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Author Topic: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?  (Read 753 times)

danielc

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Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« on: December 23, 2017, 04:44:26 AM »

Hey guys,

I assume many of you have galleries or are selling significant amounts of work? and also that many of you are using MF digital?

I started my business selling my landscape images a year ago on the side from my real job, mostly at tourist markets and shopping centre pop ups. We turned over about USD $30,000 since June this year with about $10k of that profit.

I'm shooting with a D810 and Tamron zooms. The D810 is a big step up from my previous 5dii but I am starting to see limitations, mostly when I am too lazy/don't have time/stitch doesn't work to take multi image stitched panos and crop a single image down to 3:1 pano size and then print biggish. The biggest size I usually print is about 16"x48" or 24"x48" and this is starting to require some significant enlarging.

I'd like to upgrade cameras to ideally something like a Phase one 100mp or a Fuji GFX50 (maybe 100 next year) but it's so hard to justify. Even with the profit in the business there's so much equipment to buy to take it to the next level - new tripod, pano head, better monitor than dell U2711, calibrator (I've been fine so far without one, but want to perfect accuracy) new printer (currently 4800)

So I guess the question is, when did you decide to make the leap and shell out $45,000 for a serious MF camera kit? Did the camera earn you more than $45,000 of extra business (I know it's really hard to define)

In the transition from skilled hobbyists/semi professionals that I assume most of you reading this went through, where were your limited funds best spent? Skilled salespeople/marketing?  Invest it into a better looking gallery? Or make that massive jump up to the premium pro level equipment?

Just thought I'd add my website which is being upgraded to ecommerce at the moment just so you can see my type of images www.danielcourtney.com.au
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BobShaw

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2017, 05:04:10 PM »

So I guess the question is, when did you decide to make the leap and shell out $45,000 for a serious MF camera kit?
I didn't, but having a 5D2 also I saw the benefits of MF as soon as I started making metre wide prints.
I went to Mamiya then Hasselblad/Phase, then two H3DII and now H4D. None of these cost more than $4000AU. Actually the Hasselblad H1/Phase back was the dearest combination.
My advise would be to try it with second hand unit and keep the D810 as a backup until you are sure.
Even then you can't climb a mountain with a medium format kit unless you go X1D
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Peter McLennan

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2017, 07:04:48 PM »

If I'd made $10K since June in my spare time "on the side from my real job", I'd be changing nothin'.  8)
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danielc

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2017, 08:36:10 PM »

If I'd made $10K since June in my spare time "on the side from my real job", I'd be changing nothin'.  8)

It's been hard work though, about 430 hours of retail time on my weekends etc, 3 weeks of annual leave to do Xmas retail etc. 10k profit on 35k turnover.

And I want to move to leave my real job and open a landscape photography gallery next year, gonna need a lot more than 10k profit for that! Basically I want to step it up to the next level.
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Alskoj

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2017, 09:02:59 PM »

Will you be posting any of your images to LuLa?  We would love to see them!
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danielc

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2017, 01:07:50 AM »

I didn't, but having a 5D2 also I saw the benefits of MF as soon as I started making metre wide prints.
I went to Mamiya then Hasselblad/Phase, then two H3DII and now H4D. None of these cost more than $4000AU. Actually the Hasselblad H1/Phase back was the dearest combination.
My advise would be to try it with second hand unit and keep the D810 as a backup until you are sure.
Even then you can't climb a mountain with a medium format kit unless you go X1D

Thanks Bob. Is there much of a secondhand market in Aus for these? I haven't really seen any and I've been keeping my eye out.

I was thinking an intermediate upgrade to the D850 would satisfy my immediate MPX need relatively cheaply, however I am thinking of instead making the big jump.
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danielc

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2017, 01:09:05 AM »

Will you be posting any of your images to LuLa?  We would love to see them!

Maybe mate, at the moment they are all available at www.danielcourtney.com.au
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langier

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2017, 09:38:50 AM »

A few years back, I sold an entire hotel worth of work to one client. Smallest print was 17x22 inches, most 20x30 to 30x40 inches. The files? mostly captured on 10-12 MP cameras, sold before the D800 but not before the $50K Hasselblad & Phase 1.... Needless to day, I didn't take my profits and buy other than a D800 and more importantly, time and travel to get new images.

In the process of this project, I upgraded my capabilities, a newer printer to print all the work which I'm still using today (Epson 9900, second-hand), the skill to print and present coated canvas, some upgrades to my Mac for greater through-put.

Best of all, I put the money into taking more time to shoot on my own and buying travel to create opportunity to shoot more and better work.

