Why do photographers charge so much for digital files? Why won’t “ABC Photography” sell me my digital files? These are questions I hear pretty often. Admittedly, I have asked them myself before I became a professional photographer. Now that I’ve been on both sides of this issue, I’m here to shed some light on this subject and hopefully give all of you a better understanding of why these coveted files are so carefully safeguarded by professional photographers.
First, I will start off by saying that when you receive a disc with digital images on it, it’s not just a cheap disc with digital images on it. It IS a quality disc and it DOES have digital files on it, but there is a ton of time, expertise, expense and work put into each and every file you receive. In a typical 2-3 hour session, there can be more than 8-12 hours of work related to just that session. I will delve into the time and cost of everything in another blog post if anyone is interested, but right now I’m going to focus on the 5 main reasons for the cost associated with a digital file.
1. The time and expense of creating those files. If you are paying a $200 session fee for a 2 hour session, this does not mean that the photographer is making $100 an hour. Instead, break down that $200 by the typical 8-12 hours it takes to complete a session and it’s more like $20 an hour, which is really not much when you think about a typical hourly salary.
2. We are professionals and our goal is deliver high-quality fine art pieces for you to see and enjoy for years to come. We prefer that our clients and their families SEE their images displayed somewhere in their home and not sitting in a media cabinet only to collect dust or be posted on Facebook for a short time and be lost in the social media abyss. We strive to create timeless works of art, capturing pieces of your family life, those magical things about your child that make them who they are. These are not just digital files to us, they are precious moments of time that you don’t get back.
3. Photographers have no quality-control once the disc is in the client’s hands. Professional photographers work with quality labs and we calibrate our color ranges with that of our lab’s in order to deliver the proper color and exposure in your photos. These labs print on gallery-quality papers and apply protective sprays on our photos to ensure that the photos will stand the test of time. When I release my files to a client on a disc, I run the risk of having my name attached to a photo that doesn’t represent my quality of work because the skin tones might be completely off, a crop performed by a client might screw up the composition of the photo or a black and white rendition ends up flat and boring. By allowing clients to print wherever they want, we are allowing clients to change a photo from the way we, as artists, intended it. It’d be like buying a painting and then painting over it in parts.
4. Expertise – I know, everyone rolls their eyes when they see “session fee covers time and talent of photographer only,” but it really is true. It takes tons of time, training and creative vision to be a professional photographer. There is a huge misconception out there that if you have a great camera, you can shoot great photos. Not true! You have to know how to use it in EVERY type of situation (not to mention all the other accompanying equipment). A bit like having all the tools and ingredients to make a gourmet meal, but not have the recipe and the techniques required to make it. How many times have we spent a pretty penny on one dinner that a professional chef created? No, photography is not something you can afford every day, but it’s well worth it once or twice a year to capture those fleeting moments that pass us by so quickly, don’t you think?
5. Finally, we need to make a living. If we don’t charge well for a digital image, we lose income we could have made from the purchase of a print or product of that image. Professional photography is a business, just like any other. We are feeding families, paying mortgages, bills, baby-sitters, and many, many business expenses as well. We need to make a profit somewhere and we can’t give our services away cheaply. Those new or beginning photographers that do, quickly go out of business or raise their prices once they understand the cost related to each session.
Photographers are doing their best to come up with new ways to explain to their clients that digital images are not all they’re cracked up to be. We really want you to have a wonderful experience and then have proof of that experience that you can walk past everyday on the walls of your home – something should be hung on your walls, right? That is our main goal.
Now, having said all that, I do understand that we live in a digital/tech savvy world where every phone has internet capabilities, and apps, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and instagrams are a regular way of life. Sharing photos online is an easy and fun way to connect with friends and family, especially those who live far away. Most photographers will relinquish control and sell digital images, but again…they do so for a hefty price.
Feel free to call us about our digital file policy at Cianne Mitchell Photography. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Yes, we do offer digital images 🙂