Friends who are getting a DSLR soon...
If your ultimate plan is to start up a photography business of your own, even if only part time, I have some advice for you that is 7 years in the making.
DO NOT START YOUR BUSINESS AS A SHOOT & BURN PHOTOGRAPHER.
What is a shoot & burn photographer?
- One who is hired, shoots a session, edits up the images, and hands the digital files over on a USB, disc, or for download for the customer to do as they please.
Right now, there are readers thinking, “Wait. Isnt that the best deal? I’ve always been told I need to look for photographer who will give me the digitals and a print release. Isn’t that exactly what you do?”
Short answers: No, it is absolutely not the best deal. Yes, you’ve been misinformed (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). And, until recently, we have been a hybrid of print and digital.
I don’t know who started the lie that digital files were the best way to go, but I totally bought into it, too, and that was how I first started my business. PLEASE, learn from my mistake.
Over the last 15+ years from the transition from film to digital cameras, everyone has started realizing something - “shoot & burn” is a giant waste of money and time for both the client and photographer!!
- The customer goes through all the trouble of planning and paying for a family photo session - the session fee, buying new outfits, online prints, shipping, etc. - only to watch the final products fade, warp, peel, and fall apart within just a few years. USB drives sit in a box, forgotten. Digital rot (or "bitrot") will eventually claim the images and they will be gone forever. When was the last time you even viewed something on CD? Computers are made without CD drives now, and even if they were, the discs they get burned to are rated to last - if you're lucky - only a decade or so before completely deteriorating and flaking apart to an unreadable state.
- Pro photographers have access to archival materials for printing that our customers can’t buy on their own. These are inks and papers and canvases that are meant to last hundreds of years! You just won’t find that on Shutterfly or Mpix. I swear it’s called Walgreen’s because you’re going to have nothing but GREEN on your wall! Only a pro photographer can guarantee that their prints will match the digital image in vibrance, tone, contrast, and sharpness. (Again, because we have access to better quality materials that everyday people don’t.) When your customer takes their digital to a lab and it comes back pixelated or off in color, they sometimes blame the photographer for a bad file or a bad photo. There goes repeat business out the door because you didn’t keep control of your final product.
- You cannot build a sustainable business by running $50 mini sessions with all the digital images and printing release included. You just can’t. You will try, you will run yourself into the ground, you will cry yourself to sleep at night, and then you will either change your business model (which is extra hard to do if you’re already known as the $50 mini session photographer) or you will give up on your dream completely. Just don’t do it. Skip it. You love yourself more than that.
Right now, there is an industry-wide movement of photographers who are taking back control of the final product their customers display in their homes.
Soon, you will see more and more of us saying, “Sorry, I don’t offer digital files.”
And I promise you, that’s a good thing. 😊
Do yourself a favor. When you’re comfortable enough with that new camera that you can start taking on paying clients and can create a complete set of deliverable images every time you take your camera out of its bag, dive in to the world of printing, and start planning your physical products and their prices.
If you do, you will likely fly right past me on the way to a successful, profitable business. Photographers who retain control of their final product from the very beginning get a stronger start and have happier customers.
THIS IS NOT NEW!!
In fact, this is a movement to get back to the more personal way of handling a photography business that was in place before digital imagery ever came along.
Yes, it’s more work for you. More one on one time with your customer, more planning, more education.
But it is more than worth it to make sure that your art is as intended, family history is preserved, and these heirlooms are here long after we are gone.