The Financial Squeeze Is Affecting the Photography Industry: Seven Ways to Protect Your Pocket

The Financial Squeeze Is Affecting the Photography Industry: Seven Ways to Protect Your Pocket

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.

The new OM System OM-1

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.

Brought out at the right time? Sales of this OM System Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO Lens exceeded all expectations.

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.

Screenshot of ON1 Photo Raw 2022

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.

Older cameras can be bought at a fraction of their original price

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.

Do you print enough to warrant owning your own printer? Or would you be better off outsourcing it?

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. 

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21 Comments
Willy Williams's picture

Regarding RAW processors, don't forget darktable (yes, uncapitalized). Version 4.0 is scheduled for release on 07/02/22. V 3.8.1 is available right now from https://www.darktable.org/install/. There's a steep learning curve, but there are plenty of videos on YouTube from Bruce Williams and others and a very thorough downloadable manual.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Thanks, Willy, yes there are a lot of raw processing tools out there, and that one works well too.

Jan Steinman's picture

I've never been happy with cataloging software, not since Apple Aperture sucked all my photos in, and then Apple discontinued it, and Aperture refused to disgorge my images with the structure (not even original filenames!) they had before ingestion, and they lost all the Aperture-specific metadata I had painstakingly built up.

But Aperture was ahead of its time. I really depended on face recognition, for example, that no other Digital Asset Management (DAM) system of the day had.

I've been pretty unhappy with photo editors that claimed to include a DAM. All the ones I've tried were buggy, slow, inaccurate, or tedious. Entering keywords, in particular, is generally a huge time sink.

Enter Excire Foto (https://excire.com/en/). This "editorless" DAM does not pretend to be everything; rather, it does the "catalog thing" extremely well. It employs AI to automagically assign keywords — be still, my heart! It maintains its own keyword hierarchy, and you can use your own manual ones, too. It does a credible job with face-matching, and contextual matching ("find photos like this one"). In fact, those two tools are so useful, they are just one click away from any thumbnail!

It does this with your file structure, and does a good job of discovering and re-analyzing things if you change the structure of your file system. A bit of snooping reveals that it uses a SQLite database underneath, which, if you're crafty, you can probably export image metadata into a real SQL database or even JSON structures.

Although it is not an editor, it will re-size and export from a number of input formats (including at least Olympus .ORF raw files) to PNG or JPEG. And a menu item lets you make a round-trip with any image editor on your computer.

(Excire does not currently read .PSD files, although their tech support says it's coming soon.)

It does this as a stand-alone program, for Mac or Windows, for just US$69. But if you are wedded to Adobe, Excire Foto is available as a Lightroom Classic plugin for the same price.

But there's more! It has an extra-cost plugin (Excire Analytics) that does analysis of your imagebase. You can easily and rapidly get a pie-chart of statistics from a selection of your images, or all your images. What lens do you use the most? What lens do you use the most for images that you've rated five stars? What aperture did you use the most for portrait face images? What shutter speed did you use the most for images it keywords with "Sports?" Excire Analytics is available for Mac or Windows for just $39.

I've found that Excire Foto has become my most used image tool. It is very stable, with no crashes at all. A free two-week, full-function demo is available. (No demo for Analytics, unfortunately, but based on my two weeks, I went ahead and gambled $39 — no regrets!)

All of this, from software with a version number of 1.3.0! I'm hoping for great things from them in the future!

Ivor Rackham's picture

Thank you, Jan. I had not come across that program, and it sounds interesting. I'll give it a look when I have the time.

dale clark's picture

Lensrentals.com is your friend. I sold off some lenses, certain lights, and other equipment that I rarely used. I now rent if I was to need something on a rare occasion.

Ivor Rackham's picture

That's a good hint. Thanks Dale.

Tom Reichner's picture

Very very little of my photography expenses have to do with photography gear such as cameras, lenses, computers, and editing software. The vast majority of my photography expenses are for travel.

About 90% of all the money I spend on photography goes to things such as gasoline, hotel rooms, campground fees, tolls, entry fees to parks and the like, and meals at restaurants while on the road.

The severe leap in gasoline prices is going to have a significant affect on me. It hasn't yet, because my revenue has escalated and more than offsets the spike in gas prices. But that revenue stream will flatten out in a few months, and if gas is still $5 a gallon or more then I will not be able to go to the places I want to go to to photograph wildlife.

I already do trips "on the cheap" compared to almost everyone I know. I do this by having a Toyota Corolla, which is too small for me and is horrible in deep snow or off road ... but it gets 30+ miles per gallon and never breaks down, and it is such a common car that parts are so easy to find for cheap, when I need to do maintenance and upkeep. I really don't like being stuck with a tiny car that is limited in its usefulness, but it is so much cheaper to operate than anything else that I am pretty much stuck with it as long as my income is in the "meagre" category.

I also sleep in my car from time to time to save the cost of a motel room. I don't like it and I get a horrible night's sleep and spend the next day with a sore back and aching knees, but it does save me some money. I also camp in a tent, but that requires me to carry a fair amount of camping gear, and my care is small so space is limited. I don't like being cramped for space, but again, it saves some money, so I put up with the discomfort and inconvenience.

As for food, I really love good hot meals that don't require any time or effort on my part, so restaurants are really the way to go when I am on the road. I have tried many alternatives, such as taking camp cooking gear with me and making my own meals - but this takes far too much time and the gear takes up precious space in my small car. I have also tried to survive on "car food" - food that can be kept in the car and does not require refrigeration and that can be eaten at ambient temperature. Yeah, this can be nutritious and keep my body going, but it is really not as enjoyable as a good hot meal that is made to order. So I may have car food for one meal a day, but greatly prefer not to do it any more than necessary.

