One of the questions my potential clients ask me on a regular basis is how much I charge for digital files.
My first reply is “What would you like to do with them?”
Way before I press the shutter on my camera, I ask myself three very important questions. Why am I taking this photograph? What am I trying to capture, and who is going to be looking at it?
If I’m on a Client shoot, everything about the image is carefully planned. We’ve spoken beforehand about the location, clothes, poses and expressions; we’re working together on this to ensure we’re capturing something that is truly worth capturing. Then I’m looking at the lighting, the composition of the image, how pronounced my subject is in front of the background, and sometimes even my subject’s pose. In my mind I know what I’m trying to achieve; the look, the feel, the style. I choose the focal point, the depth of field, decide exactly what shutter speed to show movement or freeze the subject, the exposure length to achieve bright or dark images, even the ISO to capture detail where it could just be shadow.
But what I’m trying to explain is that this amount of control results in an image that is hopefully one where the quality and composition shines out, that when you see it you can see that I’m worth being paid to take it.
This is where it starts to get a bit tricky. That edited image that I see on my computer is probably not the same as the one you would see on your computer screen, or your iPad or smart phone. That is because my monitor is calibrated in a way that when the image is printed, it looks exactly as it does on screen. And when I say printed, I mean printed using the particular professional print company that I have chosen and calibrated my monitor to. If I sent that image to 5 different printers, including perhaps printers that most people have access to I will guarantee you that I would have a slightly different photograph from each of them. They use different printing machines, different papers, and all of a sudden, the vibrant lavender field image I sent to print is not the image that I have on my screen.
As an artist, that is a loss of control. And if you start to throw into the mix products such as canvasses, the difference in quality of the products available is staggering.
As a Professional Photographer, my work is why people choose me over other Photographers. It is what makes me me. So when my work is on display, the quality that it is displayed at is absolutely crucial, especially as being on display means it is there to be seen. I use only Professional Printing companies to print my photographs, artwork and albums, ensuring the high quality image i’ve created so far is preserved in the exact way I intended it to be shown. I’ve known of Photographers that have given digital images out to friends and then seen them as products on those friends’ walls; then been heartbroken that the images that they had taken so long to craft had been cropped, or the colours oversaturated, or even that the product itself was of such quality that a beautiful image looked like a phone snap. That inferior product is then judged by others as a representation of the Photographers’ work, which has a significant impact on their business and reputation in a way that is completely out of control of the Photographer.
This is exactly why I am wary of providing digital files. Often they are priced the same as wall artwork or large prints, because actually assigning a monetary value to something that isn't usually intended as the end product is quite tricky. But for me it is not about the money. It is about supplying my clients with First Class customer service throughout their whole experience with me, capturing an amazing session, then creating gorgeous products with the absolute WOW factor that will bring joy and be cherished for years to come, rather than to be delivered in a little black box to stay locked away as digital files in a drawer until they finally get remembered.