I was at a party recently, and a fellow guest shared a horror story that makes me cringe every time I hear it, and I’ve heard variations of the tale more times than you’d believe.
The photographer she booked to shoot her engagement and wedding photos delivered the images digitally but didn’t print anything for them. The bride stored them on her computer…but never looked at them and eventually accidentally deleted them. By the time she noticed they were missing, it was too late to do an emergency restore. They were gone.
“Shoot n’ burn” photography vs. full-service studios
The photographer this woman booked for her engagement and wedding photography photos might have followed a popular business model that we in the industry call, “shoot n’ burn”, in which the photographer delivers a client’s digital files shortly after the session or event, and lets the client handle her own print or album ordering through popular online or retail companies.
At first glance, it’s a great way for customers to save some money on photography services, and it’s a no-hassle, low-commitment way for a photographer to book a gig when he doesn’t have the right post-production equipment and software to prepare images for print media.
Full-service photographers work with reputable custom labs and album companies or run their own professional grade in-house printing services. They know that high-quality, archival prints best represent their work.
Lots of photographers who offer custom print and album services comply with requests for “shoot n’ burn” arrangments because some clients insist on having full control of their digital files as soon as possible, believing that the freedom to make their prints whenever they want, wherever they want translates to the best value for their dollar. While the photographer is only trying to accommodate their client’s wishes, they’re really only doing them a disservice.
Print packages save money, hassle, and memories
Here’s why you should factor in the price of finished custom prints when you set your event or portrait photography budget:
How many times have you said you’d get prints made from your favorite smartphone snapshots? How many image files sit on your computer right now? Chances are, you’ve been meaning to sort through and, at the very least, back up your personal snapshots.
Yes, you’ll likely place a high priority on images shot at an important event, or for your family portraiture, but have you bothered to print them?
Custom prints show your images in their best light
Digital files are fun to share and post on social media, but screen quality varies widely. When I produce custom prints, I handle all post-production on calibrated computer monitors that match the working profiles used by my custom professional lab partners. These labs then produce archival-quality prints with custom finishes that accurately convey skin tones, colors, lighting, and contrast.
Will the consumer-grade photo lab you use match these color profiles or my standards for quality? I’m betting your home printer won’t. Why invest in a professional photographer if the prints you end up with don’t match their potential?
Digital archiving isn’t foolproof
There are many grades of storage media designed to preserve your image files, but all are sensitive to heat, abrasion, and abuse. While the highest-quality DVDs can protect your images for hundreds of years under the best of circumstances, your next computer (or the one on which you’re reading this blog) might not even have a DVD reader, since media trends change with technological advances. It won’t be long before computers can’t read your USB drives either…
Computer drives fail. We lose passwords to cloud storage, and full-resolution images shouldn’t be opened and saved repeatedly, due to compression loss. Making backups of our digital files, storing “working” copies separate from “archival” files, and making sure none of it gets wiped out due to user error or technical catastrophe can be time intensive and expensive.
Enjoy your investment every day
You’ll still want to keep a master set (or two, in separate climate-controlled places, guarded by trained mastiffs or a Marine or two) of your digital files, but the best backup is always a set of custom prints, an album or a few beautifully-finished frame prints.
A true professional photographer’s work isn’t done when he sets his camera down at the end of a session. When you hire Adam Lowe Creative, you’re investing in more than behind-the-lens skills. You’re benefitting from my post-production technical training and my relationships with professional print and album producers.
Why put off until next year (or never) what you can enjoy today? Be sure to budget for custom-finished display prints when you plan your next photography session. You’ll save yourself from the aggravation of procrastination, the hassle of tracking down less-than-satisfactory aftermarket services, and the heartbreak of losing your digital files…even if it’s just to the chaos of your hard drive.
For more information about my custom print and album offerings, packages and special promotions, drop me a line. Especially if you have your own cringe-worthy photo fail horror story to share.