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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why the digital photographer should get paid more than the film photographer.




This image was shot on Fuji Velvia slide film. In fact this whole campaign shot for Quicksilver Cruises was shot on film. As the photographer I would pre-purchase the film and then once the job was over I would hand the film into the lab and come back the next day to pick it up. Then all I had to do was take it in to the client with a light box and loupe (if they didn't have one) and we would pick out the best shots to be used in the campaign.

And that was how simple film photography was for the photographer. Of course it meant you had to get your exposures smack on target or else the image was useless, and you never really knew what you had until the film came back so there was always an element of risk that isn't so prevalent in digital photography.

But in terms of handling and charging it was a pretty easy process. You would charge a certain amount per roll shot and developed, which included a small mark-up for profit and also to cover the time needed to pre-purchase, drop and pick up the film from the lab and other incidentals such as the electricity needed to keep the film cold.

Of course the expenses for the client didn't stop there. All those individual little pieces of transparency film had to be put into digital 1's and 0's for them to be printed and that cost a lot of money. Depending on how big you needed the scan you could pay up to $40 per image - more if there was post-processing work needed. None of that got paid to the photographer because we (for the most part) didn't do it.

Now with the advent of digital we do it all. Even though we don't need to provide the film any more we instead need to provide CF cards, computers, hard drives, DVDs and the security of back-ups to ensure that those vitally important files aren't accidentally lost or destroyed. We need to have accurately profiled monitors to ensure the colours are what the client expects. We need to be knowledgeable about colour spaces and gamuts, CMYK and RGB and file formats such as TIFF, DNG and JPEG.

These are all costs that we never had in the film days. Hell if your computer could run your word processing software and get you on to the internet that was enough. All these extra things cost extra money to buy and maintain. Digital cameras need to be replaced more often than film cameras ever needed to be.

And now that we're the lab we need to spend more time in front of the computer to make sure that those files look absolutely amazing for our clients. Not to mention the time (ie money) needed to educate ourselves every time a new piece of software comes out. The days of being able to shoot wonderful pictures and then pop off to the pub for a beer while the lab did their thing are long gone.

And if you don't charge for that stuff you're actually making less money than you would have done shooting film! So before you get into that mindset that it doesn't cost you any money to shoot digital once you've bought the stuff - think again. And explain it to your clients. They'll understand. They're not paying more money over all for digital because they do save on the film and developing costs. All that's happened is that instead of paying their local scanner or graphic designer to do their digital work they're paying you.

So either feed those costs into your CODB and thus your creative fees or add it as a line-item in your quotes so that clients know and understand the costs involved. The choice is yours but if you work together with your clients we can all collaborate to ensure that everybody comes out a winner.

Click on the link to see more of my film images from around the world.

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