New Reviews News

It’s been a bit of a shame that lately I’ve been so busy taking pictures I’ve barely had time to blog, yet I have so few photos I can post here from these crazy times as I’m bound by client exclusivity. Hopefully there will be some interesting case studies I can post as the brochures, banners and web publications I’ve been shooting for come to be published.

One thing I can tell you about actually consists of three things, that is to say three other articles I’ve recently written over on my PhotoEspresso blog.

SanDisk memory card and Hähnel battery arrive from Clifton Cameras in Bristol for review

A memory card and a very orange camera battery were included in my review

The articles came about as a result of an approach from Clifton Cameras in Bristol asking if I’d be interested in reviewing their website in return for a couple of items I could purchase and have refunded, thereby gaining the user’s experience of the site. A sort of sponsored post if you like.

In the event I turned it into three posts because the items I received are worth reviewing and discussing on a photography help site and because it’s always useful to have fresh things to write about for that blog, which has a different purpose to my main one here.

Anyway, I ordered the items – a memory card and a camera battery, wrote a review for each and I’ve just published the Clifton Cameras website review. The whole exercise has been useful and enjoyable. It would be good to build up the paid blogging part of what I do, so if anyone out there knows anyone looking for someone to write honest reviews, critiques or general photography-related articles, send them my way!

In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye on which assignments I can feature here as they become available. Stay tuned!

pix improves

Back in July 2012 I stumbled across something called pix magazine and was so taken aback by it’s absurd fixation on girlie accessories for female photographers, other wise known as photographers, that I felt compelled to lay into it.

My problem with that edition of the magazine was its focus on pretty fripperies like flowery camera straps, pretty shoes and make-up and seemed to be written from the point of view of people who really didn’t have a clue what photography is beyond an excuse to buy pretty things. For a photographic magazine aimed at women photographer it featured very few photographers talking about their work or giving guidance on how to break into a male-dominated industry.

When the Spring 2013 issue dropped into my inbox I took another look. I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with the transformation. This time around there is more focus on working photographers. This edition focusses on travel photography, so there’s plenty of scope for pretty pictures and they are present in abundance.

Cover of pix magazine

The latest edition of pix magazine. Big improvement!

The copy is still fairly light and a little fluffy for my tastes; photographers talking about capturing emotions and moments is something of a cliché and I still wish there was a magazine out there for people (of either gender) wanting to know more about the stories behind photographers who’ve made a success of their work. It would be nice to know the stories of photographers who have failed once or twice so we could all learn from their experiences. Stories of photographers who “love to capture the moment” aren’t really that interesting.

There are still articles on buying groovy kit, but then I suppose a magazine has to attract advertisers if it is to survive. I remember when I was much younger a magazine entitled PIC (People In Camera) which was interesting because it interviewed photographers in depth and pix could do more of that and still talk about accessories.

Credit where credit is due though, a change of editor has worked wonders and it would be good to see this direction pursued further. It might even become something I would spend time reading for the sake of a good read, rather than for the sake of a good blog article.

Retail Chain Reaction

The announcement last week of the closure of the Jessops chain of photographic stores was said to be sad. I agree it’s sad for the staff affected, but I never had much affection for the stores which failed to distinguish themselves very much from the likes of Comet (which also went into receivership last year). Jessops seemed to exist merely to push cameras as if they were just another consumer durable which admittedly, they largely are, but cameras definitely require a more deft sales pitch than washing machines or widescreen TVs. I should know, I spent three years selling cameras back in the late 1980s before I went freelance.

Screen grab from Jessops website

Jessops website sets out the situation

Retail analyst Neil Saunders told BBC News that both amateurs and professionals migrated away from Jessops because amateurs have smartphone cameras (true) and because professionals could find better deals at specialist online stores. Hmm… Closer to the truth is, professionals never bought from Jessops as a rule so probably had little effect on their trade. And amateurs who are keen enough to want more than a smartphone are as likely to buy from online retailers as anyone.

Amalgamating the amateurs happy with their iPhones, those wanting something more but choosing to buy online and the few professional photographer customers Jessops had switching to online and the over-all number of professionals dwindling as the industry comes under pressure from microstock and budget cuts, you start to get a picture of how Jessops’ days were probably numbered regardless of what they did.

Mr Saunders’ observation (admittedly a brief sound-bite for BBC News) ignores the fact that Jessops also had an online presence. It’s just that it suffered the same ills as the high-street offering, being not a very exciting place to seek out and buy camera equipment.

As with many retailers, and indeed many high-street photographic retailers, Jessops’ problem was a lack of understanding of where the market was heading, the market heading off too fast and the retailer being too slow to react to the changes. By the time Jessops knew what was wrong (if they ever knew) it was too late to turn the ship around.

I fear Jessops may not be the last of the high street photographic retailers to hit the wall. As I mentioned, I spent a few years working in a camera shop, London Camera Exchange in Bath to be precise, and I fear such shops with their friendly, knowledgeable staff will soon vanish too. Independents seem equally ill-equipped to cope with the shifts in customer preferences. Look at their websites and you’ll see why.

London Camera Exchange specializes in part-exchange on camera equipment, but this side of the business took a massive hit with the rise of Ebay. Meanwhile the new equipment side of the business is being hit by online retailers and this formula for disaster is hitting many independents. Does it have to be so?

Hindsight, the best thing since sliced bread (and with hindsight I wish I’d invented that too), tells us that if the independents had taken on the internet sooner and better, they may have stolen a lead on the likes of Ebay. A specialized, safe place to buy and sell used camera equipment, perhaps even with a warranty service, would have given the likes of LCE a chance. If you look at what they actually offer, I’m not convinced the web is helping them.

Search their used section and you’ll see items for sale, but you have to contact the store to buy. You can’t make an online purchase. And the list of similar items brings up goods which are distinctive in their un-similarity to what you searched for (see photo). These issues alone point to a lack of understanding of or investment in their website.

London Camera Exchange Website

London Camera Exchange website is a little underwhelming

It could well be too late and too big an investment for independents to turn their web offerings around, and that’s a shame because it will mean fewer high-street independent camera shops where you can get friendly advice, hands-on experience with cameras or the option to buy secondhand knowing you have somewhere to return the item should there be a problem.

I’ll state here I also write for Wex Photographic, an online photography retailer, and their staff and service are excellent in my experience. But they don’t do secondhand…

The Fat Lady has sung…

YES to victory over DEB

Professional and amateur photographers can celebrate this morning!

And what a sweet song of victory it was. Thanks to Editorial Photographers UK (EPUK), stop43 and thousands of individual photographers, clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill was dropped (proof here if you scroll down to Enforcement Obligations) last night, and the bill was passed without it.

I wish I could add my thanks for the support of organisations like the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) and the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), but instead they chose to opt for having their tummies tickled by Government perhaps (though presumably not in the case of the RPS) with a view to becoming licensors of orphan works themselves once the bill was passed. Instead they’ve left themselves damaged for having tried to sell copyright for a fistful of beans.

But let’s not be too proud in victory. All these organisations took views which they thought were correct. They operate in an unfamiliar environment now, and we will need to work with them over future legislation which will surely be tabled by the next Government. Copyright laws do need reform, photographers want it, and individuals and “representative” organisations will need to work alongside each other to achieve a fair balance between creator and consumer. All we ask is that our work, and the work of countless creative amateurs, isn’t stolen from us and sold to all takers, and that we have a statutory right to be identified as the authors of our work. There are other issues which need to be sorted out, but all in good time.

Perhaps the next important battle is the proposed changes to the Data Protection Act, which will see much photojournalism and street photography outlawed or rendered impossible. One thing at a time, though eh?