Megapixels Aren’t the Only Factor to Consider When Buying a Camera

megapixSome questions from our clients and our readers seem to come up more often than others. Many of those questions center around the importance of Mega-pixels. This question came across my desk this morning and since it’s often relevant to our readers, I am sharing my response with you.

 

 

 

“When customers order larger photographs from the lab…let’s say using the Kodak Metallic Print paper…is anyone able to tell me how many pixels their cameras usually use or how does one figure this out?…I am thinking about upgrading my Camera and would like the ability to offer larger prints without losing quality.  I know that some of the new cameras offer more pixals some offer 20 etc.  However, is that what I truly want to look at?”

The good news is that you are asking the good questions. The flip-side is that this is opening a door to a warehouse full of more questions.

Yes, megapixels are an important factor to the end result. It is only one factor however.  Megapixels are top of mind for everyone because the camera manufacturers need “features” they can market with.  They are looking for ways to set their product apart from the others, and this stat is one that is easily digestible to the consumer. We tend to like easy comparisons, and anything with a number fits that bill nicely. Unfortunately, the marketers rarely tell you the benefits of the various features and leave it up to you to infer them.

Here is a short list of what are often considered the primary stats to consider:

  • Chip Resolution (megapixels)
  • Raw file capabilities ( shooting in raw provides greater editing flexibility after the shoot)
  • Max ISO ( high ISO with low noise is generally considered favorable)
  • Dynamic Range ( The ability to capture shadow detail and highlights in the same shot)

There are other considerations that are often driven by an individuals needs.

  • Price
  • Video capable (frame rate and resolution are important factors for video quality)
  • Max burst rate ( more frames per second is important to action shooters who will shoot in bursts to try to get the perfect shot – think sports photography)
  • Auto bracketing ( Auto brackets help you get maximum dynamic range if the scene’s range is greater than the camera can capture in a single shot)
  • Auto HDR ( takes a bracket and automatically merges them for highlight and shadow detail)
  • zoom level if it’s fixed lens (The higher the X number the more zoom range from wide to telephoto)
  • auto focus speed ( important when you are shooting moving objects or if shot timing is critical)
  • max f/stop – again if it’s fixed lens ( f/2 lets in more light than f/3.5 and thus allows for faster shutter speeds)
  • included software ( some cameras come with specialized software – usually consumer grade software)
  • form factor ( How big, how heavy, what’s the shape and color, etc.  Will you carry it in a pocket or purse? Around your neck? etc)
  • tethered shooting ( remotely controlling your camera from a laptop, tablet or smartphone allows for instant downloads of the captured image to your device for enlarged viewing and fast editing)
  • position and accessibility of controls ( how fast can you get to often used controls such as shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and any settings that are important to you. Also are you likely to accidental bump something during casual use and handling)
  • bells and whistles ( fancy stuff like shooting in sepia or black and white, special effects, built-in timers for time-lapse, etc.)

Since your question was in regards to image quality in relation to enlargement, I’ll focus comments there.

There are several generally accepted aspects to image quality:

  • Pixel dimensions (megapixels = file resolution H x W)
  • Image resolution (actual sharpness – it’s a combined result of lens sharpness and pixel resolution)
  • Color fidelity ( color accuracy for every pixel – this affects how true-to-life the image is)
  • Noise level ( less noise is generally considered ideal – noise looks like film grain)
  • Compression artifacts ( these are generally considered detrimental as they destroy color fidelity and detail – to avoid these you will need a camera that shoots RAW or TIFF in addition to the usual JPEG)
  • Tonal range (contrast and detail without clipping to pure black or pure white – the ability to capture shadow detail and highlights at the same time)

All of the items are important to quality, but items in bold are specific to how big the image will reasonably print before the quality drops to unacceptable.   While pixel count is certainly important, equally, if not more important is lens quality. Pixels are not a representation of sharpness, but of resolution. While the two are inter-twined, sharpness is in my opinion a bigger factor.  We have printed many files that had low pixel count but were shot with really nice lenses. The results are better than a high pixel count file shot with inferior lenses.  A not so good 24MP file will not print as well as a good sharp high quality file from an 18MP file scaled up to 24MP  If your budget demands picking either good glass or high mega-pixels, I would suggest you go with the better glass – you’ll get a better return on your investment. Stats and specs can be misleading, so use them as general guide, not as gospel and remember, more is not always better. Especially if you are giving up something more important to get the “more”.

