These days people often ask for digital images instead of prints. There are a number of reasons why someone might do this. One of the most common reasons is a desire to share images with friends or family. Others think digitals should be cheaper and they are all about saving money. Finally, a few people want them as back-up in case anything happens. So why do I prefer prints and do I offer digitals?
1. Digital technology is constantly changing
I have been using computers a long time. We have moved from floppy disks to CDs to USB drives. Who knows what will be next. My newest laptop does not have a CD drive. Those images I saved on floppy disks and CDs of my previous dog are no longer accessible; the prints I have are.
2. Digital technology can fail
CDs get scratched, USBs get viruses or files get corrupted. Just having a digital image is no guarantee that you will be able to access it even a month from now.
3. Digital images often are stored unseen
These images often sit in drawers or computer memories, unenjoyed and soon forgotten.
4. Prints last
Have you ever been to an antique store and seen boxes of old photos or photo albums? The images, some 100 years old or more, still look good. They can still be enjoyed in modern times. Sometimes low tech is better.
5. Consumer printing options are not as good
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, yeah, but I plan to get my images printed. The problem is the quality of consumer labs is lower than the quality of professional printing labs. One photographer told me that she gave some digital images she had taken of a family member to that person to print; time passed and the person didn’t say much about the images and didn’t ask the photographer to take photos again, and the photographer was a bit hurt. She later learned that the family member had taken the digitals to a local store to get printed and they all came out with a bluish tint. The family member thought that the photographer was a poor photographer, not realizing that the printing lab (or machine) wasn’t calibrated to print the right colors.
6. You don’t have any real options when printing at Costco, etc
You can’t get your photograph printed on acid free paper that will last for generations, you can’t get that print mounted to increase durability, you can’t get special papers and textures, you can’t get metal or acrylic prints, and if you do get a canvas, the quality won’t be as high. I know many people mention one online particular lab to me thinking it is high quality, but it actually is the lower quality side of a professional lab. It is better than Walmart, but that is hardly the standard for good quality prints.
7. You can’t have your digital image optimized for the print size you want
When a professional photographer sends images to be printed, we crop to the size ratio desired and optimize the image for that size print.
8. You cannot normally get extra large prints
if you are looking for a large stunning image to put over the sofa or the fireplace mantel, you aren’t going to find those at Costco or CVS. Most digital images being sold by photographers won’t print larger than a 11 x14 or perhaps 16×20. Special programs are used to make these large prints, and the shoot and burn photographer selling only digitals probably doesn’t have these programs.
9. Prints from consumer lab aren’t guaranteed by the photographer
If I order prints and they don’t turn out right, I get them fixed at my expense, not yours. If you buy framed artwork, metal or canvas images from me and that product fails because of poor manufacturing, then I replace them at my expense. Prints from consumer labs are normally do not come with long term quality guarantees.
So, does this mean I do not sell digital images at all? No, it doesn’t. I give social media sized images of whatever you purchase for free and offer the opportunity to buy other images for social media so you can share them with family and friends through Facebook, Instagram, email, or whatever you use. If you want digitals, I do sell them, but they cost as much as prints. Why? Because the cost of photography is not so much in the paper and ink used to print an image, but in the time, skill, editing, and services of the photographer.
Therefore, I encourage you to buy prints, wall art, and albums that will last, that will be seen, and that will be treasured and enjoyed.
Update: I just saw this and I love the examples of what images from various labs look like after one year. Check it out: