Lessons from the Shop: Digital WorkStation for Photographer by Stanley Leary


by Stanley Leary

Figure 1
I decided to look at all the software I use on my computer and realized my computer costs a lot more than my Nikon D4 camera, which retails for $6,000.
You really need to remind yourself all that you bring to a job for a client. You need to be able to recoup your costs and still make a profit. 
Hardware & Software
$2,500  Macbook Pro 15" 2.66 GHz i7 processor with 8 Gig Ram
$1,900  Adobe Creative Suite
$200     Microsoft Office 11
$150     PhotoMechanic
$150     Lightroom
$300     Final Cut Pro X
$50       SilverFast 8
$120     SoundSlides Pro
$140     FotoMagico
$400     Cumulus
$150     FotoQuote
$49       VMWare Fusion 5
$140     Windows 7
$99       Quicken Home & Business
$20       Disco Burning
$600     Few other software packages
$6,968  Total
To learn how to use the computer and each of the software packages is a lot of time and money.  I cannot realistically put a figure on this, because I have been to so many workshops through the years and then watched so many video tutorials on top of time practicing with each software package.
Realistically if I were to start from scratch to learn all that I know how to do on my computer, I think it would take two to three years of time to start over if I had to today.
When you get ready to price your time to work on post production, remember you are a highly trained professional working at a "Digital Workstation" and not just a computer.  Your clients most likely do not have any specialized software on their computers which requires years of training to master.
Your client has no reference for why you need to charge so much for post production when they have a $500 PC computer and a $300 camera and they upload their photos to Facebook within a few minutes of taking them.  
When talking to your client I don't think they are interested in you quoting all this like I am doing here. No this information is what you need to help you first of all know the real costs of doing business.
Difference between $7,000 Digital Workstation and a $500 computer?
You need to talk to your client in terms of what differences they will notice between what you will give them and if they took it with their camera.
Here are some areas you might want to address:
Skin Tones
Color Accuracy in their products
Larger color gamut 
Leveling of horizons
Variety of images
Verticals & Horizontals
Overall, Medium and Details
Perspectives from high and low
This is just a list to get your juices flowing about things your post production work does to give them a superior product.
You learn to talk to them about digital redundancy which you do to insure they have an image. They take a photo and have it only in one place, where you make multiple copies and due to that if an image is corrupted you have copies. This takes up space on additional hard drives and cloud space. 
Are you charging enough to recover your hardware, software and training you have in your "Digital Workstation?" This is in addition to the actual time you spend working on the project.
However you want to price it and communicate it to your client is as much creative as they shooting of the images. Be sure you are making money and not losing it.