Photography Gear | Where And How To Shop
My very first job was in camera retail with my very first day at work being only a few days after my seventeenth birthday. My immediate boss was Ernest C. Cameron a retired wedding/portrait photographer who still photographed weddings on the side.
I began assisting Ern (almost everyone else called him Mr. Cameron) within a few months of starting work and, within a year, I was being booked as the primary photographer for many, albeit, budget weddings.
Two years after I started work my boss and mentor died and, whether I liked it or not, I became a very busy wedding photographer. I stayed in the retail game for another three years until, at twenty-two years of age, I opened my own wedding/portrait studio.
After running the studio for several years I changed career and became the head photographer at my local newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator.
In those days it was an extreme busy job. As well as providing editorial, sports and advertising images for the Spectator, which was published three times per week, we also printed images for two smaller sister papers.
After leaving my hometown, Hamilton, to undertake what became nine years of tertiary based study in photography I supported myself with all manner of jobs, often up to three at the same time.
During my first five years in Melbourne I supported my way through college returning to photo retail.
So, after ten years in photo retail, I believe I am qualified to discuss the changing marketplace for consumers.
I maintained for years that it was desirable to shop locally but, as Australia represents only a tiny portion of the worldwide photography market, there were times when I was simply unable to source products locally.
My Pre-Internet Shopping Experiences
As far back as 1990 I began shopping at B&H Photo Video. In those days, prior to online shopping, I placed orders and made enquiries via fax.
Of course, like almost everyone else, I also purchase products from Amazon.com
When I can I like to support local photography retailers and shop locally. However, I’m usually only able to do so when the item/s in question are offered at a competitive price point.
However, in addition to the supply of certain speciality products, there are two other reasons why, these days, I usually shop online.
Price Does Matter, Though It’s Only Part Of The Equation
Local outlets can't always compete on price.
Back in the days of film-based photography I'd order 100 rolls of Fuji Velvia 100F film at a time. If I was buying it locally it would cost, from memory, around AUD $23 a roll. But from B&H I could purchase it at $7 per roll, including freight and duty.
That's a saving of $1,600 per order. Given that the film was manufactured in the same Japanese factory it was impossible to justify buying the product locally.
Other discrepancy in pricing, though to varying degrees, still exist when buying camera bodies, lenses and accessories.
Now I do draw the line, as I think we all should, when it comes to finding the absolute cheapest price. While I do price around online, I'm happy to pay a bit more for the online store with a great reputation, particularly if it's one with which I have a solid and stress free purchase history.
Do You Remember Great Customer Service?
I've never considered myself a sales person, whether it my early days working in camera stores or, later, as the proprietor of my own wedding/portrait photography studio.
There was no need to sell anything. Folks came to me with a need or a problem which I did my very best to satisfy or resolve.
I didn't demonstrate the camera by waffling on about features and benefits. I simply showed them how to use the thing.
Imagine walking away from a store with a new camera and actually knowing how to use it. Unbelievable!
I stopped frequenting certain camera retailers in Melbourne, where I currently reside, a number of years ago when they flat out refused to bring cameras or lenses out from behind the showcase unless you agree to purchase them.
I understand a lot of people come in, ask a few questions and head off looking for a cheaper price. But for retailers not to enter the game at all is, to my mind, shameful. They might as well put up the white flag then and there.
Retailers go on and on about customer service. But what service do they actually provide? Are they simply talking about steering your purchasing decision through the old features/benefits diatribe?
Back in the day not only did I ensure folks could use their new camera, before they left the store, I used to regularly coach them in the art of making better pictures by giving feedback on the photos they'd just got back from Kodak.
That's how you provide service and build customer loyalty. You don't sell, you solve problems and allow folks to walk away from the interaction in the knowledge that they're now more in control of their own photography.
Who Or What Is B&H Photo Video?
B&H Photo Video has long been a landmark in the photography market in New York, perhaps one of the world's most competitive market places.
I've literally shopped there for decades without any problems and, therefore, have no reservations in recommending them for medium to large value purchases.
Just be sure to check the associated freight costs prior to finalizing your order.
Purchase From Amazon Through This Site
Amazon.com is world renown as a safe, convenient and competitive outlet for all manner of goods. Feel free to use the links throughout this site to purchase through Amazon.com
By doing so you'll be supporting this site, as I get a small commission on any sale resulting on you making a purchase after clicking on an Amazon link on my site.
However, please understand that the price you pay will not be affected, compared to you opening up another browser window and going to the Amazon.com website yourself.
The price you pay is unchanged, but Amazon pay me a small commission on sales directed their way from my site.
It’s a convenient option for you, based upon a recommendation or review I've prepared, and a real and tangible way by which you can help me continue to support your journey in photography through the hundreds of inspirational and educational posts I’ve created on this site.
Thank you for helping me continue to help you.
I'm sure you'll agree that's a fair exchange though, at the end of the day, you should purchase what, where and how you deem fit. You're in control, and I wouldn't want it any other way.