As waves of international turmoil shake the photographic world, how will the industry be affected? Additionally, are there ways we can protect ourselves from this economic mess? Here are seven options.
During the pandemic, people were not spending money. So, there was a short period where those who were lucky enough to have saved could buy items they would not have otherwise considered. For example, OM Digital Systems were taken aback by the massive uptake of the $7,499 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO Lens, and, shortly afterward, the $2,199 OM1 camera. Both lens and camera became financially viable for many people who would have previously been unable to afford them.
Furthermore, these two products are a huge step forward from their predecessors, something we rarely see in cameras. Many upgrades are just slight tweaks from the previous model.
Then came the enormous amount of positive reaction from those who purchased them. That had a knock-on effect, encouraging others in a way that no marketing campaign could. Consequently, that demand is continuing.
It was fortuitous timing for OM Digital Systems, but one must now wonder whether other manufacturers’ products that missed that window might not be as successful with their upcoming releases. That moment was short-lived and the market has changed considerably over the last couple of months. So, it will be interesting to see how well other new products will perform in the shops.
Here in the UK, we have a struggling economy heading into recession and galloping inflation caused by the triple-whammy of Brexit, the international fuel crisis resulting from Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, and the aftermath Covid-19 pandemic. Except for Brexit, those economic factors have led to similar problems in many other countries too. In short, there is less money in our pockets. Sadly, for too many, this is a critical problem.
Apart from a fortunate few, everyone now feels the pinch of having less disposable cash. Consequently, photographers that I've been speaking to have decided that their current camera does a good enough job and are not buying new ones. I'm hearing very little buzz about upcoming releases.
Photography isn’t a cheap activity, so how can we save money in these challenging times? There’s no single answer, but a combination of small changes can build up and help us manage our budgets.
Cancel or Change Subscriptions
Many software companies have switched to a subscription package. These are expensive for the photographer in the long term. The most well know of these is the Adobe Photographers Plan. Since introducing the subscription model, Adobe’s revenue has soared. It’s now nearly four times what it was ten years ago.
Adobe achieved record annual revenue of $15.79 billion in the fiscal year 2021, which represents 23 per cent year-over-year growth - Adobe.com, December 16, 2021
$14.573 billion of that was from subscriptions. If they are profiting, that money is coming from our pockets.
Try to escape from the plan on any date other than during the renewal month and you’ll discover it’s not that easy; they will charge you a sizeable penalty for doing so. Nevertheless, there is a way around it. Just change the subscription to another package and then cancel that immediately afterward. You will get charged for it and then refunded.
I’ve wanted to be shot of the Adobe package for ages for one main reason: most of my images I only ever develop in raw, and I don’t like the results of Adobe’s basic engine compared to other software I own. Furthermore, I've found other ways of developing videos that meet my needs.
For photography, I now use a perpetual license of ON1 Photo Raw 2022. The initial outlay is more, but I make nearly $20 saving over a year. I imported my Lightroom catalog into ON1. If that’s done before canceling Lightroom, it includes creating a close approximation of the develop settings.
There are cheaper options still. Serif Affinity Photo is popular software that has a one-off cost of just under $27, but sadly it doesn’t have a catalog. The good news is that even if you cancel Lightroom Classic, you still have access to its library module, although you will have to go through the file explorer to open the photo in another program; plugins won’t work.
For making even more significant savings, most manufacturers supply free raw development software for their cameras. There are also free developing and editing tools such as Lightzone for raw development plus Paint.net (Windows only), the combination of UFRaw and Gimp, or Raw Therapee.
All these programs give different results. Many people will say the output from one is better than another, me included. As I said, I don’t really like Adobe’s raw output, and I am not keen on Affinity’s either, but that is my subjective opinion; others love them.
Use Older Camera Equipment
Jump back in time seven years to 2015. It was a great year for cameras. The Canon 5DS and 750D, the Sony a7 II, a7S II, and a7R II, the Pentax K3 II, the Nikon D810A, D5500, and D7200, the Lumix DMC-G7, plus the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II were released in that year. All were superb cameras; check their reviews. Each, in the right hands, could produce great shots. Moreover, they still can.
So, you might not be able to shoot clean images at ISO 25,600, but do you need to? Would that extra little bit of dynamic range make that much difference to your pictures? Probably not.
Some photographers need that extra performance, especially those who earn a living from photography. But for the hobbyist or enthusiast photographer, what was achievable in a camera seven or even ten years ago is plenty good enough for what they do now. Moreover, reputable dealers in the second-hand market are flooded with older models that can be bought for a fraction of their original retail cost.
Sell You Old Kit
A friend just sold three old lenses he never used, a couple of old redundant tripods, and a few other accessories for over $1,200. If it’s sitting idle in your cupboard, let someone else make use of it.
Slow Computer? Can’t Afford a New One? Switch to Ubuntu
It’s a constant annoyance that once speedy computers become old and slow. Is this built-in obsolescence? I am pretty sure it is. I constructed my desktop computer about seven years ago. It has an 8-core processor that was considered fast when I installed it. It has 32 GB RAM and solid-state hard drives. Windows 11 won’t work on it because the processor is incompatible. It’s also much slower than it once was, despite having a clean install of Windows.
Macs also slow down with age. In 2020, Apple paid a $113 million fine for deliberately slowing down their iPhones. One must wonder whether operating systems are intentionally made sluggish to encourage upgrades.
Besides my main computer, I have an ancient single-core laptop with 2 GB RAM onto which I loaded the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system. I have Raw Therapee installed on it, and it is as fast as my Windows desktop. (Raw Therapee recommends 4GB of RAM, but my old laptop works with 2GB.)
Not directly photography-related, but there is also an excellent free word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and other software bundled in with Libre Office that can save you a substantial amount on your administration costs compared to Microsoft Office. This is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
Ubuntu isn’t the answer for everyone, but it might be a possible solution for those struggling to get by and whose computers are slow because of older specifications.
Switch Off Vampire Devices
My computer draws about 125 Watts. I’m now in the habit of shutting it down whenever I am away from it for more than 15 minutes. Compared to leaving it running all the time, this saves me over $100 a year. I also unplug my cameras’ battery chargers and don’t charge my phone overnight.
There are other devices in your home that suck electricity when not in use. Gaming devices and TV set-top boxes are particularly thirsty.
Switching things off also helps prevent house fires.
Look for Cheap Cloud Storage
If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, it comes with Amazon Photos. This allows you unlimited cloud storage of your images, including most raw files. There are some exceptions, and that includes PSD files, but if you are already a subscriber, then Amazon is a good option.
Even if you cancel the membership, the images are stored on the cloud for 180 days before they are deleted. So long as you take out another month's subscription before that time is up, you can store your photos for nearly a year for the cost of two months' Prime membership.
If that's not for you, then it’s worth shopping around for cloud storage options, they do vary considerably.
Get Your Prints from a Respectable Printing Service
I gave up printing my images years ago. When I need prints, it is far cheaper for me to call upon the services of a top-quality printing service like Whitewall than printing on-site. Additionally, I don’t have office space cluttered with a bulky printer, nor do I have the hassle of printheads and cartridges running dry from lack of use.
In an ideal world, we would all have unlimited access to enough wealth to be able to pursue our enthusiasm for photography. Sadly, we don’t. However, we can still change how we work in this fabulous artform to make it affordable.
Some of those suggestions won't suit everyone, but there are those who may benefit from adopting one or two of these practices who would otherwise find photography prohibitively expensive.
Have you any photography recommendations to share with readers who may need to save money with their photography? It would be great to hear them in the comments.