CD: You’ve been on the vendor side of the business for quite a few years. Tell me where you started, your path and how it led to Capture Integration.
Dave Gallagher: I have loved the photographic process since I was a kid but I have always had more of an analytical brain than a creative one. In fact, the wife says that I was a math nerd as a kid and she is always right. : ) That led me to a degree in Imaging and Photographic Technology from RIT learning optics, chemistry, emulsions, ISO calculations, and the complete photographic foundation. Now I can’t tell you that was all fun and games. It wasn’t. But I learned the physics of our medium down to the bone. And upon graduation I was full of information and had no idea what I was gong to do with it. That was in 1991.
Most photo school students took art or shooting classes as electives, but that wasn’t me. I took statistics, accounting, and other business classes. And in order to have beer money in school, I found little businesses that I could start around campus. The one that actually took off, and that I can share here, was selling t-shirts with wholly inappropriate sayings on them. This one was so lucrative that I expanded it to other local colleges in the area. So it was clear that my talents were not in taking images but in selling products and understanding photography. Thus sales management jobs ensued for the next 13 years with Sinar Bron Imaging, Calumet Digital Solutions, and Phase One US.
And that is where my true education began. Some of these companies sold their products through regional photographic retailers and one was a very large national distributor. Some were OK, some were good, but none of them were excellent. There were so many business principles that were lacking with the majority of the companies that I was working with. And finally, out of frustration in the marketplace, I took a second mortgage on my home in 2004, bought a Hasselbad 503cw and a Phase One H25, and opened Capture Integration in Atlanta.
CD: My experience with Capture Integration over the years has been unusual in how focused CI as a company is on customer service. Recently, your tech support guru, Josh Booth, created a preset for Capture One users that many are adopting for their workflow. How did the commitment to this level of service come about? Is it your personal philosophy?
Dave Gallagher: That is exactly WHY I started my company. The 3 main things that I saw that were lacking with photographic vendors were highly educated personnel, a true understanding of customer service, and making decisions based on long term goals not short term profits. I put myself in the position of my customers first and wanted to give them what I expect in my buying experiences. I don’t sell PHD cameras (push here dummy). I sell the highest quality products in our industry. And customers who are investing in this kind of equipment should expect that same level of service and support to match. Doesn’t that just make sense? It does to me and it still shocks me how many companies can exist without these simple principles. Here is my philosophy:
- Listen to the customer to understand the problem that needs to be solved
- Make it easy for the customer to achieve the solution
- Provide the most educated support in the industry
- Make yourself available to the customer when they need you
I think those last two are what really set us apart from the rest of our industry. Every single person in our company understands these principles and actually use the equipment that we support. Literally, our accountants take home digital systems on the weekends so they can learn the product in order to answer questions when needed. Each tech and salesman have used all of the products that we sell and support. They aren’t reading the manual to you on the phone when you have a problem. And we come up with solutions to problems our customers throw our way as you stated earlier. By making these tips, workarounds, or presets available on our website we can support customers from all around the world. And that is huge about business in our technology advanced market. We have customers that seek us out from all around the world because we offer something so much more than their local supplier. Thomas Friedman wrote that “the world is flat” in the 21st century. Meaning companies can expand out of their small markets and become international strengths with the advancements of our technology. Our website, blog, support page, webinars, video messaging, and availability by text and cellphone make it seem like we are right next door.
CD: You married a talented wedding and portrait photographer. How did her perspective on work, creativity, and balance impact your perspective on photography and photographers?
Dave Gallagher: I always heard the struggles that my customers having to deal with their trusted contacts, art directors, or other creative allies being replaced with younger versions and then having to reintroduce or resell themselves again. I hear the frustrations when long term clients are lost because a young art director went in a new direction with a “emerging talent” at half the cost. I now can feel their pain by hearing it from my wife’s perspective in her industry. The fully automatic DSLR’s have made it real easy for someone to pick up a camera and take a sharp, well exposed image today. Of course we know that lighting, composition, timing, and experience under pressure are all important factors in choosing someone in her field but these things get ignored too often. She reads the correspondence between her potential clients and it reminds me of the same struggles in the commercial field.
Now I can’t understand why she feels the need to keep changing her logo and website all the time. Is it the mind of a creative that wants to keep fresh? I know many of my talented clients and some of our mutual friends that do as such. I just can’t relate. Even though I am married to the woman, I just say “yes dear” that looks so much better than your last look! ; )
CD: Capture Integration is now offering seminars and workshops with working professional photographers. How did this come about, how did the relationships form and how has it helped you become a better business partner to pro photographers and those interested in medium format photography?
Dave Gallagher: Who doesn’t want to go to the most beautiful places in the world with the best gear in the world and learn from the best in the industry? I know that I do! That’s as simple as it gets. We have the worlds best photographers as clients. We sell the worlds finest photography equipment. The concept of putting these two together at some incredible location is an easy formula. We rented a 29 million dollar estate outside of Glacier National park and will be taking 10 photographers there to learn from one of the top architectural photographers in the world in 2 weeks. In 8 weeks we are doing the same in Acadia National Park for autumn in New England led by 2 of our incredible landscape clients. It’s a great experience for everyone and something that I personally put together. Spending that kind of quality time with my new and long term clients is one of my favorite perks of what I do. And of course, this goes the same for all our attendees as well. They get their hands on the gear and can test a over $400,000 worth of equipment at each workshop. The hands on learning can’t happen anywhere else. It really is a win/win for everyone.
CD: I promised you we would not go into Bar B Que. So, I won’t. I know you are building a Bar B Que pit at your home. Any favorite recipes you want to share with the photo industry?
Dave Gallagher: Oh Cameron! I can’t believe that you went there. Hmmmm…… Your not going to get me to put my personal views on BBQ here online Mr. Davidson! So I will leave you with this simple recipe:
Laughter + respect for others + live/work balance + trust as a foundation + “yes dear” = A successful and happy life!