I was with a friend the other day and his wife called him, and the conversation went like this-
“Honey, can you stop by the store and get a gallon of milk? We also need some butter and a pack of cheese for the kids lunches. I would like to make that cream cheese pound cake you love, so get a pack of that too while your there.”
Okay, Mike, NOW I know you have gone completely off the deep end here. What in the WORLD does that have to do with “professional photography”?
A lot actually. You see, it made me think about what clients are asking for when they want “digital files” and why I only offer them as something to purchase rather than “included” with my photography.
You see, my friend can easily walk into the store and get 100% of what he needed- a completely finished product that requires no additional anything to use it. But then again, he could just ‘get a cow” and make his own too! I can visualize walking into the grocery store and going down the dairy aisle and there is nothing there but rows of cows. Feel free to milk them and turn that milk into anything your heart desires! Is that what you really want?
So let’s think for a second. When you come to a professional photographer, are you wanting the “cow” or the milk and the various products that milk from that cow produces? If you want the “cow”, then let’s see what you need.
First, you need some land- a pretty good piece of land at that to keep your cow in grass to graze on so it can produce the milk you really want. That would be your camera and gear needed to capture your photographs. And if you are willing to make that investment, there is absolutely nothing preventing that from happening.
Then, your going to have to milk that cow twice per day. That is how you obtain the raw product for everything else to happen. Now in photography, that would be the education, training, and experience to create those photographs. For a professional photographer, that is an ongoing process and one that started early in most cases.
Now if you want butter, you need a churn, or if you want yogurt and cheese, you need things to make that too. For a photographer, that would be the processing equipment- a computer, the programs, and knowledge to take the “raw image” and turn it into a masterpiece that you will love and want to display in your home. It also requires the skill-set needed to produce images that are more than just “snapshots” too.
So once you have those things, what do you get once you HAVE that cow? Well, you really get the milk that everything else comes from. So if I am a milk producer, I probably have no interest in selling you my cow, but I can definitely sell you all the milk, butter, cheese, and other products my milk can produce! And you don’t have to worry about cleaning up the barn, pasteurizing the milk you obtain, having the equipment to make the butter and cheese, or any of the headaches that owning a cow produces. You want milk, and cheese, and butter, and yogurt.
So when you ask me to “give you the digital files’ there is a price attached to those. So is the cow going to cost you more or less than the gallon of milk you buy? Or how about that gallon of ice cream you love so much? Are you prepared to learn how to do all those things properly so your cow can produce the milk you really want and the other products you can produce from the milk?
If you ask me to create images for you, then expect me to offer you the finished product and not some “not even close to being finished” with a digital file. I offer you the finest printed products you can get anywhere and images on those products you will cherish for a lifetime. I offer the “finished product” like that cream cheese your spouse uses to make that cake you love so much.
And if you want to own my cow, I will gladly sell it to you! But it’s going to cost a lot more than that pack of cheese your wife really wants.
I imagine when you take home the cow, there is going to be a LOT of explaining to do, don’t you?
So the next time a “photographer” who only offers you “digital files”, please remember this- unless you can take those and turn them into a finished product before you can actually enjoy them to their fullest extent, you are going to be disappointed most likely. It’s like making cheese. If you leave something out, your results are less than satisfactory and you probably end up with spoiled milk.
Do you still want to buy my cow? Or is that pound of butter what you really came in for?