It’s really easy, you just hit copy and then click paste and all the little 1’s and 0’s that make up your images go flying onto a flash drive. Some of them will get uploaded to social media, get a few views and comments, and then fall into the obscurity of the masses. They become lost in the noise of an image driven digital society. This is the fate of almost every photo I’ve taken for clients lately and frankly I grown to hate the digital photo cycle. It’s time for a change.
Digital is easy. It’s fast, it’s effortless. Most photographers edit and format for digital distribution of the images they take because of how easy it is. And our clients perceive the digital-only world to be easier and more affordable and so they go along with the digital trend. But in the end, the ease actually cheapens the product and delivers to our clients a product that is easily lost and puts more of the work back on them if they want to preserve or display the photographs that they just paid a lot of money for. So I am making a change in the way I do business. At the heart of my decision is my desire to provide the absolute best quality images to my clients. And not just quality, but also a product that will last. Something more tangible than files on a flash drive.
Why You Should Demand Prints Instead of Digital
Digital has essentially become the new disposable. We look at them for a second and scroll on down and we never see them again. When you pay out $100, $200, $300 or more for photographs you deserve to receive a product that will last! That’s the first reason you should demand prints. And I’m not just talking about prints that roll off of an inkjet printer. Kodak and Fuji now have printers to optically print digital images to real photographic paper. The benefit of photographic paper is that it will last for hundreds of years and is extremely resilient. It’s coated in multiple layers and designed to withstand a lot of abuse. It takes the ease of digital photography and melds it with the permanence of those 70 year old photos in your grandmother’s photo album of your mom in those crazy pants with that ridiculous hair-do. It means your moments are going to last as tangible objects that can be viewed for generations. No need to try to scroll back through 30 years of facebook photos. It’s right there in your house, in the box or photoalbum. Easily accessible and unchanged by the passage of time.
The second reason you should demand prints, and I probably shouldn’t be announcing this to the public, but preparing a photograph for print demands more higher quality work from your photographer. I suppose it’s partially a psychological thing. With digital images we apply presets, edit a few blemishes, and bam - your photos are done. When you’ve edited 200 images and you secretly know that your client is only going to look at them on their phone, there’s no need to make the image absolutely perfect. At phone or even computer screen resolution no one is going to notice the little things you didn’t do as a photographer. But when an image is going to be printed, every little detail is visible and important. Preparing images for print takes more work but produces better images. In the end, it’s absolutely worth it.
But Won’t Prints Drive Up the Cost of Photography?
Not really! It is a matter of shifting from quantity to quality. Instead of getting 100 to 200 mediocre digital images you get a handful of images that are works of art. You’ll be able to permanently adorn the walls of your home with the photographs you’ve invested in instead of just enhancing your facebook or instagram feed for a few moments. What increases may exist are more than justified by the value of the product you receive.
Digital arrived on the scene two decades ago and changed everything. It was a new tool in the photographer’s tool box and many new photographers used it to attract clients by touting the affordability and ease. They stopped printing images and instead gave you hundreds of very similar photographs at varying quality levels and the consumer in all of us was satisfied. More for our dollars, it makes sense. But now digital photography has matured and as a photographer I want to use the tool to the fullest and this is how doing so is going to look: I take digital images, edit them digitally and provide you with amazing physical prints from a professional lab that will last well beyond your lifetime. Of course we aren’t throwing away the digital images and you will still receive copies of those, but by showcasing your prints instead of the digital images, I’m giving my clients the absolute best I can provide in terms of service and product. It’s good for you and that’s all that matters to me.
An Anecdotal Conclusion...
A few years ago, I was the yearbook sponsor at a public high school. Part of the yearbook includes Senior Pages, a personalized page that parents could purchase for their students that contained messages and photos of their choosing. As we worked on those pages, I ended up with stacks of prints on my desk from many many different students. They included family photos, baby pictures, old school pictures, just all sorts of images neatly stacked up on my desk as they awaited processing for the yearbook. Throughout the day, every day, I had to constantly tell other students to stop picking them up and looking at them. At first I just thought it was a fluke thing but as the days passed I noticed it was an ongoing practice. Students were drawn to the stacks of photos like moths to a flame. They couldn’t resist picking them up, flipping through them, staring at each image like it was a work of art in a museum. All day, every day I had to tell students to put the photos down and leave them alone. It became such a constant problem that I had to collect them all and move to a place out of sight. But in spite of the aggravation, I was surprised that the students, who have thousands of images on their phones that they never scroll through could not stop flipping through the stacks of prints. Ultimately, I discovered that it’s a human thing. The physical aspect of the printed photographs begs us to look at them. To study them. We glance and continue scrolling with digital images, but when you hand someone a printed image, they view it differently. They study the details, they take time to observe and consider what the image is. If it is worth printing, it becomes something worth viewing. Beginning with this year’s Senior Portrait Season - we are changing our business to provide you with something worth viewing! It’s exciting for us, and for you too! Keep an eye out as we revamp our packages and make changes to our website. And look for more helpful info about how you can print your own images, even from your cell phone or tablet, so you can preserve those amazing moments for years to come!