Thursday, 16 October 2014

Real Estate Photography Vs Architectural Photography

At first glance both of these photography disciplines involve talking photos of properties so they must be pretty much the same right?  Some of you may then be shocked to find that an Architectural photoshoot is likely to be in the £thousands range and require several days compared to the a few £100s and a few hours that is Real-estate photography.
So some of you maybe wondering what the heck is going on to justify the costs and what extra do you really get?

First thing to advise is that you will never employ/commission an architectural photoshoot for a poky  student flat in the city.  Even if you are going to clean, tidy, and paint your property and pay to get it on the front page of your local estate agency or management agency marketing media, you are still only going to need a real-estate photographer.

Secondly it would be understandable for a real-estate photographer to turn down an Architectural photoshoot, and equally an architectural photographer to be insulted to shoot a real-estate job.
Reasons being is that a real-estate photographer will gawk at the amout of extra effort required to shoot architecturally and a architectural photographer would not want to put their name to "lower" quality work.

Basically:
Real-estate Photography: showing the property as a whole, its size, shape, the layout of the rooms and the relationships between rooms.
Requirements: wide as possible, basic lighting, basic editing, every room.

Architectural Photography : Taking timeless images with attention to details, architectural design features, interior design features, artistic relationships between spaces, lighting and design elements.
Requirements: Be an artist. multiple off camera lighting and natural lighting control, Time, advanced editing, considerations for final print / media usage.

More detail:
Real-estate Photography in all honesty is not as high end as architectural photography.  There is greater time and budget considerations and usually "average" properties getting shots for an average sales or marketing for letting are not set up in a way that warrants the expense for architectural photography. The majority of properties, do not have "special" details, design aspects of interest, a considered integration of lighting and interior elements such as furniture, decoration and space layout. This is true also of new build properties even if they are fully dressed/interiorly designed for show.  Architectural Photography is truly for the most badass properties.


Monday, 28 April 2014

HDR Photography Walk Through



Here I show you quickly how to do HDR Photography, both camera settings, shooting and editing
Camera used http://amzn.to/1obBaGG
Lens used http://amzn.to/145AiwG






4 Ways to adjust Contrast using Gimp

Contrast refers to the amount of black and white in an image, Low contrast means an images has very little Black blacks and equaly few White Whites, and can look washed out / Flat.
High Contrast images meanwhile have a lot of black blacks and blown out whites which can give a lot of punch to an image but also means it may lose important details.
There are several ways to improve or correct the contrast in your photos and here is how to do it with the free photo editing software called Gimp.

Friday, 28 March 2014

How to save the Highstreet Camera store

With recent news of Calumet (US) going into administration due to financial difficulties it really seems like very soon there will be no physical camera stores in any of our high streets.
In the UK Camera store Jessops crashed (With the reported loss of 1300 jobs) even though they had a near monopoly of high streets exposure, after rival camera store Jacobs also closed all its stores the year before (with 19 stores in total closed) . In the US massive stores Rits and Wolf Camera closed with over 100 stores! (internet had won)

What the hell is going on? Is there no one buying any cameras? Is Photography in general going out of business?
Well, to an extent, it does seem like a percentage of people are not so bothered about having a camera and happy to just opt for a Camera phone (still around 600 Million a year) But the camera companies have been selling cameras since early last century when only a handful of people would even have bothered with a camera.  The likes of Nikon, Sony, Canon, Fuji, Pentax etc are all fighting for business and market sale and constantly pumping out new market launches and "Game Changing" tech on a monthly basis. Go to any city centre and just look at the tourists walking around with the camera to their face or all the family members doing the photographer hunch to take photos of kids at a family garden party. Everyone is shooting, everyone is sharing, and everyone is wanting to get likes and comments on their images. Photography is more popular than ever.  Photography has massively exploded into the mainstream since the advent of digital with prices of gear and speed of results making it accessible for even the poorest fools.

Ok so is it management and shareholders fucking things up?
To an extent that is a very good argument.  There are numerous reports form Camera shop managers who have reported a great trade and that the printing side of the shops really helped pull more punters in, But prices were set by a higher office and managers had little control over high end costs (even selling products as loss leaders) Jessops, it was reported was actually making a loss on every professional DSLR they sold. The money that the stores made was mostly from the high mark up equipment like memory cards, batteries, and printing.   Furthermore it could be argued that Management were under pressure to sell sell sell with little care for staff experience and knowledge. Good sales skills and poor knowledge could potentailly have put some people off... but although that may have been a criticism it is not a reason for full company closure.
Most Camera addicts are happy to run the gauntlet of sales staff for the chance to just play with the latest kit. And most camera noobs are happy with the customer service they get from a sales staff, even if they dont know much.

