Sunday, 31 May 2015

Music Video Shooting and Editing Tips

Recently I completed a mammoth music video edit for the Post rock band "Tidings" for their song "On His Wings Hung Regret and Remorse" a nearly 10 minute track.

This was a large learning experience as this was done on a budget of £0, and was for a song which was 10 minutes... 10 MINUTES!!!
Most pop songs being around the 3 minute mark are hard enough to shoot and edit but this one was an extra difficulty of how do I shoot multiple angles multiple takes of a whole 10 minute track?

So here are the tips.

1) Have the band playing to the finalised (or mastered) track, so that you know timing is spot on and you are not having to mess around with trying to time a different sounding video with audio recording.
     1b) if you are having the track pumped through the speakers but it is being output by something like a phone, make sure you have the phones wifi or mobile connection off so that it won't get a phone call mid way through a 10 minute shoot and completely screw up the timing or result in the cancelation of that take.  massive pain in the butt.

2)  Shoot the song all the way through!
I contemplated breaking it down into halves but this would be a bad idea, and involve exponential more editing and fannying around in post.
If it is a 10 minute song, prepare the band that they will be playing that whole song multiple multiple times. In this video's case we went through the whole song 15 times.

3) Multiple cameras use them.
I shot with 4 cameras on this shoot. Nikon D800, Canon 5dm2, Canon 550D, and Panasonic GH4
and shot with lenses (Canon 16-35mm f2.8, Tamron 24-70vc, Tamron 28-75mm, Samyang 85mm f/1.4)
However be aware that each camera has its own unique look with its own idea of how to render certain colours, contrasts  and levels of saturations. and on top of that each lens has its own contrast, sharpness and vignetting characteristics.  If possible to rent 4 of the same cameras with similar lenses then that would be so much easier to calibrate all the video files at the end of editing. However financially that could be a pain in the butt especially on a budget of £0.

3b) if possible to shoot it all in black and white as I did, deffo shoot in black and white, not in colour and edit in black and white (will expand on this when talking about editing part) Colour, with multiple cameras and lenses and settings added a bollock load of colour editing in post.

4) Tripods... or assistants?
tripods are handy for holding cameras stationary... but a lot of the time during a video like the one I shot, the stationary shots suck ass.  a few of the shots I added "handy cam" vibration to the clips to give it some more movement. My personal advice is if shooting a dynamic moving video use some form of stabilised but moving camera, Glide cam and chest cam style definitely give a bit more depth to the shots.
I use a mini tripod strapped to my belly. this one
see here

and here

If you have the chance of using an assistant to hand hold (with strap around neck for vibration reduction) another camera and lens and have some idea of how to manual focus a lens while moving, then that is far better than 3 tripods taking dull inactive footage.

5) Smoke machines are awesome.
however having consistency in smoke density between potentially hours of different takes requires someone almost full time to be pumping at it and monitoring it, especially if there is a half time break for lunch and the smoke all fades way.

6) Put pressure on the lighting guys. If you are in the fortunate position to have someone else deal with the lighting, and brining in their own lighting, such as LEDs strobes and projectors make sure they know how important their job is. Your job is composing, structuring, camera settings, camera control etc. lighting is a whole extra job, get someone to take control of that for you.
In the end, the more lights the better. There will never be the case of if someone asked "should i bring this light from blabla" should you ever say no.
construction lamps are also good for background/rim lighting.
I used 3 of these 400watt construction lamp for background lights to shine through the smoke

We also used 5 led, 2 projectors and a robot light.

7) Set up time is time well spent
we spent a lot of time setting up, brining in all the speakers for the background, tarp'ing up the windows to remove any light, and working on all the cabling. the more time you spend setting up at the start the more you save from having to fanny around re-arranging mid shoot.

8) The first take is always shit.
energy is low, comfort is low, and almost none is in the zone.  two options there. 1)just don't even bother shooting.
2) shoot just to get an idea of the lighting angles and audio capture
3) just do close ups on some of the instruments.

During this shoot the first take which was 4 cameras recording the 10minute track (45minutes video footage once you add all the intro and outtro recordings) the group energy was rubbish and the angles and takes were never used in the final edit.
The best takes were 4-8 takes in. and 3 takes after lunch break.