Keep plugging away on your dream. Create a goal to get away from your 9-5 and a time-line. If you reach the tipping point, then take the leap. But if your prints are selling well now and you can fit a niche without having to spend big $$ to upgrade to a slightly better image quality (the economics of diminished returns), you'll be happier and better for it!

One more thought...I've just watched the Jay Maisel videos created by Michael for Lula... One major quote I got from watching besides the Gesture, Light, Color was to stop worrying about the pixels and worry about the photos... Seems to me a lot of Jay's work through the years was with 35mm and DX and more recently FX cameras and they seem to be doing the job for him.

Almost locally for me is Elizabeth Carmel who used to schlep her Hasselblad H3 or H4 and digital back through the Sierra and I think now shoots the FX Nikons and does tremendous quality out of her Calistoga and Truckee studios. I think both she and her husband upgraded theirselves rather than their equipment...
« Last Edit: December 24, 2017, 09:46:30 AM by langier »
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Two23

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2017, 11:16:34 AM »

I would ditch the Tamron zooms and buy the Nikon PC-E lenses 17/24/45mm.  I can't imagine being in the landscape business and not having the ability to do lens movements.  The 24mm PC-E is my most used lens.  As a bonus, it makes perfect 3-shot stitches.


Kent in SD
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Two23

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2017, 02:15:06 PM »

Having nothing to do for the next 15 minutes, I'll give some additional thoughts.  I've been  shooting weddings & family portraits as I have time over the past three or four years.  Back in the 1990s I shot photos for stock sales, mostly using Hassleblad and 4x5.  My thinking about photo gear is to keep as little money as possible tied up in gear.  I'm still using D800E for weddings (a pair, of course.  Must have back ups.)  I have not "upgraded" to the d810 and will hold off buying D850 until used ones are <$1,800.  My thinking is this:  1.  "Will people pay more for my images if I use a $3,200 camera?"  2.  "Will I earn more money because I have a $3,200 camera?"  3. "Will my customers even notice the difference between images made with D800E vs. D850?"  The answer to these three important questions are all "No!"  In the end, camera gear is probably the least important thing in most photography.  If you consider this to be a business, the goal is to MAKE money, not spend it.   If I were making $10,000 profit, it would difficult to justify spending over $50,000 (camera + lenses).  That doesn't sound like much of a business to me.  I'll conclude with an old joke I've heard:  "How do you make a small fortune in photography?  Start with a large one!"


Kent in SD
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tcphoto1

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2017, 09:59:21 AM »

I would upgrade those lenses and the printer to produce a better product. As the others have said, why spend it on gear that you donít need? The Canon 5Ds and 5DsR write large files and would cost a fraction of the price of a MF system. Invest in your business, donít continue to feed your business all your profits.
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BAB

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2017, 07:20:33 PM »

Nice images and nice PP I would not spend the 10k you made whether or not your business can improve slightly from the 100mp camera because you don't have the 40k to spend its really that simple.
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Joe Towner

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2017, 12:38:56 PM »

Congrats on the work so far Daniel,

I'm torn as to what direction to point you.  Are you working on a specific project that needs a lot more than you can currently produce?  Have you looked into using a motorized head for the panoramas to take out some of the manual errors?

Stepping up to MF is a mixed bag - right now the GFX and the 645z are the best values, and a new generation of the 33x44 CMOS chips is expected in 2018.  The D850 will cost more than just the body - it may require a full lens refresh.  If you're going that far, might as well check out the pixel shift options from Sony & Pentax.

My best advice is focus on selling, sales fix everything.  If you want to put half of your profit into new gear, that's great!  More than that or going into debt to finance a purchase isn't the right idea anymore.  There is a point of diminished returns, and beyond 50mp may be it.  Plus with MF you have a shallower dof compared to 35mm gear.

I've been shooting 50mp long enough and shot enough 100mp that the jump just doesn't always justify the cost now.  I love 100mp, and I will most likely get the GFX mk2, but my 645z does amazing stuff right now.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2017, 02:48:29 PM »

...The biggest size I usually print is about 16"x48" or 24"x48"...


As an aside, I've been selling bigger prints, landscapes, 20"x60" made with a 10 Mpx camera. Emotional impact, not tiniest of details, sells pictures. Having said that, however, I visited your site (nice pics, btw) and your images do benefit from a photographic veracity, i.e. fine detail. Just how that translates into $$$ is the real question.

If I were you, before spending $45K, I would...

1. Assess your market. You said it is a tourist area. $45K would give you more or less the same level of detail, but in much larger print sizes. The question is, is your tourist crowd the type that would pay significantly more for larger sizes? Otherwise, if you just get photographically "better" prints at sizes you currently sell, would clients notice the quality difference, and if they do, would they care? I'd say the benefit of MFDB would be in larger print sizes, but do you have a market for that?

