What’s one of the most common misconceptions in the photographic industry today?
Digital is cheaper than film
At first glance, it sounds correct.
With a film camera, every time you capture an image, it costs you money. You have to buy the film, you have to develop the film, and you have to print the image on to paper. When we were shooting film, we found it pretty accurate to assume total costs for one image was $1.
But with digital, every time you capture an image it’s essentially free. You place the card into your computer, download it, put it online or a CD/DVD, and usually only print the images you are paid for.
So it seems like digital is cheaper than film. But the problem with that assumption is you are looking at output only. The real cost comes at the front end, or with the cameras and technology itself.
I read a great article over on Digital Work Flow, The State of Business for the Digital Photographer Preparing for 2011. In it states:
Today a basic digital set of two professional SLRs, several lenses, dedicated flashes, laptop, desktop computer, card reader, memory cards, color management and processing software, monitor, printers, storage and back up storage, will cost approximately $20,000 to $80,000 or more.
Comparatively, a basic film system would likely cost under $20,000 and would likely remain current and functional for 10 years or longer.
So here is the comparison:
$20,000/10 years = $2,000/year average cost if you’re shooting film
$50,000/5 years = $10,000/year average cost for digital
And if you’ve been in the industry for a while, you know how quickly you replace your equipment. My daughter received a point and shoot for Christmas that is more powerful than the professional camera we were shooting with 5 years ago.
Total costs need to calculate everything. It’s unrealistic to charge a client a few dollars for a print because it only cost you a dollar or two to print it out. You still have to pay for your equipment, plus other expenses like rent, salary, phone, Internet, marketing, etc. And for your experience as a photographer and as an artist.
The only way to charge what you are truly worth is to educate your potential clients on what it takes to be a professional photographer, and how to tell the difference between you and an amateur trying to make a quick buck. Will they be in business a year from now? Who knows? [We’ve had clients come back to us 8, 10, even 12 years later for prints because they know we are here.]