The Digital Capture Fee (DCF) was introduced to assist photographers with the recovery of their digital equipment overhead costs.

Digital photography has placed an enormous digital equipment overhead burden on photographers who have to supply the digital camera systems and accessories as well as the computer hardware and software necessary to complete their assignments. The speed with which technology improves means that photographers need to replace their digital systems approximately every three years to keep up with technological advancement.

Before digital photography clients paid for film, processing and scanning costs. The digital process has replaced this and the digital capture fee was introduced in its place to assist photographers to recoup their digital overhead costs. The Digital Capture Fee includes the camera equipment, computer hardware and software and digital accessories but does not include lighting, photographic assistant or any other costs. These should be costed separately in the photographer’s cost estimate.

When shooting film, the photographer would take the exposed film to a lab for processing. The digital RAW files (CR2, NEF, DNG) are the equivalent of the exposed, unprocessed film. Just as exposed film required processing in a lab, digital RAW files require processing in a ‘digital lab’ such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Bridge, Apple Aperture or Capture One Pro. A photographer would never hand over exposed, unprocessed film to a client as certain corrections were made during processing such as clips and balances. Likewise a photographer should not hand over off camera RAW files to a client but should always process them first.

The DCF is made up of two parts. The first being the required fee to recover digital overheads. The second is to cover the photographer’s time spent on editing and processing the digital images.

Editing and retouching are NOT the same thing. Editing is the process of selecting the final shots for use and converting these images from their RAW file format to the required output file, usually using software like Adobe Lightroom, Apple’s Aperture or Capture One Pro. Retouching is the process of taking these output files and changing or altering them through digital manipulation, usually using software such as Adobe Photoshop.

The digital capture fee (DCF) covers image capture and digital editing & processing ONLY and does not include any form of retouching at all.

The capture rates for photographers using medium format digital should be three times those of photographers using a digital SLR due to the substantially higher equipment costs of medium format digital equipment.

For further information you can purchase ‘EXPOSED – The Business of Photography’ by Deryck van Steenderen, published by Verse Creative.

“To leave the world a bit better… to know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Leave a Reply