This is the entire Vickie Siculiano – Smarter Online Marketing Podcast interview with Matthew Sweetwood, President of Unique Photo in Fairfield, NJ

The interview is also broken up into bite-sized tasty morsels, as they well deserve, and so do you — I know your time is valuable.  The index of individual podcasts and video posts are below the transcript.

Please post your comments and questions for us both, we are listening to you and appreciate you tuning in!

Full Transcript:

Matthew:    Good morning. Good afternoon.

Vickie:     Good morning, Matthew Sweetwood. How are you today?

Matthew:    I’m doing great.

Vickie:     I’m super-

Matthew:    Hopefully spring is starting, but I don’t know, it’s pretty cold out there.

Vickie:     That would be so nice. I know. I’m hearing about all those global warming and I think this might be an aftereffect. I don’t know.

Matthew:    It feels like global cooling to me.

Vickie:     A little bit. I’m very, very excited here to bring you today Matthew Sweetwood of Unique Photo. I just want to give you a little background about this super enormous personality that we have here today on our show. Okay. Matthew began his full time career at Unique Photo while he was attending Penn State. He was an early-

Matthew:    Wait. It’s University of Pennsylvania. We use to wear T-shirts that say Penn, not Penn State, so I’m the University of Pennsylvania. We can’t let that go.

Vickie:     Is that so?

Matthew:    Yeah. Penn state, they have a little bit of problem with men and children, they’re out in the middle of the state. We’re ivy league and we’re in Philadelphia. Keep going.

Vickie:     Got you. I appreciate that you fix that on me. I do. Okay. Matthew has been become nationally known as a marketing innovator, a risk taker, and an extremely quick and creative thinker. He’s personally been involved in the acquisition of over 50 US and international trade marks, for both language and design at Unique Photo and he founded and run the Ozzie Award winning publication Photo Insider.

Most recently, he’s been credited with the reinvention of the successful modern camera store Unique Photo which is the country’s largest in store education program Unique University, right? He’s been a regular photography contributor on Fox News and I’ve been up at 5am watching that, NBC Today Show, News 12 New Jersey, and all their high filed programs. Also spoken publicly for organizations like UPS, FedEx, NJ Devils Hockey and BMW.

He’s a devoted father of five, all of whom still live here in New Jersey. He’s an avid New Jersey Devils fan, and he’s also running their largest fan forum. He’s also an advance auto racer with the BMW club, and of course he’s a photography expert. That’s why we’re here today, so, Matthew-

Matthew:    I feel like we’re on a dating site or something like that. I should use that.

Vickie:     She get a little high chairs like having a dating game.

Matthew:    Exactly right. I think I got to take out the Devils stuff. We’re kind of lousy this year so I don’t know.

Vickie:     Is that so?

Matthew:    I’m a [inaudible 02:47] fan, per se.

Vickie:     That’s no fault of your own though. You do what you can.

Matthew:    I don’t know. I brought them bad karma or something. I don’t know. They’re not very good.

Vickie:     Not sure if it’s you. I haven’t said.

Matthew:    Maybe not.

Vickie:     You’ve been nothing but good luck for me.

Matthew:    That’s so sweet.

Vickie:     Matthew, I want to ask you a question.

Matthew:    Sure.

Vickie:     That I think is of interest to our audience here. How did you get your start in photography?

Matthew:    Okay. For me, I entered photography really in a reverse manner. I entered photography not really having any formal training. Not really knowing much of anything, but running a business that sells photography supplies. You learn by osmosis. I lack for a better, other word. I mean, you’re around photographers all the time. When we reinvented this camera store, one of the components that I wanted to add was an education program.

I believe that if you want to run a successful company, you have to believe in your product and you have to be an expert in your product. You can’t just run it from a distance and not really understand. I always use to joke in corporate America that the corporate CEO is in many cases didn’t even understand the product that their own company sell. They can be a CEO in any position. They open spreadsheets and they sort of move numbers around and look at return on investment. Without understanding the essence of whatever it is that you sell. Sort of its DNA.

I don’t really think you can be successful in business. When we transitioned our business, let’s say 5, 6 years ago really from a wholesale business. Where we sold photographers, we have a mail order business. Our store is open 6 years in June. When we transitioned that business I really felt like I had to really gain expertise myself. Even as the company’s chief executive, I still had to gain insight myself into photography. When I built the education program I said, “Okay. I’m going to learn it, I’m going to start taking pictures.” I can’t say that I regret doing that. I love photography. It’s my hobby.

Vickie:     Absolutely, and Unique University is you baby in fact?

Matthew:    That’s right. It is. Absolutely. The way that came about, because we sort of talk about a couple of times about reinventing the camera store, the old camera store model was a film based model. Some of us are old enough to remember film. You are like only in your early 20’s so you probably don’t remember film. I’ll sort of refresh for our viewers what film is about. The concept in film in a camera store is that a customer would come in and buy film. That would be one trip to the store.

Vickie:     Okay.

