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Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards

Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards

October 8, 2021

Where is the best place to buy a camera, lens or accessory? Who can provide you with the right information, the right products and at a good price?

AP’s Good Service Awards aim to answer these questions by presenting photography retailers who go the extra mile with a well-deserved and highly coveted accolade. From this you can work out where to shop for your equipment and be confident that you will be treated as a valued customer.

Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards 1

Whether it’s informative buying advice or, in the case of online retailers, swift delivery and equally swift action if things go wrong, good service is a precious commodity that should be shouted from the rooftops.

After all, when you’re spending good money on a camera or any item of photographic equipment, the service you receive is as important as the price you pay.

A more human approach
One of the best things about buying from a specialist retailer, rather than a massive, anonymous online shopping site, is that you can also get expert advice. With so many cameras and lenses to choose from, they are able to point you in the right direction, potentially saving you a lot of money and time.

Many retailers offer a repair service, or sell a wide range of carefully checked second-hand gear, too.

So if you have been particularly impressed by the service you have received from a retailer, now is the time to tell us about it. As well as rewarding retailers for their excellent service, you will also be helping other AP readers looking to buy a new camera, lens or accessory, or needing specialist advice.

Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards 2

Using the link below, tell us about your nomination – the process is secure, and it won’t take more than a couple of minutes. The closing date is 17/01/22 and we look forward to getting your nominations. The retailer who gets the most votes will be presented with the awards at our wider annual awards ceremony (details to be confirmed).

Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards 3

Terms and Conditions
Only one entry per person. Valid to UK retailers only

Retailers must receive a minimum of 50 entries to receive a Good Service Award.

The retailer with the most votes will receive our Platinum Award.

Nominations close at 5pm, 17th January 2022

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PaaS: Photography as a Service

PaaS: Photography as a Service

PaaS: Photography as a Service 4

The age of the camera is slowly coming to an end—especially the bulky DSLR and all its associated declinations. In a very short while, all that will be left will be those pesky in-object cameras, like the one in our cell phones and a query type box in our browser.

The End of Analog

Bulky big cameras have a legacy deeply entrenched in the physical world. They were made to mechanically create images for physical media. This analog world is vanishing. Already, not only are images all digital, but they all end up – the vast majority – in digital mediums. And like with anything in the digital world, its propensity is to diminish in size while increasing in power (Moore’s law).

Yes, the next cover of Vogue magazine will be shot with the latest Hasselblad, even if equipped with a digital back. And yes, there is so much better light quality entering the frame of a full-size Leitz lens than those three circles in the back of the latest iPhone. But for how long?

File sizes don’t really matter anymore. It is just a question of time before all surviving printed publications become a supplement to their online mothership, Vogue included. Billboards are all but becoming digital as well. The need for large, bulky files is now easily met with upscaling. Computational photography is now the norm, and the skills needed to operate a DSLR are now replaced by AI. An iPhone/Galaxy and successors can and will soon outperform any bulky DSLR.

Cameras, Everywhere

Alongside the proliferation of our handheld computerized cameras, almost every appliance in our lives will contribute to the creation of photographs. To monitor themselves and their surroundings, visual data acquisition interfaces are slowly creeping into our lives. Doorbells have cameras, cars and high-end fridges already have some, while others, like automated vacuum cleaners or lamps, will soon have some.

Pretty soon, our whole environment will be taking pictures of every moment of our lives. Instead of actually taking pictures at our next birthday party, we can ask the fridge or lamp to share some of the ones they took. Nothing will be missed.

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With a simple voice command, anyone will create a perfect image. Photo by cottonbro / Pexels.

Introducing PaaS

As for professional content? Replaced by a simple query type box. Enter what kind of image you need and hit enter. An AI will produce the picture for you. A photo of a couple holding hands on a beach at sunset, no problem. A photo of Alexander the Great playing chess with Napoleon on the deck of the Mayflower. Piece of cake. And yes, the next cover of Vogue magazine as well. Introducing PaaS: Photography as a Service.

