Archive for May, 2017

The end of January saw some necessary hardware upgrades of which one, the new 2016 Mac Book Pro, was an absolute pain in the proverbial for a couple of weeks.

So when you spend some serious money on hardware to assist your business you would at least expect it to work properly. Now we already have Macs and they have proven their worth in the photography side of things, especially with batch editing massive amounts of RAW files after events. Some of you may know what I mean here with the word ‘massive’ though if you are new to the blog then a typical event will garner some 5000 images on average with up to 14,000 images on national final and similar event size dates.

We have tried Windows based PC’s and to be honest they just don’t stack up against the Macs. Speed difference is blatantly obvious to the naked eye let alone when tests are run for comparison. Indeed after purchasing a so called Dell powerhouse of a laptop, which was allegedly a competitor for the Macs, it soon became obvious that this was a complete waste of money, business wise. We ran several tests, side by side, and the Dell just lagged behind in every test we did. Now we are no PC testers but loading or processing batches of identical images through photoshop, side by side, showed the windows based machine was a true snail of a editing machine. That’s the Mac v PC explained for us.

So the new MBP was unboxed, loaded up with operating essentials and prepared to be thrown in at the deep end. The deep end was the British Schools Gymnastics Association Trampoline Finals in Newcastle. This is a huge event for us and indeed the third year we have covered the finals. The rewards can be somewhat hit and miss, depending on the amount of parents who actually attend the event. More parents mean more sales and you have no idea on those numbers until the day arrives and competition begins.

Parents aside our first major issue began after setting up. Fully bench tested at home the Mac was fine and did as it should with everything required. With all the photoshop actions transferred over and new save locations adjusted this should have been as any event set up yet something was seriously amiss …….. the Mac wouldn’t link to our external display. We swapped displays between Macs and the 2012 Mac worked on both yet the 2016 Mac just wouldn’t see the external display. It had worked in testing. at home, so what was the issue here? This was new kit so straight to Google we went and what we found was not good reading. Plenty of 2016 MBP owners complaining that their machines were either intermittently seeing external displays or not seeing the displays at all. Now ours had seen the external display at home so why not here.

To cut a long story short we ended up completing a whole national series event with only one display operating which was a major hindrance. Tweets were flying between ourselves and Apple trying to resolve the issue with things moving onto phone calls in attempts to reset the software responsible for the Mac to see the external display. Nothing worked and trying to do this between potential customers was just ridiculous and embarrassing. Apple Care, to be honest, did the best they could when Apple as a company had clearly sent out machines with known issues. I had read of people having this issue from the machines being new some six months previously, so my blood was boiling before things had even started. You would expect that this would have been quickly rectified by such a manufacturer yet it would appear not. We know this whole debacle cost us money as the whole editing to print process that includes the input of customers took an eternity. Ordinarily the customer is looking at the large external display as we operate the laptop. Discussions on editing are done in real time and the whole thing runs smoothly. Take away the external display and the whole system falls down. Turning a laptop to face a customer up to 20 times during editing takes time you don’t have with a large queue. Some waited patiently whilst others simply walked away at the time it was taking.

Not a great start with the new MBP.

Ouch 1

Issue number two was not too far behind. Photoshop was just crashing constantly and when this happens several times whilst trying to serve one customer, all parties can become quite rightly frustrated. Apple Care were bemused by this one and indeed it carried on for several days until it appeared to simply rectify itself.

I was initially informed it was a glitch, not to worry and just use the machine as normal. When I informed Apple that Photoshop was crashing because of the apparent lack of memory, I was then informed that this was a known issue and on the “to do” list at Apple and then told sorry but you’ll just have to wait for the update. Non of this helped us on the day and of course being a small business we can’t go knocking for redress at Apple. What this will do however, is ensure that I know all potential issues that could and would affect us will be shown to be non existing or resolved before I purchase a brand new updated model again. Whilst manufacturers love to see people queuing for the latest model on release day, I will not be amongst them with Apple products.

A screen shot of the memory allocation issue.

