I am not a professional photographer. By that, I mean I do not make my living from photography. It is my hobby. A passion. Something I enjoy very much. I derive much satisfaction and pleasure from it. And it is all the sweeter when someone else appreciates and enjoys my efforts. If photography is your hobby, this article is for you.
So with that out of the way, what are some of the costs of this hobby? Or more to the point, what should we include in our thought process when someone asks (no, rather, before someone asks) for a photo shoot and subsequent photos for free. After all, they think: we already own our equipment and we enjoy what we do and everything is digital so there's no film to buy and develop so there's no real cost involved so would you be willing to shoot xyz-session for free, well, because we know you enjoy doing it, right?
Let's see if that logic adds up:
(Insert your equipment in place of mine. It doesn't matter if it's less. It is still an expense. I'm only listing the equipment I've used on a photo shoot for someone else's benefit up to now.)
Nikon D600 - $2100
Nikon D7000 - 1200
Nikon 28-300mm lens - 1000
Nikon 24-85mm lens - 600
Nikon 80mm f/1/8 lens - 500
Nikon 50mm f/1.4 - 450
Nikon SB700 flash - 325
2 Extra Batteries (ea) - 60
4 SD Cards (ea) - 35 each camera houses two cards
4 Clear Filters (ea) - 60 to protect the lens
2 Camera Straps (ea) - 20 to carry the camera
Backpack to carry equip - 100
iMac computer - 2500
Back-up HDD's - 300
Post-processing s/w - 500
Printer - 300
Ink (6 cartridges) (ea) - 25
Photo Paper 5 x 7 (20) - 11
CD's (100 pk) - 20
Time (hrs) - 1000's
Car/Insurance ? to get to/from the event
Gas ? to get to/from the event
(these last two items should be factored in, I just haven't taken time to do so, as I believe the point has been made already)
It doesn't exactly look like we're shooting for free, does it? Our financial involvement is quite substantial and all of these items have a life-span. In other words, they don't last forever. They need maintenance, repaired, upgraded, and eventually replaced. Each click of the shutter induces wear and tear. Our stabilized lenses and camera bodies have motors and electronics and mechanical parts that wear down little by little every time they're used. Draining and recharging the batteries is real wear and tear on that battery. The SD cards can only be used so many times before they won't work anymore. You get the idea. These items represent a real out-of-pocket expense for us.
And then there is the time involved which is quite substantial as well. We spend a lot of time (and money) learning to use our gear efficiently. And we spend a lot of time not only post-processing but also learning to use the software for post-processing the images so we can present the client (neighbor, friend, etc) with our best effort. Time driving to and from, time waiting around, time shooting, time printing, time ...
So as I've said before, to each his own - but also try to think beyond yourself - about our fellow photographers. If we don't put a value on the service we provide it hurts the pro photographer too, who is trying to make a living with photography. And what if one day you hope to make that transition. Our actions today will help dictate what we face tomorrow in that regard. We all have to decide for ourselves what our value and worth is, but I hope this has given you something to think about before someone asks you for a freebie next time. Think about it. When shooting for someone else they benefit from all the expense and time you've put into this. They end up with photos they will have for the rest of their lives. Stories. Memories. What will you have to show for it? I'd like to know your thoughts. Or, I'd love to hear your experiences. Feel free to chime in.