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I decided to hold a little experiment on social media earlier this week. I set up a relatively commonplace collection of objects, and took a picture of them with four different cameras, and challenged people to see if they could tell which picture was taken with which camera. This kind of comparison challenge isn’t new, but I decided to set it up to demonstrate an important lesson about managing your business’ resources. A weird comparison, I know; bear with me, it makes more sense than you might think at first glance.

In case you didn’t see the full post, here’s the details on the challenge. I set up three things that I just picked up on my desk, and put them on a stool, directly under a soft, white light. The four cameras used were a $50 webcam, a $250 budget phone camera, a $700 premium phone camera, and a $1,200 professional camera/lens. Each of these cameras have different pixel resolutions that they take pictures at, so I scaled them all down to the lowest common denominator, so that resolution wasn’t a giveaway. I also decided to just use each camera’s autofocus feature, rather than manually tuning each one to produce the best possible image. So, in theory, the only way that you can tell the images apart is by recognizing which camera does the best job with lighting, color accuracy, depth of field, etc. 

After I posted it, I had a few people respond publicly, and a few people I know messaged me their guesses. A couple of fellow photo/video nerds were able to get it spot-on the first time. However, others who weren’t as familiar with different camera technologies, and the differences between them, didn’t quite get it right. One friend even thought that the pro camera picture was taken by the webcam (he claims that he needs a new glasses prescription). All that being said, here’s the solution to our little puzzle!

Did you get it right? While I’m tempted to talk about all of the interesting image properties that are at play here, instead I’ll fill you in on what it can teach you about resource management. You may be asking at this point, “OK, sure, neat little game, but what does this have to do with business resource management?” Quite a bit actually. Think of each of the cameras involved as a resource that your business wants to get a hold of. This could be machines, equipment, professional services, raw product, or just about anything else that you need to purchase as a business. There are several choices, each have their pros and cons, but it’s very easy to make the wrong decision.

First you have the cheap option, like our $50 webcam here. It’s a decent webcam, good enough for most video calls, and it can even take a picture or two. But, it’s pretty obvious that it’s not going to give you the best results. It does the job; you can still make out what the picture is of, but it would take quite a bit of work in photoshop to get it to be anywhere near the quality of the other pictures. The cheap option works, but it can often mean that you have to spend more time and money compensating for the cheap solution’s downfalls, that could have been avoided by spending a bit more. If you just need the bare minimum performance out of this resource, go for it. Otherwise, best to look elsewhere.

If you’ve found out that the cheap option isn’t going to cut it, salesmen will often compare the cheap option directly with the expensive option, to show you how much better it is, like so. Look at how sharp the image is! You can really see the depth of the image, and where the camera is focusing! The colors are so accurate! All of the problems that I had with the cheap option are gone, without having to spend extra time correcting it! Sounds great right? Problem is, it’s TWENTY-FOUR TIMES the price. Now don’t get me wrong, spending the extra money to get the more expensive solution can be worth it at times, especially if you have a more specific requirement that you need to fill that cheap options can’t do. However, if you don’t have that specific need, the expensive option can not only have more capabilities than you need to use, it is often much more complex because of those additional capabilities. You can see that the auto exposure setting of the camera made the front of the mouse very dark, so you have to know how to manually adjust for things like that… Which requires more time learning, maintaining, and repairing it; all big expenses to your business, for things you’re not even using!

That brings us to the other two options: the phone cameras. Now, if you were just to look at these cameras physically, you might doubt that they could compete with the pro camera. These cameras are as big around as your pinkie finger, and shallower than a bottle cap, compared to the massive unit that is the pro camera. Just a few short years ago, those doubts would have been very valid; this challenge would have been very simple for anyone to figure out. However, digital image processing has improved dramatically over the past few years, allowing them to compete with professional cameras in a lot of areas. If you’re not keeping up with how the resources you need are advancing over the years, and just sticking with what is familiar, you could miss out on the fact that the option with the best value for you and your business is right under your nose, or in your pocket!

Even given all of this, there is one factor that still makes all of these resources comparable: their environment. Notice at the beginning of the comparison, I stated that I had put the photos’ subjects directly under a soft, white light. In other words, I put them in a scenario where they have the best opportunity to perform well. If I had done this test in a corner of the room where there were a lot of shadows, the pro camera’s larger sensor would have been able to pick up way more light than the smaller cameras, and it would have been no contest. The reason it was close is that I was able to give the cameras the complementary resources that they needed (in this case, lighting and positioning), so that they were able to perform to their full potential. 

The reason that I knew to do that was because I have familiarized myself with the best practices for photography. I spent a little bit of time learning, researching, and growing in my own skills and abilities, so that the expertise that I gained could save me a lot of time in the long run. Taking the time to learn makes you better at using your resources, therefore making your product better, therefore making your customers happier! Plus, it makes you more capable to continue to grow as a professional in your field, and able to teach others who work with you. Knowledge and expertise are some of the most valuable resources you can have.

So, to bring all of this together, here’s what we can learn:

  • Spending more does tend to get you more, but be careful to monitor how much value you get for the increased cost that you take on. Spending too little can mean that you have to spend time and money compensating for low quality, while spending too much can mean that it’s too complex to learn to use and maintain.
  • Do your own research before you buy! Just because something is the industry standard that you’re familiar with, doesn’t mean that it’s the best option for you. If you do a bit of digging, and learn what options are available for your specific needs, you can maximize your value.
  • Set your resources up to succeed. You can make a cheap option look or feel twice as premium as it is by giving it the means that it needs to perform the best. This often means more research and knowledge on your part: reading, asking, and learning about what factors are most important will allow you to do a lot with a little.

And there you have it: several important points about how to manage your business’ resources, demonstrated with four pictures of a few things that were on my desk. Now I want to hear from you: how does this apply to your business? Do you need to rethink how you’re going about making your latest purchase? Let me know! Leave a comment below, or on any of my social media pages where I’ve posted this.