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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