Daily affirmation: Stop beating yourself up.
As part of my have-a-camera-at-all-times/stop-and-shoot-cool-stuff approach to photography, I pulled over to shoot these clouds on the drive north a couple of weekends ago. I wasn’t sure I captured the crazy range of sky and clouds until I pulled this into Lightroom. While I grouse to myself about megapixels and sensor dust, seeing this image blown up onscreen silenced those grumbles for a bit. Despite it’s ability to capture a great image, I think it’s time to upgrade the 5D.
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As part of my internal professional monologue, I’m looking hard at camera options and they are all very expensive and while I think it’s worth it for me to update the 5D (Canon’s 5D Mark III is looking sweet, but so is Nikon’s D800…), I’ve resisted. The jump from the 5D to the 5D Mark II was a no-brainer for my business; the increased image size, stunning HD video and larger rear LCD meant time savings and money savings over time. This is how my thinking has changed over the years. What I would have discounted as an expensive luxury item ten years ago is now up for consideration as a tool for revenue generation. It seems simple and a no-brainer for anybody in business. But I was raised by parents who were born in and survived the Great Depression. Their relationship to money and things was very different than mine. I remember buying a cheap stereo receiver for my room as a freshman in high school. I worked for my mom and had saved some money. I got a deal on a Radio Shack floor model and spent the next four years building my personal stereo, one component at a time. By senior year, I had a decent stereo, the turntable being the weakest link. My father would remark with each addition, “Your mother and I didn’t have a stereo until I was out of college and working for a couple of years.”
Globalization and cheap electronics notwithstanding, those words have stayed with me. The difference now is that every major purchase gets filtered through the revenue generation spreadsheet. Can this help or hurt revenue generation? Is it worth the cost? Sometimes objects have hidden savings or hidden benefits. For example, I’m always amazed at how people skimp on office chairs. If you work in front of a computer, why wouldn’t you invest in a decent chair? Sure $1,000 US is insane to consider for a home office chair. Until you think about how many hours you spend in it and any health costs for sitting in a chair that doesn’t give good support or encourage good posture. In 1995, I bought a Herman Miller Equa task chair with casters for $400. There were rumblings inside my head and from co-workers about how crazy I was to spend that kind of money on a chair. However, that chair was in use in my home office until 2007. My mom uses that chair now. The fabric has held up and it’s still in fantastic working order, 17 years later. That said, I don’t think it’s necessary to spend $3,000 dollars when a third of that will fund a fantastic chair that will get used for years. But the $200 chair at a big box store? Crap. Not worth the box it came in.
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The above image was taken on a six year old Canon 5D. It’s not a bad camera at all. The sensor needs to be cleaned, but it still takes great images. I think it’s quickly becoming apparent that if I want to take my photography further, I’ll need to upgrade to a better camera. Not so much for the image capture but for the output in prints and the potential for the commercial use of the images. I suppose one could make the argument that by publishing images here, they are helping to generate income. And that’s true. But the work to get the images to the next level is being limited by the camera. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve outgrown the 5D. The images I capture on the Mark II give more creative freedom and have a better dynamic range. They are stronger images. Yes, I can manipulate the 5D images, but the Mark II images require less work to finish editing and processing. And that’s the other factor: time. If I value my time, I have to attach a monetary figure to how that time is spent on tasks that a better piece of gear would eliminate. This kind of consideration is something that is a relatively new aspect in purchase decisions. And by new I’d say within the last 6 years.
The Mormon pioneer DIY ethic was deeply engrained in me. It took weeks of internal justification before I realized that hiring somebody to mow the lawn made my life less stressed, my post-mow allergies less annoying and the yard looked miles better. I didn’t know until 2008 why morning the lawn without a respirator made me feel crappy; I’m literally allergic to grass. I figure it took a couple of hours to mow, edge and clean up. Another couple of hours to shower and sit or lie down because my allergies were so bad. Four hours of my time. A crew can blaze through a lawn in a quarter of the time it would take me and cost a lot less. The cost benefit analysis: pay somebody. But my parent’s rigid adherence to doing it for yourself was still banging around inside. Once I fired up a spreadsheet, it made no sense to continue the weekly mow myself.
How this applies to a new camera? If I can’t make money with an expensive camera, I can’t justify the purchase. Maybe I need to re-think my print pricing.