Matthew:    Then they would come back and bring back the film to be developed. That would be two trips to the store. Then they’d come to pick up their prints and that’d be three trips to the store. Every single picture was three trips to the store. In addition to that, you couldn’t buy film on the internet. There was no internet. Cameras were not as ubiquitous as they are today. You really only bought a camera in a camera store. Now you can buy a camera in a Staples, wherever you are, online, everywhere.

The camera’s ubiquitous, they lost the film model that generated customers coming in to the store. Even single use cameras were popular at one time. They brought traffic in and out for the same reason. The camera, once to bring it in for process, so on. That model went away, all the camera stores went away. You add in the internet, you add in all those other things. Digital photography basically took away the thing. The camera store.

What I did was I took a look at the modern cameras and said they’re very, very complicated. People don’t really know how to take pictures with them. They’re computers. Let’s create an education based model which draws people back into the store.

Vickie:     Right.

Matthew:    That’s what happened. When you run an education program, people will continue to come back to you over and over again. In addition to that, you really change your relationship with the customer. Look at the relationship that we started – that you started with my company. Not just us personally, but you started with my company you don’t see us as a retail store necessarily. You see us as a resource. That is just your attitude towards the store. Many cases, a retail store is an adversarial relationship with you, right?

Vickie:     Right.

Matthew:    You go into the store, you want to get as much as you can for as little as you can. They want to get as much money from you, and get you to buy as much as possible. We sort of transcended that relationship here by creating an education based model. You view us as a teacher more than a seller.

Vickie:     Absolutely, and I agree with you with that, that you’re a resource more than just a seller of photography products. I’ll say this, okay. This changed my life. Okay. This is my Canon T4I. I love shooting with my DSLR, you can’t get depth of field with any smartphone like this.

Matthew:    They don’t really quite work as low light.

Vickie:     They don’t. You have such control of this. You made me an animal. I’m a complete shutter bug. I’ll say I took a Unique University class, and we’ll talk about this a little bit more, it was a DSLR introductory course. It introduces me to the machine, the mechanics. For me, it was learning how to fly a plane. I had no idea what to do with this, it was very scary, but I knew that I needed to get better in sharing the visuals, because I was doing a lot of work in the internet. Developing websites and stuff. I needed great content for a great website. Not just okay pictures that kind of showed what we wanted to say, but I would have control of those photos that made people really want to sink their teeth into that.

Matthew:    Absolutely.

Vickie:     It wasn’t just about how to take better photographs, but it was about learning how to use this. It was so scary to me. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Matthew:    The university program that we have here was really designed for beginners to professionals. We try to look at all area of photography. You’ll see in our programs, you’ll see classes for working professionals, you’ll see for aspiring professionals and so on. The most popular class is the class that you took. Between 500 and 1,000 people through that program to multiple classes.

If you notice the classes you took is relatively small in size. That program is designed to get the user from just leaving the camera in automatic mode. The camera on the green button. We always say we’re going to get you off the green button on the camera, right?

Vickie:     Absolutely. That little green button right there.

Matthew:    That little green guy there. Good for you. I see your camera is on manual.

Vickie:     It is. I have to give credit. Okay. Totally, I learned with Mike Downey, with Rick Gerardi who are monsters in photography. You hired these professionals that just teach you from the ground level how to take great shots and be in control of this. I never shoot in any automatic mode. I know that I shoot in AV, TV. I actually learned how to shoot with a light meter so that I can actually pop it into manual. You made me a complete shutter bug. You did.

Matthew:    That’s right. That’s the idea. The cameras today are really amazing. If you leave the cameras in automatic, you can get 70% of your pictures. You can. There’s 30% of the pictures and those are the ones that usually you want the most. You can’t get with the camera in manual – in automatic. You have to know how to manipulate the camera, and we teach you that. If you notice, that course also wasn’t just about the sort of very basic mechanics of the camera.

Part of that program was the art of seeing, where we started to talk about how you start to visualize pictures. How you start to visualize composition. You’ve been in other classes here. You see that we have a whole wide variety of ways of teaching photography. Like you said, we change lives. Unique class and forever, for the rest of your life you’ll be able to capture the most important memories, and business events. Things that relate to you better than you ever did before. That’s really a change in life.

Vickie:     Absolutely. I think really that introduction to composition and what actually is the frame of your picture, what story do you want to tell is pretty much what it boils down to.

Matthew:    Looking at you right now, and it’s funny how you sort of set your own area where you have yourself in camera. I can see it’s a photographer. How you framed it. You got the monitor in one-third, you’re in the middle third, and your say wow is in the other third.

Vickie:     I’m going to actually show you something that I keep here in my office for inspiration. Just didn’t make it to this crop frame that I have right behind me. This is actually a photograph that was taken on my very first photo excursion. This was in January 2013. I want to say with Mike Downey at the Brooklyn Waterfront. Amazing. I learned how to take a shot like that. That was me. That was like my first photography excursion ever.

Matthew:    Wow.

Vickie:     Ridiculous. Then we took another one. It just shows you that you can totally do this yourself. You just have to learn. Education is the key to anything.

Matthew:    What I’m saying is what’s really interesting is to watch how your eye has change. You’re using photographic technique to set up the set that you’re sitting in right now. I can see it. I can see how you applied the rule of thirds for the way … you see it in the rule of thirds. Right?

