Business Trends
The Business Side Of New Technology

Today's photographers often find their greatest business challenge is keeping up with new technology. How do you keep track of new digital equipment and software? How do you know what is right for you?

First, decide if your business is client driven or technology driven. If you are "client" driven you will probably wait until there is a need expressed by your clients for the new technology. "Technology" driven photographers will buy new and developing techniques for the joy and competition of the quest. The difference reflects the photographer's personality and their client base. Which is right for you?

Joel Becker, Becker-Cline Digital Photography (Norfolk, Virginia), says, "We decided it is inevitable so we better get the jump on the competition. We are now considered the digital photography experts in our market, but not until after a one year learning curve and much chest-beating."

Brian Tremblay, Brian Tremblay Photography (Ontario, Canada), feels, "In my market, the customer is more concerned about value for their money. I think a photographer who tries to keep up with technology can be like trying to keep up with the `Joneses.' Technology today is a money pit, especially in the areas of digital imaging. You always have to have the fastest, clearest, most up-to-date equipment. Sometimes a photographer can fall into the trap of wanting the latest gizmo, but not having the market to exploit it on in order for him to earn back his investment."

Stephen Webster, Photo-Illustrator (Columbus, Ohio), says, "Don't jump on every wizbang bandwagon that comes along. It is very important to stay aware of what is out there, but only adopt what you truly need to accomplish your already created goals. It's too easy to get involved in what the technology manufacturers tell you that you `must have to survive.' Talk to your peers who have worked with the technology for a while before investing your time and money into something that may not help you enough to justify your output."

Webster has other reasons for making new technology decisions, "On the flip side, the communications technology has been a godsend. When I got into the business, fax was a novelty, then a must-have. Along comes the Internet, which allows me to work with anyone in the world `real time' from Columbus, Ohio. So for me the Internet has become part of the standard `equipment' in my studio. But once again, it works for my market and may not have any application to another photographer."

Tad Crawford, Publisher, Allworth Press (New York), offers another approach, "One important way that we keep up with the new technology is to use consultants. We often use outside suppliers, so we benefit from the specialization and skills that they have developed. In terms of in-house expertise, we use consultants both to set up systems and train our staff."

Use this check list of factors to help you make critical decisions. Here is how you can keep up with the business side of new technology:
· Read at least one high-tech trade magazine each month.
· Go to any of the Internet or digital trade shows.
· Seek out the opinions of your peers but be sure to get the facts and the results of their experiments.
· Find a tech guru or two and get to know them before you need to know them.
· Be realistic about the time, energy, attention, and money new technology changes will cost and the return on your investment.
· When learning new technology, start with some long-time subject of interest, such as travel or fine art.
· Plan the time to explore; go to classes and research; don't wait until you have to learn something new.
· Absolutely love what you are doing or change directions before it is too late and you feel you have invested too much to do something else.