Why we recommend Professional Photographers buy High Performance USB Memory Sticks

One of the big trends in the professional photography sector is the move to supply customer portfolios on USB memory sticks. Typically the memory sticks are printed or engraved with the photographers’ logo/brand although occasionally the sticks are personalised with their clients’ details.

A good example of this is where the sticks are personalised with details of a wedding and then photos, video clips, details of the service and the speeches are then pre-loaded onto the sticks before being sent to the wedding guests as a memento of the day.

Whilst some professional photographers still prefer to use CD’s and DVD’s the move to use USB memory sticks has been hastened by the recent drop in the price of customised USB sticks, the availability of higher storage capacity sticks and the relative ease of finding local suppliers of customised sticks. Coupled with this CD’s and DVD’s are falling out of fashion, many of the latest laptops and ultra-thin notebooks are sold without a CD/DVD reader and frankly, no matter how well you print a CD they don’t really enhance the overall value of the brand printed on them.

Custom USB flash drives on the other hand can help photographers differentiate their service, improve their image, enhance their professionalism and provide a new revenue stream.  However for this statement to be true it is important that photographers ensure they buy USB sticks that are fit for purpose – externally (apart from the aesthetics of the different casing options; leather, wood, metal, plastic etc.) all USB sticks are pretty much the same. They have a standard USB connector on one end and the internal flash memory and controller is housed inside a case and it’s the case that is printed or engraved.

The real challenge when buying custom USB sticks is to make sure that the components that are inside the case (the flash memory and the controller chip and the capacitor) are good enough to support the use that photographers will put them to. If they are not up to the job then it can take hours to load images onto them (because the read/write speeds they support will be slow) and images loaded onto them can “fragment” – see the example shown here:

Fragmented Image What can happen without high-spec chips!

Bear in mind that most companies selling custom or printed USB flash drives are providing them to the promotional sector where “cheap” is the fundamental requirement. Typically promotional drives are bought in the thousands with an expectation that they’ll be thrown away or rarely used once given out – let’s face it a corporate sales brochure that are stored on a USB drive are  not as important as Wedding photos. Whilst the drives are still Grade A the internal components are right at the bottom end of the performance spec – If you think of it in camera terms these are like Grade A disposable cameras that you can buy for a couple of pound when what might be needed is a decent Digital SLR Nikon or Canon.

Of course if USB sticks are only going to be used to market your services then standard promotional grade versions might be fine but, if you’re entrusting them to carry important portfolios from events that can never be repeated and have a huge emotional significance then it’s worth making sure that you buy better quality sticks.

Our advice is to ask question not only about the Grade of the flash but the manufacturer of the flash memory (ideally chose a Samsung or Hynix memory and not an OEM look alike). Ask if better quality controller chips can be supplied as well and finally get details on the read/write speeds of the drives and any warranty that comes with the drives. Do remember though that warranties only get you replacement drives they won’t help deal with unhappy customers whose images are corrupted.

Finally choose a supplier with a proven track record, get views from other photographers than have bought from them, check out their Twitter feeds to see what other photographers are saying about them, check 3rd party review sites – 10 minutes homework before you buy could save hours or days of grief if you end up with the wrong product from a supplier that does not care once they have your order.

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