Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photo Store Intimidation

This problem may be unique to me, but today's subject is photography store intimidation. Do you feel it? Am I crazy?

I've spent a lot of money in professional photography stores over the years. And I'm pretty smart about this stuff -- I can throw down about f-stops and guide numbers with the best of them -- but everytime I go in one of those stores it's like I have to prove myself before they'll give me the good advice.

Yesterday I went in to buy a couple of portable lights to help me take portraits. At first the clerk eyed me kindly, but skeptically. "These lights start at 1900 and go up to 5, that's thousand, dollars."

I'd already done some research, so I told him what I was willing to spend and what my goals were. I threw out some words to show him I wasn't just somebody who got a point and shoot for Christmas (pocket wizard! softboxes! Interfit Strobies!), and what do you know? He had a suggestion that worked for me.

Yeah, I know it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I expect this treatment now so maybe I'm overly sensitive to it. And I shouldn't give my money to places that make me feel like that. But it seems to me it's a general and pervasive photo store eliteness that tries to make it all seem more mysterious and difficult than it actually is. It's just math and light and art. Why this veil of pretension?

Okay, I can think of one reason. So there is skill involved in producing consistently great pictures. A good camera helps, but it doesn't make the picture. You can take great pictures with a bad camera if you know what you're doing.

At festivals, I put my photos on display for sale. Photos that I planned and composed with intention. And then someone walks by and says, "I took that same picture with my camera phone." Then they whip out their phone show their friend, look disdainfully at my work and walk away. Yeah, well, good for you. Try blowing that up to poster size. (Oh, was that snarky? My bad.)

So part of me gets why pro photographers (and even semi-pro) are defensive and protective of the mystery. And maybe once I learn the secret handshake we won't have to play that dance anymore. Still, argh.

Online I shop strictly through B&H Photo because I can do the research online and trust that what I ordered is what I'll get. Here's an affiliate link if you feel the urge to browse -- any purchases made through this link will give me a commission:


Maya said...

Boy Howdy do I feel you on this post! And, B&H rocks! :-)

Christy said...

Phew. I thought maybe it was just me. When I was at Brooks (Inst of Photog) I applied for a job at a photography store (for minimum wage) and the application was around 6 pages and full of really obscure questions. This surprised me because the store clerks never shared that information or advice with me as a customer. It's such a strange little clique.

Karen said...

Yeah, you're totally not crazy. I feel that every time I walk into a photo supply store as well. Drives me batty.

Maya said...

We are about to attempt going to a Photo store in Geneva this weekend. The snobbery and in French! This will be difficult...

Christy said...

Oh no! Good luck. :)

Though one of my best experiences was at a huge electronics store in Tokyo called Sofmap. They had a well stocked photography section and were super friendly when I bought a filter and reflector. So maybe any language limitations will help? Fingers crossed.