Because of the computational power and software engineering expertise needed, the first iterations of PaaS will be via a handful of companies offering this service via a web interface. But eventually, like everything in digital, it will be integrated into our cell phones or whatever device we will be carrying with us.

Need a photo of a butterfly on a red rose for your Instagram feed? No problem. Tell your Siri/Google, and there you go.

Pros? What Pros?

What about news or wedding photography? Those will certainly still need battle-tested professionals handling bulky DSLR? Yes and no. The proliferation of cameras everywhere combined with an accelerated news cycle and reduced budget make the future of photojournalism extremely precarious.

Even without these replacement technologies in full deployment, it is becoming extremely challenging for anyone to make a living as a news photographer. Already, the local with a cell phone trumps the pro with the heavy equipment. Not much of a future here.

As for wedding photographers, well, sure. They could survive on a few pre-ceremony portraits and outwitting guests with cell phones. But in the not-so-long run, providing a PaaS with two headshots of the couple and a command to create a beautiful wedding portrait will yield some much better photos than anything a pro could do. As for the ceremony, nothing a few cameras with an AI power best scene detection can deliver.

With PaaS, the creative process will no longer be controlled by those who have mastered the tools of the craft, like a camera or Photoshop, but rather by those who have the most creative minds. Imagination will best skills.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

About the author: Paul Melcher is a photography and technology entrepreneur based in New York, and the founder of Kaptur, a news magazine about the visual tech space. You can find more of his writings on his blog, Thoughts of a Bohemian. Melcher offers his services as a consultant as well. This article was also published here.

Image credits: Header photo by Brett Sayles / Pexels

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Google Photos Expands Print Service with More Sizes, Unlimited Volumes

Google Photos Expands Print Service with More Sizes, Unlimited Volumes

Google Photos Expands Print Service with More Sizes, Unlimited Volumes 6

Google is expanding on its photo printing service by not only continuing its 10-print monthly subscription service but also allowing photos to be ordered in any volume and increasing the print sizes and types that are available.

Google’s subscription photo delivery service was initially announced in February of 2020 before being halted the following June while the company fine-tuned the platform. It then re-launched in October and has been available ever since.

Until today, the service only provided 10 printed photos mailed monthly in one of three size options that were selected by its artificial intelligence system as the “best” shot in that time period. If mail delivery is not an option, Google allowed those photos to be picked up in person thanks to partnerships with CVS, Walgreens, or Walmart. While the service is affordable at $7 per month, it did not provide a lot of customization or additional services.

Today Google announced a series of enhancements to the program that makes it possible to order more prints a la carte and added new print sizes and types.

Google Photos allows users to turn photos into prints from the apps, and today prints users specifically select can be made in unlimited quantities starting at $0.18 per print. Those can be ordered in the previously existing 4×6, 5×7, or 8×10 inch prints, as well as four new sizes: 11×14, 12×18, 16×20, and 20×30 inch prints.

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Photos can also be ordered for same-day pickup for those who do not want to wait for the photos to be delivered. Those photos can be retrieved from local CVS, Walgreens, or Walmart locations in the United States or 7-Eleven in Japan. Same-day pickup only supports 4×6, 5×7, or 8×10 prints in the United States or 3.5×5 prints in Japan.

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Google has also added a new type of print to its offerings: canvas prints. Google says that over the next few weeks in the United States, it will add six additional canvas print sizes to the Google Photos print store: 8×10, 16×16, 20×30, 24×36, 30×40, and 36×36.

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The company also has added photo book printing options, either filled with photos that are selected and arranged automatically or those that users can pick and move around as desired. Photo books are available in softcover and hardcover in the United States, Canada, and select European countries and start at $10.

Image credits: All images via Google.

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Inside Canon’s Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 10

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are well underway and despite changes that had to be made because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canon — like Nikon — has set up a fully-staffed Olympic camera repair and loan facility that is home to a massive arsenal of cameras and lenses.

Riki Kakizaki, one of Canon’s Global Sports Event Professional Support Department leads, gave PetaPixel a tour of its facility while also answering questions about the steps the company has taken to assure the safety of both photographers and its staff. The back of the facility shown in the photos below is normally off-limits to visitors.