Vickie:     Absolutely. See it’s creeped into every aspect of my life. Even in setting up this Logitech HD webcam that I have here. I actually had to go into the advance settings and set my exposure, set my-

Matthew:    You become more comfortable with the technical aspects of things.

Vickie:     Right.

Matthew:    Absolutely.

Vickie:     You apply all of these things in everything that you do. Especially when you’re creating visual content. This video is going to live on YouTube. The podcast is going to be available in iTunes. Don’t you want to make sure that everything that you produce is great right out of the gate?

Matthew:    Absolutely. Of course. The only thing good that’s really cool about photography is that it’s fun. It’s one of those hobbies or interest or occupations that’s actually fun. You’re capturing life. You’re capturing images. You’re capturing people. It’s really a fun thing.

Vickie:     Absolutely. Especially for businesses that I help. People just think that they have to take product shots or they have to take pictures of people in action. If they have a service based business, they have to show the people producing whatever it is. It’s also about the people behind the scenes and the team. I know that your team is excellent at social media. Always showing people behind the scenes, tell me a little bit about that and the other kind of photographs that you’re doing.

Matthew:    We’re really trying to keep it to the marketing area. Your marketing message has to carry itself through every aspect of your business. It’s not only outward marketing. You don’t have to market inwardly. You have to convince your staff. Your staff has to be completely on board with that. You want them to be projecting the same message. I can sit in the corner office here and have all sorts of ideas and ways I want customers to be treated or to create the image of our business.

If our employees, if our staff, if our members here don’t feel that way, they’re not going to really project that to the customer. I spent the significant amount of my time doing quality internal marketing. It sounds a little bit majoritive, but it’s not. It’s really communicating internal with the company message and getting everybody on board with that. By doing that, they then will project out the same message. It translates itself. When you’re in the store, you have a pretty uniformed experience no matter what sales person you walk up to.

From simply that wear a blue shirt, but it’s not just wearing a blue shirt. It’s the way they treat the customer. It’s the way they talk outwardly. It’s natural that the natural extension for that would be is their social media. When they talk about photography and when they reflect what goes on the company would reflect that also. We actually work directly and indirectly. Sometimes it’s direct, sometimes I’ll be like, “Here’s a really cool piece of information that we learned exclusively from the vendor. You send it out to you people and you say, “Hey. Send these out to your friends.” Then they become more authoritative.

They’re are sort of conveying this cutting edge message that we want from the company. You have a unified message out there. One of the most successful companies in the world and actually a company that reinvented itself is IBM. IBM said, “Hey. We have 400,000 employees. Imagine if we could get all of them or enough of them acting in unison in social media. We can own social media space. We can own some intellectual space out there. They’re actually a model company for doing that. Obviously we’re a smaller company. I try to match that model whenever possible to get your staff behind what you do.

Vickie:     I think it’s excellent. I think it truly.

Matthew:    You have the troops working for you. Let’s get the troops working. Today, a lot of times you’ll see an objection that well it’s my personal social media account. So what? It doesn’t really matter. You’re still in control of it. All we want you to do is sort of keep the conversation going. That is a very, very important part.

Vickie:     I’m glad that you’re so on to that, because a lot of companies think there’s so much red tape that they have to go through. They’re just kind of fearful that somebody’s going to say something that they won’t be able to retract out there in social media. You just kind of welcome it with open arms, because you’re so confident in what you’re offering. I think that’s really important in businesses to believe in.

Matthew:    There are some issues with that, but just remember it’s their personal account they’re sending out on. As the top executive I can sort of say, “Okay. I can be fearful. I can say something.” It’s ultimately their account. If they’re going to say something so provocative, that’s going to reflect itself in other ways. We just never had a problems. We have really good people working here. I’ll say that now. In bigger companies, they have guidelines and they will actually have written guidelines for what you can say about the company.

The interesting thing, I was just at a marketing conference where this topic was actually discussed in details. What’s really interesting is that the requirements for internal Twitter accounts, and Facebook accounts and so in is very strict. If you work for IBM let’s say, or you work for us and you’re twitting us the company, there’s very strict guideline for what you can say. Those guidelines relax a lot when it’s your personal because it becomes your personal opinion. It’s not the opinion of the company.

You shouldn’t fear it. You should definitely embrace that concept and get your employees to be your voice. Absolutely. Reward those employees that do it on a frequent basis.

Vickie:     Right. That’s an excellent point, because rewarding them is going to encourage them to do more. Sometimes people don’t really have that encouragement. They’re not sure kind of what to do if that was right. People aren’t even giving them any feedback about the content that they produce or whatever it is. I highly-

Matthew:    It’s great that you got a team of people that are supposedly on your side. Use your team. Use your troops.

Vickie:     Yes. Absolutely. With that. I want to ask you this. We spoke a little bit about smartphones, we’ve spoken about social media. We both know that a lot of social media takes place on these. Wherever you are, it’s always available, it’s ready. It’s totally you. I know it. I follow you on Twitter all the time. Yup. That’s it. I just wanted to speak to you about smartphones and what your thoughts are, where it’s going. The importance of user generated content. I think that’s something I want to hear from you about.

