You wouldn't be happy going to an exclusive restaurant, paying for a premium meal, and having the chef bring out all the ingredients on a plate and leaving you to fend for yourself.
And you aren't going to be happy if you pay a photographer to create images you love, then have to spend the next several months or years waiting until you have time to learn Photoshop and InDesign before you can print your first portrait.
It's kind of like taking your car to a mechanic, paying them to tune up your vehicle, but telling him "we really just want you to dig in there, find the problem, give us the spark plugs, and we'll finish the rest of it ourselves".
He can give you the spark plugs, sure, but he still has to charge you for the time he spent, the electricity the work used, the opportunity cost associated with taking your car over someone else's. The $5 spark plug is really irrelevant in that equation...all those things have a cost associated with them, which adds up to basically the same as what you'd pay for him to just finish the job.
As the "digital revolution" took hold, we have taken our most cherished possessesions - our memories - and reduced them to a cold flat soul-less piece of hardware, one that many admit years later, aside for some pictures they posted on social media, they never looked at ever again.
That's sad. I don't want that. We worked hard to get those images. I pulled out all the stops, pulled out an extra lens for a special shot, brought the extra doo-hicky-bobber just in case, we hiked 3 miles by the time it was done, I left with bruised knees, your sides hurt from laughing, and I had sand in my tripod clamps, but we were both beaming from ear to ear!
Behind the scenes during portrait shootDirecting my model posing next to this killer tree we incorporated into her photo shoot. Resulting "Gnarly Tree" imageModel Kylie in the final shot that we got during her session
And what about you!?
You paid good money for those images.
And they were awesome.
And you left feeling good about this!
Think about it: you got your entire family together and traveled 682 miles to be together. Your brother in law wore a collared shirt for the first time in 10 years, and your moody teenager smiled "for real" running around that beach. You're going to leave them on a disc, or a USB drive, and not bother with them ever again?
So Luxurious...not.The digital files are a means to an end. They are not the product. They are the ingredients in the chef's concoction, they are the blueprint for the architect's skyscraper, they are merely the bits and bytes in a photographer's toolkit that result in a finished photograph. Oh what's that? You had every intention of making a book, but you couldn't figure out whether to go with Canva, SmugMug, or SnapFish. You say you wanted to put some on the wall but couldn't decide between Fine Art Matte, Fuji Deep Matte, and True Matte, and finally got overwhelmed and too busy to worry about it. I see. And before you knew it, six years went by...oh what's that?...it was ten years. Yikes.
Sad, isn't it? I've now been around long enough now to have clients come back to me over the years and tell me this same thing over, and over, and over.
The turning point for me was when I attended a workshop at Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) one of the megalith international organizations for professional photographers, and my mentor Sue Bryce got up and kicked us all in the ass.
To a room full of the top minds in professional imaging, she laid into us up one side and down the other, like an auditorium full of school children getting called into the principals office.
In her signature Kiwi accent, she made us realize that we were the reason that an entire generation of children are going to grow up without that self esteem that comes from seeing your photo framed lovingly on the side table, why family legacies now had gaping holes in their records, why sitting on grandma's couch flipping through photo albums will become a lost art, why and why when future populations look back on this time, they're going to wonder "where did everyone go?"
Really?This is what you want to look at in exchange for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars? We have all taken the easy way out. Consumers, content with an online-only existence. And Photographers, relieved to be rid of all the work that happens after the shoot.
So together we have contributed to "the missing generation".
We are now a culture that, when the drives crash, the internet "clouds" dissipate, USB sticks get lost, or better yet, experience the tiniest bit of static electricity and get wiped clean (true story), the CDs get scratched (or an ant farts too close to them and barely misaligns the surface, rendering them useless), or anything else happens to our current methodology of storing our memories, we will have nothing to show for it.
So, myself along with many other professionals in my field, have committed ourselves to not only the art of making good images, but the craftsmanship that comes with delivering a product that will last.
If nostalgia and longevity are not enough to convince you that what we are doing here is meaningful (and therefore valuable), then perhaps a more business-like spin on it will help provide some additional insight.
There can sometimes be a disconnect between the easy perception of digitals being an "easy fix" for an inexpensive shoot, and the professional standard of providing a finished, tangible product, retouched and mounted so it will both look good and last a lifetime.
People tell me "I don't want anything fancy", or "I don't need a lot of extra stuff". I understand it's easy to think that because digitals aren't something we can pick up and touch, that they have no cost associated with them. Actually, digitals represent the greatest cost of all the products a photographer can offer. A print is only created because the client wants it, therefore it represents no long term cost to the business...no storage, no backups, no servers, no software.
This Is Your Brain...On ElectricityEvery thought, feeling, emotion, tear, memory, frustration, every inch of growth, every family outing, every loss, and everything that represents your visual history, now looks like this.
Digital files, on the other hand....well, we shoot 100 raw files, generate an editing catalog, store the sidecar files, store the exported 16 bit TIFF files for long term storage and the 8 bit High-Resolution JPG's for immediate use, the low-res web files for our website, and the watermarked versions for vendors and marketing.
Most photographers can't bear to delete old shoots, so the hard drives pile up year by year, and because every good photographer knows that it's a matter of when, not if, a drive will crash, there has to be duplicates on another set, and a cloud backup in case the building burns down someday.
So out of a set of 100 images on a small shoot, the client may select 10 for their order, but we maintain the full set for safe keeping, and now have a stock pile of 1800 files (Original Raw x 100 + Edited sidecar files x 100 + HighRes Jpg x 100 + LowRes Jpg x 100 + Watermarked x 100 + Archival Tiffs x 100 = 600 copies + 1 Duplicate Drive x 600 + 1 Cloud Based Backup x 600 = 1800).
Go Big when you Go HomeHanging photos on the wall is scientifically proven to increase dopamine (the happy chemical), increase self-awareness and self-esteem, and is linked with happier marriages and more stable home life.
Consider the difference in intrinsic value from when you pick up an album, with thick pages and leather hand-stitched cover, or a canvas print carefully stretched over a frame and hung lovingly on the wall.
There is almost no amount of money that you can put on the happiness, stress-relief, and relationships that are built on positive self-image and visual affirmation.
"Shoot and burn" photographers cannot give you what I, and other professionals who operate like I do, can give you.
If you are wanting to work with someone for whom this is a full time career, there is effort, time, and money in education, insurance, taxes, staff, materials, and equipment that you expect when you give good money for a service, that affects the cost of the service regardless of the finished product.
Sure, some pricing is affected by location, and those intangibles like years of experience, creative style, and longevity (knowing that if you need to come back 5 or 10 or 20 years later, the liklihood that that person will still be in business), but in general, there are basic operating expenses that do not go away.
Because of that, the cost - from a business standpoint - is the same whether you receive 10 digital files, or 10 beautiful prints and their accompanying digital files.
All other things being equal, why wouldn't you want both?
I pose the question....if you are going to invest in the time and effort it takes to get your group together and capture some beautiful portraits, isn't it worth it as well to work with someone who is going to see the process all the way through to the end? Someone who isn't going to leave you out in the cold, designing your own album, cropping your own photos, printing images on non-color-calibrated printers, and leaving it up to you to keep those digital files safe and secure.
"Just getting the disc" might sound like a good idea right now, but 30 years from now, when your family can pick up and hold prints, or reach up to the portrait on the wall, or sit and thumb through old prints stored neatly in a box...that is when the value of what you purchased really hits you.