Sunday, March 20, 2011

Digital negatives please!

I read a post on photography the other day on Postcards from the Mothership about what some photographers are willing to work for, and while I didn't take the time to comment over there, it got me to thinking a lot about the price of photography and how hard I think it is to find affordable good photography these days that includes some of the digital negatives as part of the package.

I am definitely not out to discount any one photographers talent ... as I think that the art of taking good pictures is definitely a skill that one can benefit financially from. And who am I to say what your skill and talent as a photographer should be worth? No one.  But why can't most photographers include at minimum, low-resolution digital images, and a couple high-resolution retouched images as part of their overall fee?

It seems the more I look around for a photographer, the harder it is to find one that:
A. has an affordable sitting fee,
B. offers a few digital negatives,
C. is in the Ottawa area.

I get that by providing the digital files of the shoot, I have no reason to come back to you if I have the goods in hand, ready to copy and print as many times as I want, in as many sizes as I need, but here's the kicker for me... if you're a good photographer, and the pictures are as good as you advertise, I'll be back... every year, if not two or three times for a family session (and any other big occasion in between).  I have young children and young children change rapidly, and if you are charging $175 or $225 for a session, plus tax, and I'm happy with your services, you are going to get anywhere from $500 to $750 dollars out of me in a year. In addition, I'm going to tweet, and facebook my network of friends and colleagues, and recommend your awesome photography skills to everybody. and. their. dog.

I don't so much mind a steep sitting fee, as much as I mind the $50 charge for an 8 x 10, when you and I both know I can go to Shopper's, or Costco, or Walmart and get it for under $5. I know that its not going to printed uber high-quality paper, or with premium ink, but I could care less about that because I'll have the digital negative to print it again in 15 years when it fades, for probably less than $5 - which will still not be anywhere near $50.

I get that photography can be a competitive and time-consuming business and making a living off my $750 dollars/year is probably not going to pay all the bills (or even some of the bills) but put me together with 30 of my friends and 30 of their friends, and we're starting to make some headway I would think.

As you know, recently we had a friend of ours, Greg Snyder, take family photographs as a favour to us. We paid him minimal for his work, but now I am out recommending his work to my network, and in the future, when we need new family photos, we will be calling him and paying his full session fee because he was great and I was really happy with the results of the shoot. I have the digital negatives in hand, and I'm planning to use his services again!

I have also used the services of Cherie Lynn Buchanan in the past when she too was just starting out.  At the time (2009) she offered the digital negatives of the session, and I loved this about her. She takes amazing photos ... but now she doesn't offer affordable digital negatives and this honestly has deterred me from using her again - because it goes back to me not wanting to pay $50 for two 8 X 10s when I've already paid $225 or more for the photo session. These days she does run specials that includes print credits of $50 or 15% of her a la cart gallery, but no high-res digital images (unless you want to pay $400 in addition to your session fee). Like I said, her photos are AMAZING and she definitely has the talent to charge more money than average for her skills, but I still want digital negatives without breaking the bank.

In looking for local photographers (which I often do), I found this great looking website in the Ottawa area called Baby & Belly Photography, and I think that it is AWESOME - great pricing, great package, and great portfolio. I haven't had the time to try her out yet, but I have to say, she - Daisy, has definitely got the right idea when it comes to capturing the moments of young families and capturing the right price. For $135 you get an hour session, and a CD with 10 retouched images, and all your untouched images from the entire session mailed to your home within 2 weeks. To me, that rocks! I would have been satisfied with 10 retouched images, let alone all of the images from the session. For $135, I don't have to break the bank, I get great affordable photos, and I now have a photographer to call up the next time the family portrait is looking a little outdated or my boys are graduating from kindergarten, etc. (Note: a gift certificate from Baby & Belly would make a GREAT gift for any young family *ahem*).

Don't get me wrong... I really admire photographers who have a knack for shooting families and young children... it really is a skill to be able to get a young child to act themselves in front of a stranger, and to capture those special moments, we as parents see every day, but for the love of pete, please make it affordable to print those special moments and store them for many years to come.

Do any of you have fave family photographer that offers some digital images as part of the fee? From a photographer's perspective, am I being too unreasonable in wanting a couple digital images to keep?
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Anonymous said...

I do agree with this photograph: Anzans, I think she offers some pictures on a CD. That's what I read on her FB page anyways. She looks very good too.

PS: I love you blog and can relate too ALOT of stuff your blig about. :) keep up the good job.

Alicia said...

I hear ya sister. I was fortunate to have met a local photographer, Claire Ross, through another Mom at playgroup. She took our family photos in October and I plan to go back to her again and again. The real kicker with me is always if I get digital copies. I have never paid for prints...always get them on my own.

Anonymous said...

HI Sara,

Baby and Belly is great! Daisy took some family pics for us before Christmas and they turned out really well.

Daisy is a friend of mine and is really good at what she does.

Tell Pete that Steve says hi and we will have to get all of our boys together-lets plan something soon!


baby & belly photography said...

Hi Sara,

Thank you so much for your interest in my photography, I would love to take your family photos anytime!

I found your blog because I have a flag for anyone mentioning baby & belly. I am so glad I followed this lead. Great blog! I will definitely keep it in one of daily reads. Also have you checked out Modern Family Magazine. They are local here in westboro but are published across canada and sold in Chapters. Some of my photos will be featured in this mag.

For the fabulous review I will discount your photo session - %50 for the first session.

Hope to see you soon!

DaniGirl said...

Great conversation, Sara, and thanks for the link. I love it when conversations spawned at my place take on a life of their own!

I'm really struggling with the idea of providing digital negatives. On the one hand, I really agree with you - when we had our wedding pix done waaaaay back in 1999, the number one thing I wanted was access to the *film* negs. (Of course the huge irony is that we never really made any prints. Sigh.)

On the other hand, the most compelling argument I've heard for NOT including hi-res digital negs is this: do you know about aspect ratios? How an 8x10 is cropped is different from how a 4x6 is cropped. As a photographer, newbie as I am, I have a "vision" of the final product and know how to balance the image perfectly in the frame. If you (and by "you" I mean the client, not you particularly) take the raw neg and print it at Costco, there's a good chance either you're not aware that you can and have to set the crop to the right aspect ratio (I wasn't until last year) or you do a less-than-perfect job.

Let's say that happens, and then you don't notice (again, I mean you the client, not you Sara) that Costco's lab has put a funny green cast on the print, maybe something that you don't notice because it's subtle, but enough so that it makes the print less perfect than it could be.

So now you have a print that you put on your wall that is (a) less perfect than it could be and (b) has my name attached to it. So when your BFF comes over and sees it on your wall, she thinks, "Hmm, I thought Danielle was a professional photog, but look at that green cast and how poorly that image is balanced in the frame. I won't be hiring her to take pictures of MY family!"

An extreme case, maybe, but the argument does make sense to me. Myself, I'm thinking the middle road is to offer hi-res negs but only on the images you've already ordered for print through me.

What do you think?

(yeesh, this was long! Thanks for the inspiration, apparently I need to turn this into a blog post back at my place!!)

Anonymous said...

Yes, Danigirl nailed the problem exactly.

I'm a pro wedding photographer and the damage to my reputation if someone puts a crappy Walmart print on the wall and says it's my work is incalculable. It's not about print sales -- Heck, I don't even mark up my prints so clients can basically buy them for what they'd pay at Walmart, just to encourage people to please, please show my work professionally. I still have half the people thinking they need the digital negatives -- even though no one can give me an actual reason for it...