Matthew:    See, smartphone, the magic of the smartphone is the communication device that’s with you when things happen. It’s the one that you’re most likely to have. Most of us actually walk around with smartphone. I always want to say mine has a nipple on it. I feed like a baby on it. It’s in my hand as much as babies hold their bottles. For me, that’s really the driving aspect of it.

There’s a secondary photography aspect of it. We talk from a photography perspective. The photography that comes out of cellphones is really relatively poor despite what people think. It still can capture the moment. The good news in the camera area with the relation part, cameras are improving dramatically as we go. You’re going to see a whole new lines of camera that actually communicate.

The cameras are going to take awesome pictures and communicate and they’re going to work in conjunction with your smartphone. You’re going to want to have multiple devices with you. It’s going to be worth it because the smartphone is going to be your communication device and for that quick emergency picture. Then your phone is going to be, your camera is going to be the device that really capture those really important pictures and communicate through your phone to the camera.

Vickie:     Okay. I’m not familiar with this at all. Could you tell me a little bit more about this? A camera is going to communicate with the smartphone?

Matthew:    You’re going to see technology like Wi-Fi direct and bluetooth direct and other methods that are going to connect your camera with your smartphone. Cameras that you carry with you, you’ll be able to take a picture. I saw a technology coming from Samsung, in some of their new camera, you’ll be able to take a Samsung phone and you’re going to be able to touch the camera.

You take a picture with the camera, you touch it to the phone, just touch it. The picture will open up in the phone. Then you can communicate that picture in any way that you normally would. Whether Facebook, LinkedIn, email, whatever it is that you want to do.

Vickie:     Transfers from something like this direct to a smartphone?

Matthew:    Right. A lot of the cameras do it now. Some of them do it, but not very well. You’re going to see that technology dramatically improve. What’s going to happen is you’re going to be able to get the quality that you’re able to get from a camera. All the advantages that you get from a camera, lenses and so on. You’re going to be able to still communicate those pictures, because when you really think about a picture taking circumstance, even when you have your smartphone, it’s usually one picture you’re sending.

You want to capture the essence of it. The camera affords you. It’s very hard to take multiple pictures with a cellphone. It’s very slow. On top of that, you want to use your mobile device when you’re actually out there. When you’re taking pictures, you can’t use it. The camera will allow you to capture multiple, multiple images. Change the settings. Do all sorts of things to really capture the moment, then pick that one picture, tap it, touch it, transmit it, whatever – to your phone. Then communicate it.

To me, that’s the future. There’s just physics limitation in a smartphone that are going to prevent real, real photography. They are getting better, they do get better. Under the right circumstances, they can. Everybody always point to that one amazing picture they took with a smartphone and go, “See, I did this amazing picture.” The reality is in most cases, they don’t capture and people are accepting missing photographs. The camera world is going to boost its self by really building that technology into the camera.

Vickie:     That’s fascinating.

Matthew:    You carry a purse, throw a nice little point and shoot or a small mirrorless camera in your bag. You’ve seen those mirrorless cameras. When you’re in a place where you really need photography, you take it out, shoot. You’ll have that one unbelievable picture. Touch It to your phone and you’ll be able to transmit it, do everything you want with it.

Vickie:     Ready to go. No cables, no [i-fi 21:43, little cards that go in here.

Matthew:    [I-fi 21:47] is okay, but [i-fi 21:50] doesn’t really get you what you need, because what you really do with a smartphone? It’s that picture you want to share instantly. It is a wonderful product, you can upload pictures when you’re in a Wi-Fi location and so on. To me, being able to quickly communicate the picture, I mean, you see me, my social media is just filled with on the spot kind of stuff. I really welcome being able to carry a camera with my smartphone in my pocket. Be able to shoot. Then I have that one magic shot you want to be able to send.

Vickie:     I understand that, because I’ve done event marketing. I know that in an event you’re twitting with hashtag that’s related to that event. It’s very, very time sensitive. You need that immediacy of a smartphone. I’m so glad that you mentioned the mirrorless cameras, because I’m very, very interested in that. I have a DSLR so I have mirror technology. Big camera. No question.

Then you’ve got a great lens, maybe even a telephoto lens, even bigger. It’s not something that you can just throw in your bag and just head out the door. I know Rick Gerrityi does some great work with Lumix. Right? Why don’t you just tell me a little bit more about that, because I know some of our viewers are very interested in that.

Matthew:    Right. Just to mention Rick, because you’ve mentioned Rick and Mike before. Mike Downey, our head instructor here. Rick Gerrity is also a full time instructor here. Rick Gerrity is also one of past Lumix Luminaries. They call them Lumix Luminaries because Lumix, they’re a branded camera. He goes all around the country and we’re actually lucky enough to have him teach for us too. Panasonic or the Lumix brand where they sell the cameras under, their cameras are all mirrorless.

In the camera that you have right there, there’s actually a mirror. It’s called the DSLR. Digital single lens reflects camera. The reflect comes from the mirror. If you take out the lens, which you don’t have to do right now, there’s a mirror behind there. We don’t have to … There’s a mirror behind there. The mirror is a mechanical device and it causes the camera to be larger.

