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How The Kansas City Chiefs Team Photographer Manages Content Before, During and After the Biggest Game of the NFL Season

PhotoShelter & Socialie help the Chiefs share assets with players and fans in real time for maximum reach.

We recently caught up with Kansas City Chiefs’ Team Photographer, Steve Sanders, to hear how the NFL 2023 AFC champions game plan and strategize all season long to tackle the challenge of documenting the team as they prepare for, play, and celebrate the outcome of The 2023 Super Bowl in real-time.

“We’ve been preparing for this every year since 2018. You think you have it down by now, but so much changes and it evolves and you just keep trying to get ready.”

Steve Sanders, Kansas City Chiefs Team Photographer

The Chiefs’ Marketing Workflow for The Super Bowl

No matter the assignment: a normal in-season game, a new jersey design reveal, or timely marketing campaigns for The Super Bowl, Steve and his team of part-time photographers rely on a simple, yet robust wireless FTP to live transfer thousands of high-resolution images to their PhotoShelter for Brands DAM Library to use in real-time.

Steve says, “We try to shoot as much stuff on live transmit as possible, so everything we shoot for the most part is FTPing straight back into PhotoShelter.”

To enable creatives to produce original content in real-time and to speed up creative collaboration, Steve says they make all of their images available on their Public Portal.

Read more: NFL and Super Bowl: Europe Falls in Love with American Football

For any assignment, including game days and photoshoots, everything comes into one central folder and everyone who uses the platform [users and invited users] can see the live transmitted images.

Steve explains, “All of our stuff comes into one Collection called Incoming FTP Files. Inside of that are the subsets, but everyone who’s on the platform can see the live images coming in. Graphics is using them, social is using them, production might be grabbing some for thumbnails, and our photo editors are pulling them out, and making in-game galleries, or in-event photo galleries live as we’re producing them.”

What’s the biggest upgrade they’ve made to their workflow? Setting up the Socialie integration on their PhotoShelter for Brands account.

What do brands use the PhotoShelter for Brands Socialie integration for? To send images automatically to influencers, mostly students or professional athletes.

How does it work? As photographers upload images and add metadata to them (usually, a player’s name) to a PhotoShelter account in real-time, based on previously enabled settings you’ll choose, your star players and MVPs will receive notifications in the Socialie app that they have new content to use and share on social instantly.

“We use Socialie connected to PhotoShelter a lot, especially on game day. That’s our connection to the players now. Using that partnership to distribute our images out–that’s a new thing that we’re using to share images directly to the players, whether they’re from a campaign or game day or anything.”

Steve Sanders

The Kansas City Chiefs’ photo department also works with freelancers, so a crucial step to unlocking the power of storytelling for their brand was implementing PhotoShelter, so they could centralize all of their assets and easily share them across internal team members and contract collaborators.

Editing Game Day Images in Real Time

On a typical Sunday game day, all of the Incoming FTP images are fully edited and sorted in PhotoShelter Galleries by the end of the day the following Tuesday.

Steve has a philosophy that helps speed up culling the full batch of images taken on a given game day to a curated Gallery of select highlights: “Shoot it right, not RAW,” he says.

Steve shared how the photographers and content teams work smarter, not harder to share content internally quickly in order to get it posted on social in real-time:

“Our initial load is all small JPEGs, so we’ll shoot large and small. I’m kind of a stickler for color balance, so everyone is shooting as close to tone and camera correction, so when our graphic designers and social editors get them, they look as real and natural as possible so all they have to do is apply their social action and they’re done. Our editors just crop and resave the images, and that’s it. We keep our largest edits for later, but I figure we can send more files over our wireless transmitter if we’re sending smaller ones first,” he said.

He continued, “We make all of our galleries ahead of time, so as images come in, our editors (two at a time) can shift them from PhotoShelter to our back-end CMS so they’re out of the way, so we just move in chronological order as the game is happening—from arrivals to post-game.”

How many images does it take to cover all the angles of a Super Bowl performance from a team photographer’s perspective?

“For instance, for the 2019 Super Bowl against the 49ers, we shot around 25,000 images over six photographers and we were running cards for the most part. We sent a few things over FTP, but for the most part we were crushing our editor. With the evolution of only sending the good stuff, I anticipate transmitting 3,000 selects in game on Sunday. For reference, we did 2,200 images at the AFC Championship game.”

