Recently my trusted Nikon d700 felt it needed a rest. The camera’s shutter is rated for 150,000 clicks. I’ve put this poor camera through the mill taking 149,652 photos over the years. The shutter needs to be replaced at a cost of about $200.00. Not bad, but it maybe time for a new camera.

This got me thinking. How many images did I take at the several FREE sporting events I shot or the many, many, many FREE photo shoots I’ve done? If I hadn’t volunteered for these shoots, would my d700 still have life? Yes, but honestly I choose to do those non-paying shoots, I have no regrets. I’m not the type to put plastic covers on my couch so it will last longer. I like to use the things I have.

So how much did these free shoots cost me?

Let’s stick with a simple black and white answer. If we take the cost of the camera body when new; $2999.00 and divide it by the rated shutter life of 150,000 we come up with $0.02 cents per click. So that 2013 High School Lacrosse season where I took 10,170 photos cost me $203.04 and the 2014 season’s 17,439 photos cost me $348.78.

Digital isn’t free but it’s worth it

Before we stop volunteering for events or think twice about taking a shot, digital is still relatively inexpensive. If I repair my camera at $200.00, I’ll add that to my initial investment of $2999.00 for a total of $3199. My shutter count returns to zero giving me an additional 150,000 clicks for a total of 300,000. This brings the cost down to $0.01 cent per click. Great for a back up camera.

Budget in an equipment fee

My d700 did us a huge favor by dying. We took a look at our budget and reviewed the gear we use on a regular basis. Studio strobes, speedlights, pocket wizards and even gaff tape. We’ve started to add a fix cost of $125.00 per shoot as an equipment fee. The fee is set aside for camera repairs and miscellaneous cost. The idea came to us after watching a video training course “Budgeting Video Projects” by Richard Harrington on The same concepts for video applies to photographers.

Continue to take those shots and budget in for your next camera. Digital may not be free, but it’s well worth it!