Technology is constantly advancing and equipment wears out or breaks. In addition, visual journalism roles are converging. Still photographers increasingly record video and audio. Video journalists increasingly work as one-man bands, managing sound and producer duties. You must upgrade and replace equipment regularly to stay competitive. At the same time, many photographers stumble by investing too much in fancy toys, too soon.
A realistic look at what you need and what that costs can help you balance your desire for the latest toy with a plan for getting it.
Add up the costs of equipment, accessories and small tools that will wear out or become obsolete quickly. While lenses and microphones tend to have long lives, many digital capture devices become outdated in four years or less. Rugged use of equipment shortens its life. Figure how much replacements cost (even if you have what you need now) and how soon you’ll need them. Then divide that figure by the number of years they will last to come up with an annual figure for those tools.
Figure all other equipment on a depreciation schedule - five years is typical (check with your accountant) - perform similar math, and add this to your total from above.
Estimate the cost of new equipment with new capabilities (faster, longer lenses, lighting, different camera formats, new audio devices, etc.) you plan to add over the next five years, divide by five and tack this on to the total.
Remember, you need the proper tools for the job. A portrait specialist might do just fine with a prosumer camera and slower lenses. But if you work in remote or hazardous conditions, or shoot lots of action, you’ll need rugged, fast professional cameras and lenses. Likewise, a small, single-chip video camera might be fine for a web portal, but it won’t do the job for most broadcast news.
Also consider what you need to own vs. what you can rent. You can bill rental charges to clients, reducing your overhead costs. Many photographers and videographers charge rental fees for equipment they own, particularly for specialized tools.