Okay, let’s face it. There’s nothing sexy about today’s post, friends. It’s not exactly the Ryan Gosling of the photography blog world. Not by a long shot! But it’s an important one, friends. Oh-so important. Because it’s one of those back-end, behind-the-scenes things that nobody will ever see, but we’ve just gotta do: gear maintenance.
In the past, we never sent our cameras and lenses out for routine maintenance because we didn’t have time — or didn’t think we had time — because we were shooting off and on all the time and couldn’t let go of our gear for more than a few days. And, to be honest, we never had any issues with our gear. None. Nada. Zilch. Everything worked fine. Last year, though, as we were gearing up for our busiest wedding season ever, we decided to send all of our gear away for inspection and routine maintenance to make sure everything was working to its fullest before we begin our 2015 season. And, man, what a great investment it’s been!
We know that a small sliver of photographers maintenance their own gear and others choose to use a local camera store or repair facility for their gear (and that’s awesome!) but we decided to get a membership to Canon Professional Services (CPS). At first, the idea of packing our very expensive gear and shipping it to Canon’s California repair facility terrified us, but once we got over that fear, it was smooth sailing. So, without further adieu, we wanted to share how it works for anyone else looking for peace of mind!
When you open a membership, Canon asks you to input the serial numbers for all of your cameras and lenses. From there, each piece of gear gets assigned a point value. For example, our 5D Mark III is worth 7 points in the Canon system. Once all of your gear is entered and assigned a point value, the points are added up. From there, you’re offered a membership in one of three categories: silver (10 points), gold (20 points), and platinum (50 points). The memberships range from free to $300 per year, and it’s important to note that you’ll only qualify for one. So, if you have enough points for a gold membership, you can’t pay more and get a platinum membership.
You can see a full list of the CPS membership benefits here. For the sake of simplicity, though, we’ll explain how we use our membership and why it’s been so beneficial to us.
Our platinum membership costs $300 per year, which at first might seem expensive, but it’s actually a bargain for us, because it includes free routine maintenance on up to 10 pieces of gear with free overnight shipping both ways, a 30% discount on any repairs, and a guaranteed 2 business day turnaround around time — which is imperative for wedding photographers like us who do most of our shooting on the weekends.
Here’s are a few examples of how we’ve used our membership recently:
We bought a 24-70 from a friend in town because we wanted a second one for the getting ready room and shooting receptions. We totally trust this friend. She’s an amazing person. She assured us that the lens was in great condition and she hadn’t used it much, but we just wanted to be sure that there wasn’t something wrong with it before we bought it. So, we asked her if it’d be okay if we sent it to Canon for maintenance and an inspection before we committed. Best case scenario, everything would be fine, and we’d get a lens back from Canon that was cleaned and calibrated. Worst case, there was something wrong, it needed repair, and we could have Canon fix it at our 30% discount, and she could just deduct that from her sale price.
It didn’t cost us anything, but it gave us all peace of mind knowing that it had Canon’s seal of approval.
Recently, on a Sunday engagement session, we realized that our 100mm Macro lens wouldn’t attach to either of our camera bodies. It wasn’t a big deal, because we don’t shoot with it for portraits very often, but we knew that we desperately needed it for our wedding that coming Saturday. So, on Monday morning, we called Canon and, of course, they picked up right away. Their customer services representatives are so quick to answer, so competent, so efficient, and so kind. We gave them our CPS membership number, told them which piece of gear needed to be looked at, and they immediately sent us a FedEx shipping label that we printed on our home computer. From there, we filled out their brief form that accompanies anything you send them with a description of what’s going wrong, stuck it in a box with the lens, and dropped it off at FedEx. The whole process took less than an hour — most of that being drive and wait time at the FedEx down the street.
That was Monday. And, remember, it ships priority overnight.
On Tuesday, we got an email from Canon stating that they’d received the lens, diagnosed it, and the repair would be just over $100. We called, they (of course) picked up right away, we gave them our debit card number, and they started the repairs immediately.
Since it takes no more than 48 hours (or two business days) for repairs, the work was completed on Thursday and shipped back to us via FedEx priority overnight, and the lens arrived on Friday before our Saturday wedding. The whole thing was systemized and flawless.
As photographers, it’s our professional responsibility to do our due diligence and ensure that our gear is in top working condition at the beginning of each wedding season — and have a solution in place in case something goes wrong with our gear to get it fixed and back as soon as possible. In both cases, CPS has been a lifesaver for us. We’ve been blown away by the entire experience from start to finish. Every time. Each piece of equipment. It’s one of those things that we’re just thankful even exists, so we hope this helps motivate you to find a proactive solution for peace of mind when it comes to your gear, too!
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