Why aren’t digital photos cheaper?

What is the price of just the digital photos? That should be less expensive right? I don’t need the prints.

This is a question that probably gets asked every day during consultations with photographers. I often get this when talking a client through pricing during their initial phone call with me. Since the dawn of the digital age, a lot of people’s expectations are that digital images should be cheaper. After all, it’s not like YOU the photographer are incurring the printing cost if you hand your client digitals, right? Don’t feel bad, this has become a super common question to ask. So why aren’t digital photos cheaper? The answer is simple.

Anyone can give you just digital files. It doesn’t take any work. You yourself can take some on your phone, and voila! You don’t need me for that. Phones have editing apps, filters, etc, and you can even find “photographers” willing to shoot your session on their phones. Seriously.

The clients that come to me, want MORE. They want an experience. They want a final product.

You are paying for the artwork I am creating for you, not what it is printed on.

Having a beautiful print on fine art paper, or on a magnificent piece of wall art is wonderful. And for the quality that I provide my clients with, that too, obviously, comes with a cost. But you are not paying for the wood, and acrylic or metal, or museum grade paper. You are paying for me to create artwork of your family for you to enjoy for years to come.

Presumably, you came to me because you love my work and want me to create something meaningful for you. I don’t just click a button and give you a final product. I don’t slap a filter on my images and call it a day. The digitals aren’t cheaper, simply because that is where the bulk of the work for a photographer takes place. The digital is where I do the majority of the work; the processing, the editing, skin and color correction, toning, etc. In making sure all of the details look good and there is nothing distracting in your images, you receive the best completed work.

I’m assuming, you do not come to me to display your images like this….

SOFIA RIBEIRO PHOTOGRAPHY USB WALL ART MOCKUP, why aren't digital photos cheaper

Speaking of printed artwork…

The experience with me isn’t complete until I deliver you tangible, beautiful artwork that you can enjoy fully. The service you receive from me is not based on online images that will be forgotten about with time. When was the last time you did that, really? I am guilty of it myself, I have thousands of images of my children on my own phone.

Naturally there is additional work involved in creating all of my clients’ custom prints and wall art pieces. This involves consulting with the client on color schemes for the finishes. Often I design wall art to fit the scale of their walls by placing the actual artwork sized appropriately on photos of their home. There are some great examples of mockups and final artwork pieces I created for clients here. This is a complimentary service I offer my clients as part of their session experience. I don’t want you to do any additional work or wonder if you’ve chosen the wrong size for your walls.

why aren't digitals cheaper
This is just an example of my photo scaling software, but I use clients’ personal home walls all the time.

People will often say, “oh, an 8×10 is big enough for my walls.” But look at the above image. On a normal wall, that 8×10 is going to look like a postage stamp!

You can see a sampling of the gorgeous products I provide my clients with here.

A heartbreaking reality with digital only images

There is nothing that breaks my heart more, than spending hours editing your session to perfection and creating gorgeous images for you, and then seeing a filter slapped onto it and then printed at the drugstore on the instant kiosk. I’ll tell you why.

I have seen babies and people’s skin tones in all shades of the rainbow. Red, purple, yellow, green. Cheap printers don’t calibrate or service often, and the colors do not match what I see on screen. Getting your artwork printed through me, means you are getting something that will look the way it was meant to be seen.

Are you hanging purple and green babies on your wall? Probably not! I’ve also had clients mistakenly print watermarked versions of their images too (way back when). We laugh about that now because this is something they no longer have to worry about!

Spending money on a nice big canvas for your living room, only to have it come in blurry or off color would make you pretty upset, right? The process doesn’t become cheaper a this point.

I have another blog post that talks about the costs incurred during a typical session that you can read here. This is something that the customer rarely considers when choosing their photographer and their final product.

Digitals are also never really yours.

