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Phones Vs. Cameras for Mystery Shopping

I’ll start off by admitting that, as a professional photographer, I am biased towards the versatility of cameras, be they point and shoot or DSLR. At the same time, I have used my phone when a discreet picture needs to be taken. Even so, there are times when I have found the versatility of a camera to be indispensable.

Gas station audits are one shop where I find the camera to be indispensable. Unless you’re lucky enough to be doing your route on an overcast day, you have the Sun to deal with…and it may not be where you need it in order to get the best picture possible. You may have to be shooting into the Sun because of the location of the gas station. With a DSLR and a zoom lens, you can minimize the effects of shooting into the sun and end up with useable pictures.

Another useful advantage of the DSLR is interchangeable lenses. I had done a debrand audit at a gas station and there were still colors from the previous brand on the pumps. A month later, I’m asked to do the same location again. I remembered that they weren’t too happy with my being there the first time, so I brought my complete lens kit with me. I went in, introduced myself, presented the letter and was politely told that, “Someone did this last month, we don’t need it done again.” I left the property, went across a six-lane highway and parked in a business’s lot. I was able, by using an assortment of lenses, to document that the previous brand’s colors were still on the pumps. There’s no way I could have accomplished that with a phone. I also used the camera’s GPS tagging accessory so I had documentation that the photos were not taken on the gas station’s property. Two months later, I was asked to go there again. The station had been rebranded and everything was copacetic.

I’ve even used the camera in shopping malls where the security guards are especially vigilant. I’ll set the camera to high resolution, put on a wide angle lens, set it for auto exposure without flash, and squeeze off 4-6 pictures of the target. I’ll then review the pictures and shoot more if I need to, or else pack up and head home.

I do realize the camera introduces an additional step of transferring your files from the camera to the computer. There are times when that extra step is worth it.

I’m not advocating that shoppers go out and spend several hundred dollars on a DLSR and a couple of lenses, but do open your minds to the versatility that having a camera, even a 6MP point and shoot camera, can bring to your work.

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