Digitals: Are They Worth It?

December 15, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Before I go any further with this post, let me put this disclaimer out there: I don't bash photographers who only give digitals. I don't bash clients who only want digitals. To each their own. I am NOT here to judge how other people run their businesses or purchase their art. This post is to explain what digitals are to me, as a photographer.

SO, why don't I include digitals? Because 9 times out of 10, it's what clients have been told to want, but most clients don't know what to do with digital images besides small prints. We live in a digital age and people are told to expect digitals from their photographers. Personally, I feel that after being able to provide the service of creating beautiful images with them, I want to help them continue on their path. I don't want to walk them part of the way and say "Ok, here's your CD. Good luck!" I want my clients to get high quality prints and products.


There are a few responses that I get when I tell people that I don't include digitals in my session fee:

1.) "But I want to print them for myself."

This is the most cited reason for wanting digital images, and there are a few responses to it.

Clients usually pay quite a bit to have a professional take their images, so seeing them printed on low quality paper with the wrong colors and cropping is a sad, sad sight. I want more for my clients. I want to help them design a beautiful wall with their images. I want to design an album that includes their favorite images for them. I want to take the guess work of design out of the equation. To me, that's a part of my job as their photographer: to provide them with art. 

Another reason why I don't provide digitals is because I know what usually happens to those digital images: Nothing. Sure, maybe a few images will be printed off for relatives, but then the CD/USB gets thrown into a drawer with the idea that they'll print more later. But life tends to get in the way and those images don't get printed off. By the time the Mommy guilt has really set in and the thought of "Man, I really should just print those pictures!", it's a year later and people realize that it's time to update their family portraits, so it's back to square one.

I can say this because I DO THIS. I have a husband, three (soon-to-be-four) kids, a dog, two cats, several rowdy fish, a small business and a LIFE to contend with. Printing my own pictures are not always a priority for me, and that is just a fact of my life. Even though I think that printing your images is VITAL, I forget to print my own because my to-do list is already ten miles long and adding just one more thing makes me a little crazy. 

Plus, we're human; we lose things. It's super easy to lose a CD. It's pretty hard to lose a 16x20 canvas that's hanging in your hallway. Just sayin'.

2.) "But I like having a CD as a back up, just in case."

Do you remember floppy discs? When was the last time you used one of those? I'm assuming that it wasn't any time recently. They're not usable anymore. CD's will go that way, too. Mac's already don't have CD drives on them. So at some point, you won't be able to use that digital media that all of your families images are on. Most photographers have your images backed up, so if anything was to happen to them, they're not lost forever. I've had a rare client tell me that they upload them to an offsite server and keep the USB in a safety deposit box. That is truly the only way that it makes sense to want all of your digital images, but even still, USB's will not be forever.

3.) "But I want ALL of my images."

When people want all of their images on digital media, what usually happens is that they print off their favorites and forget the rest (that is, if they get printed at all). Your photographer can give you dozens of images. In some, someone is making an awkward face. In others, the baby looks like they're about to cry. In still others, no one looks happy. So, why would someone want those images? What will people do with them? These are files that will sit on the disc or USB and never see the light of day, so why spend your money to purchase them?

4.) "But I want to post them onto Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, etc."

How many people remember MySpace? I do! I posted ALL of my images there thinking "Now I'll never lose them!" HA! I have no idea what my password and login for MySpace is now. And those pictures that I thought I had saved on there forever? Lost in the world of cyberspace. Social media is fantastic and we, as photographers, WANT clients to spread the word about how much they love our images, but that shouldn't be the primary way of sharing them with friends and family. Prints and products allow clients to see them every day in their homes and those last much longer than a Facebook post!


After all is said and done, I feel like I need to be clear, I do sell digitals to my clients. I know that people want them, but 100 years from now when their children's children's children want to see what their relatives looked like, I promise you that they're not going to pull out a CD drive to scroll through pictures. And you're not going to have your CD or USB framed and hanging on the wall. People will look through photo albums. They'll look at the framed portraits on their walls. They'll look at what is physically available to them. (I wrote a blog post a while ago about The Importance of Photographs, which is relevant here, as well.) Especially as a newborn photographer, it is so important that these images be available for decades to come. To me, printed photographs are SO much more valuable than digitals. They're not really for the clients, they're for the generations not yet born. So, everyone can decide for themselves if digitals are truly worth it, but to me? A printed image is worth everything.


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