Do I Get a Disc? │ Asking For Digitals

February 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Isn't this picture amazing?  That's the disc of images you got from your last "professional" portrait session hanging on the wall.  You know...that place where beautiful, hand picked, professional prints should be.  Is this really what you wanted from that session?  Is this what you paid a "professional" photographer to create for you?  I get asked a lot if my sessions include a disc, and when I do an image like this one above is what comes to mind (that's what prompted me to create it for this post).  After a lot of searching, and asking around, I've come to a conclusion why I get asked this question every time.  It's because of uneducated clients.  No, not an uneducated person, but someone who is unfamiliar with what is really possible from a professional photographer's service.  I think a little education can go a long way, and help a potential client (maybe even you reading this post) get that perfect print...that perfect art piece that you are really after.  Isn't that why you hired a professional photographer in the first place?

I don't believe in doing things half way.  I don't believe in offering half of a good job- going through all the motions to create beautiful portraits, toss you a disc, show you the door, and hope it all ends well for you.  That just doesn't seem like a professional service, does it?  But that seems to be the norm now.  Why?  Imagine you were learning to fly a plane- it's your first lesson with an instructor and you're coming back to land only just before you get to the airport the instructor opens the door and jumps out with a parachute leaving you alone and expecting you to know what to do.  Chances are it won't end in a beautiful, textbook landing.  Ok, an extreme example I'll admit, but it's valid.  There's a process to landing a plane, just like there's a process to creating superior quality prints.  There's a lot left to do after the portrait session is over.

I think it's important to point out that most clients come to me asking for a disc do it without really knowing why they're asking for it.  They usually come with a predetermined idea of what they want because that's what John and Jane (who live next door) got, and what every "professional" photographer on all those Facebook yard sale pages offers.  Funny though how John and Jane still have their outdated family portraits from 5 years ago when little Johnny was still 1 hanging on the wall.  Wait a minute, didn't they just hire a photographer to take new photos?  Where are they?...Hmmm- more on that later.  When someone asks me for digitals, without realizing it, they're asking me to do only half my job and for the "rights" to create low quality products that they're probably not going to be happy with in the end.  All in an effort to save a few bucks.  If I did it, if I just gave them a disc...I didn't do my job.  That's like buying a Ford Mustang GT500 but asking to put a cheap lawn mower engine in it.  ........Yeah, that doesn't make much sense, does it?  I provide a full custom, professional, educated, and caring service and sometimes that starts by saying "no" and showing you something that exceeds what you're expecting....all at a fair cost.           

So why do you want a professional photographer?  Here are my reasons why you do...

  • There's a lot more to producing quality prints than just "pressing the button".  The work isn't over after the button is clicked.  It's actually just started.
  • Making photo decisions like crops, sizes, and print material is a lot harder than you think.  The last thing you want is to make the wrong decision for your portraits and now you have to order another one.  It's the photographers job to help guide you to what will look and fit the best for what you need.  I even have software that can let me take a picture of your wall, in your home, and virtually hang you favorite photos on your wall before you order.  This lets you visualize how small an 8x10 really is. 
  • Professional photographers use hand picked pro print labs, not consumer labs like shutterfly or snapfish (are they even still in business?).  These labs use the highest quality materials so your images keep that jaw dropping, Ooo-Ahhing color and detail for years!  I mean YEARS!  Your grandchildren, even your great grandchildren, will be able to enjoy your images.  You don't have to worry about your portraits fading or falling apart.
  • Custom services are part of the deal.  A professional photographer can create custom collages if you want.  They can create custom book or album designs for you.  They can...and they will because that's part of their professional service.
  • They truly care about your experience, and want you to feel that you're the only client who matters to them because let's me honest, you are! 

Would you agree with everything I just mentioned?  What other reasons do you have for hiring a professional photographer?  Let me know in the comments. 

Unfortunately I can't talk about the good without talking about the bad.  It's the ying to the yang.  The low points and some of the bad practices that have led clients to ask for the wrong end product from photographers.  Some of you may have experienced this before.

Why are clients asking for digitals?  Like before, here are my reasons (some of which might be a little harsh...but true)...

  • Inexperienced and/or lazy photographers offer digitals on a disc because it's quick...easy...and/or cheap.  Some of these photographers just don't care, or don't realize, that they're delivering an incomplete product to their clients.  Maybe they haven't taken the time to put together a solid process of delivering printed products..."landing the plane" so to speak.  There's so much more involved in delivering a beautiful print product and these photographers don't realize, or don't care, how hard it can be for their clients or how overwhelming it can be choosing the right material and size for the print.  Many professional photographers will probably agree that this era of delivering digitals on a disc has come from unpolished, unprofessional photographers all in the name of delivering a cheaper product. 
  • They heard that this is the "best bang for their buck", that digitals are the way to go....but they really don't know why.  All they know is that John and Jane got the digitals and all those photographers on Facebook give them.  So that's what they ask for.  They don't know any better.
  • They're convinced this is what they want but really it's not.  If they did, they wouldn't need a professional photographer.  Why waste their money?  Problem is, when all they're handed is a disc at the end of their portrait session...that's all they know.
  • The delusional, I got a shiny new camera and my friends and family say I take awesome pics photographers have created equally delusional clientele.  Ouch!  That's a bit harsh, I know, but it's true.  These photographers and clients are offering up and drooling over digitals, yet the client is being left with a mediocre experience and no final product...and their wallets are a bit lighter to boot!  That's got to be illegal somewhere...  This photographer industry has been getting away with taking clients money and not giving them what a photographer is suppose to give them in return.  Seems like a RAW deal for the clients. 
  • They want them to share online.  Ok, this is probably the most logical reason but why hire a professional photographer for something you can do yourself in that case?  Just grab your phone, take a couple selfies, and call it good- you're better off that way!  Facebook swallows your photos.  You post them, the world sees them, you get some likes...and...that's it.  The world moves on, and your photos get buried in your timeline not to be seen again.  "Oh, I got these awesome photos taken by So-and-So Photography, let me show them to you on my smart phone in all their 4 inch glory!"  Yea....
  • They haven't seen a comparison between a department store print and a pro print lab print.  The difference is eye-opening.
  • You can take the digitals to a department store, or pharmacy, for crazy cheap......poor quality, hit or miss prints.  Do you think that employee who just updated their Facebook status really cares about your prints?

You have to remember that you came to a professional photographer for a reason.  You want quality photos, but don't forget that the end product is the print.  Many clients who were given a disc never print any of their photos.  Remember John and Jane from earlier?  They got all their photos on a disc but still haven't printed a portrait to replace their outdated one?  Chances are they never will, and their photos will continue to collect "digital dust" on that disc that's stashed in a drawer somewhere.  If they do, I'd be willing to bet it's not the end product they had envisioned when they were given that disc by their "professional" photographer.

I hope this post has given you something to think about when you're looking to hire a photographer for your next family portraits...or your senior portraits.  I will leave you with one last thought though, and it's probably the most important thing to remember.  This isn't Staples- photographers don't sell ink and paper...they sell memories.  You don't buy photography with your buy it with your heart.  Open your heart to the memories your photographer is able to capture and put on a print for you.  Focus on the memories those images will stir up every time you look at them on your walls- the memories you'll cherish for years to come.  Focus on the memories your children will have when they see your images after you're gone....not the paper they're printed on.


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