Throughout my home, beautiful pictures decorate my walls. Some were my own, but many were those I ordered from other photographers who we chose to capture our family’s special moments. As I look around my living room, I am able to escape back in time when my children were my babies, and remember their delightful smiles. This brings back a wave of emotion and for a brief moment, I’m flooded with happiness while I remember holding my child in my arms while he looks into my eyes, unable to speak; yet I know he loves me. I experience this multiple times a day, and I am so grateful to those photographers for being able to perfectly capture those timeless, one-time moments.
While having one of those moments the other day, the idea sprang into my mind to write this blog. Too often, clients ask me why I can’t just give them the digital images in the session fee. Many are under the impression and misunderstanding that the digitals should be a cheaper alternative to prints and products. I don’t think the photography community does enough to convey the purpose for our products enough, and this misconception from our clients is our own fault as a community.
When digital photography was first introduced, it was very new and exciting! Along with the excitement was a sense of confusion about what to do with all of those digital files, because in the past, no one wanted the negatives of their family portrait, which is essentially what digital files are. You would go to your local photo studio where the photographer would arrange your unruly family and take five or six shots, and you would wait months until the proof was available before deciding on one picture to hang above the fireplace. It was so much easier, equally less dynamic but more valued. As digital cameras became more accepted in the photography community, clients grew more accustomed to asking for the digital file so they could display those family photos on their computers as wallpapers. Then the clients began to expect the digital files because it seemed to be no more trouble, or loss of profit for the photographer to simply include the digitals in addition to the prints that were ordered (if any). Now it seems the pendulum has continued swinging and clients simply want the digit images without any prints. Photographers were used to charging $XX for prints, albums, and other products, but there was no standard set for what to do with the digital files.
Historically, photographers priced items by the cost of the item without taking much effort to calculate the amount of time, effort, artistic awesomeness, and creativity they put in their work. With digital photography much more of all that is invested in each image we create. Lately, photographers have come to realize that our work and our time is worth something more. We realized we have underestimated the value of our work and how to price digitals. Now it is our responsibility to change the way our clients think of their photo sessions and products. We all can agree that when a client invests money into a photo session it is the photographer’s job as professional to guide them to choose the products that will fulfill their intended needs the best; whether it is albums, wall art, prints, or digital files.
It's not that I don't want my clients to have digitals. I do, but I don't want it to be their main product. Why? Well, lets explore this further. When a commercial client hires a professional photographer needing digital files for their web/online presence, then digital files makes sense for them. But when a client is coming for a boudoir or portrait session, I assume you want these photos to remember a particular time in your life, and therefore, digital files are NOT your best option. Mostly because technology changes at such a rapid pace, that if you just have digitals, in about 5-10 years you probably won’t be able to see them anymore. Like CDs, not all computers anymore have a way of reading CDs. Most are using USB Flash drive even then they have began changing to micro USB. Plus, digital files become corrupted and hard drive can fail. This is why I would not trust JUST digital files to keep your memories alive. I encourage each of my clients to avoid ordering only digital files. They will thank me for that when all is lost except their prints.
What if you want only the digitals so you can go somewhere else (more affordable) to print them? This is another reason why I get disappointed when a client just wants all the files to print at a cookie cutter print shop. All the effort I put all into creating their images as beautiful works of art goes out the window the moment a client decides to print somewhere cheaper like Wal-Mart™ or Shutterfly®. When our images are printed somewhere beyond our control, it is not a 100% reflection of the work that we do. I use a professional service that will print EXACTLY the way the photo shows on my screen. I know this because I color-match and calibrate my screen to my camera, using a process approved by my service, and the photos I receive from them perfectly match what my clients and I expect. Along with other protective coating to preserve your images to last a lifetime. Once the files are loaded and processed through a digital kiosk at a convenience store, that goes out the window, and your beautiful newborn baby will turn come out greenish-yellow, completely changing the image and wasting all of the time I spent capturing his/hers first week.
Somewhere along the way, people started to believe that photographers were “ripping” people off by charging so much for a piece of paper or a 4MB file, or for simply not including digital images to their session fees. Once again, that is our fault as photographers, for not educating ourselves and our clients on how the image is one of a kind, special, and an accumulation of years of training, education, and expression, and not simply “just a picture.” It is time to change all this, it is time to educate clients as well as other photographers the true value and the importance of printing your memories.
I want my clients and potential clients of to realize that I truly have your best interest at heart and I am not just trying to get you to spend copious amounts of money. Photography is a gift that provides you with moments frozen in time and that are forever priceless. Think about how wonderful it is when your children look at the albums from when they were growing up. They are not going to go on Facebook and scroll down years and years just to view images you shared. (If Facebook even exists by then). Now, imagine if there were no portraits on the wall, or photo albums to look through because you saved all of their baby pictures on a CD, or USB, that your computer can’t even read because your computer doesn’t have a CD-ROM or USB drive (I’m looking at you Macbook Air). How are you going to show your children those pictures? How are you going to remember those special moments that live again only in the photos you have now locked away completely inaccessible? How will your grandchildren be able to know how much of a badass their parents were during their time serving in the military? This is why albums, prints, and the other products photographers’ supply are so important. This is why my session fees does not include digitals, this is why I do not encourage getting just digitals. This is why I sit down with each of my client and help them choose their images and what products to walk home with. Which products they will have with them for the rest of their lives and their children's children.
As in any business, we want to ensure our clients happiness and satisfaction; therefore, when we try to steer you away from just digitals or seem to “force” you buy prints and albums, please realize that most of us are doing it for the right reason. We are not just thinking of how easy those amazing pictures will be to share on FaceBook™ or Instagram®. We are thinking about those beautiful children we are capturing in the images, and how much they are going to thank you every time they pass that picture hanging on their wall or on their memory box so their kids can see. (My memory box below)