The Aperture Valet Tray
A few days ago, we announced the launch of our leather Aperture Valet Trays.
As with most new products we make, the Valet Trays took a few tweaks and prototypes to get right. But along the way, we ran into some serious obstacles that almost made us give up on making them at all. Luckily, with the help of a new friend and expert partner, everything turned out all right and we now have a small batch in stock, ready to ship to your favorite photographer.
This is the story of how the Photographer's Catch Tray came to be.
If you've ever had a catch tray, you know how critical it is for daily life. If you haven't, you're about to find out.
Imagine that moment when you walk in the door of your home every day, coming back from work, from a bike ride, from a photo shoot, or anywhere else.
What do you do with your keys? Your wallet? Your phone?
If you're anything like I was, you would put them done somewhere random (a different place every time every course...) and hope you can find them easily later on when you need them.
Well, one day last year, I got a valet tray (also known as a catch tray or leather tray), and started using it to stay organized. Once I had chosen a good permanent spot for it, I made sure to always place my keys, phone and wallet in it every day when I got home.
I couldn't believe the immediate and dramatic positive impact it had on my daily life. Suddenly, I was saving several minutes every day not looking for any one of those three items. And several minutes a day adds up to over an hour a month.
In other words, my life was just simpler, all with one easy little hack. That hack was creating a home for the items I carry in my pocket daily.
The lesson I learned is: whether you put your keys, phone, wallet, earbuds, or your camera in it - it's critical to have one place to leave your stuff whenever you get home (or the office), so you're not always looking for things.
A Photographer's Valet Tray
After using that first tray for a couple months, it became clear that it would be a permanent new part of my daily life. So I started thinking - what could I do to make this tray a little more special? To make it a little more like something I would love to look at every day, and not just something that served a simple function.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to put on it yet. I just knew that the valet tray itself was an extremely useful object, and I had to have one that was specifically about photography in some way.
Whether by luck or by accident, I had recently come across Clever Supply on Instagram, and really liked their leather work. I reached out and inquired about potentially making some custom Valet Trays with our own design. Fortunately, Todd (the founder) was not only willing, he was actually very excited about the project
Todd was very helpful in explaining the various options that were available (or not available, since pandemic-induced shortages meant not all materials could easily be found).
After running through several different ideas for the style, the leather color, the metal hardware, and the actual design that would be stamped into the leather, we settled on using the new Photogenic Supply Aperture logo on the tray.
The idea was to signify our passion for photography in a subtle, minimal, and yet unmistakable way. Plus, it had the added bonus of looking really great (at least the way I imaged it in my head).
A Couple of Hiccups Along the Way
The very first step was to get a custom stamp made, so that Todd could emboss the Aperture permanently into the leather.
The first thing to go wrong was Todd's brand new press, which is used to emboss designs into the leather, arrived in multiple pieces from the supplier (it was supposed to be in one piece...)
Next, the first stamp die of the actual design we received turned out to be off-center, creating an uneven border around the design. So we had to go back and order a new one, and ask the die maker nicely to make sure it was centered this time.
To make matters worse, an industry-wide leather shortage was just starting to emerge, and several of the hide colors we had thought we might be able to use were suddenly nowhere to be found...
Luckily, Todd's been doing leatherwork for a while, and he's had his share of ups and downs along the way. He calmly walked me through our options for getting back on track, and before you know it, we had another (perfect) stamp die ready to go.
A couple of weeks later, we were able to find a great leather color that we loved that was fortunately in stock. And Todd was able to use his older press - which still worked - instead of waiting on another new press to arrive in a few months.
After making a prototype, making a change to the rivets that hold the corners together, and Todd grinding away in his workshop for a few days, we finally had our brand new batch of Aperture Valet Trays ready to go.
Todd sent me a photo of them, and it was hard to tell, but they looked really nice. When they actually arrived at our warehouse and I took them out of the package and was able to look at them up close, I was blown away. They looked amazing, and everything from the color to the stamp to the corner rivets was perfect.
The Valet Tray is perfectly-sized, durable, and beautiful. You'll use it for years to come, and enjoy it's appearance and function every day you do.
At 9.5" long, 7.5" wide, and 2.0" deep, it is large enough to hold several items, but small enough to fit on a shelf, ledge, mantle, side table, or anywhere else you want to put it.
The full-grain leather and hand-assembled brass rivets look really great together, and the large custom Aperture stamp stands out in a classy and understated way.
The Valet Trays are now available here in limited quantities.
One thing is for sure: You'll never misplace your keys again.
Pano is the creator of Photogenic Supply. He wrote this post, and took these photos, as well as all the other photos on this website. If you want to contact Photogenic Supply, you can email us and we'll get right back to you.