Business

Snoqualmie photographer gets the picture

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SNOQUALMIE - Over the last 15 years, Sportraits has turned chaos into carefully crafted photos that often leave parents wondering, "How do they do that?"

The secret, says owner Randy dela Fuente, is in his company's organizational systems.

"Most people don't have any idea what goes into it," he said.

Last weekend, Sportraits shot 3,000 athletes (250 teams) in eight different locations. It's the combination of ample staff on hand, planning ahead and learning from their mistakes that make a Sportraits' picture day so streamlined.

"I don't think anyone staffs like we do. If anything, we over staff," dela Fuente said.

Each photographer has a person to pose the kids and a cashier/counter to take care of all the paperwork at each job. For larger shoots even more helpers come along, freeing the photographer to do his or her best work.

"Most photographers are used to doing everything themselves," dela Fuente said.

With their proprietary systems in place there almost seems to be no job too big for the North Bend company that is now the biggest sports photography business in the state. Each year Sportraits photographs some 30,000 athletes with its staff of 65 photographers.

Three years ago the company went digital, which allowed Sportraits to perfect its craft even further.

"It's been a big benefit for us. We can look at images on site, watch for blinks and e-mail the files. The savings alone have more than paid for the digital cameras," dela Fuente said.

Late coaches or players can even be spliced into group shots if they don't make it to the shoot on time. Using a similar technique dela Fuente can erase the glare that shows up on eyeglass wearers by combining two photos of the subject, one with glasses on and one with them off.

"It's something most parents don't know that we do, we just do it because we want our photos to be the best stuff going out the door," dela Fuente said. "Service is one of the things we really stress here."

As technology develops further, Sportraits is finding new and better ways to stay organized. Presently they are testing a system that would allow each athlete's paperwork to be scanned through a bar code into a computer hooked up to the camera, keeping the customer's order preference and photos together throughout processing.

"It should eliminate counting mistakes and make the process more efficient," dela Fuente said.

Dela Fuente ran a portrait studio before opening Sportraits in 1995. Though he does mostly managing work now, his portrait background is still influencing Sportraits' quality.

"That's where my eye for what I'm doing comes from," dela Fuente said of his portrait days. "I pay attention to what's in the background. I don't want people walking around or cars going by, and the lighting has to be just right."

As a photographer in Renton, dela Fuente won awards for his work on weddings and portraits, while doing his more lucrative sports photography on the side. But eventually, he had to choose between them.

"I was more concerned with being an artist," dela Fuente said. "It's hard in the portrait business, I had to decide between continuing to try to make a living or having a [more lucrative sports photography] business."

Soon, the move toward sports photography full time made more sense to dela Fuente, who moved his family to North Bend and set up his office in a cozy cabin-type building just outside his house.

* For information on Sportraits, visit www.sportraits.com or call (425) 831-5513.

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