Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Money is probably not the issue

Jasmine Star, a wedding photographer whose blog ( I regularly read, is teaching a workshop on editorial shooting: .  It looks very interesting but the cost -- $795 for early registration and $995 for regular registration -- is way out of my budget.
Initially, I felt sad that I didn't have the financial wherewithal to attend such a workshop but when I thought about it, it really wasn't the right time yet for me to take such a course.  I figure, I have a day job that pays reasonably well, so if a workshop is affordable only to people who make three or four times more money than me, it would be a very short list of prospective customers. 
The issue here isn't really about money.  It's more about purpose.  The reason I'm not willing to spend $1k on a seminar with such a narrow and specialized focus is because my purpose for my photos is purely personal.  On the other hand, if your photos are what pay for your mortgage, and this workshop dangles the prospect of increasing your income through editorial shooting, then $1k is not out of the question (depending on how much I could potentially earn).  Similarly, Neil van Niekerk recently commented that he paid $1000+ to attend a post-processing seminar.  For amateurs like me who only shoot as a hobby (albeit passionately), spending that kind of money on a seminar wouldn't make sense unless I were filthy rich.
Unless of course I really "needed" to.  The way I see it, there are a bazillion ways of improving my photography, and some ways are easier to learn than others.  Why be concerned about learning the subtle techniques at these $1000 seminars, when my photography could benefit from far more basic techniques that are available through research and practice?  At some point, though, I will have picked all the low-hanging fruit, in which case, the last step to improve would be to take these kinds of seminars.  Suffice to say I'm not there yet.
This is my philosophy as well when it comes to equipment.  If I wanted a camera with a fast standard zoom, there are many ways to go about it, anywhere from a Nikon D3000 + Tamron 17-50 non-VC (around $700 total) to a Nikon D3S + Nikon 24-70 2.8 (around $7400 total).  That's a difference of a whole order of magnitude!  Superficially, one might say that I would pick the combo that is proportionate to my income.  That may be true, but for the vast majority of people who are not filthy rich, I think the choice comes down to skill level and purpose.  If my skills are basic, there's no point getting the best equipment because the bottleneck in my photos will be my skill.  At some point though, I will have squeezed everything I can from my non-pro equipment and if I want that extra edge in quality, I will have to go for the pro-level equipment.  Until then, there's no need to suffer angst from equipment envy.
Conveniently, the increase in skill also coincides with purpose.  Again excluding those with a license to print money, it doesn't make sense to spend THAT much money on a hobby.  However, at the point where we become exceptionally skilled, our skills become not just a hobby for personal amusement but a skill that is valuable enough that other people will pay for it.  And if other people will pay for our skills, then the cost of the equipment (or seminar or software or whatever) justifies itself.
So.... the next time you feel you really need that new piece of equipment, software, or seminar, I suggest you think about what is holding you back.  If what is holding you back is the money and you're pissed off at God for not letting you be born as a trust baby, I say: Relax. 99.9999% of the population aren't trust babies either, so that's not the real issue.  Look instead to hone your skills.  Peace!

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