There seems to be a constant war waged between photographers who sell prints and the “shoot and burn” photographers that give their clients a disc with edited images. Photographers who sell prints think that photographers who sell (or ***gasp***) give away their images on a CD are devaluing photographers and photography as a whole. Photographers who provide discs (whether given or purchased) to their clients think they are just keeping up with technology and client demand.
So, who is right in this war pitting photographer against photographer? Sadly, no one. Not all business models are created the same and neither are photographers. Client demand is a huge factor when creating packages and figuring out what products to sell.
As a photographer, I think it is natural to want to see your prints displayed. However, if you are only selling 4×6 sizes of images, you are not really creating displays for your clients, you are creating pieces for their scrapbooks and photo albums. Seeing your work displayed gives a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of purpose. It also allows clients to see the work every day and remind themselves of how beautiful your work is and how they need to keep updating those wonderful pieces.
In this digital age now, people want to share everything online and save the images to their computer. They don’t necessarily want the hard copies of the images, but the ability to create them if they want. They upload them to their computers, their external hard drives, or even cloud storage. This doesn’t only apply to younger people, because even older people are learning to use the Internet to connect with their families. Grandma and Grandpa may even be on Facebook just to keep up with photos of their grandchildren and see what is happening on a day-to-day basis with their families. Grandparents love seeing all those new images and most of the time, they don’t even care about seeing the watermark from the photographer on them. They just want to see new photos.
Just because you are a part-time photographer or new photographer does not mean that you can only give images on a CD. New photographers think that is the only way for them to give their images to their clients and it’s just not so. There are so many options for photographers who solely provide discs because they don’t know how else to give their clients their images.
Most professional photographers use professional labs, such as White House Custom Color, Black River Imagining, Miller’s Lab, Bay Photo Labs or Mpix Pro. How do you know which lab is best for you? Most labs will offer to do test prints for you so that you can see how your particular images will look when transferred from your computer and screen to their paper. Setting up accounts with most labs is pretty easy as long as you have a Tax ID number.
Educating your client on the differences between a professional lab and a discount store lab is very important. The test prints you get from your lab can help your keep your monitor calibrated which helps to ensure that what is seen on the computer screen matches what is printed. This is not a guarantee, sometimes not even close enough to be passable, from a discount lab. There can be huge color shifts, variations in overall tones, and the photographer has lost all control of the quality of the output of their final images.
If you are giving your images on CD, you need to think about presentation and packaging. Just handing a burned CD with their name written in Sharpie doesn’t make for a professional presentation. You can create white CD labels with your logo or a photo simply and cheaply. You can even order blank CD/DVDs from labs that have your logo on them and then just burn the images onto the discs as you sell them. There are so many options out there that can help make your presentation of CDs beautiful and unique. For instance, you can use these simple brown kraft envelopes and place them inside the banana leaf sinamay envelopes. It’s relatively inexpensive and looks so much nicer than just handing over a CD.
You can customize boxes or folders to present your CDs in when you give them to your client. You want it to represent your photography, your business, and your brand model as a whole. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, but it should come across as a representation of your business and what you provide.
The final images can be placed inside the box on some beautiful fabric or you can purchase bags to separate them inside the presentation boxes. Again, this is very inexpensive to do, but makes the presentation so much more beautiful and shows the attention to detail you provide in every aspect of your business.
They key component is not which is technically “right”, but which fits your business model. If you are pricing your sessions correctly and including the price for the CDs then you are doing what best fits your business. Giving the CDs away actually does very little to help clients value your business and the time and energy that was spent into creating, editing, and presenting your images. The same goes for providing prints so cheap that you are trying to compete with discount store pricing.
You need to value your business. You need to know your worth. Does the cost of whatever product you are providing help maintain your business or are you just throwing money away trying to get clients to walk in the door? If your business is not making money or at least breaking even, then you really need to figure out where you are losing your money. Is it from not selling prints or from including a CD with every order?
There are resources you can go to if you need help figuring out what to do and what your business can afford. The bottom line is that you have to do what makes your business successful, profitable, and provide a professional looking end product to your client. Photographers spend much of their time trying to figure out how to get clients and in the end your presentation of their products can be the difference in showing them if you are truly a professional or you are just a hobbyist making money on the side.
The presentation resources in this article are available from Le Box Boutique. Digital Photography School readers can use the code PHOTOGRAPHER10 for 10% of any purchase from Le Box Boutique.