Noise level varies from model to model and is a result of the quality of the chip, the amount of light falling on the chip and the quality of the camera’s internal computer and it’s software.  It can also come from the software you use on your computer to process your RAW files. Part of the cost of a pro-level camera is to pay for the high-end and high-speed processors and CCD chips used in the body.

Most in-camera file compression is destructive and at varying degrees. In my opinion, JPEG is not the ideal file format if detail in the print is of paramount consideration. The compresson process throws away critical detail and is very damaging to the color fidelity. If you pay for a 24MP camera and shoot jpeg, you may only get 12-18MP worth of real detail and around 6MP of color fidelity.  You can learn more about RAW versus JPEG in a previous post here.
When choosing a new camera, make a thorough list that covers what kinds of shooting you do and what features and controls you use for that style. Use that list to determine your must haves as well as any features that would just be nice to have.  Here is an example such a list:

Portraits:

  • Top Shutter speed
  • Aperture priority
  • flash sync
  • white balance
  • interchangeable lenses
  • high ISO
  • Tripod mount
  • Vibration reduction for hand held shooting
  • Jpeg and raw in single capture

Landscapes:

  • Top Shutter speed
  • Aperture priority
  • flash sync
  • white balance
  • interchangeable lenses
  • Tripod mount
  • Bracketing
  • Tilt-able view screen for low angle shooting

Studio:

  • Top Shutter speed
  • Aperture priority
  • flash sync
  • white balance
  • interchangeable lenses
  • high ISO
  • Tripod mount
  • Vibration reduction for hand held shooting
  • Tethered shooting
  • Jpeg and raw in single capture

Nice-to-haves:

  • Large megapixels
  • Full-frame sensor
  • Uses my existing lenses
  • Large view screen
  • Lightweight
  • Accepts accessory grip with additional battery
Now distill this down to one list to remove the duplicates, refine the details then put them in order of priority for you:
  1. Interchangeable lenses
  2. Uses my existing lenses
  3. High megapixels
  4. Full-frame sensor
  5. Top shutter speed 1/5000 or better
  6. Aperture priority
  7. flash sync
  8. white balance
  9. Tripod mount
  10. high ISO
  11. Bracketing
  12. Large view screen
  13. Tilt-able view screen for low angle shooting
  14. Jpeg and raw in single capture
  15. Tethered shooting
  16. Lightweight
  17. Vibration reduction for hand held shooting
  18. Accepts accessory grip with additional battery
With list in hand, the internet or a good camera store should be your next destination for finding models that fit your needs. Nothing beats a well informed and experienced camera sales-person. If you have your list, they can often point you to a few selections in a matter of minutes. It might cost a small amount extra to buy in the store, but the time and frustrations you save instead of doing the search yourself can be worth it.
In the comments below, share what your priorities are and your methods for picking the ideal camera or other tools in your arsenal.  I’ll send the first five helpful responders a nice gift.

Raw Versus JPEG – What They’re Not Telling You

In the ever-present quest for perfection, photographers from around the country call me weekly with questions about shooting raw versus jpeg. The debate over this topic has been waging strong on the internet since the advent of digital still-image capture. Creating confusion, every photo blogger and “expert” in the forums has their opinions. Each of them expressing “this is the right choice”.  Well today’s post is here to proclaim that it’s mostly bunk. There is no perfect answer that fits every photographer all of the time. The Holy Grail of file type is a myth and it’s time to stop looking for it and get on with the business of taking great images. The two camps in the JPEG versus RAW debate have strong emotional bonds to their “rightness” and are willing to go to great lengths – even as far as to embarrass themselves online while attempting to change the unchangeable minds of the opposing camp. They cling to the strategy of looking for evidence to support their case while ignoring the evidence of the other. In the end it just adds up to more confusion for the reader – who continues to be un-prepared to make their decision. If you are hoping this post will give you the right and perfect set-it-and-forget-it-forever options, you won’t find them, because I don’t think they exist – though you may find one that works for you most of the time. What you will find is unbiased data to help you make educated decisions before you enter a shooting scenario. You will also find enough data to see clearly why I made my bold statements against the “This is always the right way” mentalities.