Last two years, there’s been technology that’s been developed. It’s called mirrorless technology where the sensor is right behind the lens. The advantage of that system is that you are able to build a much compact camera. You don’t have as many mechanical parts in the camera. There’s no mirror. In fact, Panasonic just produced the GM1. It’s a camera I actually had on Fox News or I have on CBS a few months ago when they came out with it. It’s the smallest interchangeable lens camera made.

It’s about that big. It’s like a pack of cigarettes size. It takes their entire line of Lumix lenses. That camera takes close to DSLR quality, point you have a very sophisticated camera. It takes very high quality pictures and in fact, Panasonic is coming out with a camera called the GH4 which some are arguing might be the best camera in the world. It’s a mirrorless camera and it has Micro Four Thirds sensor which is a smaller sensor in it. That camera, that compact design is very good.

In terms of everyday use for the consumer, in my opinion probably a consumer in today’s world. Unless they are a very advance photographer really should go mirrorless. Compact size of the camera means that you’re more likely to have the camera with you. We know what the best camera is in the world. The best camera in the world is the camera that you have with you if you need to take a picture.

For somebody like you I would recommend obviously having multiple cameras. You’re moving towards what I call the professional range of photography and you definitely want to have a professional camera. If you’re just traveling around, hey, I’m taking the day with my husband and I’m looking into the city, you take a mirrorless camera. You throw it in your pocketbook, you’ll have a super high quality with a whole range of lenses available in order to take pictures. Those cameras are amazing. They’re fast.

Vickie:     I will tell you something. I was actually taking a wedding photography course. It was on Creative Life, it was online. Okay. This course, the photography expert who was teaching the course was talking about this mirrorless cameras. He shoots I think with a 5D maybe. Like a Canon.

Matthew:    That’s right. Of course. Yeah.

Vickie:     He said, sometimes before the wedding when he wants to kind of get in and get some candid shots of stuff going on, he has a mirrorless camera, because it’s smaller and he can actually go in and nobody knows he’s a photographer. Nobody bother him.

Matthew:    Right. That’s an extremely important aspect, okay? One of the things that photographers states, especially street photographers, people that do people photography, when you walk in with a 5D, and a 24 to 72A, which is a lens about that big and it’s about that big around. It weights whatever, 16 pounds. It’s crazy sharp. Then you have a flash, and you have a flash diffuser on the thing, it looks like you’re pointing some sort of raygun at something.

It’s extremely difficult for people to maintain natural. Even if they’re okay with their picture being taken, when you hold a device like that, many people don’t want or feel uncomfortable. They have self image issue. Everybody does. They don’t like to end so it creates an uncomfortable effect. A mirrorless camera, like that Gm1, I’d take portraits of that without people even knowing. As a result, you get this candid effect which you can’t get in a wedding. You know a wedding shots are like. People are always like, you know they said, you get these unnatural poses. The dreadful pictures.

It’s actually a very clever technique on his part, because he can walk around and sort of mingle. You know when you’re at a wedding, the photographers come, you always notice them off on the corner like, oh, is he going to come take a picture of me? The bald spot taken in the picture, whatever is going to happen, right? With that mirrorless camera, he can walk very discretely around and make people feel more comfortable as a result. Those cameras are amazing and are light. They have amazing speed.

Nikon just came out with a camera. I’m sorry, I should remember the phrase which the camera released. It’s crazy fast mirrorless camera. Shockingly fast camera. It’s about to come out. Nikon has a camera like that. These mirrorless cameras are really for everyday photography are really the way to go. As a matter of fact, going back to Panasonic and their Lumix camera, the GH4 is going to shoot 4k video in a mirrorless camera. That’s going to be a camera that’s this big. Small top. It’s a little bit bigger than some of the mirrorless cameras but still smaller than the camera that you have there. It could shoot 4k video.

Vickie:     Tell me a little bit about that. The 4k.

Matthew:    4k video is the latest format in video. You’ve seen it. I’m sure people have seen it talked about. It’s been in the news. It’s the next step from HD video. From 1080p. It even gives a more realistic effect in than the failed 3D technology. It’s really quite amazing. I don’t want to get to the technical side. It’s not really important. For me, that 4k video actually will have a greater effect on still photography than it will on video. For people in the photography world, and the reason is that with 4k video, you can produce stills from 4k video. It’s something like 60 stills a second.

Each of those stills are 8 megapixels. For example, let me give you without sort of illustrating in pictures. Let’s say for example there’s a lightning storm, all you have to do is role the video and then you go back into the video and I promise you, you will find the bolts of lightning in one of the frames. You will have an 8 megapixels still of that. I have seen amazing effects of that. I have seen soccer matches where a person has captured the ball as it is at maximum completion as it strikes somebody in the face. You see the ball … because they’re able to video it and pull out a single frame.

That to me, this 4k video is going to be a really big revolution. You’re going to start to see it in more and more devices. Getting back to what you were saying, was it’s in these more compact cameras. Seeing 4k video in a mirrorless camera. My advice to be would be for the regular consumer mirrorless really at this point is the way to go. If you’re looking sort of to be an advance photographer, and you think that you’re going to do that in the future, maybe the traditional DSLR is good.