Maybe the shops didn't Diversify enough?
Most high highstreet camera stores iv been in do a great job of providing all areas of photography, from beginner point and shoots to studio lighting, and in many cases printing and framing services.  Calumet in Edinburgh (and i am sure throughout the uk) offer Rental and even do sales of second hand gear (or ex-rental) and almost every shop now has the ability to diversify into the film and video market with DSLRs being able to capture fantastic cinema quality HD video footage with ease.  On top of all that, any shop with experienced staff can be offering lessons, or even hiring in professionals in the industry to do lessons/demos in the shop.



Internet companies SCREWED the stores...didn't they?
It sure is hard to argue when you have an online company offering FREE delivery and no added extra costs or offering to pay VAT and the same product (nikon d800) is £381pounds cheaper than a local UK (online) store... see here.  Yet fears still run rampant amongst buyers about Grey Imports and their warranties and potential VAT/import taxes added by the delivery man at the end. In addition the ability to send back faulty or mis-described equipment feels like a mine field.  Confusingly though this goes against one of the previous points, in that Many camera stores were actually loosing out with every sale of digital cameras.

Virtual shops have ONE trump card over Physical shops and that is PRICE.  To have a whole industry completely fail because your physical stores are just not able to compete on Price is a very weak arguement.  Same arguement could be made by many other sectors. For example Cinema, why would anyone go see a film for 8pounds when they can download it for free somewhere.  Or why would I insist on driving to a supermarket walk around isles and isles and carry heavy shopping bags, when I can do it online and have someone deliver it to me? Heck why would i buy a coffee from Starbucks for £3.50 when I can buy a jar of instant for £3 and I could get 20 coffees out of that!

With all these big Camera Retailers gone, does that mean it is an awesome time for smaller camera shops then?
What shops?

Does this mean that there is fresh market for a new retailer to come in and dominate the market?
Now this is where it gets interesting.  This is where lessons can be learnt, advancements made, and market developed.



SWOT analysis of Camera stores is the first step.
Strengths, weaknesses, opertunities and Threats.
Strengths can be defined as, face to face sales, face2face after sales support, staff knowledge, product testing,  relationship developing, client space, event space, additional service sales, High street presence, window shopper/walk-in trade sales. Interest free (or not) credit to customers.
Weakness - Price, location for parking, ease of getting to, location costs, online support, ease of sales.
Opportunities - develop online presence, developing online sales, lack of alternative highstreet competition, consequential sales.
Threats - Micro sales, direct brand sales, management public relations. Supermarkets taking over. Consumer confidence drop with big companies going out of business, Miserable customer service(maybe). Being bought over by a massive company that then does stupid managing and swindles or flutters all the companies money away.



Second step is to recognize 3 separate promotional sales methods.
1) Discount sales - promote the fact that your product is now cheaper/price dropped/in a sale (this however can have a negative effect in devaluing the perceived value of the stock or other stock and promote customer caution (such as the price drops with Nikon V1 and subsequent sales of expensive V3)
2) Extras (Products) - So when you buy something you also get a free lens cloth, and extra battery for free! (this is a far stronger sales method, this does not demote the value of the original purchased item. The buyer has a secondary thing to explain the price and effective create Added value)
3) Extras (Services) - With every purchase a customer makes they get a discount or free lesson, sensor cleaning, invite to special demos, free prints, memory card recovery etc. This Method provides the customer the incentive to revisit, and develop a relationship with the staff and store and increase consequential sales. (this is something that Online Stores cant provide!)

Here are my tips to getting a High street Camera Store to Succeed

Don't ruin customer experience.
Sure it may piss you off massively if every customer you have coming in to play with and touch your demo kit then just goes online and buys it from HongKong for Hundreds of pounds cheaper.  Deal with it, it is going to happen.  But selling the new big kit is not a camera stores main revenue earner these days.  Dont be a miserable grump.  Hell why not even offer the service of finding it online for them and having it delivered to your store with a minor holding fee many people would much rather just pick it up from store than deal with organising a delivery man to come at a certain time, or having to wait in at home for the delivery.  Having the ability to walk in somewhere and the walk out with your kit is a wonderful part of the shopping experience.




