Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Selling print ready images...

I received an email last week from a reader who wanted to submit an article for the Savvy blog . After reading it, I definitely thought it would be great to share here. It was written by Ashlyn Dawson, a Canadian photographer who specializes in weddings and newborns. I hope you enjoy it!

In no way is this post intended to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. That decision, ultimately needs to be made by you. This post is simply here to outline the reasons why I personally do not give away a disc of print ready images easily.

I have always enjoyed helping clients decide what images to print. I love sending out print orders and seeing the reaction on my clients faces when they receive their final products. To me custom photography is all about the experience; from beginning to end.
There is something so special about each moment. 

This year almost every single inquiry I have received started off with “ I would like the disc of my print ready images so that I can print them myself”. For a little while I had actually been considering offering digital negative packages as opposed to print packages. I had everything set up. Then I took a moment to really think about what I was doing. Here are a few things that ran through my mind:

At the end of each year I send out a survey to all my past clients, have them fill it out and sent back to me. I ask questions about their experience, what products they liked best, if there is anything I can work on etc. A few of the questions I had on my survey last year were directed to individuals who purchased a print ready disc from me. And not just individuals who commissioned me, but to those who won a free session with the disc of images, friends or family. 

The two questions I had were:

How soon after your session did you decide to print your images, 1-3 months later, 3-6 months later or 6+ months later?

How many images did you print and what sizes?

To my surprise, the answers were not what I was expecting at all. Many of the individuals who purchased (or received) a print ready disc seemed very excited and ecstatic to receive it. Their excitement conveyed  to me that they already had plans to print many of the images, and very quickly for that matter.

43% of people said they printed their images 6 months to a year later.  57% of people said they forgot, or lost their disc.
30% of people said they printed between 5-10 gift prints (8x10 size or smaller)

Conducting this survey made me realize that as much as people professed that they wanted the disc, their actions did not line up with the excitement they once showed. It made me wonder if people want the disc solely for the purpose of preserving their images? Having peace of mind knowing that if anything were to happen, they always have the disc of their images to fall back on?

Many other photographers I have spoken to have noticed the same thing. Clients often return with e-mails or phone calls about lost discs over a year later. 
When I got married last year I immediately purchased an album when I received my wedding photos. To this day I have NO clue where the disc of our wedding images is. For the life of me, I cannot find it. I tucked it away somewhere and it’s probably lost forever. But, I have my wedding album to show. I show that off to each and every individual that walks through my door. I even take it with me on occasion when I’m meeting up with someone who didn’t get the opportunity to attend our wedding. It was the best way to preserve my images. And I’m so thankful I did it. 


Did you know that CD’s will be phased out by the end of this year? USB’s are expected to follow that same route sometime over the next two years. Many large companies have already stopped making both items. Once they’re completely done with, we’ll find another way “preserve” images. In a few years, computers will be made differently to accommodate whatever new technology is set to replace CD’s and USB’s. Which leaves you to wonder; how will you be able to view your images in a few years? How will you be able to share them? Will you have the ability to print them the same way?

Technology is constantly changing, and I personally do not want to take the chance of offering my clients something that they may or may not (likely not -- remember cassette tapes, and a-tracks?) be able to continue using in a few years.

The best way to preserve your images is not on a disc, or a usb, the best way to preserve your images are printing actual photographs. Remember when you were younger, at your grandmothers house. And she showed you her wedding images, or photographs of your parents when they were children? They were perfectly preserved in an old photo album for future generations to enjoy them. That’s the same way in which you must preserve yours. We’ve been able to travel back in time and view things from over one hundred years ago through photographs, paintings, sketches etc. These artistic pieces had one thing in common; they were tangible.

If you’re going to spend the money on the luxury of custom portraiture, wouldn’t you prefer to have something that will last a lifetime? Photographs and albums that your children, and your children’s children will enjoy for years to come?

