Website design By BotEap.comYou’ve commissioned the photographer, attended the shoot, viewed the result on your laptop, and now you’re hoping to get your disk full of amazing new images. The record arrives and as predicted the photographs are stunning, more than I could have asked for, however there seems to be a problem with the bill of sale, what is this digital processing fee about?

Website design By BotEap.comFrom past experiences, numerous clients simply do not understand the costs involved in shooting digitally or seem reluctant to pay for something they believe should be free due to the ‘virtual’ nature of digital files. In fact, there are no expensive Polaroids, films, wet processing, printing, and courier charges with digital capture.

Website design By BotEap.comIn the past, calculating the price of a session only involved adding the price of the film making, the development of the photo lab plus the printing costs, and then adding a modest supplement to cover the management of the entire process. The scanning and retouching was usually done and paid by the customer, but if they asked me to do it myself, this time it would be billed separately. With the advancement of digital capture, things have changed considerably.

Website design By BotEap.comNowadays I don’t shoot movies and, it is true, the advantages for both myself and the client in digital filming are significant. I think the biggest pros are the new degree of creative control that the photographer and client have over the final shots plus the time that the entire digital process saves. But now there are several less apparent and hidden costs involved in getting to this final image file:

Website design By BotEap.comDigital camera equipment. Just to be able to capture digital files, the professional photographer must now continually invest in extremely expensive digital cameras, far more expensive than their film counterparts. Film cameras are fairly simple mechanical instruments that would last a prudent photographer for many years, while digital cameras are packed with technology that soon makes yesterday’s news, requiring frequent updates. Digital cameras also seem to break more often, much less the regular sensor cleaning required!

Website design By BotEap.comProcessing and retouching RAW files. Professional digital capture often creates a RAW image file, a kind of negative that, unlike jpeg files, will need fine tuning to get the right level of exposure, color correction, and sharpness. These RAW files can best be equated to a traditional film-based negative that needs to be lab-processed, printed, scanned, and finally retouched to customer specifications. But instead of dodging or burning with an enlarger, the photographer must now do this basic retouching job in image manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop. Lastly, these fully edited and retouched files will be printed by a calibrated desktop printer, transferred to the customer via some kind of digital medium, or sent via email / ftp. High-end computer equipment is not cheap, or image manipulation software that commercial photographers must learn to use efficiently. These high-priced items also have a nasty habit of devaluing very quickly, and full training is often essential for the photographer to use them expertly.

Website design By BotEap.comHour. All of these “invisible” tasks and skills require the photographer to spend considerable time processing the perfect shot before the files are returned to the client. The client could receive the finished work sooner than with traditional film-based media, but in many ways the workload and knowledge base of the photographer has increased. Separate scanning and retouching costs may be a thing of the past for clients, but the photographer still needs to reward their now substantial part of this digital production process.

Website design By BotEap.comIn general, commercial photographers’ digital production fees simply reflect ongoing financial investments in the right professional hardware, the skills essential to perform such tasks, and the labor time involved to deliver the image files to the client. finished captured, edited and presented digitally.

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