2. Shopping malls and tourist markets do not seem the type of venue that would cater to the high-end buyers, the type you'd need if you'd want to recoup your investment reasonably quickly. A bit more luxurious gallery would be needed. Again, would you have the crowd for that? In the States, most photographers who sell in millions (US$) have galleries in major posh tourist areas: Las Vegas, Jackson Hole, La Jolla (San Diego). Even then, not all shoot with expensive equipment. Peter Lik does shoot today with expensive MFDBs, but his success is predominantly based on marketing and selling skills. Thomas Mangelsen, however, made his millions with a 35mm Nikon, shooting wildlife and landscape, producing successful huge prints, on occasion, with digital noise or film grain the size of golf balls.

3. Determine how aggressive and ambitious are your marketing and selling skills. If you are the type of photographer who would rather gauge his eyes with a plastic spoon then engage in a horse trading, bs-ing, and second-hand car salesman techniques with a customer, find someone with those skills to do it for you (more cost, however).

4. Not place too much expectation on potential online sales. For that, you'd need a name for yourself first. And even then... People like to see it in real life, before they shell out big bucks.
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danielc

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2017, 05:03:21 PM »

Thanks for all the replies guys, I'll write proper responses later but I'm definitely watching and reading thanks.
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danielc

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Re: Upgrading to MF or spend money on other parts of the business?
« Reply #15 on: December 27, 2017, 06:56:20 PM »

A few years back, I sold an entire hotel worth of work to one client. Smallest print was 17x22 inches, most 20x30 to 30x40 inches. The files? mostly captured on 10-12 MP cameras, sold before the D800 but not before the $50K Hasselblad & Phase 1.... Needless to day, I didn't take my profits and buy other than a D800 and more importantly, time and travel to get new images.

In the process of this project, I upgraded my capabilities, a newer printer to print all the work which I'm still using today (Epson 9900, second-hand), the skill to print and present coated canvas, some upgrades to my Mac for greater through-put.

Best of all, I put the money into taking more time to shoot on my own and buying travel to create opportunity to shoot more and better work.

Keep plugging away on your dream. Create a goal to get away from your 9-5 and a time-line. If you reach the tipping point, then take the leap. But if your prints are selling well now and you can fit a niche without having to spend big $$ to upgrade to a slightly better image quality (the economics of diminished returns), you'll be happier and better for it!

One more thought...I've just watched the Jay Maisel videos created by Michael for Lula... One major quote I got from watching besides the Gesture, Light, Color was to stop worrying about the pixels and worry about the photos... Seems to me a lot of Jay's work through the years was with 35mm and DX and more recently FX cameras and they seem to be doing the job for him.

Almost locally for me is Elizabeth Carmel who used to schlep her Hasselblad H3 or H4 and digital back through the Sierra and I think now shoots the FX Nikons and does tremendous quality out of her Calistoga and Truckee studios. I think both she and her husband upgraded theirselves rather than their equipment...

Thanks for the thoughts and words mate.

I think one of the key things for me that maybe I forgot to mention is that we are moving cities for my normal work.

So we will no longer be selling at the tourist markets or the shopping centre in my current City.

We are looking at keeping it going by producing calendars and postcards for the old city through our existing newsagent network, but turnover from here will drop significantly. We worked it out and if we employ someone to do the retail for us, we would get about $4/hour profit after all costs etc, about $2000 for the year not including all my time to make and ship prints etc, finding someone reliable etc etc. So we probably won't be continuing the current business as it stands.

The new city, we hope to do the same thing at assorted craft markets etc, since we have the setup down pat, frame suppliers sorted etc. Just need to get some photos from the new area.

The goal is to open my own gallery by the end of the year.

I estimate startup costs of the gallery at about USD $30,000 by the time you do gallery fitout, inventory, POS system, etc.

The main thing we intend to sell are large prints, at least 60"+ which is the main reason I was considering the move to MFD. I may wait for the updated Fuji 100mpx next year?

We haven't decided on a print medium yet for the gallery, I've been selling canvas/paper/aluminium prints this year, but as nice as the aluminium prints are I don't think they are as suitable for nice gallery work due to the surface imperfections when viewed on a flat angle, so I will probably make the move to face mounted Fuji crystal as most landscape photographers are.

I'm which case I probably don't need a big printer.

I've just grabbed an FStop Sukha bag to carry both my camera and Phantom 4 pro to shoots.

I think next is RRS tripod and Pano head, my current one is falling apart and costing me shots.

After that I'm not sure!

I'm thinking of maybe purchasing more time off work to shoot locally, and maybe starting to get some big prints as inventory for when I open the gallery...

Maybe framing equipment?
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