We hear this question a lot, “how much are you charging for a portrait session? But it’s digital, it doesn’t cost you anything, there is no film or processing involved anymore. Can’t you do it for less?”
I think it is time to disspel the myth that digital photography is cheap and here is why….
1. Camera bodies need to upgrade every 12-18 months (with film, you had the same camera bodies your entire career). Shutter boxes inside the camera wear out and it is less expensive to buy a new body than to fix it. Plus a new body means newer technology which in many cases you need.
2. Computers are in everything we do. From billing, to editing, to storing, to showing you your pictures, to sending them to the lab. We own 5 computers, all Mac. Each has its own duty (one is for video editing, one does all the backing up and retouching work, one processes and sends images plus all the billing, etc, etc. You get the point.) Could we do with less computers, sure if we were doing this full time.
3.Software is the bane of our exsistence. Upgrade an operating system means you need to upgrade software. Upgrade software means you need the new operating system. And this is not just for Photoshop, it is for Lightroom, Corel Painter & Adobe Premier. Every time these programs need to be upgrade it is $$$. It is just one big vicious cycle. Plus new programs require more RAM, better video cards, more hard drive space. And I haven’t even mentioned that new cameras have bigger file sizes, which means you need more hard drive space to process images, etc., etc. Do you update the computer or just buy new? Just like cameras, new computer, newer technology. Think about this, do you fix and upgrade your cell phone or just get a new one.
Hard drives – we have lots of them. With film, the film came back from the lab in sleeves, you put it in an envelope, write the clients name on it and store it in a box – DONE. A years worth of negatives took up a lot of space, but there was very little added cost. Now we have a hard drive for every year, plus another hard drive that is a exact mirrored copy of the main one for the year. Why? Have you ever had a hard drive fail? We’ve been told it is not if it will fail, but when. If a hard drive starts acting weird or is not spinning properly, we transfer it to a new one immediately (do you see the money flying out the door). Plus we back-up on a gold DVD so that incase both hard drives fail. Why all this repetativeness? Go back to the second sentence, film came back it went in an envelope, we still have all off it.
Education. Simply stated when you get new technology you need to learn how to use it. Can you watch a Youtube video to figure it out? Not really. You need to take class and seminars so you can have real interaction with a teacher or expert. Watching it on Youtube, they may not explain the new function of this tool or that tool. And you can not ask how certian functions work.
Lastly, but most importantly- TIME. All of this takes lots and lots of time. Lets compare the same 30-minute portrait shoot on film vs. digital capture. From shoot time to delivering the prints was about 5-6 hours for one job on film. With digital it is about 15-18 hours. 3x as long. Why? The lab use to do all the work, now we are are the lab. All the lab does is print what you send them.
Digital photography is amazing. It allows us to do and create things never before possible. But don’t be fooled, even if you are just doing it for a hobby, it is much more expensive than film ever was.