Professional Photography- Do you want to buy my Cow or my Butter?

Family Photography Jacksonville, Fl
Family Photography Jacksonville, Fl

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?

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5 thoughts on “Professional Photography- Do you want to buy my Cow or my Butter?

  1. Lets get real. This is very misleading. I appreciate your analogy- however most customers don’t want raw files, they want finished images in a digital format- such as JPEG. And you know this….. It sounds like you just don’t want to miss out on print business. Most folks think Walmart prints are just as good as going to a legitimate print shop. I hate when they do this lol. But you should at least be up front about it, and offer your reasonings for not wanting to give them in your packages. They want to put them on Facebook and Instagram and taking a picture of a print is not what they are thinking. Again this article is very misleading, I think you might want to adjust your viewpoint and change with the times.

    1. I tend to think comments like this come from what I refer to as “shoot and burn” photographers who rarely have the skills needed to produce a professional printed image. If you really and seriously “think” that a digital file, “full res”, is capable of producing a printed image that will astound the people who buy it, then you are sadly mistaken. Proper prep work is far from over when you “burn a jpeg” and hand the client a disc. It is capable of producing ONE size print and anything else is improperly prepared for any other size. And yes, I CAN show you the why that is factual. But honestly, you aren’t my “competition” anyway. It’s is I that you must compete with since your level of thinking tends to run along the “Walmart of photography” line of thinking. And just so you know, Walmart shut down their photography studios because they found out too, running a business has expenses and when you offer “digital files” only, you can’t seem to pay that overhead so much. If you want “digital files”. feel free to make the investment into your own photography education and equipment. Get back to me when you have the cost tallied up and tell me if creating professional level images is “cheap” like the paper you choose to print your images ON! I don’t sell paper. I sell far more and as soon as you discover THAT side of photography, perhaps you too understand what it is I actually do in my business and what it is I actually sell.

      1. Everything you assumed in your reply is wrong. I’m not what you derogatorily called me “a shoot and burn” photog and I am perfectly capable of taking legitimate “professional” photos. (It is an unfortunate truth that many people claim this and they are far from it. Completely agree with you on that) Every image you have printed in the last 5 years was a digital file at some point so the comment you made about it being impossible to get great prints from digital is completely false- I would imagine you yourself shoot digital and also know this. Every print shop in my city takes digital files in one of 2 formats- JPEG or Tiff and at 300dpi they look great. 2 of the 3 shops ONLY take digital and stopped taking film. In fact even the “classic” Kodak print machines that use the old school printing process – NOT inkjet- uses software that automatically converts any file or film to a hi res JPEG lol. And it looks amazing! I am fully aware that in order to make different size prints that you have to export the file in different sizes- I am in no need of a factual rundown from you to prove that. I would ask you regarding it though- how hard is that…….. Really. Ask the client what size digital images they want and export them at those sizes – separating them by folder. Takes 2 seconds in Lightroom so please don’t mislead people that this is some magical process that must be closely guarded. I include finished digital files as a value add primarily for web use- I simply inform them that prints from fedex/Walmart/Costco/Walgreens — all look terrible and if they want actual quality prints they can get them from me at a competitive price. I show them 2 examples, one from a print kiosk in the store and one from the print lab. Guess what, they ALWAYS order prints from me because the quality sells itself. I wish you no ill will and all the best in your business( which only doesn’t compete with me due to logistics), however I will say that your sense of superiority is rather overwhelming in your last reply. And again, because of these facts I feel the blog post is rather misleading. It is however your blog so do what you want, I was just calling you out on it.

      2. Let me share something with you that you perhaps should consider.

        I am NOT in the “paper selling business”. Wallyworld, Costco, Walgreens, and many, many others are. I am in the business to sell what’s ON that paper, and that is something that can’t be reproduced easily. If you want the paper sellers to come and take your photograph, I imagine they will look at you in some confused and dazed look. Once you learn that little “Secret”, you can perhaps learn from someone who isn’t in the business of selling paper. But, if you want the paper sellers to profit handsomely from your own efforts, then you are free to walk around the cabin. I don’t “sell” my prints because of the quality of the product, the diversity of the product nor any other “reason” you have listed. I offer something that isn’t recreated within the realm of most people. And for THAT I am paid handsomely. If you want to offer a “file” for people to print, then go for it. I choose NOT to. I am like the Specialist that does nothing but heart surgery. You get someone that knows every possible outcome and every possible “bad thing” that could happen and avoids it. But anyone is free to go find the cheapest surgeon they can find. They could even be “part time” and if that’s what you are willing to go for, then go for it! Or you could buy your own surgical set and do your own heart surgery. Either way, it’s not my issue to deal with.

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