The problem with only digital.

The reasons you may or may not want only digital files from your photo session.

I hear it all the time. “I only need digitals.” For a few – namely wedding clients and business owners – that may be true. The majority of clients though actually do want more than only digital files, they just haven’t realized what they’re giving up going that route. And let me be real clear – I’m talking about receiving only digital files and no printed products at all. My portrait clients do receive a digital copy of any image they order for the wall or in an album.

Two quick disclaimers. I used to only provide digitals. Not because I didn’t want to offer products, but because the logistics of doing that with a growing family and moving and building a house made it unfeasible. Being able to offer amazing products to clients is next level and it takes another layer of time and skill. I’m finally there! Second – for me, this does not apply to weddings. I still feel that for a wedding you should have the digital files of your entire day and not have to pick and choose which you want in some limited number of photos. It’s too deep a subject to get into now but just know, my brides still get all the worthy images from their day.

Why do so many clients assume they only want digital files?

Because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe. The world tells us that we can see everything we could ever want to see right there on our phones. Our cluttered, messy, distraction ridden phones. Wow, how very special. There are a few times when it makes sense. Branding and business is a whole category that actually needs primarily digitals. Any portrait style session though – why would you only want something on your phone. If it isn’t special enough to display it in your home or put it an album, why would you share it with the social media world anyway. You’ve got your phone photos for that.

Let’s use senior photos as an example and the process I had to use the past few years. You paid a flat fee that included 30 digital files. We planned out this really great session, had a great time (that part doesn’t change) and you received a proof gallery online. Most people looked at that on their phones, tapped the heart on the ones they like and those are the ones I would edit. Sent them off in a link so you could download them and there you go. Clients could order prints through their gallery but few got around to it.

And then what?

It was a little soul crushing when months later, sometimes a year later, I would get an email saying “I never got around to downloading those pictures and I can’t find the email now, can you resend it?” We put so much work into creating these gorgeous images and nothing was done with them. Not even a download of those digital files. That’s not my clients’ fault, that’s how life goes. And that’s the value we put on digital files. You think that won’t be you, but are you being honest with yourself?

Parents – does this sound like you? You have the best of intentions that you’re going to print off that photo for the wall. You want to put those senior photos in a little chatbook you’re going to create with more photos from throughout senior year. It’s going to be so sweet. You’re going to do some redecorating over the winter for this grad party you’ll be having at your house. You don’t know what size/style of products you want yet. I get it. I also know that all of a sudden it’s April. You’ve been so darn busy the thought of organizing your phone photos is too much to think about. The party has been moved to a rented space because you can’t possibly fit all those people in your house. You haven’t downloaded your files yet because you never remember to turn on that laptop sitting in the cupboard and when you do you get distracted first by the pile of papers by it.

Then there’s all the technical issues with digital only, the printing problems, the resolution size, etc. You can’t order prints from your phone and expect good quality. Your phone compresses every image it stores. If you took taht image off Facebook it’s already been compressed and your phone does it again. It’s gonna print like crap. The colors are different at every lab. Walgreens yellow and Shutterfly yellow and my lab’s yellow are all different. Every color is different so when you mix them up you don’t know what you’re gonna get.

Save yourself the stress of having to do more work with digital files!!!

I’m stepping out on a sketchy limb here and opening up my brain a bit. On my end, knowing how very few clients actually do anything with their images makes it very hard to muster up the desire to go the extra mile and make them wall worthy. Not anymore. Now I will know exactly what’s going on the wall in what size and when I know that and I know people are going to see my work on display every single day – you can darn well bet I’m going to make it the best I possibly can.

What to do instead?

How does this sound? Come to my office with your senior. We’ll figure out together, then and there what length of session you need, we can pick a date and we can even start planning it. No more filling out a huge questionnaire on your phone (and we know that mom ends up doing it, not the senior) and hoping for answers revealing enough to actually tell me something real. We keep in touch to plan more details along the way. Session day is awesome. A week or so later you come in and we go through your options for wall art, albums and gift prints together. You pay for what you’re ordering then and you move on with your to-do list. About 6 weeks later all you have left to do for your senior’s images is come and pick up all the gorgeous products you’ve ordered (unless you spent enough to get free delivery). Then hang them up.

These thoughts and processes follow through for all portrait sessions, whether it’s a 2+ hour senior session or a half hour family. Let’s create something you want to see every single day, free from screen distractions!

Other Tips and Advice:

You can always run through the “Advice” category list on the blog home page, but some may be a bit outdated.

I recently update To the Nervous Senior Parent, so if that sounds like you, definitely check it out!

Another that still holds true today – Timing Your Senior Photos. Check it out for sure. Hint hint, the sooner the better!

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