Offer immediate price and an alternative.
Sure some people want to go in and buy straight away, be able to offer that.  Keep a small number of product in stock so for those with an emergency and cant wait for something to be posted to them, can go and buy it straight away.  however like in the pervious note, let them know that they can get it on line for the alternative price, swivel the computer around, let them put in their bank card details and order it, you then put in the postage address and let the customer know that they are saving a load of money and can pick it up from the store for a minor fee. (heck was that not a business tip from the film Elf?)

Sales staff that know what they are doing.
I use the term doing in a multifaceted way.  Many people will want to talk to the expert photographer in the shop or the film guy or the Nikon rep etc, but so to do they want someone that can organise what they need. Ie if you walk into a shop and after some soft directing around a shop you have then decided on what you want to buy, to then have to wait for someone who knows how to actual work the till or arrange payment procedure can be a time wasting pain in the ass. Most people go in, browse around, then as their time is running out finally decide on what they want and go to a till. in some shops there has been complaints that there is no-one behind the till, or the staff in the shop are unable to use the till.  If the buying process is needlessly long and filled with subsequent supplementary sales talk (ie "do you want batteries, do you want an extended warranty, do you want a memory card, do you want a coffee while we reboot the system, can we have your name, address, post code, first childs name, where you went to school, can you fill out our questionnaire, and on and on...)
I will just walk out and order on line.


No hassel returns.
its a fact that you may have shitty customers in some cases, some who take advantage of what you provide. But at the same time you can build massive customer confidence and loyalty by treating your customers like each one was the queen and providing things like simple no hassel returns.  Do not have staff penalised if product has to be restocked or sent back as that can just lead to staff being dicks.

Let your customers play,
How crap is it when you go into a shop and the product you want to try out is - inside a box, inside a locked glass cabinate, behind a sales clerk who is behind a sales counter...(just look at this shop in japan, this is what camera stores need to do.



Have gear out on the store floor ready to be tested. And that does not mean 50 'point-&-shoots' with all their batteries dead or 3 fairly gash kit lenses for people to squish their greasy fingerprints into all day long.
And as things are going, with each high end DSLR the fact that the store is loosing out, you effectively don't want people to buy it but if you can pull people in by letting them play and test, then the product is doing a better job than just taking up space and costing cash.
The Yodabashi Camera store you see in the video above became like a mecca where i could go in and play, test, and feel the gear and almost every time i went in there if i was not buying a camera or lens I would get something like a filter, or memory card or flash.

Sort out your online sales.
Just because you are a physical store does not mean that in anyway you should consider your online side to be a side project.  If even simple low earning shops are paying thousands for e-commerce sites why the heck are you not.
Lets say you do already have a good site.  Good, is it fast, easy, clean. or is it cluttered, confusing and limited in its ways of accepting payment and delivery?
Furthermore are you selling just via your own website? why not sell additionally via Amazon, ebay and local sites (especially if selling second hand gear) such as Gumtree, or in America Craigslist

Are your customer associates able to provide easy sales?
Whats that you don't know what associates are?  Amazon has a great ability where anyone can join their associates programme, and with simple click through links are able to generate a bit of their own revenue from promoting sales.  Amazon provides something between 2-5% of final sales to the people who provided the links to the customer. So as you will see in all of my videos or even Jared polin or Greg Cazillo or Matt Grangers videos you will see links to the products via an amazon link.  Why can't that be for your shop as well?

Provide what Online stores can't.

With sales of gear that are actually profitable, why not provide/offer discounted or free lessons, either group or one on one, with the in-store pro.
Whats that? you don't have an in store pro?  Why not contact a local one? Ask them to do a seminar provide them with some payment and boom you have another person promoting your company and getting people in the door.
Whats that, all the local pros don't like your shop? how about Photography walks.  Every thursday the shop holds a camera walk where one of the staff goes on an hours walk around local areas and points of photographic interest with anyone who wants to turn up. starting point is in the shop, where people can leave their bags or jackets and then back to the shop at the end to receive a sale voucher for the next time the customer is in the shop.
Customer's just bought a new camera and doesn't know how to do a sensor clean.  Heck here is a good idea, supply 2 free sensor cleanings with every camera sold.  Customer has to come in and drop off the camera, and then pick it up the next day, and bingo a total of 4 unique repeat visits! 4 chances for them to see other kit, for them to peruse the store and look at other facilities in the store, other advertisements and promotions and even chat to the staff and develop relationships.
Does your shop have a printing service? how about 20 free prints with every point and shoot camera and 20free a3size prints with every dslr purchase?
Has your store got space for a studio?  cool, rent it out, or better yet rent it out for free to repeat customers.  Person buys a camera, they get half price studio rental for the day, buys a camera and a lens and boom they have a studio for free for them to do with as they wish and potentially brining in clients/customers themselves!
Nightmare with a memory card, bring it to us as we can do free memory recovery (if you have that facility).  going to a shop to drop off a memory card is far more sought after than sending it away in the post to some no face online company...Whats that you don't know how to do that? just organise a deal with a local computer store.



