If you have any experience with hiring professional photographers, you know that there is a wide variability in whether or not they will sell you the digital files from your session. This is a topic of constant controversy in the photography community. There are valid arguments on both sides.
Clients love the idea of getting it all on a CD because they love the control it gives them to share and print what they want, when they want – unless they don’t really know how to do it, don’t like the results, or don’t seem to ever actually have the time to do it. There are MANY people who have no clue how to use digital files, or still have the CD stashed in a drawer, or don’t even know where it is. But there are JUST AS MANY who want to be able to use the files across multiple platforms and are VERY knowledgeable and capable. They hate feeling restricted, and they hate the feeling of being “nickel-and-dimed.”
Many photographers hate the idea of giving it all on a CD because to them, it means lost sales of print products for their business as well as sometimes seeing their lovely images get mangled by someone who throws an instagram filter on them on Facebook. Plus it makes them sad when they realize that the client never DID anything with their images, after the care they took to create them. Also, some people tend to think that getting digital files on CD should be less expensive “since you don’t need to do any work or mark up any products”, but of course that isn’t where the work lies at all. Photographers can feel devalued for the investment in their equipment, education, and experience.
I, of course, see it from both sides. I remember using pro photographers when my kids were little, and I experienced the frustrations of not being able to get EXACTLY what I wanted. I hated having to pay over and over again for duplicate prints of the same image, and I hated not being able to show my photos to friends and family on the internet without violating copyright. I can imagine that young families today feel this same way, but amplified because of our digital society and social media.
I also know that as a pro myself, I need to be able to be profitable in my business…and I don’t mean “make enough to cover my camera hobby and a little cash for my Target problem” profitable. I mean a REAL business that pays taxes, has liability insurance as well as provides health coverage, and is worth being away from my home and family for. There are many, many real costs associating with running a legitimate business – it’s not just a matter of buying a camera and start shooting. It’s very hard not to take it personally when you see people on Facebook asking for recommendations for a photographer who is “not outrageously priced”, as if I’m taking advantage of people and have no right to make a profit. I could be working as a nurse, after all 🙂
I want my clients to have the files because I KNOW THAT I WOULD WANT THEM. We live in a digital world, and it’s just so much less hassle to have the files. My clients are NOT trying to get something for nothing. They are also pretty computer savvy and have the ability to print themselves. They appreciate quality and are happy to pay for value, but they are willing and able to take their files and use them in ways that suits them best. They LOVE the idea of paying a fair price for my creation of their images and then having the freedom to use them as they wish – and I do too!
I feel like I provide the best solution and value by selling stepped collections of digital files that include some variations of print products. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.
My clients get the digital files that they want, to print as they like. They also get various printed products, so that they will have quality tangible goods in their hands, not unseen images on a flash drive in a drawer. The best part is that they have the freedom to really get all of the value possible out of their images: they can be used to decorate their homes, in albums to preserve forever, as gifts for family, and to share on their Holiday cards. BANG.
I group the collections by number of files, from 10 to all. As the amount purchased increases, the price per file decreases. This is a concept that every consumer understands – the more you buy, the more of a deal you get. You also don’t have to pay for a lot of images that you don’t love, like you do if you buy from someone who gives you every file on a CD for a flat price. It’s not a deal if most of them are duplicates, or images that you don’t really like. I also love the simplicity of having file collections, because it makes ordering super fast and easy. You just pick the collection closest to the number of images that you want (10, 20, or 30). No agonizing, no pressure of an in-person sale (it’s all done online). I have actually been able to reduce my prices significantly over the last 10 years because of the time that I’ve saved eliminating in-person sales as well as ordering & packaging prints…but the great thing is that, with the files, my clients now get so much more value. They can afford to print dozens of 8x10s for friends and family, make calendars & mugs for gifts, and beautifully decorate their walls with gorgeous images without dealing with professional markup because they are doing it themselves.
Of course, I also offer professional level prints and products that my clients can purchase if they prefer. A lot of them are extremely busy with their jobs and families and are happy to have me handle their orders. I also limit my files sizes so that prints 16×20 and larger must be ordered through me, for a minimal markup. That’s because the larger sizes can be difficult to print through a consumer lab. This way I can control the final product and make sure it looks good for you. I have seen the results of canvases printed through Groupon deals and the color is awful; I don’t want you to be lured into that.
I pride myself in creating images that my clients love, so much so that many return to me year after year. I want your family’s images to be the best you ever had. I want your experience to be easy and stress free, and I want to provide products that you want and value. I want to provide options for every budget, because I feel that everyone needs good, professional quality pictures.
Your family deserves it.