While there are so many things I didn’t realize when I first picked up my camera and began learning, the issue of digital images verses prints seemed to be a no-brainer in my book. In today’s digital age, I figured the simplest thing to do would be to snap a picture, come home to make a few tweaks, then hand over as many digital images as I could for as cheaply as I could. Everyone would be happy and everyone gets what they want…or so I thought.
Well, I quickly learned that there is much to getting a good image before you press a shutter button. And then there is so much more to editing that image after the shutter button is pressed to get the style of portrait I loved. So my “cheaply as I could” began to get edged out as I pursued “as excellent as I could.” But it wasn’t until I actually printed out my portraits several months after picking up my camera that I realized a print isn’t a print…isn’t a print…
My daughter wanted to give her friend a little portrait for her birthday. Her friend loved pink…but coming out of the winter months meant not having any beautiful colors in our backyard, let alone anything pretty in pink, for our quick little portrait session. So after buying some pink flowers and spending about an hour playing in Photoshop on just one image–trying to add in a spring feel–I actually needed to print out some of the pictures so we could put them in a frame to wrap in time for the party. I didn’t have time to wait for an order to come back from a professional lab, but I didn’t want to sacrifice too much on quality printing at the closest and cheapest consumer lab. So I printed through a more reputable place in town and drove an extra thirty minutes to get the pictures. While the pictures were still overall okay, I kept looking at them thinking they looked much more brown in color than the pinkish tones I had edited them to be. You could see it especially in the pink flowers she was holding. Here is the picture I printed, which of course looked different in the print that day as opposed to how it looked on my calibrated computer screen:
Thus began my quest for figuring out how to print quality images that reflected the heart and soul I poured into the portraits I was creating. I certainly didn’t want my pinks looking brown! I had read about the differences in consumer labs verses professional labs, and it was time to see if what they were saying was worth the extra effort–and let’s be honest–extra money! And here is what I found.
Yes, there is QUITE a difference. And for someone who is putting in around 10-15 hours hand-crafting your portraits in the editing process after your session, that difference is a pretty big deal to me. And considering the effort and time and cost YOU are spending on having custom portraits taken of your family, I thought you might be interested in knowing about those differences as well.
It ends up being so much like everything else in life. Let’s say, for example, you decided to make the investment in custom cabinetry for your kitchen. You hired a professional who made beautiful cabinets, someone who’s style and artistry matched what you were envisioning for your home. But instead of having the professional do all the finishing touches, you decided to let my teenage son grab some stain at the local superstore and do the finish work. Yes, it would save you some cash. And yes, you would have beautiful custom cabinets–but chances are they won’t look like the custom cabinets you might have had if the professional had done the finishing work. The same is true of the portraits that will hang on your walls or be displayed in an album.
Does that mean that I now print out every picture I take at my chosen professional lab? NO, not even close. I still print my everyday cell phone snaps at my local store. Does that mean that I only sell prints and don’t offer digital images at all? NO! I still offer high-resolution digital images as an option for my clients to purchase. In fact, you are more than welcome to ONLY purchase digital images if you want, and nothing else. There are GREAT reasons to have the digital images on hand, for sure.
However, because of the type of portraits I love to create and the effort and artistry that goes into making each image, I at least want to offer the opportunity to print them the way in which they are edited and intended to look. I feel with every session we are running a big race. By not offering an excellent finished result would be like running with you until just before the race is done and then bailing out of a thrilling and excellent finish–leaving that for you to do on your own. The problem with that is that most of you don’t have access to the things I have to take a beautiful, high-resolution digital image and make it look as fantastic as it possibly can in print. For some purposes, that is totally fine. But for other purposes, I can’t imagine not doing everything we can to finish the race and grab that top prize.
In my quest to find an excellent lab and an excellent finish to each portrait, I learned that there is a way to prepare images according to the size and medium of the print so that it really looks amazing. And it turns out, many images are printed without going through this process. So even if I had an incredible professional print lab to pair with an incredible picture, there is a way to make it even MORE incredible so the final print has all the WOW factor that a print can possibly have. So guess what I did? I signed up for the class to learn exactly that. And I plan to stay enrolled in that class so that I can have access to all current information and feedback on any questions I might have over specific prints. I would LOVE to show you the difference. Because believe me, I was surprised myself.
This does not mean that you have to go that route. But I do want you to understand exactly what is offered. When you print through me, I will see that process through so that you have prints as they are intended to look. When you print yourself, I cannot guarantee the results.
If you want a beautiful portrait or set of portraits to hang on your walls or go into an heirloom album–something that will be seen and enjoyed for days and weeks and years to come by those you love most–really consider having me print those pieces for you. We can talk through the possibilities of how you want your portraits displayed so that you make the decision that is best for you. I have samples to show you so you know exactly what you need to know to make the choices you want and be happy with the results.
Since I have decided to offer prints in addition to digitals, I have had a few inquiries come in asking if I sell prints. The ones who ask are always the ones who have had customs sessions with other photographers before and only purchased digitals, or maybe were only given the option to purchase digitals. In each situation, they said that when they printed on their own, they were disappointed that their prints didn’t match the beautiful images they had seen on the computer screen. So while some tell me before a session they just want digitals, these particular clients would ONLY book with me if I offered prints.
And do you know what? I am thrilled that I offer both. And while I don’t require anyone to purchase one or the other, I haven’t had anyone yet leave their viewing and ordering session without some combination of BOTH digitals AND prints! And now, everyone truly IS happy!