VINELAND — With today’s smart phones, virtually everyone is a photographer, capturing life’s important, mundane or absurd moments to share daily with friends and family.
But brothers Bart and Michael Feldman, owners of T&F Camera in Vineland, said this proliferation of cameras is not leading to better pictures.
The siblings are second-generation owners of the camera shop their father, Dave Feldman, opened in 1948.
“It’s good and bad. It’s good because more pictures are being taken so more memories are being saved,” Bart Feldman said.
But in this glut of photos, people seem to care less about the quality of an individual image.
“You look at an amateur photo and a professional photo and it’s a big difference. But people never make that side-by-side comparison,” he said.
The brothers said T&F Camera has devoted itself to helping customers be better photographers. The store offers free monthly classes to help the beginner, novice or pro, and answers dozens of questions daily about equipment, shooting and technique.
Manufacturers this year shipped more than 70 million digital cameras through August, according to the Camera & Imaging Products Association. That doesn’t include phones equipped with cameras. The figure is down slightly from last year, but higher-end cameras with interchangeable lenses are growing in popularity.
With fewer stores such as T&F to turn to, professional photographers are relying more on their colleagues and manufacturers for technical advice, said Shaun Reilly, an officer with the Professional Photographers’ Association of New Jersey.
“T&F has been a place traditionally where people go to get information,” he said. “Our cameras are all Canon. If we have a problem, we can go to the source. To be honest, our biggest resource is other photographers in the area.”
Reilly, an event photographer for Foschi Studio in Linwood, recommends amateur photographers take advantage of the help stores such as T&F can provide.
When Bart Feldman was a boy, he accompanied a wildlife photographer on daytrips to capture bird life from a blind. He would spend hours waiting for a bird to return to its nest and hurriedly fire off 12 shots on film.
“Once, I forgot to put film in the camera,” he said. “I had to wait another hour for the bird to return.”
He still enjoys shooting wildlife in his free time.
The brothers also teach continuing-education classes in Atlantic County.
“We’re promoting photography as much as we’re promoting ourselves,” Bart Feldman said.
The most dramatic change in their industry was the seismic shift from film to digital technology. It is a change that most photographers welcomed, he said.
“We would shoot a wedding and wouldn’t know if we had the shots until we processed the film,” he said. “We’d be sitting on eggshells.”
The store specializes in wedding, studio and event photography, including school sports. They also touch up and print all of their images on the store’s equipment, including poster-sized prints designed to hang over a couch or in an office.
They serve all of South Jersey from Camden to Cape May counties. They serve novices to professionals. The wide range of photography equipment means they can find a camera to suit all budgets.
The store has changed location six times since their father opened it. About 13 years ago, they faced a crisis when road improvements cut off easy access to their store. The effects were immediate.
“Business took a taildive,” Bart Feldman said. “People couldn’t easily make the turn. We knew we had to move.”
They found a place on Delsea Drive. Three years ago, they moved again, this time to another location on Delsea Drive in a building they share with a market.
“I’m not moving anymore. This is it,” he said.
Selling cameras today means knowing more about video as well. Most cameras have high-definition video.
The store sells a variety of camera bags, tripods, filters and accessories.
Bart Feldman said he enjoys the daily challenge photography presents.
“I think the thing that excites me is being able to create a unique portrait, nature shot or family photo,” he said.
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