Let’s get down to business
If you are a professional shooter, regardless of market you will likely have some of the following example criteria to consider as part of your decision making process:

    • On what standards do your customersdetermine quality of service?
      • How important is color accuracy?
      • How critical is the pixel depth (megapixels)?
      • Is dynamic range an issue?
      • What are your expected turn times from capture to delivery?
    • Technical issues
      • Are you shooting under controlled lighting and can control scene dynamic range?
      • What is the expected use of the image?  Web, press, photographic, pigment, all of them?
      • How large will the file be expected to print?
      • Do you have time for custom white balance?
      • Do you have time to verify exposure settings with a quality hand-held meter?
    • Business related
      • Do you see time as money?
      • Are you paying assistants or digital artists to post-process?
      • Are you paying your lab to color correct for you?
      • What is your present customer satisfaction rate and is there room for improvement?
      • Are you willing to spend some time, effort, and resources to impact product quality?
      • Do you expect your workflow to minimize the post-process impact on margins?

If you are a hobbyist, what are you looking to gain?

  • The best possible print.
  • To spend more time with family and less time with post-processing
  • To gain more control over the final image
  • To fit more images on the limited space of a card
  • Technical questions:
    • What is the subject matter?
    • Under what conditions am I shooting?
    • How will the image be used?
    • What is your personal criteria for quality?

Perspectives – it’s all a point of view
Before choosing your shooting format I recommend you first determine your priorities and make a list. When you know what is important to you, then the best choices can be made and most often with higher levels of confidence. For these examples, we’ll look at the typical requirements of each shooter type. Knowing the requirements will lead to understanding why a certain thing might be a priority. Photographers and business models vary, so results and opinions may differ. For the pro, they have to satisfy an end user in order to make a living. Often working with pro level tools to maximize image quality and speed the process. For some of the professional markets such as studios, time is an expense against the profit margin and customer experience may have the largest impact. For other business models such as fine art, it’s often maximum image quality that is the primary target. Studios are the business model most likely operating in some type of assembly-line type of workflow. They have dozens of images from each person or product shot and each of these files needs some kind of attention. Usually starting with elimination of the unusable, then selection of the prime images followed by editing. The artists that are paid to handle this process are usually compensated by the hour. The longer it takes to move a job through the work-flow, the deeper the cut into the bottom line. Quality needs to be maintained to meet or exceed the customer’s minimum expectations. The average consumer’s expectations are often that the professional print should exceed the quality of a drug-store print. As long as they can see a higher level print, that particular expectation is met (photographic skills such as composition aside for the intent of this discussion).  Skin-tones and most all other colors related to people photography fit will inside the sRGB colorspace. Studios have a great deal of control over their lighting, and thus the required dynamic range for the shoot. A good setup can usually hold within a 6 stop limitation of a JPEG work-flow. Interior location photography has additional challenges resulting from ambient conditions that might not be controllable. Office lighting, large windows, etc. can contribute to the overall lighting of a scene and may result in lighting ratios that exceed the 6 stop limit. In profit-centric people photography, merging brackets for HDR is rarely an ideal solution.