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 11
Riki Kakizaki, Global Sports Event Professional Support Department, Photo Imaging System Marketing Headquarters

“Because the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are being held without spectators, the value of press photography is greater than ever,” Kakizaki tells PetaPixel.

“We at Canon are doing our utmost to provide support for photographers so that they don’t miss a single moment of the athletes’ performances. We look forward to photographers capturing historic and powerful moments of the Games with Canon cameras. We also believe there will be a variety of use cases and photography styles made possible by such equipment as remote image capture systems.”

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Canon has taken dramatic steps to operate efficiently and within expectations despite the issues brought on by the pandemic and the repair facility is working on a 24-hour turnaround schedule despite all the restrictions.

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“In order to provide complete service (repair, inspection, cleaning, loaning of equipment during repair), we select a location as close to the event as possible and dispatch our most highly skilled staff. In addition, we provide the necessary parts and components for the current most popular/widely used equipment so that we can make complete repairs,” Kakizaki says.

“This enables us to provide speedy service, complete most repairs and return equipment to photographers in 24 hours or less. In the case of inspections and cleaning, we can generally return equipment within one hour. The greatest benefit to us is that photographers are able to continue capturing photos, without interruption, using the equipment they are most familiar with.”

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 14

Photographers who bring in equipment for repair or service can expect to pick up that equipment the next day and are given a loaner camera or lens in the meantime. Additionally, Canon can provide loaner equipment if there are other issues.

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 15

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 16

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 17

“In the past, there was an incident in which a photographer’s equipment was stolen, and we specially provided them with loaner equipment so they could continue shooting,” Kakizaki says. “In another case, a photographer’s equipment was damaged when an athlete accidentally collided with them. We were able to fully repair the equipment and return it to the very grateful photographer within 24 hours.”

While Canon declined to comment on how many cameras and lenses it has on hand, the photos provided by the company another from Jeff Cable (who has a detailed blog post about the facility on his website) show that Canon stocked the facility fully despite early indications showing that there would be limitations on how the company could operate. This turned out to be exceptionally fortuitous, as, at the eleventh hour, Canon was allowed to operate its facility in full, though loans are only provided as replacements for equipment that is currently being repaired.

While the Canon 1DX Mark III is the primary camera used by professionals and as such Canon has the most of that model available, Kakizaki says that the company has a huge number of super-telephoto lenses, zoom lenses, and EOS R5 and R6 camera bodies available. During the tour, he showed that the most popular lens that has been requested for loan is the EF 200-400mm f/4L, the shelf for which was empty.

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 18
Photo by Jeff Cable

It is well known that there are multiple photographers at the Olympics who are currently testing Canon’s forthcoming EOS R3 camera in order to have real-world testing take place so that photographers can provide feedback to Canon on how the new equipment operates. Those tests have revealed the camera will feature a 24-megapixel sensor. While Kakizaki did agree that the cameras are being tested, he and Canon stopped short of providing details on what exactly the company is hoping to hear from photographers about the R3 and what the company might do with that information. That said, the feedback will prove valuable.

“We highly value the feedback given to us by photographers who use Canon equipment, and going forward, we will continue to make every effort to respond to such feedback when developing products,” Kakizaki says.

During the tour, Kakizaki showed the various levels of protection that are in place to keep the odds of contracting the virus low.

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 19

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 20

“Various measures have been taken in order to comply with regulations intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections,” Kakizaki says. “Due to travel restrictions, we could not bring in staff from overseas. Instead, the staff providing support at this year’s service booth are all Japanese.”

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 21

Photographers, of which over 100 regularly visit the booth daily, wait in a line that has socially distanced points along the side of the booth. There are multiple display monitors that request the use of masks, hand washing or sanitizing, and social distancing as well. When called up, the main front counter is divided into multiple sections that are cordoned off with plastic partitions. Photographers place any equipment that they want to have serviced into a basket, which is then taken to the back. In this way, there is no direct contact between a Canon staff member and the photographer. The entire surface area is also disinfected between photographers.

