. So I'm just curious. Now we talked a little bit about technology, but we haven't really talked about on the capture side. There's a lot like crazy stuff happening on the capture side with, you know why mirrorless cameras coming into play? You've got, you know, a lot of you know Bluetooth wireless transmission direct to the cloud stuff happening. This is fundamentally changing the business or is it just, you know, the latest gadget?
Jeff Gump 20:18
Well, when you have the mirrorless and allows you to shoot high speed sync, photographers really like shooting the high speed sync,
Gary Pageau 20:27
and for those of us who aren't photographers, what is high speed sync me?
Jeff Gump 20:31
Okay, so in the past, if you were shooting a photograph with a flash on camera or a strobe, most you could get in your flash sync was 200 and 50th of a second, right? So the problem was the background of the photograph was washed out typically, with the high speed sync, you no longer have that limitation of 250. There a guy is shooting at 2500 darkening the background making the pictures richer. It's unbelievable what it does. But most of that is done outside from what you know what one of the high speeds think has done an outdoors type for tire 10 MacDonald J. Boatwright really have it down really nice. And I didn't I haven't gotten to the merits. Why I'm talking to Samantha about into mirrorless, from from Nikon, and Fuji, not love their cameras, but I'm so so I'm getting I'm gonna have a pony in my hand, probably in the next couple of weeks. Right? I play with it, but all my peers are doing it. So I just a little late to the game,
Gary Pageau 21:39
you know, when you think about what digital can do. And I think the mirrorless platform specifically allows more of the fulfillment of the digital potential, because not only can you do some of the things that you were talking about, but like you say, like I said, you can do wireless transmission directly from the camera directly to the cloud. And you can also do some cool things with video. And are you seeing anyone really monetizing video very well, in sports,
Jeff Gump 22:07
none of my peers, right, doing it on a regular basis, just more of marketing, margin business, but I haven't really seen many people doing it. And selling the product, I'd like to see more of that. I think that's exciting. But again, you got to find the person that's willing to pay the money for it. Because yeah, a lot more time, lot more effort to give a finished product.
Gary Pageau 22:30
You know, because I mean, I've seen some things out there like, especially for like soccer and things like that, where there's people like putting automated cameras, and it uses AI to follow the ball. So it like records an entire game going back and forth, back and forth. And, and so it's capturing video that way. But I don't know how we win other than using some sort of AI or something to identify specific people and players than pulling them out or doing a highlight reel or something. I mean, I'm sure that technology is out there to do it. But then who's going to pay for it is the
Jeff Gump 22:58
challenge. It is definitely out there. I'm real good friends, with photographer for the Jaguars, Rick Wilson and we were just talking about it the other day where he can go in. And when he's shooting and find a subject, let's say a wide receiver and lock in on that wide receiver. And as he's going down the field, it's still locked in and locked in and locked in and he can shoot and shoot and shoot. So that doesn't go out of focus back in focus. So a lot of that's what I mean, look at all these wonderful, wonderful photos, you're seeing a lot of that is that technology. Hello, you still spend $10,000 for the camera. So it's
Gary Pageau 23:38
exactly well and honestly, that's what they've had to do to kind of offset the the smartphone incursion right into a lot of this. Because if you're gonna be a professional photographer, you gotta be able to do something a smartphone can.
Jeff Gump 23:52
Absolutely. And I tell you, I am seeing the smartphones everywhere I go. Yeah, yeah. It's I mean, I mean,
Gary Pageau 24:00
do you think it'll ever get to a point where, you know, the iPhone 14 or 15? Will that maybe an accessory lens of some sort. I mean, I'm having a hard time seeing where that's competitive to a Nikon with a 400 to 1200 will, you know, can compete with that, but I don't know, it'll be interesting to see what happens. I could
Jeff Gump 24:19
see it happening in video easier than stills is still going to know the game. All these payments on the sidelines, you see depends on the sidelines, you see professionals on the sidelines, and unless you know the game and you know what's about to happen, you know, so you can wear it, the press, the professional sports guy is still going to have a great role and I don't the phone's taking that role at all.
Gary Pageau 24:45
So you sound like you're pretty bullish on sports volume photography as a category moving forward.
