Alright, moving right along with Part 2 of the Burn, Baby, Burn series – today we’re discussing The Digital Difference – how Professional Photographers handle digital files vs. how Shoot & Burners do. Before diving in to today’s discussion, please read Part 1 of Burn, Baby, Burn first, so you know the characters and can follow along.
In Part 1, we took a look at a portrait session conducted by a Shoot & Burner, and discussed how the Digital Files were given to the client. It went something like this:
*Shoot & Burner Photographer (hereinafter referred to as S&BP) conducts session. S&BP downloads images onto a CD and hands to you. No outtakes removed. No resizing. No cropping. No artistic work. No retouching. No color correction. No instructions. No keepsake or protective packaging. S&BP is unable or unwilling to assist with any questions or concerns you have about cropping or printing the images. After she hands you that CD, her work is done.
So NOW what do you do? You’re a mom. You have a household to run and a baby to take care of, and maybe even a job yourself. You don’t know anything about photo editing, and you don’t have any interest in learning photo editing. So the odds are what you do is….
…..you take that CD, and you put it in a drawer. And every time you think “Oh, I should try to do something with those pictures from Sassy Snapper”, it just seems like such an overwhelming task that you don’t have time to deal with.
Now let’s compare that with a typical process of receiving Digital Files from a Professional Photographer. We’ll do this by rewriting your portrait experience from Part 1, as conducted by a pro.
Step 1: See photographer page on Facebook. Notice she is in your area. Do some more research, and find that she has photographed a neighbor’s child. Call the neighbor to ask about the experience, and be delighted to learn that the lovely grouping of canvases that you admired in the neighbor’s entry were produced by that photographer. Look her up online, and find on her webpage that she’s got her legal information posted on the site so you know she’s a legitimate business. See that she’s got a nice assortment of images in her galleries, and she offers a number of different products, including the Digital Files you’d like to have.
Step 2: Schedule session with photographer. You are asked for and pay retainer or session fee, plus tax, at the time of booking, and receive an emailed invoice on her company letterhead. At her request, you meet her at the park at 9am on session day. The morning is comfortable, the light is soft and beautiful, and your baby is in a great mood since it’s early in the day.
Step 3: After the session, you schedule a viewing appointment with the photographer. She might do an online preview, or you may see the images for the first time at the ordering appointment. The appointment might be at her studio, your home, or even a local Starbucks – but whatever the location, she’s got a laptop or projector for you to view the images, and samples of different products for you to see. You’re delighted by the number and variety of beautiful images of your baby, and you’re glad the photographer is there to talk you through the decision process, because it truly would have been overwhelming to do on your own. With her help, you decide on several larger prints for your home, but you also very much want the Digital Files from the session because you’d like to make multiple copies of small prints for your extensive family, and you feel better having the originals archived for the future as well. You place your order.
Step 4: When your order arrives, you’re thrilled with your prints and can’t wait to hang them in your home. You’re excited to get copies of the images for family members too – so you open the beautiful, custom CD case with images from your session printed on it. Inside, you find a card with detailed instructions about the files you’ll find on the enclosed CD, as well as printing instructions and recommendations on where to print to get the best results from your files. When you open the files, you find she’s included both full-size files for printing, plus websize files for online use, so you can easily share the images on Facebook. Each image is beautifully cropped and retouched, just as she showed you at the ordering appointment, and sized at a standard size that you can easily have printed. With these lovely files and careful instructions, you’re able to order prints for your family without any problems. You’re so happy to have the information on how to make copies of the CD, and safely store them, to ensure you’ll have them for your family as years go by.
The difference is clear – the Professional Photographer in this version of events is concerned with quality and customer service. She wants to make sure that your experience is great, and the Digital Files you’ve chosen meet her artistic standards and are in a format you can easily use to make copies of the images and archive them. She put a lot of time, thought, and energy not just into your session, but also into the final selection of images, the cropping and retouching of the images, and the presentation and user-friendliness of the Digital Files she delivered to you. She knows that working with Digital Files is not something you do every day, and she wants the process to be easy for you so that you’re thrilled with your purchase. It takes a lot more time, education, and talent to deliver this level of product – but that’s what Professional Photographers believe in.
I touched on this in part 1: unlike Professional Photographers who have chosen to offer Digital Files, the Shoot & Burners I’m referring to are generally people with lots of other things to do in their lives who “take pictures for some extra spending cash.” Professional Photography is not their career. It’s not what puts food on the table. It’s not paying the mortgage. It’s something to do on the weekend – it’s a couple hundred extra bucks for spending 4 hours shooting someone’s wedding and handing over the files. These folks are not interested in spending time at the computer cropping and artistically editing your images, preparing a slideshow you can share with friends and family, helping you order enlargements and flush-mount albums and gallery-wrapped canvases. They just want a quick few hundred bucks for a couple hours of shooting. The focus is on images that are ‘good enough’, not fantastic. Notice how I said ‘a couple hundred bucks’ more than once? That’s because that’s what Shoot & Burners charge, as a general rule. That’s the facts, as they pertain to the vast majority of Shoot & Burners.
So, while you might luck out and find yourself a Shoot & Burner who is actually a skilled photographer, I have to be a realist here and tell you that it’s pretty darn unlikely. It takes a lot of time, education, and experience to become truly proficient and able to produce a cohesive portrait session or wedding coverage for a client. And it takes a lot of mistakes – you don’t just walk in there and *nail it* the first time you ever shoot a newborn or a wedding.
We’ve now covered the types of Shoot & Burn Photographers, the way they generally operate, and how that compares to a Professional Photographer offering Digital Files. Please check back for Part 3, where you’ll learn more about those Digital Files – including why (and IF) you need them, what to expect if you purchase them from a Professional Photographer, and how to safeguard them.