9) Have laptop and external hard drives on site to empty memory cards between each take. if you have the opportunity to have an assistant that can dump the files where you are onto the next take that will massively speed up the process.

10) do whole takes on each member, although it may be very tempting to move your camera from one member to the next mid take, just leave that for the editing. and on each shoot do a full take on one member.  it makes it easier in editing when you can label shots as "Group', "Group movement", "Member 1", "member 2", etc rather than, "2 minutes member1 then swing to group then swing to member 3" etc as a single take.

11)  If planning on doing Slow Motion, for example some slow mo drum shots or something like that, be aware, that this doesnt really work if you are trying to sync it up to the music and ends up just looking odd or out of sync or like there is another drummer there.  slow mo may just work best for abstract shots, or Story style music video not Gig style music video.

Now, onto the editing

1) Prepare for a time black hole.
Hours will be spent and yet only 10s of seconds will be edited.

2) Know your editing software inside out, do not do this as a learning platform! You will screw up and you will rip your hair out or punch walls.

3) The more prep you do at the start of editing the more fluid your editing can be days down the line.
Do Not rush at the begining.

4) If your software has some form of automated clip allignment or sound sync give it a try. however if there is any thing off beat later down the line it can take hours to figure out where the software has mis-heard and screwed up.  if you can see the wave forms (usually the drum beats) go manual and line it up with the master track you have.

Now from here on in the editing tips will be specifically with regards to Editing in Final Cut Pro X

5) When importing import and select both Proxi and Optimised media, this will take up a load of memory so be prepared, but will help keep flow later on when you have 200 edits already done and you are working on the next 5 seconds of footage and you cant be bothered waiting minutes for it to stop crashing.

6) The sound on the recorded video tracks is likely to be total mush as the speakers in the event will have been pumping out a billion watts of sound so trying to see the beat blips on the video tracks will be very difficult so this is where you have to go and manually mark the beats in a whole run through.
on one video track play it through and click "M" for Mark and a little marker lands on the clip time line so you can see later on where each beat is, insted of having to look at frame by frame shots of drum hits or constantly hunting for the tiny blips later in editing.  This is the manual way of syncing up your clips. and most accurate.
On a 10 min song, this takes 10minutes.  when you have 60 full length clips of the 10 min song... it takes a few days to go through it all, but it will be invaluable later on. DO IT!

6b) cut the music to the beat, fast cuts for hard beats of the drum, slower blended/crossdisolve cuts for longer guitar strums.

7) Dont delete or cut any footage out of any of the time lines, only use the blade tool on the section you are not wanting to use then click on the section with the "V" to make it inVisible (it becomes faded in the time line and is not used in the edit screen. This means you are not for ever going back and finding bits that you thought would be good to cut out or trimmed just a tad too much.

8) If you are planing on doing a super fast blur kinda shot where it looks like almost a different clip every frame of the video... guess what, it is, and I do not know a quick way around other than zooming in hard and selecting frame after frame after frame.
This time will suck. as you will work for 3 hours and find you have only done 0.5 of a second

9) only at what seems like the end do you then think about contrast/ colour editing. I shot in black and white to avoid colour grading from 4 different types of cameras and insted thought it would be easier and quicker just working on contrast. I was right.  But definitly only do this once you are happy with the edit sequence, as once you start adding colour grading, that can take a lot of processing and slow the whole edit down if not at the very end.
9b) (if putting out rushes do it in sections, but like the first minute timed, cut, and colour graded) however be aware that if you colour grade one part and 4 days later you are then colour grading the second minute it can be an extra pain in the balls to match the grades for each minute, so leave the finalised grading till the END

10)  Then and only then do you start to think about adding special effects, graphics and logos.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Buying Second Hand Camera tips

Paying for a brand new camera is insane, especially if you are paying UK store prices.  Online prices are already 20-35% cheaper than buying in a store in the UK.  However my preffered method of buying DSLR cameras is buying Second Hand.

many reason as to why buy second hand
1) vastly cheaper + sellers may have extra batteries etc
2) camera has been used a while and all things should be working fine
3) buying in person means you get a good play of the gear and know where the person selling it to you lives in case you have to return to chop their heads off for selling you a dud.
4) firmware updates have usually been released and loaded on
5) software like lightroom will already have all the codec for working on the raw files.