What this means is, if you upload them to a cloud, IG, FB, or whatever service exists TODAY, what happens when that no longer exists, gets hacked, crashed, you lose login credentials, etc? What about that USB or disc- do you know where all of them are? Did they get lost in a move?

I’ll equate this to my husband and his extensive movie collection- to which he always replies that you don’t really own digital things. People don’t like to have physical movies, but what happens when the streaming service rights expire for your favorite shows or movies? Or something happens to your digital collection storage? He has everything on physical and digital media. If you have a digital only collection in this case, you might want to take a look at this article from The NY Times explaining why it’s never really yours.

Digital Files decay over time

What is digital decay? Digital decay is the degrading of digital information over time. When you move files from storage to storage, when you copy them, uploading and downloading. Or they can simply be erased or corrupted for various reasons.

Of course physical products can also be damaged by the elements, but in normal conditions, even age won’t likely render them unrecognizable. Digital files can become completely useless and unrecognizable if damages. What happens if you get gorgeous portraits done, and have only the digitals and then something corrupts your files? This is why it is a good idea to have both.

But, no one wants prints anymore…


My clients would beg to differ…

More than ever, people are returning to printed portraits. I think many of have realized that the time with the people we love can be fleeting, especially in the last few years. We want to be able to treasure those moments in a significant manner.

In fact, my clients are SO appreciative and grateful for the fact that they are getting these amazing portraits in such a stunning way! They don’t worry about having the time to get them printed themselves and getting subpar quality. AND, they don’t have a USB or disc getting dusty somewhere in a drawer that will inevitably get lost in a move.

When clients get their artwork, they are just so happy, I have seen many TEARS OF JOY. Do you know how happy that makes me, to have created something that gives you this much joy to look at? It makes my heart sing. I am her to serve you, to give you this complete experience, with complete work. You won’t get this experience with just digital images.

Think about when social media began, Xanga, Myspace, Facebook, IG, TikTok, who knows what comes next. Do you still have access to your Myspace account and whatever photos were on there? When your babies are grown and want to see images from their childhood, are you going to go fishing for that USB from 20 years ago? Or remember the password to your ancient social media accounts? I definitely don’t remember my Myspace account information. What will you have to show them? To show yourself when you’re 80 years old in a rocking chair, reminiscing about how amazing you looked when you were pregnant. Or remembering that little swirl of hair on your newborns little forehead? They will be forever grateful for these.

Why you should have printed artwork in your home:

I do provide digitals though, with a caveat.

Don’t get me wrong, my clients still get digitals that match the size of their printed portrait or wall art choices. This way, I ensure that you get the BEST of both worlds. You’ll still be able to share on your preferred social networks, you’ll just have the gorgeous products too.

Giving you just the digitals would be like handing you unfinished work. Why are you investing in professional photography to finish the work yourself, or never finish it? Because you can’t find the time to print them, or carefully craft a gallery wall in your home you’ll be proud to look at and share with others?

Let me help create something with you that you will love forever. Something that you won’t forget about on a hard-drive or in a dark drawer corner.

How to store your digital files

Aside from enjoying your physical artwork, once you do have digital files of your images, it is always recommended to store them to a few places for safety, aside from your computer’s drive. I always recommend at least two backup locations for your archival files. These are not limited to, but can include:

  • Cloud Storage.
  • External Drives
  • USB Drives and Burning CDs

You can look into this article here about storage methods: 5 Ways to Back up your Files. I’ve had clients lose the entire contents of their computers as well, so if you keep a lot of important things on your computer or laptop, you may want to back up the entire thing. This article provides some tips on how to do that: How to Back up your computer.

I hope this article helps you to understand the reasons why digitals aren’t necessarily cheaper and why it is important to have physical copies of your portraits, with the digital as a backup!

To keep up with new updates, and announcements, make sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Sofia Ribeiro is a New Jersey newborn, maternity, and family photographer specializing in fine art printed portraits. Serving the North and Central New Jersey, New York City, and Staten Island areas, and beyond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: