A Picture is Worth a Thousand Dollars - Why Dealers Need Good Digital Photography

By: Jeff Garrett • Feb 22, 2010 • 1 Comments

In the antiques business...this is without a doubt, the absolute truth: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

For years, I was one of those old-school guys who thought the antique business came with the "have to see it, feel it, touch it" prerequisite in order to make a sale...Wrong! Enter cyberspace and the digital age. And, enter the major paradigm shift from an old-school antique dealer into this new way of selling online.

I remember the old days of the good old Polaroid! We'd buy the film in bulk, very expensive-about a buck a shot, and snap a picture and hand it to the customer. I also remember many photo prints from decent Minoltas that were dark and wasted lots of film. Plus there was no way to get good detail from a Polaroid. I think they must be nearly extinct by now (or very collectable), but back in the day Polaroid shots were a staple for me. At least we didn't have to take the film to the drugstore and wait a week for processing! While 1-hour photo processng soon followed and was more convenient, nothing beats the ease and convenience of today's digital cameras. Who would have dreamed that the Kodak giant who once dominated the U.S. would initially pass on digital and stick with film and processing? Mind-boggling. I recently heard where Kodak used to have soemething like 400 processing plants around the country...now they have 4! Even more mind-boggling!

Amazing how technology leaves some in the dust but creates huge markets for others. Bottom line, everyone must stay ahead of the curve or be left behind. Even those old-school antique dealers like me!

At our store, we still try to maintain prints of most of our inventory for our customers to take with them. Wait, there is a "but" coming. While the print is great to ensure the customer walks out remembering that item, 90% of our designers take photos with their own digital cameras or have us email them pictures. We love it. We don't always have to worry about always having a print ready. Plus the inherent perks of emailing a photo: it's a great way to get the client's email address for future announcements. Brilliant!

Another element of photography in general is the sheer quality of photos. Even cheap digital cameras take decent shots, but for internet postings, advertising or proposals, a good camera is a really great investment. For the most part...

we have had very few returns from Internet customers, as we try

to send multiple shots highlighting the piece's details.

A good camera can capture almost any detail one might need to see such as wood tones, patina, hardware, drawer linings, back construction and interior construction such as dove tails, joints, pegs, etc. Photos also show a multitude of sins including defects and damages.  Overall, good photos give your buyers a very realistic idea of the piece - just short of viewing it with their own eyes.

Digital photos will continue to be a mainstay in the antique business, for certain. Good photos are critical for customers to feel confident about their purchases. Surprises are no fun for either party...customers can develop a bad taste for internet antiquing after just one bad experience.  If you're a dealer shipping cross-country, you know how difficult it can be to remedy these little snafus.

I strongly encourage every dealer to get on board...or, as I have said above, get left behind.  Don't discount the power of a photo. Definitely worth a thousand words, and maybe a thousand dollars.

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