6.23.2018

Keeping my eyes on the right balls. Re-marketing after six months of distraction.

 If you think my posts have been a bit random and distracted over the last six months you're probably right. I've had a lot on my plate and sometimes the business of photography got short shift. You can only juggle so many plates at a time and it's incumbent upon us to pick the right plates to juggle and to try and keep as many as you can from crashing to the floor...

I've wrapped up a bunch of family and legal stuff and feel comfortable enough, at the moment, to re-engage with the core of my photography business. When you are working your way back from nearly zero to a level which you enjoy and which pays the bills I think it's a good strategy to go all the way back to the genesis of your work and to figure out what kind of content brought you to the highest point of your historic achievement. For me that's always been making portraits.

With that in mind I've been ramping up a series of mailers directed toward existing, previous and potential clients that inform or remind them of some of the strengths of our essential business. And for me it's the portrait work.

We're doing a bit of painting and renovating in the studio space; may put down a new floor, but the real work lies in the development of a new
portfolio that is lighter on studio work and more weighted toward environmental portrait work. It's a gamble, like all things, but it's certainly not life or death.

On different note I've finally dialed in my headshot work with the Nikon D800e camera and the 105mm Nikon lens. It's a nice combination that returns great files. The first files I've been able to pull from the D800 series that work well as black and white images. I look forward to Nikon producing a truly professional mirrorless camera in the near future because I'd love to be able to work more fluidly in the square aspect ratio.

I've also been testing the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens for the Nikon and I'm making good progress at understanding how it fits into my style of people photography. The focal length might be a better fit for the square format..

I've also been playing with the D800e's video files as written in Pro Res to an Atomos digital recorder. They are actually quite nice. They make me more focused than before on getting the D850. I hope it comes off back order status very soon. That, and a few more Sigma Art lenses and we'll be closing in on two highly useable systems that each have a reason to be in my studio.

And now, the controversial statement: Finally, and I'm sure this will be a sticking point for some, but I want to congratulate the U.S. Supreme Court for changing the interpretation of sales tax liability across state lines. It's about time our local retailers have the ability to compete head to head with online retail without having to take a 8-10% penalty. What this really means, beyond flattening the playing field, is that states will have more revenue for valuable social and infrastructure programs that are necessary in a growing economy and advancing civilization. Yes, your state may spend the money stupidly, but that may be greater impetus for you to get involved in local and state politics in order to help make things better.

To my readers in other countries: yes, it's true. Most Americans watched their local retail establishments (for cameras ) whither and die so they could (in most cases, illegally) avoid sales tax and skate out on paying state use taxes. And then they routinely turn around and bitch as roads, bridges, schools, parks and other local resources ran out of money. It was a sad situation and I'm happy the courts have stepped in to correct it. If you still have a local retail camera store count yourself lucky and make sure to price shop them for your next purchase. Keep your cash local where it will benefit your family and neighbors the most.

10 comments:

  1. I'm with you on the sales tax thing, Kirk. Amazon made it easy when they opened a distribution center here in Pennsylvania, and began collecting the state sales tax. B&H doesn't, or hasn't, so I have a separate folder for B&H receipts, in order to report PA use tax each year.

    Certainly, I do not like any governmental waste. But, I also believe that we all need to "pay our way" in order to have decent roads, utilities, schools, police, and so on. I don't know about other states, but in PA, local real estate taxes make up the bulk of school funding, so even if we no longer have school age kids at home, we need good schools for all of "our kids."

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  2. Thanks Mike. We are on exactly the same page. Property taxes pay for a lot of Texas School stuff but we also have (in my city) a sales tax of 8.25% which funds much of the municipal government = the "last mile." If we want nice stuff we have to help pay for it. And I conjecture that most people who are avid photographic hobbyists are not going to struggle much to pay their fair share of sales tax.

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  3. Agree on the tax.

    I hope the folks at the capitol will spend it wisely and get at least some of it into education. I don't have a lot of faith in them, but a guy can hope.

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  4. I live in Portland, Oregon. Oregon doesn't have sales tax, so our local ProPhoto Supply (very good) camera store has not been at a competitive disadvantage. But I wish we did have sales tax, because education and infrastructure are badly underfunded in Portland.

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  5. "(in most cases, illegally) avoid sales tax"

    Isn't it illegal in 100% of the cases? I'm not familiar with a state that has a sales tax but doesn't also have a use tax. And when you sign your state tax return each year, you are swearing under penalty of perjury that you paid all of your use taxes. Double illegal.

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  6. Online retail sites charging full RRP for items is daylight robbery, because they should be able to price lower with their lower overheads. Yes, B&H and Adorama, that's you I'm talking about.

    What should happen now, is not that local stores will be revitalised as custom moves back to them, but the online retail giant robbers will drop their prices by however much it takes to maintain share, which means their customers seeing the exact same total bill as before, now including tax. They will still be raking it tin big time, but not exactly as unfairly big as before.

    To the consumer: no change.

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  7. Interesting .... The Australian government will be charging 10% tax on all imports from next month, and requiring major retailers to collect it - Amazon's reaction is to geo-block us from all international sites, and require us to use their local site which has a limited range of often overpriced items. Of course, there are (somewhat tortuous) ways around it, but Amazon won't be getting my business unless they are the only source of particular items I might need. If other international on-line sources can do it, it puts them on a more equal footing with local retailers, and allows the Government to fund schools and hospitals better, I can't see why Amazon should be the exception.

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  8. Similar problem in UKwith people buying direct from China — the sellers bet on the import tax being avoided and they pay it if they are caught. Actually the responsibility for paying it is with the buyer so they are (probably) acting unlawfully.
    Richard Parkin

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  9. I have mixed emotions on this one. I live outside the US in a country with a 20% VAT and no local distributors so my "local camera store" with which I have a long established relationship is an Internet shop. I have used USPS authorized remailers to collect stuff, at one time in Florida (no sales tax) and currently in Houston (8%), which then gets sent to me to use when I am in the US. I hope this helps really serious local shops to survive and keep showrooms open. But I don't know how many can do this well enough to compete.

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  10. Like most of the commenters, I support this change.

    Like South Dakota, which won this case, there needs to be a minimum amount of sales in a given state before the out-of-state retailer is obligated to understand the hundreds of tax regimes (state and municipal) across the country.

    Also - Amazon has already been collecting sales tax in almost all states that have one for their own sales (not for other vendors using their platform). And while they have more than 1/3 of all internet sales, they have only 4% of all retail sales in the country. So don’t expect any sort of massive revenue increase to the states from his decision.

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