The repair center itself is impressively staffed, and each technician is required to wear masks and gloves while working. Additionally, plastic partitions are in place between each staff member’s workstation. Canon was unable to explain exactly what happens to equipment from the point a photographer drops it off to the time it is picked up the next day, but Kakizaki did show the different stations within the facility where cameras are repaired, cleaned, tested, and stored.

Inside Canon's Impressively Stocked Olympic Pro Camera Service Facility 22

The Canon Olympic professional photo service Center looks deceptively small from the front of the booth, as behind those closed doors there are racks of camera equipment and various spaces where the company’s technicians can work. Canon has several specific areas that allow them to test the performance of longer focal length lenses, for example, as well as an area that can be made fully dark to allow the staff to test a camera’s sensor performance in various light conditions.

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For more photos that go behind the scenes at Canon’s photo service center at the Tokyo Olympics, Jeff Cable has additional photos worth checking out.

Image credits: Photos provided courtesy of Canon aside from those that are specifically noted.

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The new SmugMug Source service stores your raw files online

SmugMug Source

SmugMug Source is a new unlimited RAW photo storage service from Flickr’s current owners. Unlike typical cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive, SmugMug Source is designed explicitly for photographers. This means you can do things like preview, sort, and organize your RAW files online—or on any device—just like you can with regular JPEGs.

Source is an add-on subscription for existing SmugMug users. Regular SmugMug plans start at $9/month for unlimited JPEG storage and a personalized photo website and go up to $52/month for professionals looking to sell their photos and provide client galleries. On top of that monthly charge, Source will set up you back $3 for up to 500GB of RAW files, or $5 for up to 1TB and then another $5 for each additional TB, or part thereof. (For what it’s worth, 1 TB is roughly 30,000 RAW files—it depends on your camera—so unless you never delete bad photos, it shouldn’t get unreasonably expensive.)

From the start, SmugMug Source will support most common RAW formats, including ARW, BMP, CR2, CR3, CRW, DCR, DNG, IIQ, MRW, NEF, NRW, ORF, PEF, RAF, RAW, RW2, RWL, SRF, SRW, TIFF, TIF, X3F. That’s all Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, and many other shooters covered. Presumably, Source’s RAW support will update as new cameras debut. 

Source also offers a whole host of workflow-conscious photographer-friendly features. It supports sidecar files from editing apps like Lightroom and CaptureOne so you’ll see the edited versions of your RAW shots. You can upload and manage files from any SmugMug app or the Lightroom plug-in. There’s AI-powered search so you can navigate your overflowing catalog without having to manually tag everything. 

How does SmugMug Source compare to other raw backup services?

I’m currently using the free trial but, so far, Source seems to deliver on what it promises—which is good, because there aren’t a lot of fully-featured alternative RAW storage platforms. 

Adobe’s CreativeCloud is the closest. It has built-in cloud storage that integrates really well with Lightroom. The big downside is that it’s pretty expensive. There are three plans:

  • The 20GB Photography plan includes Lightroom and Photoshop at $9.99/month. 
  • The 1TB Photography plan includes Lightroom and Photoshop at $19.99/month.
  • The 1TB Lightroom plan doesn’t have Photoshop, but it’s only $9.99/month. 

You can also purchase additional storage starting at $10/month for a TB on top of your subscription. 

Google Photos ($9.99/month for 2TB), Amazon Photos (unlimited photo storage included with Amazon Prime at $12.99/month), and Dropbox ($9.99/month for 2TB) all kind of support RAW files, but they don’t have the same photographer focus as SmugMug. They’re fine for backup storage but are less likely to fit nicely into your workflow. 

From a purely backup perspective, Backblaze is probably your best bet. You get unlimited file backup for $6/month including RAW files. You won’t be able to preview your images online or integrate things as well with Lightroom, but it will keep them safe. 

Don’t rely on online RAW storage

As much as I like SmugMug Source so far, I’m still incredibly dubious about the claim you can say goodbye to your hard drives. Adobe has lost user’s photos, Dropbox has lost user data, and even Google Photos has had some file-losing quirks. An offsite, online backup is just one part of a good photo backup system, but it shouldn’t be the only place you keep your files. 

