How Much are Digital Files?
One of the questions my potential clients ask me on a regular basis is how much I charge for digital files.
My first reply is “What would you like to do with them?”
Way before I press the shutter on my camera, I ask myself three very important questions. Why am I taking this photograph? What am I trying to capture, and who is going to be looking at it?
If I’m on a Client shoot, everything about the image is carefully planned. We’ve spoken beforehand about the location, clothes, poses and expressions; we’re working together on this to ensure we’re capturing something that is truly worth capturing. Then I’m looking at the lighting, the composition of the image, how pronounced my subject is in front of the background, and sometimes even my subject’s pose. In my mind I know what I’m trying to achieve; the look, the feel, the style. I choose the focal point, the depth of field, decide exactly what shutter speed to show movement or freeze the subject, the exposure length to achieve bright or dark images, even the ISO to capture detail where it could just be shadow.
Once I have captured the image, I then use Adobe Lightroom to develop it digitally, in the same sort of way as film is developed in a dark room (less chemicals and more light involved obviously!). I review every image, and quite often I crop the image to help create leading lines or patterns to help direct the viewer to the part of the image that I want them to look at first. I’m looking at symmetry, balance, impact. And that’s even before I’ve colour balanced or removed a blemish or scratch.
Now I’m not telling you any of this to show off… indeed my short list of what I look to do is just a few of the things that Master Photographers of today think about.
But what I’m trying to explain is that this amount of control results in an image that is hopefully one where the quality and composition shines out, that when you see it you can see that I’m worth being paid to take it.
This is where it starts to get a bit tricky. That edited image that I see on my computer is probably not the same as the one you would see on your computer screen, or your iPad or smart phone. That is because my monitor is calibrated in a way that when the image is printed, it looks exactly as it does on screen. And when I say printed, I mean printed using the particular professional print company that I have chosen and calibrated my monitor to. If I sent that image to 5 different printers, including perhaps printers that most people have access to (for example here in the UK we have Snapfish, PhotoBox, Boots - all of which I’ve used by the way in the past for personal use and they all have their own merits) I will guarantee you that I would have a slightly different photograph from each of them. They use different printing machines, different papers, and all of a sudden, the vibrant lavender field image I sent to print is not the image that I have on my screen.
As an artist, that is a loss of control. And if you start to throw into the mix products such as canvasses, the difference in quality of the products available is staggering.
As a Professional Photographer, my work is why people choose me over other Photographers. It is what makes me me. So when my work is on display, the quality that it is displayed at is absolutely crucial, especially as being on display means it is there to be seen. I use only Professional Printing companies to print my photographs, artwork and albums, ensuring the high quality image i’ve created so far is preserved in the exact way I intended it to be shown. I’ve known of Photographers that have given digital images out to friends and then seen them as products on those friends’ walls; then been heartbroken that the images that they had taken so long to craft had been cropped, or the colours oversaturated, or even that the product itself was of such quality that a beautiful image looked like a phone snap. That inferior product is then judged by others as a representation of the Photographers’ work, which has a significant impact on their business and reputation in a way that is completely out of control of the Photographer.
I recently heard about an award winning wedding Photographer who received a bad review from a Bride and Groom, saying the quality of his work was awful. The story got traction on social media, and it turns out that the Photographer had supplied the Bride and Groom with digital files, and they had made their own album and had it printed at a supermarket. Images had been stretched, zoomed and cropped, the carefully chosen colours of the bridesmaid’s dresses and flowers were nowhere near their true colour, and the images were blocky and blurred. When the Photographer discovered this, he made up an album himself, had it professionally printed and sent it to the couple; they were of course horrified when they realised what had happened and apologised, but did those people who heard bad things about the Photographer stay to hear the rest of the story? Probably not.
This is exactly why I am wary of providing digital files. Often they are priced the same as wall artwork or large prints, because actually assigning a monetary value to something that isn't usually intended as the end product is quite tricky. But for me it is not about the money. It is about supplying my clients with First Class customer service throughout their whole experience with me, capturing an amazing session, then creating gorgeous products with the absolute WOW factor that will bring joy and be cherished for years to come, rather than to be delivered in a little black box to stay locked away as digital files in a drawer until they finally get remembered.
Social media is the other reason that people ask for digital files. They want to share the images with their families and friends, and why not? Of course some people choose not to (and that is a whole other blog post for a few week’s time!) but I’m happy to provide social media formatted images for this very reason. I can supply Instasquares, profile cover images or even profile pictures, and I’m very happy to, usually at no extra cost. Indeed all of my Corporate Clients have all of their session files supplied in exactly the format they need for their exact usage, as is the nature of Corporate Photography. This ensures that there isn’t any nasty image compression or awkward cropping added during the upload, maintaining the integrity of the image that I envisioned. And once again, happy clients!
With each of my portrait sessions, I include a voucher towards artwork. This is because I want to help encourage my clients to enjoy their photographs in the way that I intended, given the work that we did together to bring that image together.
And actually, for each image used in artwork, I do also give my clients the high resolution digital file. For the use that it was only ever really intended to be, when digital imaging was created.
As a backup.
Ps. I've had a lot of lovely comments from fellow Photographers asking where I get the boxes in my picture below. These come as standard from LoxleyColour with all wall products supplied, and are brilliant for not only storing artwork but delivering to clients.