High frequency Ex-rental gear sales.
Imagine getting a Nikon d4 for half price in under 4 Months from Release! Thats a saving of about £2000 sounds exciting yes?
How could this be profitable? This is a sales practice i have seen at a local mountain bike centre (Glen Tress )  where they have about 20 fairly decent mountain bikes up for rent each day, each bike is about £800 and to rent for the day it is around £22 (or £50 for the £2300 bikes) and each bike is rented out roughly 35-40 rides, meaning that in as little as a 5 weeks the company will have fully paid off the Full RRP cost of the bike in rental figures, and then they sell them at a decently discounted price and boom make a decent income.
just checking Calumet and seeing a nikon d4 is for rental at £135 a day, plus a 15%damage wavier and then VAT brining up the total to around £187 for a days rental meaning that in under a month of day rentals this camera will have paid off its cost.  I am sure having repeat customers in checking to see how the ex rental cameras are stacking up is always a good thing!




Advertising taken to the an effective level.
There are so many avenues for advertising some expensive and vague others cheap and direct.
Yellow pages...Ha! like anyone uses them!
Google adwords. potential good options
National Photography Magazine advert, definitely potentially create brand awareness however would require a sustained and costly campaign,
Local Magazine adverts, most cities have a bunch of minor local magazines/papers which are usually free for the public,  this should be a cheaper method but would restrict brand recognition to local readers (not a bad thing to start with)
Facebook adverts... easily the quickest ignored marketing around.
TV adverts, Hellishly expensive
Local Radio adverts, expensive and vague.
Youtube adverts, Easily skipped over.
Event sponsorship, could be interesting and potentially have coverage in local radio, magazine and Facebook posts. but has to be done well.
Auto responder emails - Aweber, have a customer email? add it and send out GOOD emails advising of sales both online and in store and events happening in or via the store additionally add to those free tutorial video/ gear review videos to get people to actually look at that email insted of the usual lsd "Look, see, delete"
Promo Magazine/info books, Take a leaf out of Calumets book (even though they have gone into administration in the US) but any photographer who has had their address put into the Calumet sytem has a Quarterly Magazine (calumet focus) which has both sales pages, review pages, photographer articles, and customer image competition winners. GOOD MOVE! It is like having a store in a magazine, and can be kept by your bed!
For smaller companies this may be far too much of an outlay but simple couple of sheets of advertising and info that every customer can take away from the store can always be beneficial. It may be something they pick up and just throw in their bag, but a week later they are cleaning out their car and they see it again and then they suddenly remember they have to get a spare battery.. now they know where to go.  This is a way of enhancing Brand awareness and customer retention.
Youtube reviews / Vlogging,  How is it that I know of a camera shop in Calgary Canada (The Camera store) or a local camera shop in Phillidelphia called Allan's Camera store yet dont know of any local camera shops in my Local city in Scotland? How is it that a HongKong Company called Digital Rev is knowing by over a Million youtubers?  How important do you think the 170+million! views they have had on their youtube channel has been to their success? (and with potential google ad revenue being around £300,000 from their youtube channel alone!)









And all from what? having a guy and his buddy talk about the latest cameras and lenses and camera gear. do some simple reviews and express their opinion and experience with them.  And on every video they have clear and easy to follow links to their site and their sales pages.
Well done, instant world customer base.
Heck look at me, all I do is talk about photography, give some simple tips on shooting and editing, some practical experience advice, and the odd bit of gear review and I have assembeled over 42thousand subscribers, Jared Polin is near the 300thousand as is Matt, and on all of our videos we give direct links to our sales. If it is not with a specific shop or company the it is with Amazon or other companies that are promoting associate benefits.  