Commercial product photography has unique demands, especially when the product or person being photographed requires special staging and effects.
And yet the images themselves usually end up being used in the lowest of gamut conditions: 4-color press and the internet. In a complex shoot, where lighting, effects such as smoke or movement are in play, bracketing is not an option so maximum dynamic range is beneficial.  In table top product photography – think catalog photos – there is no movement, lighting is completely controllable and product colors rarely exceed the basic gamuts of Adobe1998 or sRGB. Since the subject does not move, bracketing can be used to maximize dynamic range.. Food photography brings the potential for highly saturated colors that would do well with a larger gamut and maximum control.  A commercial photo session often includes a day or more of styling, prep and active capture, followed by a similar amount of time in post. There are thousands if not ten’s of thousands of dollars at stake and final image quality can be critical to the customer’s end sales. Such diversity creates situations where JPEG would be most profitable and other times where a RAW work-flow is mandated.   The fine-art photographer is often most concerned with image quality. They seek an integrity in the image that jpeg does not deliver. Maximum dynamic range, sharpness, color fidelity and detail are all sought in the persute of the ideal print that meets the artist’s vision and the expectations of the descriminating print buyer. Fine art images are often heavily manipulated to create the mood sought by the artist and to bring out maximum detail. Through manipulation, detail along with any compression artifacts will also be brought to greater light. Artists will often use improper white balance to enhance mood and emotional response. The artist will often spend countless hours laboring over pre-planning of a shoot, and many financial resources are spent on models and assistants. The final editing is usually performed by the photographer rather than an assistant.

Pick a card, any card…
Prepared with the insights you now have into the requirements of a few professional photographer types, these charts should help clarify why one format type won’t properly cover every photographer’s needs, and how some photographer’s might benefit from both types during their day.

Jpeg Versus Raw, Capabilities by File Format Type

Basic Pros and Cons
ProsCons
Raw
  • Can be any working space you have a profile for.
  • WB can be tuned post-capture.
  • Greater exposure latitude – though precise exposure is recommended.
  • Highest level of adjustment flexibility before causing gaps in histogram.
  • Best option if over-sampling is required.
  • Supported by Pro-level software
  • Non-lossy raw formats contain highest levels of color-fidelity
  • Takes the more time and resources to post process.
  • Larger in-camera and offline storage space requirements.
  • Must be processed before online sharing/distribution can occur.
  • Must be processed prior to printing
  • Additional software required.
  • Not supported by all editing software
Jpeg
  • Smaller file sizes maximize in-camera and offline storage space.
  • Proper WB and exposure can often go directly to print.
  • Easily shared via email and web with no additional work.
  • Lower time investments.
  • No additional software required.
  • Maximum software support both pro and consumer level.
  • Usually limited to sRGB or Adobe1998 at time of capture.
  • Any settings applied in camera i.e. WB, sharpening, noise reduction, etc. are “fixed” into the image – changes require post-capture retouching/editing.
  • Minimal exposure latitude of 1/8 stop.
  • Lossy format means you paid for resolution that you are sacrificing.
  • Typically does not over-sample well due to in-camera sharpening and compression related artifacts.

 Jpeg Versus Raw, Considerations by Photo Type

A successful photographer will learn the needs and expectations of their client, then support those needs through technical and artistic know-how, all the while minding the needs of the bottom line.

You can help our readers by sharing tidbits you have discovered regarding JPEG and Raw workflows in the comments below. And as always, we are here to answer your questions.

Big Changes in JPEG Could Change Your Workflow

The folks over at the Independent JPEG Group who have the job of maintaining all things technical behind the JPEG file format have added some much needed support to the oft-maligned aging file-type. With the release of version 9 of the jpeg software libraries comes 12-bit color support and optional loss-less compression; after all it wouldn’t do much good to have 12-bit color if you lose so much color-fidelity in the compression process. For the true geek in all of us, the new libraries are available for download should you want to try your hand at implementing them into your workflow. Be warned though, that unless you have some serious skills, implementing them in existing software will be a challenge. Open source fans on Linux and MacOS have the best shot at implementation at this time.  You can grab the codec files from http://www.infai.org/jpeg/.