But before you go and hand over your cash there is something you need to assess.
Who was using the camera and how were they using it.
a camera used by a war correspondant that shot 200k photos in conditions that would make even tanks crumble... or a new dad who got a camera for xmas and quickly figured out it was far above his level to learn.
Cameras for sale with the later owner are the ones to go for.

Here are some tips when buying a Second Hand Camera

1) Buy in person.
2) Dont by total crap, if something was cheap and crap when it first came out, buying second hand at a cheaper price does not make it any less crap.
3) Double check other online prices for the item you are buying, check amazon, gumtree, ebay etc. so that even if you are getting a good deal you are not going to find a better deal just a week later online somewhere.
4) Dust and oil on the sensor is something you can complain about but very easy to fix yourself and get a better price.
5) check all the functions and dials work as expected, a lot of the time the sensor and shutter can be fine but the command dials and the power connections are the weak links.
6) If it doesnt come with a box, try and get a discount. a box is always a good thing.
7) check the connections with the lenses you have, if you have a brand new af-s vc lens check that the camera is communicating effectively with the lens so that the Vibration conpensation (reduction) is working in lens and also that the focus is working in and out accurately.  a dodgy auto focus system is impossible to see just by looking, you have to test your lens on it.
8) check memory card door and slot (bent connector pins can mean your cards are not getting in)
9) make sure you get the supplied battery charger with the camera otherwise that is something you will need to buy yourself very quickly.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Forth Road Bridge Photos for you to edit

It was looking like it was going to be a calm and clear evening with the potential of a great sun set so I went to South Queensferry just outside edinburgh where I go to take photos of the Forth Bridges.

Photos in this video were shot with the Panasonic GH4 and the panasonic ultra wide angle lens the 7-14mm and edited via Adobe Lightroom 5

I have added a few of the photos, mostly the ones that were shot in an HDR sequence if you want to edit your own.
you can download them from this drop box link
the photos are in adobe DNG formate so you may need an adobe editor to be able to see them

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Nikon D750 Review - still developing

I have gone and bought myself a Nikon D750  A full frame 24mp 6.5fps 1080 @60p recording Dslr.  In my first video I am doing an unboxing, a quick opinon on its feel, weight, layout and its high iso quality in video and photos.
As of writing this blog in January 2015 is valued at just under £1700 for used via Amazon

and £1750 via Calumet and Jessops for body only.

It is not all great.
The Weight, or the combination of greater unbalance of the weight of a large lens, and the quite sharp hand grip I have quickly found that it is not entirely comfortable to hold.
Lighter cameras are a good thing to have if you are also producing or using it with Lighter Lenses.  If your camera weighed 1kg, and your lens weight 1kg, then you hand was the mid point of balance, but if your camera is now only 755g and your lens is 825g as is the case with the Tamron 24-70, then there is a little bit of a tip towards the lens which can mean a little bit of pressure on your top holding finger. Which I suspect is of no importance if you are just taking a few photos but the thought of a whole wedding 7-10 hours with it.... it could feel like a permanent bruise.

Quiet mode
This is clearly bollox, on the Shutter Release mode dial (the second dial / sub dial on the top left) there are 2 specifically labeled Q settings, Q (for quiet) and Qc (for Quiet continuous) which Neither of which do ANY THING to Dampen the VOLUME of a photo being taken.  I can't figure out if it is the sound of the Big mirror flipping up or the shutter curtain opening and closing but either way it seems like all the movement during an image capture creates a hell of a noise and the Quiet mode is completely pointless.
Who would use it?  I have been told that the point of it is that you press the shutter, it takes the photo, then you can walk to another area to release the shutter....
How in holy is that meant to be of any use?  wild life shooter will have firstly scared away the wild life within a 1k radius, and then the sound of you walking away ... well thats just pointless.
wedding photographers. well firstly the initial noise is still there, and the noise and disruption of walking out of the room for each shot to just shut the shutter... totally ridiculous.
and it is not just me complaining, here was a comment i found on the first video i looked up
Here is my video demonstrating just how bloody noisy it is.

A bit like shouting "I AM WISPERING REALLY REALLY QUIETLY, YOU CAN HARDLY EVEN NOTICE ME" and everyone looking at you like an idiot.

