Hydro goes to Vegas

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The team from Hydro Photographics Port Macquarie recently attended the annual PMA conference in Las Vegas. Focus chats to the team about what new skills and techniques they have learned and brought back from the Las Vegas conference.

> What roles do each of you have in the different departments within Hydro Photographics?

Iain: My role at Hydro is to coordinate the School and Team section of the company. No School or Team is too small or large; from Ghinni Ghinni Public near Taree with 5 students up to John Paul College at Coffs Harbour with 1,070 students, we can do them all. The favourite part of my role is delivering back the quality photos usually within 10 working days. The team work hard to photograph, print and pack the images and I get to deliver and to take the accolades – it’s great.

Annemaree: I am the Wedding and Freelance Sales Manager. I follow up leads for photography shoots, book them in and organise the staff to shoot them. I train my staff in sales techniques to handle the sales themselves and also assist in the training of the photographers.

Michelle: As the Production Manager I am responsible for the processing of all the Schools and Teams after they have been photographed, along with acquiring stock. I also trial and test new programs and order stock and photo gear. This includes researching wholesale prices to save money and ensure quality on all purchases. This keeps Hydro delivering our great ‘Value for Money’ products and services.

> You all just attended the annual PMA conference in Las Vegas. What was the event like?

Iain: PMA is the leading annual photo imaging event, with over 20,000 people attending. PMA hosts retail entrepreneurial memory makers from around the world, including photo retailers, professional photographers, mass merchandisers, professional labs, custom picture framers and scrapbook retailers. The PMA International Convention encourages the discovery of more opportunities and the inspiration to act on emerging trends. Further opportunities are found at the PMA Trade Show, with over 500 exhibitors offering more picture-related products than any other event.

> What most interested you at the event?

Iain: My main area of interest this year was in the area of marketing School and Team packages. This year’s focus was on meeting the customers’ needs; at Hydro we do that well. There were a number of lectures I attended that showed me that Hydro is an international front-runner in the school and teams area. Team photography is very popular in North America, and there are a number of concepts I returned with to promote that section of the market for Hydro, including fundraising with photography – not only for teams, but schools as well.

Annemaree: The sessions with professional photographers and keynote speakers. This is where they share their skills in photography and how they market their work. There was an abundance of sessions in the sporting and school category. I attended a session by Clay Blackmore, where I actually got to be the subject photographed. Being on the receiving end of instructions on how to pose was a great learning curve personally for me.

Michelle: This was the second PMA I have attended (having also attended the 2008 PMA). Again, it was an awesome experience where so much information was on offer. As a Photographer and Production Manager, both the seminars and the trade show were of equal importance. I would have to say that this year listening to the speakers talk about new products and then actually being able to source suppliers on the trade floor for these products was fantastic. Attending the Seminar with Will Crocket from Shootsmarter.com was brilliant again this year. Will is a guru when it comes to testing and talking about new products.

The Hydro team in Vegas

The Hydro team in Vegas!

> What new skills/products etc. will you be bringing back to Port Macquarie?

Iain: Apart from the marketing and promotional ideas, I attended a number of lectures on lighting and posing, mainly to understand the mindset of a photographer.

I am like any dad with a camera. I think I can take a photo like a pro. You have to light the subject and correctly pose them, otherwise it looks just like a photo that mum or dad took.

Annemaree: I have come back with new sales skills and also interpersonal skills to use within the business itself, new products in the lighting/ studio area and posing techniques for our photography sessions. Hearing how others work on their business outside Australia is great, because it reassures me we are among the leaders in the photography industry.

Michelle: Greater buying power through networking with new suppliers and being up to date with new equipment for using in the studio and school/team shoots. New techniques and posing to further the knowledge of our photographers on photo shoots and new design ideas to improve the Hydro Photographics image and our school and team photo packages.

> How important is it to stay up to date with technology and new techniques for your business?

Iain: Everyone knows that the photography industry is always on the move. The products of 2008 are already superseded. Our commitment to attending PMA gives the staff a competitive edge beyond what our competitors will experience for the next few years. The technology and ideas that we have brought back edges us into 2010 and beyond.

Annemaree: Extremely. I remember when Paul came back from PMA in 2004. It was when we were in town. He came back with ‘film was dead’, and we had to change. So we moved to the industrial area (where we are today) and haven’t looked back, still concentrating on our photography. Having the latest cameras and studio equipment ensures our photographers are not only up to date, but can enhance their own photography skills. So, thank you Paul, for keeping us up to date by giving us the incentives to work towards going to PMA.

Michelle: Attending PMA is all about staying up to date and working on improving the future business plan for Hydro Photographics. As Annemaree mentioned, Paul removed our film processor 5 years ago and changed the business plan to shoot full digital and move to a more suitable larger premises in Jindalee Road. Now, as technology improves, use of chemistry based printing machines are being overtaken by dry labs. It is now we need to be planning the future business for the next big changeover.

> What were the other highlights of your trip?

Iain: I have seen a fair bit of Vegas in the last two visits, and you know the saying: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. We have ridden roller coasters both on and in casinos and seen mini parts of the world.

Each casino has a theme. It could be New York, New York and yes, you are in NY. Paris, trust me … it is just like being in Paris, complete with a half sized Eiffel Tower to take in the lights of Vegas from. The shows that the casinos put on are spectacular. Do yourself a favour and get to Vegas at least once.

P.S. Yes they do have gambling in Vegas, but be like the team from Hydro – gamble responsibly. The locals don’t call it ‘Lost Wages’ for nothing.

Annemaree: Vegas is Vegas! I made sure we were all in bed by midnight, and my colleagues thanked me for that. We visited Old Vegas one night to see a spectacular roof lighting display on the band Queen.

The networking was fantastic. Making new friends from around the world and Australia is one of the highlights of the trip for me. We were there for 5 days and attended PMA for 4 1/2 of them, so we were kept pretty busy learning. We hit the tables on the last night, and Vegas has only 50 of my dollars, so I think I did pretty well. How about you Iain?

Michelle: In both years attending PMA I have spent $6 all up on gambling. There are a lot of people that might laugh at that. The greatest part of Las Vegas is experiencing another culture, meeting and networking with new people, catching up with friends made last year and the awesome lights of Vegas.

Our evenings were a hit, enjoying cuisine from different venues (the Italian was awesome), a trip to Old Vegas with a tribute to Queen at the hourly lightshow, a trip up the Eiffel Tower at Paris to view Vegas from above under lights and to watch the Fountain lightshow at the Bellagio, as well as a roller coaster ride at The Sahara.

Also, not to forget last year’s experiences: a flight out to the Grand Canyon, a fine evening meal up the Stratosphere in the Top of the World restaurant with Paul, Shannon and Iain, along with the Big Shot ride on top of the Stratosphere that shoots you straight up into the air on top of the tower.

Being employed by Paul has provided me with so many opportunities and benefits. Before last year’s Vegas trip, I hadn’t been out of Australia, wow! Now I’ve been to Vegas twice!

> Thank you everyone.

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