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Photographer Finds Peak Design’s Customer Service Claims Misleading

Photographer Finds Peak Design's Customer Service Claims Misleading

A photographer is questioning Peak Design’s messaging and recommendations for servicing its products thanks to an experience he had with the Peak Design Travel Tripod. After dropping it, he took issue with Peak’s customer service. They told him he needed to replace it, but he shows it was repairable.

YouTuber Andrew Leonard, who goes by Emergent Technology, published a video where he explains how his experience with the Peak Design Travel tripod left him scratching his head at some of the decisions that the company has taken with regard to addressing damaged parts.

Leonard says that on his first trip out with the tripod, he dropped it and the head landed squarely on a rock. Later that day, he realized that it was exhibiting a terrible grinding sound and while it did not appear to affect the tripod’s ability to securely hold a camera, he wanted to deal with the problem. He figured it was a piece of dirt or sand that had gotten lodged in the head, he looked to see if he could be given instructions on how to clean it.

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To his surprise, Peak Design did not provide any information on how to do this, but instead actively cautioned against taking it apart at all. Peak Design instead suggests using a compressed air can to dislodge any debris, but do not submerge the ball head or run it underwater.

Because the head is the most complex part of the entire tripod head, Leonard says it makes sense that Peak Design doesn’t want someone messing with the parts as it would be very easy to accidentally break it.

After contacting customer service and explaining what happened, a representative told Leonard that the tripod head was a sealed unit, and was therefore impossible for any dirt or sand to enter into the head. Therefore, any sound he was hearing was the result of a damaged part and the entire head would need to be replaced. Unhappy, but obliging, Leonard ordered a replacement.

Additionally, since the head was no longer usable, he decided to take it apart to see what piece actually broke.

Photographer Finds Peak Design's Customer Service Claims Misleading 25

What he found was that contrary to what he had been told, there were no broken parts inside the tripod head and instead it just needed to be cleaned properly. He also believes that the instruction to use a can of compressed air actually may have made the problem worse, as it looks to have sent the debris further into the mechanics of the device.

“In short, Peak Design claims their ball head is a sealed unit, and tried to place additional blame on me as the customer when I let them know I had dropped it,” Leonard writes in a since-removed Reddit post (removed for breaking a rule of the subreddit). “I paid for a replacement ball head, and after further analyzing the ‘broken’ unit through a teardown — the results of which I shared with Peak Design — the company refunded me for my replacement ($50) ball head purchase.”

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Leonard says that he has no issue with the design or the construction of the tripod and head — quite the opposite, actually — but hopes that this situation reveals some constructive criticism about the right to repair, and how companies can be more transparent with customers.

“I am thankful that Peak Design, after talking with me in more detail about their claims, has refunded me for the replacement ball head purchase,” Leonard writes. “In the future, my hope is that Peak Design better communicates with their customers about reparability, instead of making misleading or outright false claims that place additional or undue blame on the consumer.”

Calls to grant buyers more rights when it comes to repairing purchased products have been growing in volume over the last year, and a national right to repair bill has been filed in Congress. While the most vocal critics of right to repair are large tech companies like Apple and Microsoft, situations like this one would assure that not only would customers end up paying less, but fewer parts would end up in landfills. Being an environmentally conscious company is at the forefront of what Peak Design champions — and is at the core of its newly-launched used marketplace — so coming up with a solution feels like something that it would be behind.

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“To reiterate, they do not want people executing repairs on the part of the tripod that is most critical to keeping their very expensive camera attached to it. On the other hand, the right to repair movement is becoming increasingly critical,” he says.

“I would like to see Peak Design put together something as a middle ground here, like an RMA program for units that they don’t want people disassembling and tearing down themselves. At the very least, Peak Design in my opinion should revise their approach towards communicating with customers about how these replacements are supposed to work.”

When reached for comment, Peak Design tells PetaPixel that it plans to do just that. After reviewing the details of this particular case, the company has changed how it will look at cases going forward.

