That first crack of the bat in spring brings back baseball memories but also bigger streams of revenue for some photography businesses.
No matter the season and the state of the economy, these businesses always have a steady flow of clients in the form of youth sports officials and parents desiring photos of their children. It’s the business that keeps on giving – every spring, every fall and every winter.
Pittman Photography in Northampton specializes in youth sports photography, and views this season as a busy time filling a niche in the market for the Lehigh Valley. It was a segment that first got noticed in 1977 when the company formed.
“We tried to make a profession out of it,” said John Pittman, owner. “It’s about figuring out what the leagues want. That’s ever-changing with their need for revenue to pay their expenses.”
Aside from Little League teams, the company also does photographs for youth scout groups, choral groups and all kinds of youth sports, from football and soccer to dance and gymnastics.
With the recent downturn of the economy, Pittman said, what often happens now is a parent will pare the number of sports a child plays, often having them pick one sport.
But no matter what, parents still want a picture of their child participating in a favorite sport.
Upgrades in technology, the ability to field 32 photographers and set up large group shots enables the company to create fast results.
“Literally we can produce things in hours if we need to,” said Pittman. “We’ve developed a program where we can give them free trophies. We are absorbing the cost wholesale in exchange for the business.”
Leagues also are using their products as fundraisers, he added.
With about 20 employees on staff, the company develops everything from iPhone covers and mugs to trading cards and office equipment, all with the youth sport participant’s image emblazoned on it.
“It’s no longer just a photograph,” said Pittman.
All products are created in the lab at the Northampton facility, which also provides shipping and receiving services. The company can bring teams indoors to photograph them in front of various backgrounds.
Bishop Photo, specializing in youth sport photography in Bethlehem Township, also can put a picture on just about anything. The company puts youth participants’ faces on buttons, decals, bats, mugs, magnets and flatheads (posters that adhere to a flat surface).
The end result shows strong profits not just during the traditional spring baseball season, but in fall, which is the company’s busiest season.
“This is the largest sports photo manufacturing facility in the East,” said Ray Bishop, owner of Bishop Photo, which has a manufacturing site under the name Team Imaging Inc. in Bethlehem, where Bishop is a co-owner. “This facility is just starting baseball when there’s snow on the ground.”
The company serves clients from Florida through Boston, and since every sport has its season, Bishop explained that baseball season often starts in February in Florida.
During its busiest time (fall football), Bishop Photo employs about 100 people at its Bethlehem site, where workers compile orders and create products, he added.
“We take hundreds of thousands of pictures; we offer discounts to local leagues,” said Bishop, adding his company also supports local youth leagues.
For example, the company donated more than $30,000 over the last three years to the Lower Macungie Youth Association, he said.
“Our business has grown steadily over the last 15 years,” said Bishop.
The ability of customers to pre-order photos online “has really increased our business,” he added.