Jeff Gump 24:54
Yeah, I mean, that's, that's pretty much what I've done for the last 12 years is more than that. exco level. Yeah, I mean, you've pretty much got the youth down. But we're constantly learning new things on the high school level, you know, we started doing composites, team photo composites Candid actually started that 18 years ago, right. Um, but it was very expensive to do. Yeah. So they kind of started that. Now we're all doing it, or at least I'd say 80, or something photographers of shooting in a controlled environment and creating composites. And that, so that is definitely going to be here to stay, you know, you'll get some schools that you'll go to, you'll show it to him, as I know, we're traditional, we still want to team up in the risers. And so be it. But it's crazy. Many photographers that are doing controlled environments indoors that when you tell them to go outdoors and doing an outdoor event, they're lost. Crazy, right? You know, they forgot, five, six years ago was when we kind of all went indoors more, even more. So when COVID came, right shooting everybody individually. So now that's kind of a thing during the composites, but they're still, you know, they're still photography companies whose employees a certain age, maybe they've been with the big companies, maybe they've been there for 30 years, right? We're used to doing it outside doing the group photos outdoors with natural lighting, and now you're telling them, we're no longer doing that you're going in the studio, a lot of pushback on those types of photographers. And I think some of those are just retiring off the new ones coming in and taking their place.
Gary Pageau 26:36
So where are the best sources? Do you think if you're interested in getting this business, whether let's say you're an independent photo store, and you want to get into sports, and you will, or your volume photographers who want to get into sports? What are some of the best sources for information that you look for? Other than GM solutions? Of course?
Jeff Gump 26:56
That's a good question. Because you can't learn it online on Facebook. Right? So many people get in these groups, and they think they're gonna get all their questions answered. The questions are just absolutely crazy. What people? Yeah, on these social media sites, and
Gary Pageau 27:14
I'm in a couple of those groups. And I agree, it's, it's, it's interesting. One of
Jeff Gump 27:18
the things that Texas school you for that at all? Yeah, yeah, Texas School has. Last year, they had about 32 different instructors. And they do a school for one week. One instructor 25 students, and all they do is spend that one week learning every aspects from youth and high school, to karate schools, to dance study, to graduations, to photo booths, all these different segments where you get like three hours, there is one segment in the afternoon, and you get this for five days. That's a great resource. Sometimes they have a school guy, times they have a sports guy. So that's something that I would highly recommend people to look into. And then, you know, during the summer, there was a couple events this summer, that'd be careful, because some of the events that are being hosted, some of them have agendas, right? Oh, of course. Yeah. And you know, so they're trying to sell something or trying to get you to go one way or the other. Find a mentor, right? I mean, I've found that so many people have helped me over the years in my business, where I would fly out to California, and I would stay for a weekend and I would learn something from school and sports. Randy long, was out there many, many years ago. And he taught me and I've done the same thing I've taught so many people shared so many ideas, Eric does the same thing a lot of us do. And most of these guys I'm talking about will invite you to come in to their world for a few days. out without charging you anything just you know. Somebody helped every one of us, most of us have no problem helping you.
Gary Pageau 29:09
If someone was interested in learning more about you and gum solutions, where would they go?
Jeff Gump 29:14
GumpSolutions.com is our website and that would be where you can go for consulting. If you have a big plan, you're in the school photography, business or sports isn't doing well. Some of them, believe it or not have not even gone into the digital era, right sports and so they really want to go in and learn that type of thing. Or they want to learn about trends that are going on with them in that aspect there and come to our speaking volume site. That's Eric and I you have to be invited. So you come on and if we see that you qualify and you're not just somebody there that's tire kicker. We'll bring you in and this summer, there was an event Memphis, which is again, a three day event, it's put on by Candid Color as well, it's going to be actually on a Graceland by the way. So there's lots
Gary Pageau 30:12
Elvis wasn't much of an athlete, though. Well, he did do karate. And that's about it. I think you got me on that one. That's fine. Joining me Tell me a little bit more about that event.
Jeff Gump 30:25
That's an event. It's their 50th anniversary. Okay, great. 50 years. And so they're bringing in customers, they're bringing in customers and potential customers to come in and kind of look at their program. Sure. It's a celebratory type event. Sure, sure. 50 years, but Candid is also part of the TSS main, TSS is The Sports Section, which is a franchise, right? Um, so So it'd be two different groups, the TSS, and the Candid. And we'll just kind of get together and talk about what's working, you know, because with the new software, you know, having being able to photograph a kid, and instantly have that photograph in two minutes, go up to the cloud on mom's phone, mom being to order in two minutes, right, and not having any post production at all right? A dream of a school photographer and a sports. Well, that's great.
Gary Pageau 31:22
Well, thank you, Jeff, for your time looking forward to hopefully seeing you and some of those events coming up. And best wishes for shooting this summer.
Jeff Gump 31:31
Well, I appreciate it very much. And I look forward to running into you again. 30 years we've known each other
Gary Pageau 31:39
that's it. Yeah. Well, this is this is an industry that people tend to grow old and die in so but it's still vibrant. That's what's fun.
Jeff Gump 31:47
And you know, lastly, I want to I just want to do a shout out to Tom Hayes and Tom Crawford, both mentors of mine, they both kind of semi retired over the years, but they both helped me out in my group, and Ralph Romagauerayou know, those guys that really were influential in my career and I owe a lot to them.
Erin Manning 32:11
Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www the dead pixels society.com