Then you’ll start to acquire DSLR lenses, because you have lens issues. You want to have lenses that works. If I am entry level, and I knew that really was just photography will just going to be fun for me. I would buy mirrorless. If I thought I was going to be a little more serious about it, I would then look at more systems a little bit more carefully.

Vickie:     How about for businesses that want to just include some better marketing photography? What should they start with?

Matthew:    To be honest with you, in that case where size doesn’t really matter, I probably would go, I probably would lean towards DSLR photography. You can have a better run in hooking up lighting and doing the things that you have more traditional features you have on a DSLR. You’re going to tripod, mount the camera in many cases. To me I probably would still go with DSLR style photography. I’d buy there Canon or Nikon and buy one of their DSLRs and actually do that.

If you’re mobile, if you’re going to do that and you’re mobile, like you’re out in trade shows and stuff like that, hundred percent, go mirrorless. We want you on trade show, you’re carrying enough stuff, you’re doing all that stuff. You want to have the most compact camera you can have.

Vickie:     You want to be able to just move. You want to go.

Matthew:    Obviously, I can’t take any camera that I want with me and do anything I want with them. Whenever I do event photography, it’s with a mirrorless camera.

Vickie:     Okay. Interesting. One thing that I just want to share with people, one of the ways that I was really able to find out what worked for me with this kind of camera, the DSLR, it’s a Canon T4I was instead of investing in this really big lenses to see if I was happy with the lens, if it will serve me well. Should I get a wide angle, should I get a macro. I was able to go to Unique Photo and rent the lenses before I actually invested in them. It was so worth it for me.

Matthew:    Absolutely. The expensive the fast last. Those lenses are several thousand dollars. Sometimes you only need them a few times a year. Renting is extremely economical. Our renting program, we have the largest rental program in New Jersey, one of the largest in the country. The reason why people like it is it give you a whole variety. I think we have a several thousand products in there. Okay. Maybe we have a thousand products in there.

You have an actual disposal. You can rent them anytime you want, try them, you need a fisheye lens, you want a fast telephoto lens. Those lens could be a few thousand dollars, you can rent it for a few dollars. You have access to it and you can try it. Actually, we have a program where if you rent it and then you decide you want to buy it, we apply part of the rental to the buy, it’s a really, really good program. It’s one of our fastest growing programs. It’s one of our largest programs.

Highly recommended for businesses. Particularly when you have a particular application, you need a lens, come in. You can reserve it right online, and come in and grab it.

Vickie:     Absolutely. If you just have a need maybe for something over a weekend, you just take it, you can get the three day rental. It’s just a nice to just have something at your disposal without having to sink in all of your dollars and invest it in this product.

Matthew:    [crosstalk 33:04] For example, let’s say you came to me and you said, “Okay. I’m going to shoot my friends a party over the weekend, or I’m going to shoot the wedding or something.” You’re capable of doing that now. I wouldn’t go with the T4I. It’s not super strong in low light. It’s a medium level camera. You can come in and rent a 1DX. It’s an $8,000 camera and you can be a pro shooter for the weekend and get a pro camera for a small amount of money. You already have the lenses. You don’t even have to rent lenses. You can actually rent the camera body.

Vickie:     It’s interchangeable with that particular camera?

Matthew:    Right, because you have Canon lenses. You can come in and rent a 5D Mark III. Let’s say you wanted to do an event, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the T4I for low light event kind of thing. I would say, “Hey. You should be using a 5D Mark III. Come in and rent the 5D Mark III. You already have the lenses. You don’t even have to rent the lenses. You’ve already got them. You can just take your lenses, borrow the body for the weekend, rent it for the weekend and shoot.”

That’s a really, really good technique too. In many cases, for businesses, renting really is the way to go on this all the time. They don’t always have the latest camera available to them, we have really good technical support here, we’ll help you along a little bit. We’ll be able to show you how to use the stuff. To me that really is a smart thing to do. It’s a great point.

Vickie:     Absolutely. I would just say that when I’ve had questions when I was going along, your instructors are fantastic. Sometimes, you have a question when you’re getting involved. You have to practice with photography. You always have to shoot. I’m a shutter bug and I’m thankful that you made me one, but you really have to practice and sometimes you have a certain application. Say you want to shoot something that’s moving, I had an event that I was shooting.

It was a triathlon. It was something that’s going to be using the panning technique that I have learned with Rick Gerrity. He was running across the room and we have to track him. It was something that I just wasn’t sure about. I wanted to make sure that my shoot was perfect on the day of the event. You can’t really say, “Wait. Can you hold everybody’s triathlon running right now?”

Matthew:    That’s right. Slow down for me. Stop.

Vickie:     Just stop right there.

Matthew:    Start the race over again.

Vickie:     Sometimes you just want to go back and to Unique Photo. Go where the experts are, just make sure you’re doing it right. I practiced panning. I’m friends with Rick on Facebook so he was always helping me behind the scenes. I’m like look, look I need to do this. I’m always practicing down the driveway. My husband was riding his bike down the block and I was like snap.