Camera Support

12-bit support should be a welcome addition for raw file shooters as the new standard will allow for  full color fidelity in embedded JPEG previews and in-camera JPEG stand-alone files. This new wider-gamut support could result in JPEG being adopted as a viable workflow option for the serious pro.  Adoption of the new standard will likely take some time in the commercial arena as the big software players and the camera manufacturers wait to see if the social-media buzz will add credence to the spend required for implementation. It’s my prediction that the early adopters will be open-source software and firmware authors – in part because their mind-set is usually quality instead of cost, and in part because their hands are not tied by corporate bankers, investors and bean-counters. It’s not uncommon for open-source software users to get some of the goods long before commercial adoption – as an example, Adobe’s content aware fill had been years-old news to GIMP users by the time Photoshop users heard about it.  Frequency separation processes, de-blurring/de-motion tools and boutique sharpening algorithms could make this list as well as a good part of those were developed in scientific and educational circles and released as open-source, often years prior to commercial adoption. The new JPEG features could mean an short increase in digital camera sales as new models using the technology will appeal to a portion of the market. Users of major manufacturer legacy equipment might be out of luck unless you are willing to used a hacked version of the firmware, and assuming your jpeg codec is not hardware embedded in way that cannot be bypassed. Canon camera users will find the most mature firmware hacks over at Magic Lantern and  CHDK. Nikon buffs can find a handful of hacks online, but none of them appear as mature and feature rich. A place to start looking if you are a Nikon fan might be the fledgling community over at Nikon Hacker. If factory firmware is your only cup-of-tea, then Canon owners might still have hope, as Canon has shown greater interest in supporting legacy equipment with feature upgrades. Nikon users will very likely be out of luck as the major manufacturer tends to release only bug-fixes for their firmware. As a Nikon shooter myself, I envy the attention Canon gives to the best-interest of their users. In the end, users of cameras that support raw, but do not support firmware updates should still be able to rely on software-based raw file conversion to get full JPEG9a support when it’s available.

Now the bad news

It appears that images created using the new codec will not decode properly on software that is using the older versions. This suggests that full implementation of the new JPEG codec into your workflow is likely to require new software in that one would not normally associate such as graphic design/layout apps, browser updates, thumbnail preview generators, operating system patches, even updates to your smartphone will be in the mix.  My advice, don’t rush to adoption unless you have a very solid and critical reason to do so. Attempting to share a new version file with a client who has not fully adopted the software to handle it might lead to ugliness. I could find nothing in the new release that cannot be achieved using a different file format for most needs. For many years the Tiff format has fully supported the larger bit-depths and loss-less LZW compression. PNGs loss-less compression is already web-compatible and enjoys full browser support. Is the new JPEG version a potential game changer?  Perhaps in a few circles. Those circles however will likely touch most any user of digital imaging; just not right away.  When adoption is complete, the changes will be more of convenience than of consequence, but it’s nice to see the old JPEG standard get another face-lift to keep it current.

Call For Entries

See and Be Seen with these contests and calls for entry.Looking for a place to show your stuff?  If you are yet to be signed or you’re looking for new venues, a call for entry list can be a great resource.

Along with the calls listed below, here is a short list a sites to get you started. If you have a favorite, or would like your site added to the list, drop us a line in the comments below.

Gallery showings and events can be key to sales for the artists as the go-to event for art buyers. Openings and the ensuing sales are the life-blood of successful galleries. We’ve put together a few resources for the artists and the galleries that rep them.

A few places to get exposure for your gallery:

These aren’t the usual places you list an art show, but the usual places might not be the first place the potential buyer looks. Adding these to your existing list can widen your marketing reach and increase buzz.
Yelp.com  Yes it’s a review site, but their mobile app offers up a “Things to do in the area” list. Perfect for drawing in folks who are already out on the town and in your neighborhood. Ask your artists and your attendees to leave a review.
Foursquare.com  Another mobile friendly way to bring locals right to your door. Encourage your artists and show attendees to check in to foursquare and leave a review. The more reviews, the better the exposure and the higher the traffic potential. The potential from crowd-sourced marketing is huge.
Have a site you want added to this list?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

Photo Contests:

OVER 150 PHOTO CONTESTS:
Show Off Your Skills & Earn Cool Stuff!
Thanks to Wendi over at wsphotodesign.com for sharing this one with us:

Have a site you want added to this list?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

Dang I Like Your Proportions!

