To Print... or Not to Print...
To print or NOT to print... that truly IS the question!
Up until the early 2000's, NOT printing your portraits that you hired a professional photographer to take was just foolish. Like, why would you hire a photographer to take your portraits then just let them sit in negative format? What a waste of your time and money... let alone a waste of the photographer's time and talent. Printing professional portraits was an honor, it was an exciting moment in a family's life to pick up those prints and proudly display them in their home. Since digital format of basically everything- from pictures to email to getting a home loan- has now become king, we've lost a touch of a reality that has carried us for generations. What is this loss of reality, you ask?
The ability to have art fabricated into something we can see, touch and feel. The ability to react emotionally to a photograph.
I bet you're saying to yourself right now "Um... Julie. I SEE photos everyday. On Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest". Yes... yes, you do my friend. But let me ask you a question- what do those photos mean to you? Have you spent more than a second even thinking about it AFTER you scrolled right past it in your feed? Do those photos you see everyday on social media make an impact on you? Make an impact in your life? Do you see photos you are scrolling by so quickly and lose your breath for a moment when you saw something that triggered a fond memory or moment between you and a special someone else? I bet you 99% of those photos you see every day didn't.
And THAT is a problem, my friends. A BIG one.
We are losing touch with reality. We are losing touch with a special moment that is fleeting.
And professional photographers are partly to blame for this.
Whoa whoa whoa... if you're a pro tog, you're probably seeing a little red right now or shaking your head. But let me ask you this question, fellow professional photographer friends of mine- do you offer digital photos? Why? Because it's easier for you to turn around your clients, get them in and out with minimal time invested in them? Just upload those digital photos to an online downloading service, send them a digital print release and a quick thank you... then be done? If you aren't offering your clients professional prints and albums- you are doing your clients and yourself a disservice. Last time I checked, our clients choose us to photograph them because they love our work. Not because they are obsessed with our digital downloads, but because they love the way you pose your subjects or the way you edit your work. They choose us because they are trusting us, as professionals, to capture a moment so special in their lives and curate that work into something real- like a beautifully designed and hung canvas or album that will be cherished for generations. We are breeding a new generation of lazy professional photographers and lowering client expectations of what a professional photographer actually is by using digital files as our base for our business.
Don't get me wrong- I give digital files with all my collections. Why? Because it's fun to share photos on social media of our children or family photos. It's nice to send an email to grandma and show her how big her grandkids are getting. It gives us a sense of connection when there is distance between us. But are your clients actually having those digital photos that you sold them printed? And if so... where? (My heart literally hurts when I see people printing professional photos at Costco or Walmart. Legit hurts). Excuses like " I can't sell prints, no one wants them" or " I just hate in person sales (IPS)" don't work anymore folks. If you are a professional ANYTHING, you know that you have to sell your product to have a profitable business.
It's time to turn the tables and remember WHY we are professional photographers and business owners. It's time to show that these moments our clients are hiring us to capture and create for them are REAL.
CLIENTS... are you printing the professional portraits you hired your professional photographer to capture of you? Are you getting those large 16x24 prints or canvases and hanging them on your wall, proudly displaying your family? If so... where are you getting these printed at? Are you ordering them through your photographer, who offers phenomenal printed portraits with archival quality (note that archival quality is a minimum of 80 years with no cracking, fading, discoloration if taken care of properly) or are you getting your prints done at Snapfish or 1000 free prints a year at those app's you see online?
NOTE: I want to distinguish something here that's also imperative. Companies like Snapfish, Walmart, Costco and others were NEVER MEANT to replace professional printing by a professional photographer. Did you know that? They were created so the average Joe Schmoe could take their disposable Kodak cameras and point and shoot cameras (now we call those iPhone's and Android phones) and get the every day photos printed at a minimal cost. They were created so when your kid looses a tooth and you catch it on camera, that you could go to Walmart and get it printed and put it in a collage, scrapbook or send it to grandma. These companies don't have a vendetta against professional photographers and want to see them all go out of business- they want to partner with the every day mom and dad to make sure their every day moments are captured and PRINTED so they become real and alive.
I like to look at these companies as partners to professional photographers. They encourage printing photos! And isn't that the point????
Here's my call to action:
Clients- PLEASE find a photographer you trust and get your beautifully designed and captured photo session (that you paid good money for, mind you) PRINTED. Get that 30x40 framed print of your newborn baby, or your family photos UP ON YOUR WALLS in your home. I promise you this- your children will want to see these photos in your home. It will give them a sense of self worth and love. Print those every day photos. Find a printer who calibrates often (Costco is your best bet for local and cheap. Mpix online is your best bet overall for printing every day photos with the best color calibration) and get those every day photos printed!!!! If you have had a professional photographer give you digital files but you've never had them printed, Mpix is a good substitute. Also checkout Artifact Uprising- this company literally BLOWS ME AWAY with their quality and mission. Remember this too- these companies like Costco, etc. are not offering you archival quality prints, so over time they will absolutely lose their coloring and fade.
Photographers- if you aren't offering professionally printed products yet... start today. Seriously. Price your products to have a profitable and sustainable business. If you have no clue how to do this, or need a refresher, I offer business coaching designed for photographers and how to run your business. Test out a few different professional printing companies and pick which ones you like best! You don't have to go with just ONE printer only... I use one company for prints, another company for albums and a different one for canvases. It's time to stop letting our clients walk out our studio doors without prints and products in their hands.
It's time to turn the tables with this trend of digital files only and never printing professional portraits. Let's start making sure our clients are taken care of when it comes to their portrait needs and desires.
You got this. We got this.