As small business owners ourselves, why do we instantly head to the internet when we need new photography gear? You would think we would understand why it is essential to support the local businesses whenever we can, yet most of us don’t. I can already envision the responses to this article, like the internet provides better prices, more prominent selection, easy purchasing, and many more reasons. Some of these may be true, but some aren’t, and there are other reasons to shop at your local photography store.
I recently interviewed my local photography store, Milford Photo, in Milford, CT, for an article I’m writing for my American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) newsletter. As I was conducting the interview, I realized that the local photography store is an underutilized resource, especially for the new or intermediate photographer.
First of all, let me say I’m not talking about the camera section at your local Wal-Mart or BestBuy mega-store. I’m describing the local store or stores that are owned and operated by an owner who themselves is most likely a photographer — someone who has years of experience with various brands and technology, who has seen the industry change and can explain current changes to the customer. This is especially important to the photographer who is new or is interested in a unique aspect of photography. This is where the vast selection of hardware online is not an advantage. It can be overwhelming, and it can be challenging to understand the strengths and weaknesses of various technologies or even between brands or models. Yet, the local store can take the time to discuss and answer questions the customer may have while the customer has the equipment right in front of them. The local store can have various company representatives talk directly to the customer.
No matter how fast online retailers promise they can ship that one photography item you need today, they can’t beat the speed of the local photography store. A couple of years ago, I was on my way to New York City for a photography job, when I realized I forgot my ARCA clip to mount my camera to my tripod. A quick Google search for a local photography store showed there was one just 20 miles from me. I stopped in the store, and the owner saved me with a clip. He even offered to loan me the clip for my job. I purchased it instead. Every time I use that clip, I think of that photography store and that kind owner. This is where a local store can be invaluable with last-minute needs like seamless backgrounds, camera batteries, an extra light stand, or whatever you might need.
Perhaps you don’t need to purchase something, but instead need to rent a lens or camera body — yet another area that many local stores can help. My local store has numerous lenses and bodies that can be rented, and I don’t have to wait days for them to ship from somewhere else in the country. I also use this ability when traveling for jobs. I know local stores that rent quality glass in cities that I typically shoot in and will rent from them when I need glass at that location. It saves me additional rental days and the hassle of traveling with the extra glass. I’ve even rented grip equipment from local stores when traveling.
So, as the holiday season calls us to buy, buy, buy, why not take a little time and visit your local photography store and perhaps give them some of our business? You might learn they offer more than just equipment to buy.