Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why Do Digital Files Cost So Much?

I just got off the phone with a client who wanted a photo shoot at the beach and all the images on disc, full-size and hi-rez, with a release of copyright so she could print them or post them online.

She was surprised at the cost.

So, I thought this might be a good time to explain how digital files are priced.  Let the questions begin!

Why are digital images so expensive?
Actually, they're not.  They just seem expensive because you are buying so many of them.  First, let's talk about how photographers make their money;

Most photographers charge very little for a photo session.  Their goal is to take such amazing pictures of you and your family that you will want to buy a lot of prints, wall art, or digital files.  It's a gamble every time.  We don't know how much money we will make from a client until they come see their images.

We like to offer a lot of different product so that we can make our clients happy (and make more money, of course). But here's the problem;  Most of these products can now be purchased online or at a local store.  So, when a client buys a digital image, it's very rare that they will buy anything else.  For example, we used to sell a ton of wallets but now most people don't send them to family anymore.  They just put the picture on Facebook.

What are digital images so expensive?  Because you are buying the whole cow.  I had a client who wanted to buy her digital images so she could make a guest book.  Well, I sell guest books.  So you can bet that I'm going to charge you at least as much as I would for a guest book, especially when you consider that you can use the images for so much more (prints, slide show, post online, "Thank You" cards, etc.)

Imagine going to McDonalds and asking for all the ingredients to make 30 cheeseburgers, already cooked, because you wanted to put the cheeseburgers together yourself.  Would you expect to pay less than the normal cheeseburger price?  Now, imagine they gave you the ingredients to make 30 cheeseburgers as well as hundreds of other types of burgers.  Less than the cost of 30 cheeseburgers, or more?

I started by saying that digital images aren't actually that expensive for what you get so let me put that into perspective.  If you were to buy 35 4x6 prints from me it would cost more than buying 35 digital images.  With the digital images you can do anything you want.  That's a great deal.

But I know a guy who will shoot a portrait session and give me a disc of images for X amount.  Why don't you do that?
The real question is:  Why don't you use that guy for your portraits?  I think we both know the answer.

You can buy a Kia or a Ford or a Lexus or a Mercedes.  Only you can decide which is right for you but don't expect the Mercedes to cost the same as the Kia.  (By the way, I'm not the Mercedes.  I know photographers who charge a lot more than me for their digital images and some who refuse to sell them at all.)

Well, I hope that I have shed a little light on why digital images cost what they do.  Just remember:  When you get everything on disc you are getting everything.  It's going to cost more than a few prints.

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