Great Ideas for your Small Business:
Use a Digital Camera for Your Website
One summer, john and betsy powell, owners of Salt Marsh Pottery, skipped the Atlanta gift trade show they had attended for years. It just didn’t seem worth spending $8,000 to participate in the show, which generated only $16,000 worth of orders.
Still, they didn’t want to lose the business. So they printed and mailed colored “sell” sheets to the trade show attendees. Soon after, they booked $16,000 worth of orders, and the phone is still ringing.
The Powells produced the sheets themselves in a couple of days using a digital camera, a computer, and an ink-jet color printer. The camera cost about $1,000; they also use it to shoot product photos for their website.
Steve Morgenstern, author of Grow Your Business with Desktop Marketing (Random House, 1996), said rather than using run-of-the-mill clip art to convey ideas, small businesses can put their products on display fast. “The combination of digital cameras and computers to print or electronically publish color photos is the second publishing revolution for small businesses, following desktop publishing, made possible by laser printers and computers,” said Morgenstern.
Like other digital media, digital cameras allow you to view, erase, or edit images before you print. To edit the image, you connect the camera to your computer via a cable. There are a variety of software programs ranging in price and capability, so shop around. Adobe’s PhotoShop is widely used, but is a bit pricey for small business owners. With the right software in place, you can adjust the brightness, contrast, and size.
Once you’ve concocted the best image, you print it out with a laser or color ink-jet printer. With a modem, you can send the image by e-mail to a customer or post it on your own website.
Professional-quality digital cameras, like those used by Sports Illustrated photographers, start at $15,000, and go up. But digital auto-focus cameras for the layman cost less than $1,000. A good ink-jet printer can be had for under $300; however, the special high-gloss paper you need for images costs about 75 cents a sheet.
There is a downside: While digital images are quicker and easier to manipulate than traditional film images, the quality is still not as good as film if you want to produce a high-end catalog or advertisement. And professional photographers will tell you that digital images pale compared to those they shoot on film. Morgenstern also cautions: “Unless you use an expensive laser printer, the quality of photographic output doesn’t match the clarity of a drugstore snapshot reprint.”
Some advantages of going digital
- No per-picture expense. After you buy the camera, there are no film or development costs. You can fire away, free of charge.
- Immediate results. Wonder whether you got the shot? Just hook the camera up to your computer or view the results instantly on the camera’s built-in LCD panel.
- Easy integration into digital media. With desktop publishing tools, digital cameras provide powerful graphic ammunition with minimal fuss and bother.
- Easy transmission via fax or modem. With a digital camera, you can grab a picture and quickly send it by e-mail or print a copy and fax it.