Today, we’re interviewing Fred Blake, Business Partner and Manager of Foto care Rentals. Fred, having been in the photo industry for many years, has a particularly broad knowledge base incorporating both the shooting, manufacturing and retail sides of the photo industry. Fred has been with Foto Care for fifteen years.
First off, why would a photographer consider renting equipment?
For the professional, if they’re in need of a product they may not currently own, or perhaps a piece may be too expensive for them to purchase at that time; this is where we can help out. Other times, we may have a photographer that’s called to do a very particular type of job where they may only need specific equipment once.
For passionate amateurs, renting allows them to take various gear out for test-drives to see what works for them. While at the same time, it gives them access to a broader range of gear when special occasions like vacations, weddings, births or graduations come up.
Most of the time it’s more economical, technology moves faster than the time it takes some equipment to pay for itself (especially digital and hybrid video cameras)
How do I choose a good Rental Facility?
Honestly, price shouldn’t be the primary consideration. Most rental houses are in the same ballpark. For us, we pride ourselves on working with our customers based on their budget restrictions or working within the specific budget for the project at hand.
Proximity and accessibility should be factored in as well. There may be times where on site training on a product may be the best way to learn. Most importantly, a facility’s breadth and depth of its equipment is the leading reason as to where one should rent. Can a facility support what it rents? Can a facility suggest the best tools for the job? At Foto Care, this is what we pride ourselves on.
Talk to us about your staff’s knowledge:
Our staff has been with us an average of eight years, with some having been here for decades. The fact that we’re all passionate techies makes this not seem like work. We go out of our way to test drive every piece of equipment. It’s amazing how eager everyone is to get to know the hardware as soon as it comes in. Plus, part of our job is to be able to troubleshoot with our customers over the phone so we all need to understand the ins and out of each piece of gear we rent.
All of us have our particular areas of expertise but everyone seems to have jumped on the video bandwagon in a big way. We are becoming video hybrid experts. Things have been moving so fast that keeping up is critical. Video is just exploding. We’re adding microphones, special lighting and lenses that we’ve never had before based on demand and interest.
Talk to us more about the depth of equipment you offer?
Having the newest/latest equipment available for our customers is critical. And not just one or two either. Our depth of equipment and inventory (usually having 10 or more of something) is key. For example: We have more then 90 broncolor powerpacks; more than anyone in the country.
Foto Care has built a reputation on Outstanding Customer Service. How does that apply to Rentals?
It’s always been important, I remember one time Avedon Studios called from India with a problem: They were shooting the Dalai Lhama in 8 x 10 format with very limited time restrictions so every piece of film needed to be usable. With exposures all over the map, they needed to process the film by inspection so we ended up finding them night vision equipment to help them process their film.
These days, some of our newer customers will call to discuss various lighting scenarios they are considering and ask for our recommendations. Helping problem solve with them is one of the highlights of our day. In fact, often we’ll set up lights here at our facility to show them a particular setup. Fortunately, our facility is quite large and allows us to show a variety of setups to our customers. The time investment for us is important because this is their job at stake, and we see ourselves as a trusted partner in their business. And this doesn’t just apply to the working professional. We want all of our customers to be comfortable with the gear they rent from us. That’s why they keep coming back.
What can a customer do to ensure they get the best results?
1. Call orders in advance:
Most errors are made when under pressure. If this is unavoidable, check your equipment before you leave. Ten minuets at the counter can save you two hours in set.
2. Ask questions:
We’re not just handing out a box with no support. We expect our customers to ask us questions. In fact, we encourage it. We’d rather help answer all your questions when you’re placing an order or when you pick it up as opposed to when you are out on location or back in your studio. And b all means, keep asking questions until you are comfortable and satisfied. In photography there is more than one way to achieve most goals.
What do you recommend for customers consistently ordering over the phone?
If you start an order over the phone, get the name of the rental technician. This way, if you call to follow up with questions, there is continuity by dealing with the same person. We also except orders via email. Really, its whatever works best for you as a customer.
When picking up an order, what should customers know and do?
Go through your equipment. Look at it. We try to pack orders as accurately as possible but there can be misunderstandings. Sometimes funny ones: Someone the other day asked for a “Gary Coleman” C-Stand. Huh? Hadn’t heard that one before. What they wanted was a short 20” C-stand versus a 40” stand. With all the slang in our industry, it’s easy to misunderstand what folks are sometimes looking for.
What are some of the things to keep an eye out for?
Clean, maintained equipment, especially clean sensors. It’s a matter of pride with us. You can tell a lot about a rental facility by how clean and well maintained their inventory is.
Anything else people need to know?
All rental houses in NYC require deposits, valid identification, and, in some cases, proof of insurance. It’s a very good idea for photographers to have insurance. This not only protects the photographer but the rental department can take a reduced security deposit for the value of the deductible.
Is there anything else you want customers to know?
Foto Care constantly offers seminars and lectures for continuing education of our customers so check our website and sign-up for the Foto Care Newsletter which comes out twice month. And get out and shoot.