BigColonC’mon now, admit it. You’ve been faced with it too: Not knowing what print sizes your file will fit on without cropping.

The answer is all in the colon. No, not THAT one, this one ==> :  These two quiet dots carry the full weight of the answer to the problem and it comes in the form of proportions.

Proportions, or “aspect ratios” are really just the comparison of one dimension to the other , ie. how height compares to width.  When the proportions of your image, match the size you want to print, we say that it “pros out”.  If it does not match we call this “fails to pro”. Pro, of course. being short-hand speak for “proportions.”

Proportions are used for many purposes in the graphic and photographic arenas, sometimes for technical reasons i.e. to fit a print size, sometimes for aesthetics – each ratio has its own gestalt – or feeling.

Images have their aspect ratios determined by either the camera or the cropping. For the purpose of our discussion, we are determining ratios to know if we will need to crop our image more to get it to fill all of a given print size.  Cropping is required if the image aspect ratio does not match the print size aspect ratio.

Proportions are written as two numbers separated by a colon, such as 1:3 – meaning that for every 1 the other gets 3.  So a print that is 1 inch on the shortest side would be 3 inches on the other side. Or an images that is 4 inches on the shortest side would be 12 on the other.

Note: officially when you verbally state a ratio, that little colon would be substituted with the word “to”, as in a ratio of 1 to 3.   Now say this out loud: “1 to 3”. Sounds like you just counted to three right? Welcome to english where we have two too many toos to go around. Since a great deal of our customers are from around the globe, and we don’t want to risk confusion in a print order, we prefer to use the word “by” instead. As in “a 4 by 5 aspect ratio”.

The Basics

The aspect ratio is determined by reducing dimensionA:dimensionB to the lowest common denominator. Most print sizes will divide by 2 or 3  A few simple examples are a 4″x6″ print and an 8×10″ print.

Finding the ratio of the 4×6 would look something like this:

4×6 = 4:6 and the smallest number that these numbers can be divided by is 2.

4/2 = 2  : 6/2 = 3  No other whole number division can occur, so our aspect ratio is 2:3  or “2 by 3”

The 8×10 would go something like this:

8 x 10 = 8:10

Neither number divides by three down to a whole number, but we can divide equally by two.

8/2 = 4  :  10/2 = 5  No other whole number division can occur, so our aspect ratio is 4:5 or “4 by 5″

Let’s add another example: the 16×24 print size.

the 24″ dimension divides equally by three (3×8) but the 16” dimension does not (16/3= 5.33333) so we’ll try dividing by 2:

16 / 2 = 8 : 24 /2 = 12 and we get 8:12. We can take this further, yes?

8 / 2 = 4  :  12 / 2 = 6 and now we have 4:6 and we can still go down further.

4/2 = 2  : 6/2 = 3  No other whole number division can occur, so our aspect ratio is 2:3  or “2 by 3″

Now you might recognize that last one as the same ratio we determined from the 4″x6″ print. So our 4×6 and our 16×24 all have the same 2:3 aspect ratio. This means that an image that  fits our ratio will scale to either size print without the need to crop off image area.

 

Some print and image sizes might need to multiply up to get to a good whole number. Let’s take a 2.5″ x 3.5” print – commonly called “yearbook wallet size”.  These dimensions will not divide by the same amount to reach a whole number, so we must go up.  Again, I’ll use the 2 or 3 rule first.

The number two looks like a good fit here:

2.5 x 2 = 5 : 3.5 x 2 = 7 for an aspect ratio of 5:7.  These numbers won’t divide down further so we  have our final aspect ratio.

Now that we have an aspect ratio, let’s look at what print sizes this will match without cropping:

5:7

x2 = 10″x14″

x3 = 15″x21″

x4 = 20″x28″

x5 = 25″x35″

etc.

These are not very recognizable sizes today, in part because this aspect ratio has not been used in cameras for several generations. The 5×7 print size still exists, but it does need some cropping for most modern images.

So let’s try this with our other sample aspect ratios:

2:3 is the ratio of 35mm, most DSLRs and digital hand-held cameras in the consumer market. Since it’s likely one that most of our readers will have had some experience in, let’s start there.