Up until this instance, every Peak Design Travel Tripod Ball Head that has been returned for inspection due to a drop has been found to have suffered a broken part within the Ball Head. In addition, these dropped Ball Heads have all exhibited the same “gritty,” noise as described by the customer. Peak Design Customer Service does own an instructional video on Ball Head break down and reassembly but has chosen to keep this video private. First, the process of tearing down and reassembling the Travel Tripod Ball Head requires a high-level of skill and precision to properly complete. Second, the Travel Tripod Ball Head is composed of a high-volume of precision parts, making it difficult for the company to stock and fulfill for individual customer repair.

In light of this customer’s determination that grit was indeed the culprit for the noise within the Ball Head, Peak Design Customer Service will change how it handles these cases moving forward. In instances where the customer believes that dirt and sand have penetrated the inside of the ball head, Peak Design Customer Service may choose to share the instructional video that provides guidance for disassembling and reassembling the ball head. Unnecessary waste is an environmental impact that Peak Design takes very seriously. If a change in Customer Service procedure can help further mitigate waste, Peak Design is more than happy to do so.

In addition, after being alerted to the problem, Peak Design’s CEO Peter Dering noted in a reply to Leonard’s video that he was glad the issue had been brought up.

“I just want to say… I really appreciate the thorough video and explanation,” Dering writes. “When I heard our CS team said that the unit was sealed, I cringed a little bit. It is simply not sealed. As you clearly demonstrate, it is merely a slightly difficult and/or finicky reassembly process, which is precisely why we’ve discouraged its maintenance. However…I agree that we should have a middle ground, and provide an opportunity for those who want to be able to service it, to service it. We’ll get something put together in a reasonable amount of time. Thanks again for the fair video.”

Image credits: Photos of Peak Design Travel Tripod teardown by Andrew Leonard and used with permission.

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ViewShaper Says its a Booking Service That Puts Pro Photographers First

ViewShaper Says its a Booking Service That Puts Pro Photographers First

ViewShaper Says its a Booking Service That Puts Pro Photographers First 28

While companies like Snappr, Boom, and Pretty Instant seem built to devalue photography by commoditizing it, ViewShaper claims its goal is to do the exact opposite with a system built specifically for pros along with a photographer-focused pricing structure.

ViewShaper’s founder Benjamin Le Cam told PetaPixel that he believes these other companies raising millions of dollars to make it easier and faster for large companies to acquire images – at the cost of a photographer’s individual value – are doing it wrong.

“Marketplaces like Snappr or Pretty Instant have been rejected by professionals because they have to compete with amateurs. Here, only professionals are accepted,” Le Cam says. “Besides, ViewShaper offers the client to do everything online, even when they need to find a videographer (no need to jump on a call with an agent). They can define all their needs through the online brief.”

Le Cam says that ViewShaper puts most of the control in the hands of the photographer, and does its best to make the process work for how real professionals actually want to operate.

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Photographers who use ViewShaper are free to set their own prices, work when and where they want, set their own cancelation policy, and make additional money by offering the ability to hire actors, makeup artists, hairdressers, and more.

The pay structure at ViewShaper is notably different than its more well-known competitors. First, there are two methods for how the company handles booking. First is what Le Cam describes as the “AirBNB model” called Instant Booking. This system is designed for what ViewShaper calls “simple projects.”

ViewShaper Says its a Booking Service That Puts Pro Photographers First 34

The photographer is booked based on their availability and they can message the client right after having being booked to organize the shooting. With this setup, a photographer defines an hourly rate per category, and the platform adds a 20% commission on top of that. The photographer’s rate plus the website’s commission is what the customer sees through the booking portal.

The second method is what Le Cam calls On-Demand Booking. This system is made for specific photo projects and video projects. The photo/videographer has the opportunity to message the client to ask for more details and make sure they can provide the service.

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“Obviously, they do not have the right to share any contact information to avoid using the website,” Le Cam says. “We’ll soon add a bot to detect any fraud.”

In this setup, a client sends their brief and the photographer replies with a custom quote. ViewShaper adds between a 15% and 20% commission on top of it, and the combination of the photographer’s quote plus the commission is what the client sees.

