First up, let’s look at graphic and web design. These two skills go quite well together if you know what you’re doing, and people who need websites will definitely see your worth if you happen to be good at both. Ten years ago, you would have needed to drop some serious cash to get in to web and graphic design. You’d need a computer for one thing, one that can handle the stress of running Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. That computer would have easily cost anywhere from $800-$1500. On top of that you also needed the actual Photoshop and Illustrator software, along with Dreamweaver for building websites, which would have cost you at least $500 depending on the version you got. You’d probably also want to have a printer to print out samples for prospective clients, and you’d likely want that printer to have a scanner in it so that you could work with hand drawn designs on the computer, so add $300 for a printer that does that with any degree of success. Finally, you’d also need to buy some extra storage space for your computer because hosting a website requires a lot of files to be stored. Add $200 to start out with, but expect to need more later on. That brings us up to a ballpark total of $2,000, and that’s just the cost to start out.
Next, let’s look at photography. If we’re using 2006 as our time of reference, digital cameras were definitely out in force. In fact, they have been outselling film cameras since 2003, but that doesn’t mean film wasn’t an option. There were still plenty of people using film in 2006 and the main factor was – you guessed it – cost. We can look at this with either assumption, that you used film or digital. If you used film, your camera would be cheaper to buy, maybe closer to $600-$800 for a nice SLR camera and a couple of lenses. Using film however, also meant that you would have needed to get the film developed, not a high cost per photo, but it adds up over time. The other thing to keep in mind is that you’d need to buy more film as you went and since it isn’t reusable, it adds up over time. If you decided to go with a digital camera, your up front expenses would have been higher, but you would likely save money in the long run. A DSLR camera of around the same quality as that $600-$800 SLR from earlier would probably run you closer to $1,000-$1,500. The benefit there was that you could save digitally and erase photos you didn’t need, so the memory would be reusable, plus no developing charges. So either way, to get equipment and supplies, you’re looking at around $1,700.
Now let’s say you’ve looked at our list so far and decided, “I was rich in 2006, I could have afforded to spend more.” First of all, you’ll have to tell me how you got rich enough to drop that kind of money so I can replicate your technique. Secondly, I have a solution for you: movies. People like movies, even back in the times of old, Year of our Lord 2006. It was a good time for movies back then, no more Star Wars prequels were coming out, Titanic was still the #1 grossing film of all time, plus we had such hits released as Night at the Museum, Borat, Garfield 2, Shaggy Dog, X-Men III… that Pink Panther movie with Steve Martin for some reason… and the cream of the crop: Eragon. So maybe it would have been a good idea for more people to have made movies in 2006. In order to do that though, they would have needed a camera. We already looked at digital still cameras, but what about digital video cameras? Well they were around for sure. Films like Superman Returns and the previous year’s Revenge of the Sith were shot on digital video cameras, however that’s due in large part to the fact that they had the budget to do so. Turns out digital was still very expensive in 2006, and the only place to get digital cameras from was still the major providers like Panavision and Sony; RED (a fairly well known high end digital video camera manufacturer) hadn’t even released their first camera by that time, so the competition was low, thus making prices high. To buy a digital video camera of anything resembling Hollywood worthy quality back then, you would be looking at spending over $12,000. Ouch. Think that’s bad? To edit that high quality footage, you’d need a computer twice or three times as powerful as the one we priced out for graphic design. Well maybe if you shot on film, that would be cheaper, right? Actually, it would probably be more expensive. The camera itself might only cost you $6,000-$8,000, but there’s more to consider. The trick with film like we touched on earlier is that it’s single use, no take-backs. The other thing to consider is that unless you’re planning on cutting and stitching frames the old fashioned way, you would have needed to get that film digitized. So even if we don’t consider the costs of buying lights and hiring cast and crew, your entry cost for video back then was at least $10,000.
You may now be thinking, “Wow, how did anyone make anything back then?” Many didn’t. They would accumulate a lot of debt, hoping to make it back when they became professionals. Luckily these days we don’t have to resort to such extreme measures. In the next issue I will tell you all about how comparatively inexpensive it is to get into any of these fields in 2016.