2:3

x1  = Standard wallet – 2″x3″

x2 = 4″x6″ – Your basic minilab/drugstore print

x4 = 8″x12″ – A common portrait print size. Note that an 8×10 would need cropping

x8 = 16″x24″

x10 = 20″x30″

x12 = 24″x36″

etc.

 

In this next example you’ll see some very familiar sizes.

4:5

x2 = 8″x10″ The single most popular enlargement size in the USA.

x4 = 16″x20″

x6 = 24″x30″

x8 = 32″x40″

etc.

PhotoPrintAspectRatioComparisons

Let’s answer a common question:

How do I know how much of my DSLR file will need cropping to fit a 16×20 print?

This is pretty straight forward. Let’s start with the short dimension.

So we have a 16X20 print and a file with a 2:3 aspect ratio.

Divide the short side of the print by the larger of the ratios: 16/ 2 = 8

Take the result and multiply by the longer: 3 x 8 = 24.

Result of 24 minus the print size of 20 and the remainder is 4

So this process shows us that if we enlarge the file to fit the short side to the 16″ dimension, we will have an extra 4″ of image area that will get cropped from the long dimension.

If the last step of the equation leaves you with a number that is smaller than the print size, then you need to begin again, this time starting with the longer print dimension.

 

Whew!  Still have questions? Ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my very best to answer them.

 

Are You Being Fully Supported In Your Local Market?

Thanks to the internet, many businesses have global reach that earlier generations would have given limbs for.  While the reach potential is huge, so is the competition for attention.  But there is still a very large percentage of companies and organizations that do business locally, either exclusively or as part of their overall model.

November is Local Business Month, and this week is also Global Entrepreneurship Week.  The focusBlue of Local Business Month is to encourage support of the smaller businesses – the back-bone of our economy. You have likely seen the ads encouraging viewers to go out and spend their shopping dollars locally. It’s a fantastic idea and we fully encourage such efforts. But this author feels that there other ways that we can support our local firms that are overlooked by these campaigns. When cash flows into a small business, it often flows right out. So a one-time purchase is only temporary temporary. So today’s post will address some ways that you can support your local businesses and entrepreneurs in lasting ways after you’ve had a great experience buying from them.

Every business thrives as a result of positive brand exposure. The most effective form of that exposure is referrals.  Word of mouth referrals have a massive 80% conversion rate. Unless you give away your product or service, you simply can’t buy that level of conversion.  So refer several of your local business to  people you know.  And we’re not just talking local circles here, social media reach is an opportunity to reach hundreds, if not thousands of your closest “friends”, and just in time for holiday shopping.  While many you reach are out-of-town, the business is still local for you, so support away.  Remember to include a website and/or phone number of the business in your referral – anything you can do to make doing business with them easier will increase the effectiveness of your referrals. Remember to refer often.

Testimonials build all-important confidence in a purchasing decision. Without confidence in the brand or product, the customer will not buy. You can increase the chances of your local businesses success by posting positive, well written referrals on sites such as Yelp!, Angie’s List, Google Local and others. While a 4-star or 5-star rating with a simple “Great place to do business” can help, Take a little time to create a thoughtful, well-written review. Tell a little story about your experience and give some specifics about what you liked.  People love a story, and when they can imagine themselves in that little story, they are more likely to embrace your suggestion and support that business.  If you want to make it even more impactful, pull out your smart phone, add pictures or video to your review. Heck, send the video to the business and allow them to use it on their website and their marketing.  How POWERFUL an unsolicited video testimonial is!  Have a favorite referral site? Share it in the comments below.

The golden rule “So unto others as you would have them do unto you” sums things up. If you are willing to take a bit of time to fully support your local businesses, they’ll step deeper into supporting you. When you are buying goods and services, don’t forget that this is a potential opportunity for networking. Drop a business card, talk with the owner. Make sure they know who you are, and when they find your review online ( every business must monitor their reviews) they’ll remember you. And if they don’t that’s okay too. Doing things for others without expectation of personal gain can lead to some pretty amazing reciprocations.