Matthew:    That’s really nice if you’re friends with him on Facebook, because Rick is a very lonely guy. He needs friends.

Vickie:     Is that so?

Matthew:    I encourage everybody … That’s totally not true. Everybody in the world loves Rick. I’ll just something else. You don’t have to reach out to our official instructors. If you come in on our store, every single person that works in our store, every one of them, if they wear a blue shirt, I have a stylish blue shirt.

Vickie:     I have a blue shirt.

Matthew:    Yeah. That’s right. We’re all blue today. Give me a pound.

Vickie:     Pound.

Matthew:    We’re all stylish blue. The guys and gals that wear the blue shirt in store, that means their working photographers. Every single person that works behind the counter at Unique Photo is a working photographer which means they possess a lot of knowledge. We dispense free technical support. You know, you walk in the store, you ask them, they’ll gladly help you with anything.

Vickie:     I know.

Matthew:    We encourage that. We’re in the business discussion, not just a photography discussion. That’s really an important model, because you become a qualitative as a business like that. People want to come in to the store because they’re not just coming in for you to take their money. They’re coming in to participate. To become part of what you have here. That’s really, really an important part. When you walk in to the store, we’re friends and so on, when you walk in the store, you feel comfortable in there. You don’t feel like you’re going to get pounced on. That people are trying to sell. If you just want to come in and talk photography, we’ll do that. It’s a comfortable place to do that. It’s extremely important for a business to do that. To create an atmosphere where people are comfortable to come to a business. Even at a retail store. It doesn’t matter what kind of business it is. You want your customer to be comfy.

Vickie:     Your little coffee section. Little coffee talk. I had conversations there with many of your staff.

Matthew:    I am a consumer of our coffee. We have a coffee bar. A gourmet coffee bar. Right?

Vickie:     Yes. Absolutely.

Matthew:    Many times, we actually hold corporate meetings there. When I have heads of state come in here, heads of corporation head in here. Nobody wants to sit in a conference room and look at the pictures of whatever. They want to go sit on the store and see where all the action is. We have really nice place out on the store to sit and discuss and feel like you’re part of the community. We have great coffee.

Vickie:     It’s totally great. I just wanted to ask you, Matthew, if there are any exciting projects that are coming down the pipe for Unique Photo?

Matthew:    Actually we do. We have a couple of really interesting things coming down. The column is like, few of them are like, I don’t want to call them secretive, I’ll be careful about how we describe them. We’re going to have a very, very special photo booking product that’s going to come out where in we’re actually going to have an exclusive with one of the big manufacturers in our business. They’re going to be producing an extremely high quality photo album. We’re going to be able to offer that to our customers.

It’s a photo book. The reason it’s really relevant here is that it’s a book that businesses would want. It’s not just sort of like you go have a birthday party and you go produce sort of this amateurish photo book. This is a production quality book that professionals going to want. Something that you can hand out to corporate clients or something. This is going to be available relatively shortly. Only at Unique Photo. A couple other things we have going on here, you’re going to see a change in, I’ve been talking a lot about Panasonic, because we’re working with them.

That coffee bar area that we just talked about is actually going to be transformed. The whole corner is going to turn into what’s called a Lumix lounge. It’s going to be a place where photographers can hang out. It’s going to be better, more comfortable sitting in there. There’s going to be a continuous running Google Hangout from in there. Podcast, social media and Panasonic is working to do product launches and have photography seminars right from the floor of the store which we’ll be able to broadcast over the internet.

That’s a pretty exciting and relevant. Maybe the next time we do one of these interviews, you will come in to the store, we’ll sit next to each other. Maybe we’ll bring in some other guest. We can also do it remotely too. Not all the guest have to be on the store. We’ll actually run a Google Hangout or we can do Skype or both or whatever it is. We can broadcast this live all over the place.

Vickie:     Nice. That will be awesome.

Matthew:    The store is actually going to be a function like that. It’s going to be a social media place.

Vickie:     I know. That’s not surprising coming from you. I was actually kind of toying with the idea of should I do this on a Google Hangout today with you, because I know you’re pretty high tech and stuff. I just wanted to test the Skype waters and see what we have going for us today. I think this worked out very nicely.

Matthew:    I do too. Usually when you do a Google Hangout, unless you do a lot of pre-marketing, and I like this. We can talk about marketing. It doesn’t really necessarily offer an advantage. The advantage of doing Google Hangout is you can do it live and broadcast it to a lot of people. Basically you and I are the only ones who know right now we’re doing this. You’re going to take the podcast of this, you’re going to take the video of it, we’ll put it on YouTube. That’s where we’ll be able to broadcast it out. Google Hangout is good if you pre-advertised it and then you get people to watch live.

Vickie:     It is.

Matthew:    This kind of thing, I really think this is perfectly-

Vickie:     I think it’s great.

Matthew:    It’s really great too.

Vickie:     I think one of the things that I like to do is a little post production after. I know that-

Matthew:    The idea with me, because you definitely want to be able to edit me. I’m dangerous.

Vickie:     Is that so?

