Saturday, August 6, 2011

Drawing the Bottom Line

Running a business isn't easy and it isn't cheap. At the same time, though, having a hobby or interest like photography, or any art form, really, isn't cheap either. Painters need a constant supply of expensive items; sketch artists need to buy the right kinds of pencils with specific kinds of lead, as well as sketch pads and other media; craft artists or people who make hand-made jewelry are constantly buying tiny pieces and tools to improve their crafts; musicians know all-too-well the constant struggle to find the right gear to bring them to the next level. Photography and videography is the same, whether it's your hobby or your business. 

Photography is one of the only arenas that I know of where the accessories almost always cost more than the essentials. You can buy a good camera body for as low as $1,000. You can buy a really good camera body for around $2,000-$3,000. You can buy a GREAT camera body for $4,000 and up. But the lenses for those cameras can easily range anywhere from $75 to as high as $8,000 or more! Tripods, cleaning kits, monitor calibrators, neck and shoulder straps, flash heads, pocket wizards, light stands, light modifiers, camera bags. These are all items that could make you go broke in no time. Even though some of them can be considered essential items for certain people, or certain areas of photography, the fact still remains that you don't absolutely need any of them for photography in general. Some are obviously worthwhile investments if you are a serious photographer, and therefore you can't escape the need to constantly swipe your credit card (or punch the numbers into a website). The way you determine which are necessary investments and which are just helpful accessories is completely up to the person doing the purchasing.

In the end, though, we all go through this endless pursuit of gear for the same reasons: We want to be better photographers. 

Now, there is the age old argument that it's not the camera, it's the photographer. While that may be true, there have been certain advancements in recent years that could cripple that argument in no time. For instance, when I first started shooting concerts, my first DSLR was a Canon Rebel XT. That camera was very hard to use in low light because the max ISO setting was 800 but you wouldn't dare ever put it that high. If you did, it would produce photos so grainy that it looked like you had them sandblasted. Meaning getting sharp, well exposed photos was incredibly difficult. After I upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark II, I was able to use much higher ISO settings, which allow more light sensitivity, with much less grain even at very high settings. In this particular case, we are talking about a technology that wasn't available just a few years prior. It's safe to say that the camera made me a better photographer, because it allowed me to capture scenes that were previously impossible to capture. Yes, I'd have to still know all the usual skills like composition, getting the right settings, etc, but the camera certainly did change the game. So in some cases, the gear most definitely does make you better, because it allows you access to possibilities you had not previously been able to venture into. 

All these different tools of the trade, though, can cost you a fortune, like I already mentioned. So here's the thing:

The point I'm trying to make is that If you are working a job that you dislike, and need to put money into it, out of your own pocket, you are going to become disgruntled very quickly. However, if spending countless hours practicing a craft, and honing skills, even at the risk of losing hours and days of your life doesn't bother you. and if spending money you don't have only to try to profit to spend more of it doesn't bother you, then you've found the right path in life. Maybe it's a career path, maybe it's just a time-passing path; that is up to you. How many of us can truly say we have no qualms whatsoever about dumping hours of time and heaps of money into something that we don't even know will give us a successful outcome?

It's a scary idea, and something that people need to ponder over for quite some time before they know what direction to go in. So what category do you fall into? Are you afraid of wasting time and money pursuing something you think you like to do, or are you the type to dive in head-first and worry about the details later? Let me know in the comments!

More soon

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