Here the The Camera store, has a video on youtube (hundreds actually) where before the video there is an advert (which they will recieve revenue from google for) they then do a review of a camera they have for sale, and in the description they have a link direct to the sales page of that camera. instantly turning their audience from passive viewer into active customer.
And you don't need to set up a whole crew and studio and production company to get this benefit as many bloggers (myself included) will take on any company that are confident to promote themselves via either sponsorship or gear supply and provide the instant audience that your store may take years to develop. (FYI if you want to send me gear to review and put links to your shop, just email me).
Not only are you developing easy customer links and sale avenues but also developing brand awareness and also brand trust and confidence.  Putting a friendly face such as Chris Niccolls from TCS promoting your company and its products, can massively promote customer relationships and alleviate customer fears of dealing with a faceless online corporation.
Furthermore, you then develop your own in store celebrity.  So lets say you cant organise any lessons or demos, why not just invite select or special customers to go out on a behind the scenes of a shoot or be part of a photography walk with someone who they have seen and learnt with via the YouTube videos? Thus integrating your internet media presence with your in-store sales and enhancing your online sales all at the same time.
And dont think that as a YouTube personality or face of your company that the person has to be an ass kisser to any gash product that is pumped out by every two-bit company.  Giving honest review and maybe even indicating that something may not be worth the money is not negative.  In sales psychology the term "Foot in the Door" can be used with media as well. You get your foot in the door with a viewer watching a video about a, lets say Ricoch camera which the presenter thinks is crap.  the viewer came to the video wanting the review, finds out it is not worth the money but can then be left with Recommendations of what they presenter would advise. 
Conversely the sales style of "Door in the Face" can be implimented by doing a video of a new top of the range camera such as the Nikon D5 and go on about how awesome it is but then they can advise cameras which have similar capabilites but are at much more enthusiast customer price levels.

Get your customers involved!
Competitions, demos, events, walks etc are all great at getting repeat customers.  Having them also develop relationship and a connection with the store and the brand is even better.  Calumet has a great tool on their site where they run a competition with blipphoto where you can upload images and get a potential Photo of the week on their website and published in their quarterly magazine.  Digital Photographer Magazine

Has full on gallerys that readers can create and upload and interact with other photographers with.  Imagine adding that to your store and adding to it saying that who ever wins the monthly competition gets their winning photo printed out in a2 size for free, and a copy of it is printed and posted up in the store.  meaning that any photographer which has one will now be telling all their friends that they are now brilliantly displayed in the store and got a free massive print.
Even better! lets offer them a service where if a customer likes the 'art work' your store can now sell a copy to that person and the photographer gets a cut! Now your store is also an art instilation.  So many coffee shops and restraunts now have pictuers mounted on their walls by local artists with little tags under the frame saying the price if a customer wanted to buy it. Why cant that be the same but within a camera store?  truely making it the one stop shop for everything from gear to prints to even sales of the photographers work!

In the end, I believe that there are so many opportunists for the high street camera store to succeed. some of the ideas i have presented in this blog may be impossible for smaller stores but many of the customer interaction elements can be used by anyone and are not just restricted to camera stores.
I also have a firm belief that the majority of the main highstreet companies going down the pan is not due to individual bad management but more corporation management.  Sales staff and store managers in the major highstreet companies are effectively having their hands tied behind their back with regards to the facilities and functions their store can provide as well as flexibility on sales and marketing. 
I also see a future where the high street is no-longer a location for shopping. Its crowded streets, its expensive and restrictive parking, and its grid locked streets are pushing the average shopper to the out of town stores but that is not to mean that the high street is dead, but changing, evolving. Camera stores survived with simple sales practices created last century but now are having to compete in the 21st century and those who grab the new opportunities and develop their brand and enhance their customer experience will succeed especially now as competition has massively been reduced due to irresponsible financial management from disconnected corporation directors/share holders.



Finally
Why!





Friday, 14 February 2014

Property Photography Shoot : all the In's and Out's

Intro to what goes on in an average days property shoot



Video 1
What goes on during the shoot in the property
Here I cover things like angles, lighting, speed, efficiency and equipment for both the internal and external shots.



Video 2
The editing and delivery of material to the client
Here I talk about the different aspects of the editing of the photos, the video and the software used for floorplans etc.



Here is the finalised videe.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Sometimes I get in the bath when shooting

but only so I can get the best shots of the bathroom, you understand


Gimp Tutorial, mirror background



Gloxy F-990 Flash Test and Review


Unboxing




Gloxy F990 vs Nikon SB-900 vs Yongnuo 565ex 



How to get it to flash off camera as a slave flash 

Dont Create a Youtube Channel unless...

Unless you are fully prepared for the huge amount of shit you may have to deal with and the huge amount of effort you are going to have to put in if you want to be successful.