By no means am I trying to deter you from purchasing print ready discs. And to photographers; by no means am I trying to persuade you to stop offering them. I do believe they have their place. Consider my points outlined above and make your own decision. 

Clients: If you choose to go the route of print ready images please, please do not wait until it’s too late to print your images. Now is the perfect time to dig up that old disc wherever it is and get those images printed! And if you choose purchase one in the future, please print your images right away. Don’t wait until it’s too late.  The most awful thing that could happen is having invested in custom portraiture and having nothing or very little to show for it.

Thank you Ashlyn for the great article!



  1. What a great post! Thank you SO much for sharing! :)

  2. This is a great article! Thank you for sharing this and reminding us to print those photos!

  3. So true, print your images, pictures, photos, don't let them sit in the computer, or on a disc. Share them. display them, preserve them on achievable paper for generations.

  4. I'm actually the worst at getting my OWN images printed! I really need to get files off my computer and onto my wall. I have over 3 years of my kids to go through.. so it's overwhelming. That being said... I'm just starting out as a professional photographer - and I'm offering some digital packages... but every disc will come with 5x7 ref prints for each image. At the very least, the client will have one image .. not to mention.. they should be able to tell the quality of what it should look like!

  5. Great Article and well said- we definitely want to give our clients something they can enjoy and love NOW, rather than later. Nearly every client of mine does order the digital collection/images in some form or another. By only making the digital images available as part of a print collection, I make sure they walk away with something tangible. This way they get the best of both world. I also upload their images to MPIX.com beforehand and set them up with an account so they can simply login and order prints within the day, if they so chose.

    One minor thing that bugged me with your article is the incorrect statement that CD's are being phased out at the end of 2012. This was a rumor that was going around last Nov/Dec, with regards to the music industry specifically, and then popped up again with rumors that Apple is doing away with an optical drive on their MacbookPro. Both of these rumors are unfounded. If you checked with MESA (Media & Entertainment Services Alliance), digital/online sales only made up 26% of music album sales last year, with physical CDs making up the remaining 74%. Likewise, CD sales are up 5% over this time last year. CD's most likely will be gone by 2020, but that gives us eight years to prepare and research what the new format will be.

    As for what this means for our clients, it is simply that we need to educate them. Right now, CD's are common and expected by clients. While USB drives are great, they can also be misplaced and erased (and yes, CD's have their own list of problems), and are a bit more unfamiliar. CD's will are projected to be phased out within 10 years, so yes, we need to remain current by all means, otherwise we risk going the way of film negatives (which can still be used, btw). This is why as professional photographers, we need to educate our clients on how to print, why to print, give them the opportunity to print, provide them with prints, and give them every opportunity to have lasting portraits, in one form or another. If we have done all that, then we have truly done our job.

    Thanks for giving me a great start to my morning! Keep up the good work!

  6. Thinking I will be using these points often. Thanks for laying out what I feel.

  7. I understand what you are saying; and yet I was burned by this. I purchased a beautiful print but it was ruined accidentally years later. The photographer had already gotten rid of the negatives. How I wish I had gotten a digital copy!

  8. Great post. Great thinking ahead, however I use my "print-ready" disks to download into My Photos on my computer. This makes them available for my digital picture frames, slide shows and gives me the flexibility to make canvas pictures for my wall. I can mix my candids with my professional images to make the years organized. Hard copy books take FOREVER to organize and take up a lot of space. With the print-readies I can create scrapbooks with the stories behind them (one drawback is the stories are typed but not in my handwriting . . . but since cursive handwriting is being phased out of schools at least I know she'll be able to READ my photo-diary when she's older). I love when the photographer puts a stamp on the image so I can look through later and determine which images I like the best and reminds me who had the most talent for return business. Just my thoughts.

  9. Great food for thought and great article! I was curious for more details regarding the phasing out of CDs... What does it exactly entail? Can no longer buy that medium? Computers won't include the CD drives? And does it also apply to DVDs? Thanks!

  10. Great article and will definitely be bringing up some pointers with my clients