Photo Notes

February 10, 2010

Buying Camera Gear

Filed under: Photographic Equipment — John Siskin @ 1:36 am

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Shot For Aids Walk, Los Angeles

One of my first big opportunities in photography was selling cameras at a store in Santa Barbara: Russ’ Camera. Russ Eckerstrom took a risk on me and I hope I gave him good service. I learned a lot there, not just about photography. I leaned about buying and selling and serving customers: the kinds of things that have been important in my business as a photographer. The store is still in business up in Santa Barbara.

When I came back to Los Angeles and started my business I needed suppliers that were local and would carry the products I had to have. I was in a camera store every couple of days looking for film, Polaroid or chemicals. I dealt with a lot of stores that provided these products, but often the service was bad. Too often the sales people felt they needed to tell me they could do my job. I don’t like spending my money and having some guy behind the counter feel he needs to compete with me. Of course there were a few great sales people over the years, but they mostly left camera sales.

What I learned at Russ’ and saw in many stores is that camera sales is a tough business. I’ve seen a lot of stores die in the last few years, so I know this is especially true after digital. The mark-up on gear is low, the market competitive. It used to be that a lot of money was earned on photofinishing, but this too has taken a big hit. I particularly miss the stores that have a lot of junk; I do a lot with junk. You might check out my article on building cameras.

Congressman Waxmand shot for Aids Walk, Los Angeles

I want to recommend that you do business with Calumet Photographic. I have been buying stuff from them since about 1984. I used to pour over their catalog, and I learned a lot from that book. For me, a great supplier has the little things that make everything else work. I remember needing several 40.5mm to 52 mm step up rings: Calumet had them, in stock. When I need a camera battery or a gel for my lights I can get it at Calumet. When they opened a store in Hollywood, there was only one problem for me; it wasn’t in the San Fernando Valley. I can go in their store and actually see the products. The sales people treat me like I might know something. I have dealt with many big stores including a couple of the stores in New York. I don’t look forward to buying from them again. But I do hope to do more business with Calumet. I should also say that every employee I have dealt with at Calumet has been knowledgeable, which is good, and a nice person, which is better

Calumet is now associated with this site. I am very happy about this. If you would like to support this blog please visit Calumet through the link on this page. If you think I am being unreasonably nice I suggest you visit some large camera stores in Los Angeles and New York.

As always, I hope you will check out my classes at
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Business to Business: Commercial Photography

The pictures this time are just a few I like. They are linked to my site
Thanks, John

Shot with my 4X5 fisheye camera.

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1 Comment

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