ViewShaper’s system is similar to how SmartShoot operates, except with SmartShoot a photographer has to calculate the company’s cut from their own pitches, which makes it feel like they are never fully able to charge what they want to be charging. ViewShaper appears to be trying to alleviate this feeling with its method of adding on a commission on top of the photographer’s rate rather than removing it from bids.

ViewShaper says that it has a rapidly growing network throughout the United States, but it isn’t fully serving every major city yet. If you’re interested in being listed on ViewShaper’s website, you need to submit an application here. In order to keep the quality of the professionals on the site high, ViewShaper needs to review all applicants. Additionally, you must have a professional business license to become a ViewShaper photographer/videographer.

The company seems to be putting significant effort behind tailoring its service to be fairer and understanding of photographers’ needs, though it still faces tough competition in the crowded space. SmartShoot and the long list of agencies offering similar benefits make the space particularly challenging to stand out in. Still, ViewShaper’s value proposition at least seems more akin to what would please the working professional than the big names grabbing headlines with large investments.

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Google’s Subscription-Based AI-Powered Photo Printing Service is Back

Google's Subscription-Based AI-Powered Photo Printing Service is Back

Google's Subscription-Based AI-Powered Photo Printing Service is Back 40

In February of this year, Google introduced a photo printing service powered by artificial intelligence. It would select, print, and send you your “best” photos every month, but the trial service was halted in June with the hopes of evolving the program and making it more widely available – now it’s back.

Google initially set up the automatic AI-powered service for $8 a month, added on top of its partnership with local Walmart and CVS Pharmacies that allowed you to purchase prints, canvas prints, and photo books through the app for same-day pickup. The newly relaunched service doesn’t seem to adjust much from the original trial, except now the automatic delivery of photos will cost a dollar less: $6.99 per month.

Additionally, Google is adding Walgreens to its same-day printing service agreement it has with Walmart and CVS, which the company says “nearly doubles the total number of stores available for same-day prints.”

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Google announced the revival of the service today and says that it will allow subscribers to give directions to the algorithm, like asking it to prioritize “people and pets,” “landscapes,” or a mix of whatever the algorithm thinks are your best works from the month. You can also pick between glossy or matte photos, and can cancel any time or skip a month here or there if you choose.

There isn’t a clear indication what size the photos will be, but since the company suggests using the prints as postcards it’s likely Google decided to stick with the 4×6 inch size that they trialed earlier this year.

(Via Engadget)

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Subscription service offers ‘wonder box’ of analogue photography films to try

Subscription service offers 'wonder box' of analogue photography films to try

Interested in discovering 35mm film photography, or keen to get back into it after an absence? Film supplier Analogue Wonderland is starting a new subscription service – you fork out £50 and get every two months you get six different 35mm analogue film emulsions to try. The company has over 200 different films in stock, and the first ‘Wonder Box,’ to be sent out this month includes: Dubblefilm Bubblegum, Bergger Pancro 400, Ilford Pan F, Lomo Metropolis, Rollei 400S and Kodak Ultramax. We caught up with Paul McKay from Analogue Wonderland (below) to find out more.

Subscription service offers 'wonder box' of analogue photography films to try 46

Why did you decide to launch the subscription service for analogue film now and what exactly does it involve?
Ever since we started Analogue Wonderland in May 2018 we’ve had customers ask us for ‘a regular delivery of different and fun films’ so the idea’s been there from the start. There are obviously some logistical issues when you incorporate a subscription service into a regular retail business: website code, payment providers, the warehouse set-up… there were changes in all three.

But we had done this work and originally intended to launch the subscription in March this year. The pandemic had other ideas, and we had to delay to cope with the wave of regulations and supply issues on the business. So we are thrilled to get back on track and finally go live. With every subscriber receiving six films every two months – along with some exclusive goodies and discounts – it’s a perfect way for folk to learn and experiment with films outside their normal shooting experience.

Can people choose which analogue films they get or do you choose for them?
We choose! With over 200 films available on our site, there has always been the opportunity for people to ‘pic-n-mix’ their way across brands, formats and types of film – but with the Analogue WonderBox we’re looking to help people methodically learn the differences between different emulsions. We have a community of other folk on the same journey who help, and we release tips and tricks every week.