So yes there are ways to save money on photography travel, and photography travel is over 90% of all of my photography expense. But those money-saving ways come at a great price of comfort, pleasure, and convenience. Almost every other wildlife photographer I know has a lot more money than I do, so they all have nice big SUVs or big 4 wheel drive pickups and they all stay at nice hotels that are over $100 / night whenever they travel. But I do not have the money they have so I have to put up with the discomfort and often not-as-pleasurable travel methods that they are fortunate enough to be able to avoid.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Yes, the cost of fuel is horrendous. When anyone is already on a shoestring budget these increasing prices are going to be crippling and it's difficult to see a way around it Thank you for that insightful comment, Tom.

Chris Rogers's picture

Fuel is insane. My fuel costs jumped by almost $100 a month to around $200 per month fuel cost. that's literally just going to work and home.

Tom Reichner's picture

I can only wish that my fuel costs were so low. Even though I have a small car that gets over 30 miles per gallon, I was spending between $3,000 and $4,000 a year on gasoline. Now with these newly increased prices, I am on pace to spend a whopping $7,800 on gas this year. Damn! I can't even imagine the annual fuel costs for those who drive big 4 wheel drives that get 15 miles per gallon.

Ron Berman's picture

Yes fuel cost is a definite factor. I live in New Zealand where fuel cost is now +/- $3.45 per litre which equates to approximately $13.00 per gallon. This is cripplingly expensive.

Tom Reichner's picture

$13 per gallon?!!! How in the world do they expect you to go road-tripping across the country? That's utterly crazy, to the point of destroying people's lifelong hopes and dreams.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Here in this part of the UK it is £1.63/litre. In US Gallons (not the bigger imperial gallons) that's the same as $7.74/gallon. Household fuel costs have shot up even further. Ours has nearly doubled in the last year,

Robert Meppelink's picture

I have a late 2013 Mac Pro, and it has not slowed down with age in the least. Such slowdowns have always been true with Windows in my experience, which I why I switched to Mac 10 years ago and have never looked back. Since switching, my total cost of computer ownership has dropped dramatically. Another thing to consider is the resale value of Macs. My first Mac was a Mac Mini. I paid $800 for it, used it for four years, upgraded the hard drive to an SSD, and sold it for $600. Net cost for fours years: $200 plus $200 for the SSD. Keep in mind also that Mac OS updates, word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software are all included. I believe the fine apple paid for "slowing down" the iPhone was for slow downs related to aging batteries in order to maintain minimal usability rather than having the phone simply shut down. Apple will install a new battery in an iPhone while you wait at any Apple store for about $69.

I am an Adobe subscriber, and have never paid full price for subscribing to the full suite. Adobe for years has always sold the full suite subscription during black Friday week for $30 per month rather than $50, so I have made sure to have my renewal date fall right around black Friday. I then cancel for a day or two and renew at the sale price. I can't be sure this will always work, but it has worked for me for over 5 years. This is because, unfortunately, I simply can't do what I want to do without Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and Acrobat and their mutual compatibility.

And by the way, nothing but used DSLR's and lenses for my wife and I. Mirrorless will happen when there are reasonable used prices for such cameras in 5 years or so.

Jan Steinman's picture

I just put a couple hundred into my 2009 Mac Pro (4,1). I upgraded my graphics card because many modern photo editors refused to work with my last upgrade of ~6 years ago, and added a Thunderbolt card, so I could use USB-C PD to charge the new OM-1 that I've been waiting nearly three months for.

Next up, before the trash, is going from four cores to twelve, with a processor upgrade. This will cost about half of what a bottom-end laptop will cost, but it will make it the equal of today's mid- to high-end Windows desktops.

Still working great, and I've probably kept 4-5 Windows computers out of the landfill in the past 13 years!

Robert Meppelink's picture

Based on all the positive things I'm reading about the OM-1, including in this discussion, I will have to put that on my list of possible used mirrorless in coming years. I like 20 megapixel because of the lower demands on hard drive space, so that new storage is not needed as often. That's why I remain satisfied with our two 6D's and older L lenses, despite the occasional focus disappointments when returning from an outing.

M Hector's picture

The OM-1 did have good release timing, for sure. I want that camera bad, but it is not going to happen now. I bought a very very nice Sony camera when I was in the market, so to speak, which was before the OM-1 was released. The Canon R7 seems like a great pick now, too, except that the OM-1 has far more intriguing computational photography capabilities and would still be my first choice despite the lower resolution (which is not truly a concern, given the high res mode that it has). Oh to have a massive lottery winning right now. So much great tech. So little funding. 🙂

Ivor Rackham's picture

I have the OM-1, and I handle lots of cameras of all makes and models in my work, although not a Leica yet for some strange reason. It is an astounding camera and I would not swap it even if someone offered me one of the other stacked sensor cameras that have 35mm sensors and cost more than double. It did empty my piggy bank though. Good luck with the lottery, though I suspect investing the money might bring a better return.

Jan Steinman's picture

If you haven't used Olympus yet, the real "sleeper" feature is industry-leading IBIS. I shoot a 500mm lens hand-held! It's really changed the way I do photography.

Matt Odom's picture

What a great down-to-earth article!

Ivor Rackham's picture

Thank you, Matt. That is very kind of you to say.