Matthew:    That’s right. You ask me to keep this G rated which I took some meds beforehand so that I can do that. I didn’t really strip down, I didn’t body paint myself, I didn’t do anything like that. I didn’t try to body paint you.

Vickie:     Because, we have to look forward to something the next time, Matthew.

Matthew:    I see. Okay. Next time, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do a Google Hangout from my store. You and I are going to get body paint.

Vickie:     I’m thinking chicken feathers.

Matthew:    Chicken feathers? No. I like the body paint. It’s kind of sultry, you know, chicken feathers. I have a few people that I wouldn’t mind taring in chicken feathers. You can save that for the third one.

Vickie:     Little different. This has been so much fun today, Matthew. I want to leave on an inspirational note. I want to ask you what is your favorite photographer, maybe an inspirational quote you could share. Something that inspires you about photography.

Matthew:    Okay. Here’s what I’m going to say. For me, since we have in our university, we have had a set, I don’t want to say everyone, we’ve had a large amount of very well known photographers who have come through out facility. For me to pick one, it sort of like what’s your favorite food or what’s your favorite … I don’t know. For me it depends on the kind of photography, like I have my favorites.

I think maybe what I’ll do is I’ll mention a few of them. I’ll just say it sort of like this, who would I want to learn from? If I were an event photographer, I think I’d want to learn from Hanson Fong. There’s nobody better at posing, there’s no better instructor than him. He’s a Canon explorer of light. For me, he’s the guy that really communicates that kind of thing well.

Vickie:     What’s the last name again?

Matthew:    Hanson Fong. He’s from Canon. If I wanted to talk about Americana photography, sort of capturing the moment, we’ve had a photographer in here. He was a former White House photographer. His name is Chris Usher. He was very inspiring for me, because way back when we had him in, the little light bulb went off in my head when I watched his photography. I realized that not every image had a tack sharp. I’m a very mathematical kind of person so everything needs to be perfectly clear and focus. He had a lot of images which had motion and blur. My little brain, the little light bulb went off in there. Oh. Wow. Not everything has to be tack sharp. He really is very, very inspiring. We’ve had a Art Wolfe in here. He’s considered one of the best. His images are breath taking. I can just go on and on. The photographers, we’ve had Gregory Heisler in here, who some considered the greatest portrait photographer in the last whatever number of years. My personal friend Robert Farber, his images are breath taking. I can just go on and on in naming photographers.

Vickie:     Sure. I bet, but it’s great to see that you have photographers that inspire you.

Matthew:    Absolutely. I see them on the seminars and you want to be inspired.  You go in there not only to learn how to click the dials. You see these photographers and you learn how to become inspired. I’ll sort of end because you asked for my inspirational quote. For me, I think it’s not necessarily about photography, but it’s about life in general. It’s for business people. All business people really need to think like this.

My motto, my slogan is how badly do you want it? If you think about that, if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. You want your business to succeed? Just keep asking yourself, how badly do you want it? How badly do you want it? That to me is my motivation. When I look at something and I say, “I need to get from here to there.” I say to myself, “How badly do you want it?” I do it in physical fitness, I do it in everywhere. To me I drive myself like that and driven people are the ones that are most successful.

Vickie:     That’s great. I couldn’t have thought of someone more driven than you, Matthew Sweetwood, and I thank you so much today for today’s interview.

Matthew:    Thank you, Vickie. It’s a pleasure being here. I look forward to our next one.

Vickie:     Thank you very much. You can look for this podcast on the smarter online marketing podcast, it’s an episode that’s coming up shortly. The video will also be available on YouTube on my channel say wow marketing. Okay. If there’s any questions, post your comments below this video or email me at vickie, V-I-C-K-I-E How can they contact you, Matthew?

Matthew:    I’m available at Twitter at @msweetwood. You can reach me, I’ll give you my email. I love hearing from people out there. I’m Matt, M-A-T-T So Twitter really is good @msweetwood or Also, a lot of this content, we’re going to be obviously social media this content. You will be able to find that on my Twitter, you’ll find that on Unique Photo’s twitter, on our Facebook and so on. We’re going to really promote this lovely interview out there.

Vickie:     All over the place.

Matthew:    All over the place.

Vickie:     Thanks again, Matthew.

Matthew:    Happy spring to you.

Vickie:     Happy spring. Bye now.

Matthew:    Bye.

Individual episodes:

The start of Unique Photo (video part 1, podcast episode 12)

Learning Photography (video part 2, podcast episode 13)

Photography, Marketing and Social Media (video part 3, podcast episode 14)

The future of smartphones and photography (video part 4, podcast episode 15)

Mirrorless cameras (video part 5, podcast episode 16)

Benefits of camera and lens rentals (video part 6, podcast episode 17)

Unique Photo experience and Google Hangouts (video part 7, podcast episode 18)

Upcoming Unique Projects (video part 8, podcast episode 19)

Words of Inspiration from Matthew Sweetwood (video part 9, podcast episode 20)

The individual video parts are also available on YouTube and podcasts can be heard on iTunes and Stitcher

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3 comments on “VIDEO: Matthew Sweetwood Interview – Unique Photo on the Smarter Online Marketing Podcast

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  3. Vickie Siculiano

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