Hunt's Photo and Video is New England's imaging equipment leader. Although they have eight locations around the New England area, Hunt's is still a family owned business that makes sure every client feels comfortable with his or her purchase and confident in its use. We were able to catch up with Michael Mitchell, Hunt's Director of Retail Operations, and he filled us in on a few trends he's seeing in photography. He also shared some of the great Lensbaby work that some photographers from the Hunt's team have shot. Interview and photos below:
What are you seeing as a trend in sales?
This is a really exciting time to be involved in the imaging industry. For us, one of the coolest things going on right now is the thirst for knowledge at all skill levels. Seeing image makers exploring new techniques and equipment is very satisfying for us. On the equipment side of things we are seeing a lot of hype around smaller and lighter mirrorless cameras, especially ones with big sensors. Another growing trend is the desire for new perspectives and uniquely creative images. Never before has an overhead view, like that provided by drones, been accessible to your average person. These new perspectives don't just come by air, with manufacturers stepping up the ruggedness and underwater capabilities of cameras, stunning images can be created under the sea or even in harms way. New lens options are also a driver, long lenses without the size and weight are getting people closer to the action, ultra wide angle lens are warping our sense of reality.
What do you think is the most overlooked resource for customers to utilize when shopping for equipment?
For better or worse, there is no shortage of information or opinions out in the world. Finding a way to distill that information is a real challenge, which I believe is where we come in. Getting your hands on a product before making the purchase is something I dont think we do enough of. The sad reality about online reviews and message boards is that a lot of the comments are made without ever holding or testing the product. In todays world, most retailers have adopted customer service policies that are designed make sure the consumer is satisfied with their purchase. We encourage customers to come in and get products in their hands, if it feels and looks good, take it home. If you get it home and it doesnt look or feel as good as it did in the store, bring it back. Wed rather you be out having fun taking pictures than carrying around a boat anchor.
What are your customers excited about these days? What inspires them and drives their purchase of new equipment?
Advances in technology combined with the ease of social sharing is spurring a lot of creativity today. A perfect example can be seen in low light photography. With each generation of camera, ISO ratings are pushed to levels no one could have imagined when shooting film. This new found freedom is allowing photographers, as well as videographers to create breathtaking images of the night sky. When these images start to pop up in one's social feeds you cant help but wonder what you can create or what envelope you could push.
For a creative mind this is certainly a very fun time to be involved with photography. Being able to see work from across the globe in an instant helps drive our need to create our own unique style and image. Seeing what a skateboarder in Seattle did with a Lensbaby Fisheye can make an architect in Boston look at their work differently, straight crisp lines of their latest building project become curved and exaggerated creating a new world for the viewer to explore.
It is clear that we are all in search for a voice, whether in comes from a new sensor or the latest lens, there are plenty of tools to help us find it.
What do you see as the most valuable way to educate your customers and help them make purchase decisions?
Having a family full of educators, one thing became clear to me; Everyone learns differently. For that reason, we try to provide as many avenues as possible to share our passion with our customers. At Hunts, classes can range for custom 1 on 1 instruction, to group experiences with 100 of your closest friends.
One of my personal favorites is our photo walk program (Im a hands on kinda guy). Our concept is pretty simple, do what we love: Take Pictures. Two of our amazing photographs will take a small group out on location for 3-6 hours for some hands on guidance. On the walks, we teach people how to get the most out of the gear they already have while giving them an introduction to some new tools at the same time . Its definitely been a rewarding program for us, as we get to share our passion and develop a real sense of community among participants.
I also love what happens with our 1 on 1 instruction. One of the coolest things I see in these sessions is people getting ready for life changing events. Weve had people getting ready for their first child, where missing a moment is not an option. Weve also had folks getting ready for retirement - looking forward to replacing the 9-5 with hobbies they always wanted but never had time for. The best part is that no matter what the goal is, the passion is always there. Make sure to check out Hunt's website and to like them on Facebook.