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Getting Great Photography at Reasonable Prices … and More Jeweler Questions Answered

Hiring photographers to shoot inventory, analyzing growth rate, and more.

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PHOTOGRAPHY

I was quoted $25 a shot for a photographer to shoot my inventory. That seems expensive. I’ve got hundreds of pieces I want to put on my website.

We hate to break it to you, but that’s actually on the cheap side. Because of the interplay of light and cut, jewelry makes a demanding subject for any photographer. So you’re best advised to go with a pro with jewelry experience and a portfolio to show for it. And for that, you should expect to pay a little more. Michael Mendizza, a veteran art photographer who is also a part owner in Z Gallery in Solvang, CA, notes that $25 is not really an appropriate base because of the many other factors involved including preparation and processing. “High quality photography of jewelry is expensive — $50 to $250 per processed image depending on the set-up,” he says, adding that catalogue images will go for $50 plus an initial set-up fee of $250. Display imagery will run more, $100 to $250 per finished image, he says. If you’ve got a large inventory and are satisfied with what will essentially be snapshots for your website or catalog, try shooting the pieces in a 12-inch mini tent, says the Z Gallery’s founder, Zdena Jiroutova (who despite being married to a photographer — Mendizza — appreciates the need to keep her photography costs under control). “Bright filtered daylight and a camera are all that’s needed,” she says. For those on a tight budget, Jiroutova suggests looking for a photography student at a local college. “We found a young man who does all the processing for us for $17 per hour — a deal!” she says.

DISPLAYS

What is the best color for displays or floorboards for showing diamonds in a case?

It all comes down to how much light you have in the case, says Larry Johnson, author of The Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry Display. “If you have strong lighting, you can use darker shades of fabrics such as dark grays or even black to make the stones really reflect light,” he says. “If you have average light or less, and most people do, you’ll need to stay with brighter colors such as whites or beige.”

EMPLOYEE REVIEWS

We do regular evaluations but I don’t feel they have much of an impact. What should we do?

Your situation sounds like one typical in businesses, both big and small, everywhere. Managers don’t want to tell employees they are just OK, so they invariably tell them they are more or less terrific. Evaluations are done, raises are given, and typically there are outstanding workers who feel underappreciated and struggling workers left with no clue on how to improve. This is something that is actually becoming more important as the knowledge economy spreads. A recent study by the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University suggests the old 80/20rule is becoming the 83/17 rule as a few superstars account for more and more productivity. As the store owner or manager, the onus is on you to track who is doing the most important work and reward them. You also need the courage to have those difficult conversations with lower-performing employees to let them know they are coming up short. Then give them the specific guidance they need to improve.

GROWTH

What’s a good growth rate?

Some growth is necessary for any business to keep up with competitors, benefit from economies of scale and provide new opportunities for its people, but there are more important things you should be focusing on. As Brazilian businessman Ricardo Semler noted in his book Maverick, the only things in the world that grow for the sake of growth are businesses and tumors. Worry about cash flow, profit, taking care of your staff and customers, and basically just doing a good job. Growth will take care of itself.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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