November 6th, 2018
Why you should be choosing an independent camera shop ?
Today, everything is bought and sold online, cutting out the middle man. I’ve watched this trend grow. I decided I wanted to write a piece outlining the benefits of walking into an independent camera shop, conversing with a real human being and having actual human interaction; it’s seriously underrated.
So, intrinsically, I’m all for supporting your local business. Independent stores have a hard time competing with online stops and chain stores, especially in the photography industry. But it’s not just about that; it’s more than simply loyalty, oh yes, there are huge benefits afforded to those who choose to enter the realm of the independent camera shop.
I’ve mentioned the benefits of talking to an actual human being (I sound like an advert for a bank), but it genuinely is advantageous to build a good rapport with the bloke or lady at your local camera shop, whether you’re an amateur or a pro. You don’t have to go for drinks together and exchange birthday cards (although I’d never rule that out!), but as you begin to frequent this independent shop – your local – you will become what in pub language is known as a regular. You’ll know your way around the place and you’ll become more accustomed to what is and isn’t right for you in terms of photography equipment. You’ll be welcomed and given access to the wealth of knowledge a person running this type of establishment undoubtedly has. Familiarity is good; it’s a nice feeling.
First and foremost, the price. The profit margin on new equipment is so tight that prices hardly vary, I have recently bought a brand new Fuji GFX system. The cheapest place to buy this was Cambrian Photographic in North Wales (don’t panic, they do next day delivery, small independents have entered the modern world of dispatch). If your local independent turns out to be slightly more expensive, I’d say it’s worth spending a few quid more to have a chat and often a free coffee; people get so fixated on a tiny price difference, weigh up the instore benefits, not just the price tag.
Secondly and possibly more important, the owner of an independent camera shop can give you expert advice. You ask a question, you get an answer, and you are not having to wait whilst chat support has typed its message. You’ll benefit from the wisdom of photography experts who really know their stuff and are impartial. If you tell them your specific needs – and everyone is different – they’ll find the right camera equipment tailored to you and to what you’re trying to achieve. This sort of advice and guidance is gold. When I first decided to buy a smaller camera system, having ‘hands on’ experience of the Fuji XT3 was invaluable, you don’t get that online.
Of this I am certain;
You will find a great deal of variety in your local independent camera store, and the shop owner will know each brand inside out. Excellent brand knowledgeis extremely useful for you as a photographer; you’ll be able to decide which camera better suits you based on what intelligence the store owner is imparting, and you’ll hone your skills as a result. You can always expect to see leading brands such as Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji, as well as (usually and for example) a large range of Sigma and Tamron lenses, plus Manfrotto, Velbon and Vanguard tripods and bags. It’s great! A well stocked independent camera store is like an Aladdin’s cave for those enthused by photography (and if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that’s you!).
Mostly, you’ll find that these independent retailers are shrines to customer service. They’re not bland and sterile mega stores or the faceless internet, which can get a bit depressing after a while. Isn’t it a nice feeling to be treated courteously and with respect? These individuals have respect for the goods on sale, for the people who made them, for photography and most of all respect for you, their valued customer. It’s refreshing to have someone show an interest in what you’re doing and help you find the right lens or filter, isn’t it though? Consider this – think how much time could be saved; rather than looking at page after page after page after page, clicking away on the web, you’re immediately guided to whatever it is you seek and assured that it’s the right product. You could save an hour? More even, and then you can use that time (and time is precious) to take a few shots of lakes or forests or flowers, or just update your Insta (it’s all photography!).
As alluded to above, one of the biggest advantages of physically taking yourself self into an independent camera shop, is being able to have a hands-on camera experience. You can try out the equipment for size. If in doubt, the owner will be happy to demonstrate the pros and the cons of a camera and show you what each model is capable of. People, you can’t deny that online it’s just not the same in this respect. How many times have you irritably re-parceled photography equipment and sent it back from whence it came? Exactly.
Being an independent camera store shopper, you’re getting a different experience altogether. There might be eventsheld in the shop that could be useful and informative, and hands-ondemonstrationsof the newest equipment. A lot of independent shops have started being more interactive and pro-active in this way, and getting involved could be of huge benefit; not only to your progress as an amateur photographer, but also in keeping up with what’s top of the pile if you’re a pro. Plus, you’ll likely meet other photography enthusiasts during events or demos, and if you feel inclined, you can swap tips, talk trouble shooting, show off your work?!
Compared to face to face interaction, no other form of communication can provide the same advantage of seeing another person’s body language and facial expressions; you are able to communicate properly what you require, and things can be explained clearly and with integrity by the shop owner. Listening first hand to advice from a seasoned pro, a person who knows his onions, and other such idioms, is invaluable. Best of all, there’s nothing like being able to go from camera to camera, picking them up and turning them over in your hands, giving them a bit of a go. I am a strong advocate of independent camera stores for all the above reasons, and I practice what I preach.
At the end of the day, research shows that 90% of human communication consists of body language; I can’t get this online, and I am a social animal; ultimately, we all are. Go on, back out of the department store, drag yourself away from the screen (after you’ve read this…!), move into the light! Which, in this instance, is your local independent camera store.