Monday, July 21, 2014

Photography Tip # 5 - Support your local camera shop and don't buy gear from your megastores

With San Diego Comic Con days away from now, I can’t help but think of what camera I should bring. A couple of years ago, I remember purchasing my OMD just for this wondrous event and I can only imagine other people doing the same thing. Some might be buying their first camera or upgrading to an interchangeable lens system. My tip of the day is quite simple: support your local camera shop.
Anime Expo - Taken with the Olympus Pro 12-40mm lens
In my previous post, I talked about being part of a team of photographers at the Long Beach Jump Rope competition, but I failed to mention my experience talking to several mom’s asking me about camera advice.  Many start the conversation with the following statement: “Well, I just bought this camera at Best Buy and I can't seem to get a clear image…”  Please let me stop you right there. Do yourself a favor and don’t buy cameras at shops like Target, Best Buy or Walmart unless you’re a seasoned photographer. Go to your local brick and mortar camera shop for buying and shooting advice. Not only will they better match the camera/lens to your needs, they’ll probably not try to upsell you on trivial things like the importance of megapixels or misinform you that Canon is best for photos and Nikon is best for video (a story Jared Polin shared on his podcast). 


Well, these very friendly moms all had slow, variable aperture kit zooms attached to their camera bodies all which I feel are unsuitable for their immediate shooting conditions (from the 12-50mm range to the 70-300mm). When I had asked what they were trying to shoot, all had mentioned that they wanted a couple of shots of their children after their performance or of their finishing move (typically a stationary stance or a crazy jump). I followed up asking if they were taught by these sales associates how to use the camera. I got a resounding NO. Although I feel people have a responsibility to learn how to use their own gear, I also feel employees at these mega stores SHOULD take part in educating their buyers. If you are going to sell someone on the feature set of cameras, then you should also impart how and when to access said features. In my opinion, these mega stores typically do not equip you with the right tools for your needs or they oversell you on things you may not need. Additionally, I do not think most sales associates have the technical knowledge to teach. Most are simply reading the tech sheet and passing that along as knowledge.


For the life of me, I don’t understand why primes are not the standard kit lens in the Canikon realm. If you ask me, I don't know how a combo of the 35/50mm and 85mm prime can't meet 99% of a casual photographers' needs. Not only will it intuitively teach people about framing, lens characteristics and "zooming" with your feet, it will help in lower light situations like the jump rope competition (the lighting was awful at the event). Those extra stops of light gathering potential would have definitely helped and when you include the crop factor, they would have had ample reach to photograph their kids. I'm sure the boost in image quality would also be a welcomed perk. Glad to see many mirrorless companies bundling primes with their gear - kudos to you Sony, Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus. But I digress.     


Whenever an individual approaches me seeking help with cameras, I really do my best to help them out. I was very lucky to have had good mentors guide me through my early stages of my photography journey and somehow feel obligated to pass on that same luck. I don't have a very high opinion of these mega retailers because they don't specialize in the things that matter most and the fact I have overheard sales associates make up specs or misinform customers just to make the sale. While not all camera shops are created equal, I do believe most try to employ knowledgeable people who at least know the basics about camera technology, the exposure triangle, have knowledge about glass, etc. Additionally, these shops more likely than not have a better relationship with camera manufacturers, so if you ever encounter any issues, they may be able to address your problems in a more timely fashion. At the end of the day, I feel confident that a sales associates at your local shop will tell you that the Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 (a popular lens I saw) will give you the reach you need for the competition, but may not be the right lens for a dimly lit convention hall. 

Hope to run into you here. 
I am always weary of making blanket statements but please trust me and avoid these retail stores. Support your local camera store.

Here's a list of reasons why:
  • You get the joy of supporting a local business
  • You get to physically hold and try out a larger selection of cameras before you purchase one
  • Some shops include an in-house repair warranty 
  • Most are photographers themselves and will understand your needs
  • Build a good enough relationship, they may even give you a discount. Some shops even offer loyalty rewards.
  • Shops typically have a good used department that can save you hundreds of dollars.
  • These same used departments typically allow you to trade your old camera for that new shiny upgraded version
  • Some shops even hold seminars or invite guest speakers who can help you improve your skills
Be sure to stop by our Killer Pumpkins booth #1433