In the age of smartphones, Facebook and websites that allow you to print off a load of your own photographs, it’s not uncommon for customers to baulk at the price of professional photography. I’m not going to focus on convincing you to pay for professional photography now though; anyone who’s had a professional session done is no doubt aware of the major benefits that generally outweigh the cost.
What I’m going to focus on is another frequently asked question that is very related to the digital age:
“Can we just get the digital files, and is it cheaper?”
The answer to this dual pronged question is:
“Yes, you can get the digitals, but no, they aren’t any cheaper”
Given the fact that when you purchase a file you’re not getting a frame or paying for printing costs, you could be forgiven for thinking that charging a similar price is unreasonable. However, here are a couple of reasons why I think it is not only reasonable, but also eminently sensible to charge the same amount for files and prints.
Expertise, not paper and wood
I guess one of the assumptions that is built into the suggestion that files from a professional photographer should be cheaper than prints, is that the main thing you’re paying a professional photographer for is the material end product. However, ultimately this isn’t true. You’ve hired the photographer because of his or her photographic expertise, not their ability to develop digital photos. Are you getting less of their expertise if you don’t receive the photograph in the flesh? Although I only use the very best quality suppliers for all of my printing and framing, let’s be clear, it isn’t so monumental an expense that if removed from the equation hundreds of pounds suddenly disappear from the cost of the operation.
One of things that people don’t realise is that a photographer has an expansive portfolio that they don’t necessarily have total control over. For example, if a customer decided to buy files from me rather than prints; they could be edited and framed in a way that goes against my taste, ideology and style, and subsequently the photograph would no longer be a good representation of the service I provide and the ability that I bring to the table. Nevertheless, it would still be seen as my photograph, and therefore that photograph would cultivate part of my reputation. Sacrificing an element of creative control is a risk that I’m occasionally willing to take, but should not result in me losing money at the same time.
Moving with the times
I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t want to sell digital files. I understand that it’s the 21st century and that the world truly has gone digital, and as a profession, photography needs to move with the times. Not only that, but in my experience, being able to provide a USB stick with images on can be tremendously valuable for customers who have family spread all over the world, as they’re able to share the image with the whole family. The other advantage of digital files is that they can be backed up and kept safe, so that accidents won’t result in you losing them.
I think that digital files are an important part of the fabric of professional photography, but at the same time I think we most definitely need to be aware of the fact that a photograph should not be devalued just because it’s not been printed out. In fact it should be printed, if simply as a method of back up. Printing is simply the best form of archiving.
My photography pricing guide can be found here, offering a combination of digital images & products.
About the photographer: Sue is a professional portrait photographer based in Harlow, Essex and she specialises in baby and child portraiture. Being a parent, she understands just how special your child is to you and her aim is to produce a collection of images that are natural and meaningful to your family. No two moments are ever the same and she wants to perfectly capture those early precious memories and the natural character of your child. For more information please call 01279 433392, or visit the Sue Kennedy Photography website.