As a business or entrepreneur yourself, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for referrals and reviews when you ask for feedback. You deserve support too.

Do you have any thoughts on ways to support your local businesses above and beyond making a purchase? Let us know by sharing below:

 

Learn How Daguerreotypes Were Made

Daguerreotype of Louis Daguerre in 1844 by Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Daguerreotypes are credited to be the earliest practical photographic process.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype, was born on this day in 1787. Learn how were they were made in this short video by Getty Museum.

Lomography Introduces an Experimental Lens Kit for Digital Cameras

Lomography lenses for 2/3 format digital camerasFor the first time, Lomography has introduced a line of lenses in 3 focal lengths for Micro 4/3 digital format.
In true Lomography fashion, these lenses include fixed aperture: f/8  with two shutter speeds: 1/100sec and bulb. If you choose to use your camera’s shutter, leave the lens open on bulb and fire away.

Double exposures are possible with the Lomography 4/3 lens kit

 

Since these lenses incorporate their own shutters, double exposures are a simple matter of leaving your camera’s shutter on bulb and using the Lomo lens’ built in shutter.

 

 

The lenses include gel filters, and the kit includes focal lengths of 24mm, 12mm, and 160 degree fish eye and lists on Lomography’s site for $89.99 US.

Now if I can just get my hands on a Micro 4/3 body…

 

Lynn Goldsmith Gives Her Thoughts on the New Nikon Df

The retro looks of the Nikon DfNikon is now taking pre-orders for their new retro-styled full frame DSLR, the Nikon Df. The rugged good looks look back to an era that began with Disco and the Brady Bunch, and came to close somewhere in the 90’s when plastic construction became the norm. The body looks more F3 than D3. A look that I am sure many shooters such as myself who were active during that time will relate to.carousel-panel-3-bg Nikon promises the new full frame sensor coupled with their new generation ExSpeed processor will yield amazing, low-noise images at ultra-high ISO’s in very low light. Nikon asked one of our fine art clients Lynn Goldsmith to offer her insights. Have a look at what Lynn has to say:

http://nikondf.nikonusa.com/vid-lg.html

Open Studios – Boulder, CO – 2013

Held annually the first two weeks of October, the Open Studio art walk gives the savvy art buyer the opportunity to see firsthand the creative processes and view new and yet unseen works by the area’s top artists from Boulder, Eldorado Springs, Nederland and other mountain communities. Since much of these showings are happening outside the gallery setting, the bargain hunter just might negotiate some fantastic deals.

While on a consultation in Boulder, I was blessed to get an early viewing of the works of one of the area’s great talents: Samantha Weston. A petal3-2conversation with Samantha revealed that her work is devoid of what I call “happy accidents.” Rather her work is mature with strong lines and an emphasis on color. Her work has depth and conveys thought, purpose, emotion and ElkBirdintuition.  While she freely admits that her ceramics are not her primary focus, they still display her careful nature and attitude for precision and perfection, all while presenting a rootsy, rustic sense of presence. Her perfection shines not just in her pieces, but her hand crafted frames that boast build accuracy that would make any master carpenter proud.  Her catalogue overall is quite impressive and contains pieces that would fit almost any interior from shabby chic through modern and victorian to industrial.  Samantha is also easy to talk to – getting to know the artists is a big part of what the Open Studios project is all about.  Her studio is located at 2045 Mapleton Ave., Boulder.

The show runs the first two weekends of October. More information can be found on the Open Studios website: http://www.openstudios.org

Maps are available for a small fee at the following merchants – though it might be a good idea to call ahead and make sure they still have some in stock:

 

Map Sales: Participating Merchants

Boulder

Whole Foods Market (Baseline, Pearl Street and Ideal Market)
Boulder Bookstore
Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery
Jacque Michelle
Art & Soul Gallery
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Meininger Art Supply
Mercury Framing
Silverleaf Framing
Logan’s Espresso

 

Denver
Whole Foods Market (Cherry Creek)

Lafayette
Lafayette Florist

Superior
Whole Foods Market