Hidden costs of photography

Most people just purchase a compact camera for less than S$1,000, get an SD card and then start shooting. Some may get accessories like pouches or mini tripods, but the costs are not astronomical. I know such articles have been written to the death, but I just wanted to relate my own experience with the purpose of educating those who don’t already know.

Unlike what some people perceive, I am not sponsored by Canon or anybody for my photography. It’s all from my own pocket, painfully saved up. It really irks me when people say, “Not like I’m rich and can afford such expensive equipment…”

To be frank, I wasn’t prepared for the additional costs (everything else except the camera and lenses). Every time I needed to get something, I would hesitate for a while before getting it and I would cringe at the price. Here’s my investment thus far:

  • Canon 1DX body – S$8,288
  • EF 8-15mm f/4L USM fisheye  – S$1,872.50
  • EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM – S$3,370.50
  • EF 35mm f/1.4L USM – S$2,046.91
  • EF 135mm f/2L USM – S$1,324.66
  • EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM – S$6,500 (bought secondhand)
  • Additional 1DX original battery- S$279
  • Sandisk Extreme Pro 32GB CF cards x 2 – S$400
  • Speedlite 600EX-RT – S$900
  • Digi Cab dry cabinet – S$300
  • B+W filters x 4 – S$400
  • Think Tank Hydrophobia rain cover – S$200
  • Think Tank Retrospective shoulder bag – S$200
  • Think Tank Pro Speed belt +harness + 5 pouches – S$300
  • BlackRapid RS-Sport Extreme Sport Strap – S$200
  • Tripod – S$200
  • Remote – S$100
  • Card reader – S$70
  • Appropriate clothing gear, such as hat, windbreaker, pants, shoes
  • Servicing, cleaning and maintenance
  • Possible medical bills from carrying heavy equipment around
  • Other stuff I might have forgotten

Some prices are estimates as I cannot remember the exact numbers. I think there are a few more things here and there that I left out. But this is the tangible investment that I can recall and I would say I have invested about S$30,000 so far.

I’ve not included the time needed to post-process the photos – that is something which is hard to put a value to. Different photographers have different editing levels and skills. I am not adept with Photoshop or Lightroom, and have only recently started playing around with it. All my photos are usually straight from the camera, but for the super pro photographers, their work really begins only after they are done shooting.

I hope people will understand why photography at higher levels is expensive. The list above is only what I use for my photojournalism work and sports events. Have you thought about those who shoot in studios? There is a lot more gear that goes in there from backdrops to lights.

Don’t devalue the price of pro photography because you have a good compact camera and awesome photo apps in your phone to edit with before posting on social media.