The appeal of digital cameras has often been their costs compared to film cameras. Or at least, that's what you might think. Film always takes money to buy, the develop and to print. And it's easy to quickly build up a collection of prints and negatives that are rarely ever seen again. Compared to this, the idea of taking digital pictures and storing them on a drive is well, apparently very cheap.

Then you start to realise just how these costs build up. It becomes obvious after a few attempts to get colours right on a jpeg shot or correct the exposure that this isn't optimal. And the blown highlights that occur if you overexpose are just plain annoying. So that means you make the move to shooting in raw. Raw files are much easier to correct, but then comes the first signs that costs are going to rise. Your computer is going to need a fast processor and some beefy RAM to process those pictures. And raw files are big. You might think you have lots of disk space but that can quickly get consumed. You can put the inevitable off by burning files onto disc or getting an external hard-drive, but suddenly new costs start to loom.

Then you realise that the software to convert photos that came with your camera is just too basic. So it becomes time to shell put more dollars to get a dedicated piece of software (fortunately I picked up my cope of Adobe Lightroom 3 when there was a brief online 50% off sale). Then as you start processing and editing photos more and more you realise the next problem. The mouse isn't precise enough. So lets get a Wacom Tablet and pen instead.

And that works ok for a while and then you realise how cramped it is to edit and process photos with just one monitor. Wouldn't it be easier to have one monitor where you could do the edits and another where you could see the changes at a 100% view? Of course it's easier! So lets spring for another monitor and the cable to connect it. (That often means finding a DVI cable as while your desktop and monitor may have both VGA and DVI slots, DVI cables aren't stocked in a lot of places).

Then you realise that the monitors aren't perfectly calibrated. The colours they display deviate from the printed shots. Easily fixed- just get a monitor calibrator. So lets add another gadget- a Spyder-Express Elite. It automatically checks and fixes the monitor to ensure it displays with accurate fidelity.

But things just don't stop there. What if your hard-drive fails or your computer gets stolen? Actually this isn't a trivial problem. Some people store almost all their photos on a laptop, and in burglaries these are often the first to go. Irreplaceable records of children or holidays or special occasions are lost in an instant. So now you have to think about backups. That can mean a mixture of portable hard-drives or optical discs. When I started into DSLR photography there were people who were burning files regularly on to CDs as backups. I now use a mix of blu-ray and DVD as backs ups. This isn't the cheapest option per unit of storage, but it's more archival and doesn't use any power after it's burned. I mean, just how many gadgets do you want plugged into power-boards anyway?

Hard-drives have become a lot cheaper now but even so, the upgrade path seems inevitable. I've gone form having a 160GB to a 1TB drive and both had the same ticket price. It's the drop in price that has made the portable hard-drive the preferred option for many. Now I'm considering another jump to 2TB and using eSATA cables rather the USB.

I'm really doubting that digital photography is the cheapest option :)