The thunder of the line running down-field at kickoff. The clash of helmets ramming together. The stealth movements of a wide receiver. The mere mention of the National Football League (NFL) conjures up images of strength, speed and agility, so it makes sense that the talents showcased on the field are the qualities the league values as a business.
Ready, set . . . wait
"NFL Photos is the still photography division for the NFL," says Paul Spinelli, director of photographic services (NFL Photos), National Football League. "We have three million images in our library dating as far back as the turn of the century. Every image you see in NFL publications originates here. We have more than 500 freelance photographers who've worked for the NFL over the years. They cover games and other events and submit their work exclusively to us. We split the photo sales with them if their work gets picked up in print. Or, if a photo runs in one of our publications, we pay the photographer a space rate."
For NFL Photos, "servicing customers" means sharing things like players' head shots with a large number of news organizations, including ESPN, FOX, CBS and ABC, in addition to print and electronic media outlets.
"In 1998, we began working on an NFL-head shots program, [for which] each of the teams would photograph their players, coaches and top executives," recalls Spinelli. "We'd receive negatives and slides in black-and-white and in color. . . . We had to scan the images, color-correct them and burn them to a CD-ROM that was distributed to each of the media channels. It was very labor intensive, and we weren't able to get the CDs into the hands of the people that needed them until as much as eight weeks into the season."