Posted: Feb 2019

As digital photography has become the norm, and as the majority of photographers provide digital-only services, fewer clients have come to expect a printed product from their photographer. Many clients prefer it this way, knowing that they will have the ability to print their photos in whatever quantity and size they like. But how many of those digital photos are actually being printed by our clients? The answer is most likely a very small percentage.

We all want to make our clients happy – that is a foundation of what we do as photographers. But what makes them happy in the short term may not be what truly serves them well in the long term. The purpose of family photography is to capture a moment and preserve it for posterity, to make sure it is there to be seen and enjoyed in 25 years when the children are grown.

calgary lifestyle photographer, in home.

So, why might the digital files we are providing not live up to this task? There are a number of issues with digital files:



We live in a hectic busy life. People with children are very busy and the time it takes to focus on making those hard decisions about what pictures to print, in what size, and hang where, can feel overwhelming. It falls to the bottom of the priority list and, in most cases, it just never happens


You may thing what you see on their computer is what you will receive. Often clients don't know where to get their images printed so just go to big box store nearby, then you end up with poor quality prints with strange colors that will fade over time. The reality is that there is a huge difference between print labs. I collaborate with the professional photo labs to achieve high quality prints which you don’t have access to.

calgary lifestyle photographer, dancing


Digital files can become corrupted and refuse to open. CDs can be scratched. Thumb drives fail. You may forget to backup their photos and may lose them when their computer dies. These are all real concerns with digital files. But the biggest issue long term is what is known as Digital Decay. Technology changes over time and rapidly becomes obsolete. The most current example of this is that CD drives are no longer a standard feature in personal computers. And then there was the floppy disk … does anyone remember the floppy disk? Is there even a computer today, that the average person would have access to, that could read the contents of a floppy disk? If our clients are not diligent about keeping their files backed up, and keeping up with changes in technology, their digital images will become obsolete in the future. Files can be stored on the “cloud” but what if the cloud storage company goes out of business? What if the monthly subscription fee doesn’t get paid? Over time the expense of keeping files backed up can meet or exceed the price of having them printed and all the while they are not being seen or enjoyed beyond a fleeting moment on social media or a holiday card that gets tossed. Digital files are not maintenance free and without active upkeep they will simply disappear over time.

Even though those disks and flash drives seem to make our clients happy, we are doing our clients a disservice if we don’t create finished products for them – high quality printed photos that will stand the test of time. As photographers, it’s our job to educate our clients on the importance of choosing professional quality prints. It is our job to show them what their images can become, to turn their photos into works of art that will last and be enjoyed for generations to come. Prints matter.

It’s been a hard day. You’re tired--and let’s face it--a little cranky. OK, a lot cranky. So to cheer yourself up, you walk over to your computer and fire up the USB of your recent family portrait session so that you can flip through the images. After seeing the slideshow playing on your tiny laptop, you can’t wait until the rest of the family comes over so that you can pass the computer around the dinner table. Here’s another scenario, similar to the first, except for one crucial point: those incredible, indelible images are hanging on your walls. You see them every time you walk by; you smile every time you walk by. In each room of your home, the heirloom photographic art makes your heart swell, overflowing with the investment you’ve made in your family, the investment in adding permanence to your memories.

The impulse to purchase images on a USB instead of a canvas or a print is strong. We feel as if we don’t actually own something until we possess every image from our shoot, as if the only way to experience our family is by being able to make as many reprints of them as we want.

But images on USB sit around. They become stuffed into a desk drawer, until their media is rendered obsolete and the images cannot be accessed anymore. They remain untouched, until that day when we’ll have enough time to put them in an album or print them ourselves. Finished products, on the other hand, are just that. They are ready to hang, ready to enjoy. They are instant--and constant--gratification. They are objects that can be passed down to your children, and your children’s children. The tangible nature of fine art--that it is an actual object, hanging on your wall or sitting on your coffee table--is meant for enjoyment, for experience, not to be archived on a shelf in a plastic media case. A USB of all of your images is not fine art. And the creation of fine art cannot be cheap. Crafting memories and creating personalized products that can be enjoyed for generations is a job that carries a lot of responsibility and weight, and demands finesse and skill. With professional photography, as with so much of life, you get what you pay for. Photographic art is an investment, to be sure, but it’s one that you’ll never regret.