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Why did you decide to arrange for delivery every two months, rather than every month?
It gives people much greater flexibility to shoot the film at their own pace. We know that some folk will happily shoot three films in a week or a month, but for others who are fitting their hobby around many other things in their lives they might not be able to do anything for five weeks, then have a fortnight to shoot away happily.

It’s also more economical for us. Paying less postage each year means we can afford to include better films in the WonderBox at the same cost for subscribers, and it’s more environmentally friendly. All our film ships fresh and with many months on their lifespan so there’s no concern that holding onto a film for a few weeks will risk the quality of the results.

Do you also advise people with getting their analogue film developed?
I’m definitely not an expert in film development – I leave that to the wonderful people who run labs! – but I know enough to be able to help people just starting out. The development, and scanning, of films can also drastically impact the final results of certain emulsions. Where that’s the case (like with DubbleFilm Bubblegum) we will highlight that in the week’s ‘Tips and Tricks.’

Are most of your customers returning to analogue film photography after a lay-off, or trying it out for the first time?
A real mix. Broadly speaking there are the ‘youngsters’ who are discovering film cameras, the film aesthetic, the joy of taking a physical photograph – all for the first time. And then there are also people who used to shoot film, moved across to digital and experienced all the benefits and convenience of shooting like that, but ultimately miss the tangible nature (and smell of chemicals) that they got with film. Ultimately everyone these days tends to be a hybrid shooter – I myself take a lot of photos of my young family on my iPhone as well as my Canon AE-1.

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Did you see an upsurge in interest in film during the lockdown, as people had more time on their hands, or has business been quite stable?
It’s hard to say conclusively. For the past two years we’ve experienced lots of new customers coming to us and talking passionately about (re)discovering a love of film – and obviously a lot of that is down to us being a new company.
At the same time we invest heavily in advertising to folk who we think might be interested in film.

This does not have a great return in the short (or even mid) term but it’s an important part of what we’re trying to do – to build the film community for the future, and to empower photographers with the right information and inspiration to feel comfortable adding film to their shooting toolbox. That can only come with new people entering the market and helping drive it forwards. All of this is definitely helping create interest in film which will hopefully benefit the entire industry.

Further reading
The essential guide to shooting film
Best used film cameras revealed

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Analogue WonderBox is a Subscription Service for Trying 35mm Films

Analogue WonderBox is a Subscription Service for Trying 35mm Films

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Analogue Wonderland has just announced Analogue WonderBox, a new subscription service that sends a curated set of 35mm films to analog photographers every month.

“Every week we get questions from folk getting into film photography – either for the first time or returning after a couple of decades in the digital world – asking for film recommendations and expressing amazement with the range available,” the online film shop says. “We want to capture this enthusiasm and join together as a community to help people
learn and enjoy new films, while shining a light on some of the lesser-known jewels of the analog world.”

Photographers who sign up for Analogue WonderBox will have three rolls of 35mm film delivered to their door every month. For example, the September box gives subscribers a roll each of Dubblefilm Bubblegum, Ilford Pan F, and Rollei 400S (with extra goodies comprising a cyanotype kit, a free development for a roll, and an exclusive piece of AW merchandise).

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Subscribers will receive information about the films along with tips and tricks for getting the best photos from each film’s unique look. Subscribers can also participate in an ongoing photo competition that offers prizes every month for photographers who share their photos and experiences with the films.

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A two-month subscription (for 6 rolls total) costs £50 (~$65), which averages out to about $10.80 per roll. While this is a discount for some films offered by Analogue Wonderland — a roll of Bubblegum costs £12 (~$15.50), for example — it’s a higher cost for other rolls that would be cheaper to buy individually (e.g. Rollei 400S costs £5.50/$7.13).

However, as a subscriber, you do get the convenience/excitement of receiving a brand new set of films to try every month as well as surprise goodies in the box.

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Head on over to the new Analogue WonderBox page if you’d like to subscribe. Shipping is free for customers within the UK.

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