Max shutter 1/4000th
A lot of camera nerds have had a massive period over this. Complaining that it has CRIPPLED the camera...
Its not. But... it is a bit of a WTF? Other cameras such as the Nikon d800, D300, D700 all managed to do 1/8000th. Which is nice and fast, but is there every a situation where a 0.00025th of a second exposure just won't do and you absolutely NEED a 0.000125th of a second exposure...
however it is a full 1Stops worth difference in exposure... so for the odd occasion where you are shooting in bright daylight on a pristine white ski slope with a fast lens of f/2.8 or faster and you are at your lowest iso of 100, and wanting to keep some form of shallow depth of field. then that may be something that is of almost any importance.
On the other hand restricting the shutter speed potentially lowers the speed requirements of the shutter, potentially meaning lower wear and tear and possibly the main reason is it helps keep price down some how.
But it is a bit duff when you get cameras costing 1/4th the price able to do it.  go figure

1/200th Flash sync
Again many tears have been shed over this but Nikon does provide auto-fp settings so you can go all the way up to 1/4000th of a second with any High Speed Sync flash, aka Nikon sb-900 so for those with the gear have nothing to fear.

NO AF-on button
I was initially on the fence about this, thinking do I ever actually use it.  Then I realise I use it all the time on my canon 5Dmark2 when in liv
e view about to video and need to catch focus.
I also think it is something that is used quite bit by sports shooters.
I also find it odd considering that Nikon decided to have a total of 3 info buttons (one is a simple "?' Combined with White balance and a key sign) another is a lower case 'i' and then there is an 'info' button above the D-pad)

HOWEVER if you dive into the menu settings there is a way where you can programme the AE-L/AF-L button to actually be an AF-on button.

in the process of suffering this problem - once i have i shall report

(in the end I never witnessed this problem however Nikon did do a recall and free service to all its cameras which I had a massive problem with as shown in this video)

Awesome Things
Astonishing 24.3 Megapixel sensor giving a monster resolution of 6,016 x 4,016
you can also stick on your DX lenses and get a very respectable 10 MP images @ 3,936 x 2,624 

12,600iso Clean images
Ok not totally clean, but with just a smidgeon of Lightroom noise reduction, I am hard pressed to tell the difference between 12thousand ISO on this compared to 400ISO on a Nikon D300 or Panasonic GH4.

Big 3.2 inch LCD screen
nice and big but as mentioned before - overly complicated articulation and not touch screen and in the end only a resolution of 640x480

1080@ 60,50,30,25,24fps

Audio markers on screen and Stereo on camera mic
the least they should all have

2 SD Card Slots
nice, cheap, fast and readily available.  

WiFi (in camera)
Handy to have but almost totally useless due to the shit app 

Now lets look at the Images we get out of it.

I will 100% confirm that the quality in the images you get all the way up to the max native iso of 12,800 are astonishingly good! The sensor performance in this camera is easily one of the best ever created.
Its ability to keep sharpness and detail at high iso, the ability to push the image in post even at high iso, and the colour accuracy it keeps at high iso is beyond any other camera i have used (including the nikon d800).

Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Idea For Storing Photos

I have a new idea for what we should all do with our photos especially the non-important ones we take!

But firstly,

We all should back up our photos! ALL OF THEM!

We should save them on multiple hard drives - and have them in different locations.

No point having the same stuff on 3 hard drives and then them all burning to death in a house fire at the same time.

Ah, but is photography not about having physical copies of your photos? YES!
so Print out all your photos!
Actually print them out multiple times and store them in multiple locations.

In the end you will have boxes and boxes of hard drives and old photos of no interest in multiple locations scattered around the country,  and all for what?

For me there are 2 types of photos

Professional photos and family photos.
Family photos are not just of your family, but of friends, parties, holidays events etc all the things that in the future you may want to look back on and reminisce.
My parents have a big chest of drawers in their house filled with unorganised family photos spanning back decades and all manors of camera types and it is fun going through them once in a while (like 5 years or so). Its important to jog our memories of times past, of fashions changed, and people that were in our lives. But those memories saved as only a few photos can be either misleading or forgotten. or worse, lost, burnt or damaged by water

Modern families take hundreds of photos every year, on their phones, iPads,iPods,dslrs, point and shoots and action cams, yet few of us will ever print them out, fewer will think about saving multiple copies on different hard drives and store them in different locations, or carry out routine disk maintenance on the drives to check their functionality.