Yes 1.22TB of memory taken on a 500GB drive ……. go figure 😡

Ouch

 

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The year certainly kicked off in style and other than the first weekend we were booked for all subsequent weekends. Year on year this was a large increase as have been the bookings for the entirety of 2017. We either have odd days on a weekend spare or no space at all until the second week in December. Word of mouth has seen us be snapped up over several regions and now with the equestrian work a weekend off will be rare. We have however reached agreement that for 2 weeks in August I will not take any bookings and leave 2 weeks empty as agreed in 2016.

The middle two weekends were both gymnastics with the North West BSGA Zonal Qualifiers followed by the North West NDP Individual & team qualifiers. Both huge weekends for not only ourselves but those involved I would say some 800-1000 competitors were involved over each weekend. A massive undertaking for both organisers and ourselves which I am pleased to say ran smoothly for both sides.

We now offer some new versions of our popular event montages which have gone down well. Maintaining prices at £10-£25 depending on how many images are chosen we have simply mixed the orientation of imagery that can be selected. This has allowed imagery such as team photo’s that tend to be landscape in orientation to be mixed with action images that tend to be in portrait orientation. Further options are currently being trialled for offerings.

January ended up being our busiest January for the last five years. It also yielded the highest take and subsequent conversion to profit too. With repeat bookings for next January we can hopefully rely on a good start to 2018 also.

This blogs image is a triple montage from one of the gymnastics events.

Jan 17

 

2017 started off with a whole host of new bookings within the gymnastics event coverage. Building on the success and increased work of 2016 we had been booked to cover a whole host of UK gymnastic qualifying events throughout the North of England. Whilst at the same time last year we were taking stock of the year ahead, assessing our existing and planning new equipment we were planning hotels and travel for the January event bookings.

Now let’s be honest here in that we all want to be busy, all year, and this year we have indeed almost reached saturation point for weekend bookings. There are literally a couple we have free in July/August though I’m expecting those to probably go with our new line of event coverage.

Whilst being busy all of the time is indeed nice and rewarding it does cause an issue for some basic requirements such as servicing equipment. Items such as the die sublimation printer should be serviced every 2 years and ours has now slipped into its third year owing to this quick start of business. Our servicing centre wanted 2 weeks for turnaround and with them being closed for the whole xmas period this was just not tenable. Reading the forums though this shouldn’t be a cause of concern for up to 5 years. I just hope the stories of longevity and robust build quality also apply to our printer which I will give a big cuddle before each event.

Both of our Canon 5Diii’s have now exceeded 100,000 actuations with one now over 160,000 actuations. The cash to replace or repair them sits patiently in an account as I’m not just purchasing against a what if scenario. We know the higher shutter count body is the main issue having exceeded the 150,000 manufacturers guarantee yet I know of 5Diii bodies well in excess of 200,000 clicks and still going strong for fellow event photographers. Spending oodles of cash, on a “what if” policy, to simply have the latest bodies is not my style. Indeed I could replace the current 5D’s with brand new 5D’s & grips for less than a single 1Dxii after the recent price drops. This will be explored when the inevitable happens and I see how deep my pockets are yet how short my arms seem to have become.

The only new piece of equipment, so far this year, has been the acquisition of a new Mac Book Pro to replace the windows laptop which was simply pathetic at handling large amounts of RAW files. This gives us two MBP’s for events which are now making the whole desk workflow system work superbly. I’m certainly not going to slag off the windows laptop as I’m sure it will have uses for some but as a large RAW file handling machine and Photoshop processing tool it just didn’t cut the mustard for us.

So I really ought to mention our new avenue of work which we have been signed up to cover. This opportunity arose, as almost always, through a recommendation from an existing customer. The world of all things equestrian was requiring a local photographer to cover some regional competition work and would we be interested. To cut a long story short we applied, exchanged business details/models, discussed expectations and agreed to a one year trial contract. It was a great decision, business is brisk and being published in national horsey magazines certainly doesn’t harm our reputation. More on this in a future blog.

The image I will leave you with today comes from the studio. Yes we still have the studio going between all the weekend event work, not as busy as I would like it to be but then we have never promoted it and just rely on word of mouth.

This lovely young lady just had the most beautiful eyes and amazingly didn’t require oodles of bribery from her parents to look into the camera.

eyes