Steve Sanders, Kansas City Chiefs Team Photographer

For comparison, during the 2023 AFC Championship game, they produced 12% of the images that they produced during the 2019 Super Bowl.

How many images do you normally produce during a normal game vs. a Super Bowl game?

Steve: “I think a good rule of thumb in sports is to keep 10% of what you’re shooting as what you’re keeping,” Steve says, “For example, if we have between five field shooters producing 15-17,000 images, the first cull would be about 1,500 images, so about 10%, and we keep 300 images from that 1,500 in PhotoShelter for the archive.”

Now THAT ⬆️ is how optimizing your workflow achieves optimal creative productivity!

Steve also shared a peek into their photo editing workflow for the upcoming Super Bowl:

“I will have someone editing images to transfer into the Public Portal Galleries [for everyone to see,] an editor that’s working to add captions and send edited images to the AP, and I’ll have an editor that won’t travel and they’ll process the rest of the images we shot to add to our archive or to sort and send to social. I am certain, win or lose, the incoming FTP folder will have at least 3,000 images (if not more) from all angles so you’re getting views of everything—the field, the stadium, the fans, the players, the locker room, everything.”

Steve Sanders

How many images do you use for in-game graphics and how many go out on your social feeds?

Steve: “Since our graphics team is five people, some people are building quarter graphics, some are making highlight graphics, some are just choosing images for Instagram and Twitter to Live Tweet the game and put the best stuff in carousels. On a typical game day, I would say that there are about 100 images going up on social while the game is going on. Then they’ll look at all of the selects we shot and choose the best moments to highlight on Monday, Tuesday, and half of Wednesday, which is the transition day where we’ll start sharing practice images and talking about the next week’s opponent.”

How Content Captures an Epic Championship Journey

What content do the players like the most?

Steve: “They want more content and fast. The arrival and travel photos are their biggest asks. They would rather I send that stuff more than any game photo. They want to see that drip and that fit and they have sponsors they have to post about and tag. Being able to send with a dependable wireless system and right into PhotoShelter is key and actually impressed our IT team. It was just me running our PhotoShetler account before, but one of the team members was sitting in the press box during a game and was watching how everyone was continually refreshing their screens and how all the content came in seamlessly. They were amazed at how it worked and that they’re able to do all that they do so quickly.”

Do your graphic designers create templates ahead of time to create custom content that highlights in-game moments faster during The Super Bowl?

For any game, the graphics team usually creates content on the fly and waits for edited, high-quality content to choose from that the photo editors have uploaded to an approved Gallery.

For The Super Bowl, The Chiefs graphics team has prepared some content templates for key moments they know will happen whether that’s celebrating a win, reflecting on a potential loss, or thanking the fans.

How many people are on The Chiefs Super Bowl media team for The 2023 Super Bowl? Steve, as the main photographer, six additional photographers, two photo editors, and 19 video team members working across audio, video, and editing, four social team members, and 5 graphic designers.

What’s the one piece of gear you couldn’t live without during The Super Bowl?Steve: “The most important thing is getting images off the field, so it’s got to be that ethernet cable and camera to get everything into PhotoShelter as fast as possible. Today that’s the most important thing. Get it off the field and off your camera as fast as possible.”

What makes the perfect Super Bowl image?

“You’ve got to identify that moment — what is the moment that tells the story of the whole game? Is it a big play? Is it the emotion of the celebration or the emotion of the defeat? But really it’s that piece that’s going to tell that full story in one visual piece and you’ve got to catch it in a still frame. We say a lot: People don’t go to museums to watch videos, they go for that piece of art that is so captivating to the eye that everybody wants to see it, and in order to get it, you have to be at the right place at the right time.”

Steve Sanders, Kansas City Chiefs Team Photographer

Follow the Football

At PhotoShelter, we love sports photography and are very proud to work with some of the best brands and organizations around the world, supporting their creative workflows so they can share their stunning images in real time.

Fun Fact: The Heisman trophy is actually in the lobby of the PhotoShelter HQ in New York City!

Follow us on @psforbrands or join our PSB Creative Slack community to learn how professional sports media professionals use our DAM platform to make game-time decisions and share iconic content in real-time.

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