So my idea is that for those non-important photos, those photos we took on our little hill walk, or our weekend holiday trip, or the few photos we took of ourselves at our friends wedding, we should so a little video essay of what, where when, who and why we took those photos and upload it to the internet for ourselves and family to enjoy in the future.  Unless the internet dies (which it might due to a giant solar storm) or youtube goes bust (- unlikely) storing that video of the photos you took, will be saved on your computer, on a hard drive and better yet, on the internet via multiple servers thanks to youtube. or vimeo or what ever subscription free video sharing site you wish to use (personally i would advise only doing youtube)

The videos do not have to be interesting or funny, but just a reminder and a insight as to the time and location that they were shot.  If you were to die, or loose your memory this is a handy way to keep those memories alive for your children or surviving relatives.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Panasonic GH4 7-14mm f/4 vs Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 + Metabones Speedbooster,

I love my wide angles, and getting the Panasonic GH4 I opted to get myself the Widest lens it has straight away as my first lens, the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 (which is supposedly the equivalent of 14-24mm on a full frame sensor in terms of Field of View)

This is an ultra wide angle lens and possibly the widest i have ever used, and with no distortion that can be seen on the panasonic raw files.  However it has 2 big problems.

its an f/4
it has a bulbous end.

A professional lens is usually considered to be an f2.8 or brighter.
Full Frame Nikons have a 14-24mm f/2.8,
 full frame Canons have a 16-35mm f/2.8
Cropped camera have the awesome Tokina 11-16mm f2.8

the difference between an f4 and an f/2.8 is "1 Stop"  A single stop means it requires TWICE as long to capture the same exposure. (or twice the iso)

Meaning a Nikon shooting at 14mm at iso-800 at f/2.8 taking a photo at a 1/25th of a second would require the Panasonic to extend its shutter opening time to 1/12th of a second.... which if doing video is not possible so would require to boost the iso up to iso-1600... which really degrades image quality and brings in digital noise.

I can get an adapter for my Tokina 11-16mm and put it onto the Panasonic.  The fotodiox adapter costs £25 and is just a simple thing but has an aperture control which is handy.  But of course with this you lose any autofocus or VR control you have with any lens. Then due to the 2x crop of the sensor means that the 11-16mm has equivalent FOV is that of an 22-32mm.

However. If I spend a painful amount of money and get myself a Metabones Speedbooster, I can get the FOV back to close to what it was on a normal 1.5crop sensor camera (i.e. nikon d3300, 5200, 7100 etc)  Metabones gives the calculation of x0.71  so my lens being 11mm goes to 22mm then is x0.71= 15.6mm
So still brighter and wider than my Canon 16-35mm

But not only that!
The Metabones Speedbooster also brings in more light via clever optics also known as witchcraft. and it increases the exposure value by 1-stop.
So now it is "15.6mm f/2 " brighter and wider than my Canon 16-35mm! and making it a whole 2 STOPS (4 Times) faster than the Panasonic)
However I am still restricted to manual focus but if doing filming that is what you want anyway.

so here are screen grabs from the tests,
Camera set in the same position, set at maximum aperture size) 1/25th of a second iso 400

First shot Panasonic 7-14mm @ 7mm (14mm equiv) f/4

@11mm (22mm equiv) f/2.8

@11mm (15.6mm equiv) f/2

The third and final bonus is that the Tokina has a flat end, meaning in can put circular polarisers and ND filter grads on the front. BOOM WIN!

Doing the maths.
Tokina 11-16mm + Speedbooster = Manual focus, 15.6mm f/2 @ Around £800
Panasonic 7-14mm = Autofocus, 14-24mm f/4 (Around £800)


Fotodiox adapaters  

Tokina 11-16 (nikon mount)  around £490
Canon mount (around £580)

Nikon 14-24mm (£1200)
Canon 16-35m (£1100)

Panasonic GH4

panasonic 7-14mm f4 (£800)

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.

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
Lens used

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.