I take regular photo walks on my days off and on a recent one where I captured this photo a passer-by made the throw away quip “I don’t know why you waste so much money on camera gear”. Shots like this is why I do so.
I believe every camera is a real camera and that you can’t achieve great photos simply by buying the most expensive kit but you do need to invest in appropriate gear if you want to get truly great shots. So how the hell did this photo cost me $4285?
Camera Body – Olympus E-30 – $2500
The Olympus E-30 has a pretty standard 12.3 megapixel sensor but as DSLR it has full control over the shot. I can set ISO levels, white balance, exposure and literally hundreds of other settings. This level of control is needed in the field where conditions change rapidly and relying on automatic settings is not a good idea.
Camera Lens – Sigma 150mm Macro – $760
My obsession is macro photography, particularly taking photos of insects and other critters. To that end I needed a lens that was both fast and had a decent focal length. Insects by their nature are jumpy critters and sticking a camera lens right in their face can be tricky but the Sigma 150mm macro gave me the room to manoeuvre around the subject while providing maximum detail.
Tripod – Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 with joystick head – $800
There are macro photographers that can take superb photos without the use of a tripod. I am not one of them. The above shot was done at a relatively slow shutter speed (0.33s) and there would have simply been no way I could have held the camera steady enough to capture that much detail. Some time ago I decided to spend the extra cash on the 055CXPRO3 from Manfrotto. It’s a carbon fibre tripod which dramatically adds to the cost but also reduces the weight making it ideal to lug around all day.
Post production – Lightroom – $121 + $99
Not so long ago I would have told you post production was for chumps but I’ve learnt I was wrong. Very, very wrong (and I have an article on my change of heart coming on that). As such I spent the cash on Adobe Lightroom 3 and then upgraded to Lighroom 4. There are cheaper and even free Lightroom competitors out there but after testing them all it was clear for my needs that Lightroom was the clear winner. Not much was really needed for this photo, a small white balance correction but that’s all.
Travel – Train – $5
Unless you intend to operate a home photography studio and never leave the house there will always been travel costs involved somewhere. Fortunately for this shot I found him in a park not far from where I live and the costs were kept down.
Wait a minute…
I can already hear the people eagerly firing up their comment-o-matics to shout “Aren’t these mostly once off costs! You can take thousands of photos with those!” and fortunately you are indeed correct. Of those thousands of shots I may only find a few dozen I’m really happy with and the one above is one of them.
If I hadn’t invested in this gear the likelihood of getting this shot is fairly minimal. Working together they allowed me to produce a photograph I’m exceptionally happy with. Always think when buying camera gear how exactly it’s going to help you with your passion. Photography is a long term investment but the rewards can vastly outweigh the monetary value of the gear purchased.
Addendum – March 16 2012
As D. Travis North has pointed out over at ShutterPhoto.net there is an important difference between operating costs and the price you set when selling your photos. For example there is zero way I could try and sell the above photo for over four thousand dollars. The market simply wouldn’t pay it.
Whilst it is important to understand that operating costs can be high it shouldn’t be uses as a basis to set your prices but nor should you undersell yourself. Understanding the market you are operating in is incredibly important. I really recommend reading the article at ShutterPhoto.net for a better overview of this issue.