The Dollars and Sense of Digital Cameras
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SignLab from CADlink


The Dollars and Sense of Digital Cameras

Using a digital camera to save time and money

By SignIndustry.com Staff

For the sign industry, the digital camera makes sense-and could generate more dollars for your business.

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  • The digital camera offers a valuable tool to improve the marketing, the production, and the record keeping for a large or small business in the visual communications industry.

    As the digital camera is becoming a commonplace in day-to-day life, more and more camera manufacturers are offering a wider range of technologies, capabilities, and prices. As usual, the more you pay for a digital camera the more you get. Regardless of your sign shop's size or budget, a digital camera can be an efficient tool that pays for itself many times over.

    A digital camera is efficient and cost-effective because it doesn't require film, has no processing costs, is instant, and doesn't produce negatives that need to be stored, filed, and protected. The real profit comes from its use as a tool for selling, making, and marketing signs.

    Depending on the camera's technology, the images taken by the digital camera are usually caught on a small removable clip or a removable computer disk. Then they are downloaded to and stored in a PC.

    However the value of the digital camera is more than a quick and clean picture taking. It is what you can do with the pictures taken. Once the images-of an old sign, a new sign, or a potential customer's sign location-are downloaded onto a PC, they are saved and protected. Then, with the appropriate software for your computer, you can "work" with each image.

    The picture or image can be edited. For example, it can be cropped, or its colors can be changed. You can change the brightness or alter the picture's size. A good picture becomes a better-if not a great-picture.

    Once the image has been modified or enhanced as you want it, it can be saved for future use. The first use can be as part of the pitch to the potential customer. The picture is taken of where the new sign is needed or wanted. As an enhanced picture on your computer that you can bring up on your screen or print when needed, the picture becomes a part of your professional presentation to the customer. The digital camera, the computer rendering, and the obvious technological know-how show that your firm is on the cutting edge of visual communications.

    To convince the potential customer that you can do the job, the image can be imported or cut-and-pasted into the firm's sign software. The software lets you work with the current sign or a future sign. The job can be sized with confidence. The lettering, logo, or design can be placed on to the photographed image so that you can experiment with a variety of ideas. You can "play" with ideas, costs, and configurations.

    Questions like "what would this color look like?," "what about such-and-such a lettering," or "do you think it will look good on my building?" can be answered on a photograph of the actual sign location. The customer can see the answers, and the sign professional can estimate cost with confidence. There also is a record of what design the customer decides upon.

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    Once the design or layout is chosen, then there is the opportunity for a "no-risk" sizing, re-sizing, creativity, and evaluation on a reality-based rendering of the projected sign location. The digital camera's original image is stored on the computer. That image is available as many times as it is needed to start over, compare, and revise the design. You can see how the design will look on location. In short, the digital image has provided your sign business a valuable design tool.

    The digital image also helps finish the job. The digital camera serves as an installation tool. After the design is finished, the computer rendering of the digital camera's image can be used for measuring and preparing for installation. You know the size of the work area and the proportions for the sign from the picture. You can figure distances within the sign and on the sign surface.

    You can estimate what will be needed to install the sign. By studying the digital camera picture, you can look at the area surrounding the sign. You can check the surface that will hold the sign. You can get a sense of the working conditions. The picture from the digital camera also shows what might have to be done to remove an old sign or to prepare the site for the new sign. Nothing is left to notes or memory or what another worker told you. You have an enhanced image of the building, the vehicle, or whatever.

    This way the figuring is done before you get to the work site. The planning can be done in the shop and not in the field. All of your tools, ladders, lifts, and so forth are there in your shop. It sure beats getting to the site and then discovering you have to go back to the shop for some necessary tool or equipment. Good planning and preparation increase the probabilities for an efficient and successful completion of the job.

    But don't put that digital camera away just yet. That job may be done, but you still have a sign business to run. Take an "after" shot of the new sign. This shot will give you a record of your work that can be easily stored on your computer permanently, cleanly, and easily.

    You will have a set of "before" and "after" pictures: the pictures taken at the bid stage before the job and the pictures of the finished job. Sure, they will be good to look at during your gracious retirement as an earlier age. However, the stored images also offer an opportunity to ensure that early gracious retirement.

    Nothing works better in sales than hard evidence of the excellent work that you have done. "I did that sign over on Maple Avenue" is not nearly as effective as "take a look at these pictures of a sign that I designed and installed on Maple Avenue and of what that building looked like before my sign."

    The digital camera is here, and it should be a part of your toolbox. Certainly digital cameras will get cheaper and better. However, it is a good investment now to use a digital camera as a regular part in the different stages of your sign work.

    The digital camera can save time and money. It makes sense because saved time and money means more profit.

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