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What is the cost of going on a shoot?

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Now this is a really interesting question! In 2012 I went to New Zealand for a month. My goal for that trip was to come home with three good images. Considering I strive for 10 good images in a year, getting three in a month was an ambitious goal! The trip ended up costing me around $4000, including flights, a rental car, lodging, food, and production costs like scenic helicopter flights and special equipment purchases.

That means I was willing to spend $1333 to create each of those three images. Sounds like quite a risk, eh? Because there was no guarantee I would come home with those images. What if I only came home with two good images, or one, or none? That would mean that a single shot from New Zealand could’ve cost me as much as four grand! Or imagine if I came home with bupkis? $4000 spent, without a single image to show for it. Ouch. Now that would be hard to justify from a financial point of view (but not from a personal one, as I love New Zealand and cherish any time I get to be there, photography or no).

But as it turns out, I came home with about 15 decent images, and 7 images I was absolutely stoked on. Meaning that the trip ended up costing me about $200 per photo. Not too bad, especially when you look at the number of print sales those images have generated; it’s more than paid for the trip. And now that I am leading photo tours in New Zealand the initial investment has come back to me more than 10-fold.

The truth is it’s always a gamble when you go out to shoot. Are you going to come back with keeper images or not? Sometimes the expense is completely justifiable; other times not so much. But at the end of the day I think that’s irrelevant. Because if you’re going out to shoot only with the goal of making money from the images you capture, then you’re missing the point of nature photography in the first place.

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