Print Your Photographs // Family + Portrait Photography by Justin Aitken
I had a customer call me today, she was really upset because her hard drive failed and she couldn’t find the original disc of images that she got from me - she had lost all of her digital files from her photoshoot. Bummer! This particular shoot wasn’t just any shoot, it was very special to her because it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of the family to be together on holiday in NZ, and we created some beautiful images on the day. We did the shoot nearly 1 year ago, and she still had not printed any of her photographs. She was devastated! What makes this story sad though is that 1 of the family members is no longer with them - so imagine the disappointment after losing the images. Luckily, I keep multiple backups of my work, and I don’t delete my customer’s photos
It brings up an interesting topic though, which I have now tried and tested out. The question is, “do you really want or need those digital files?”
Before I continue, I should point out that this post relates to portrait photoshoots only, and not weddings! Weddings are an entirely different ballgame
So anyway, recently I tried something new. For a long time now I have sold digital files to my customers (Yes I sell digital files, I don’t have a problem with this at all, as far as i’m concerned they are not my photos, they belong to the customer, not me). I started giving digital files with prints, my idea was that if someone purchased a print I would give the digital files, or vice versa -> if someone bought a digital package, I would give them a print. Only because I love a printed product and I strongly believe this is where photography really comes to life. I have gone back and looked at the last few months orders and the results are quite interesting. About 85% wanted prints (prints only, framed or mounted and ready to hang on the wall) while only 15% purchased a disc of images with no desire for prints at the time. So what does this tell me? It tells me that maybe people who have family shoots don’t actually want or need the digital files as much as they think they do. In fact, i’m willing to say that many don’t even know why they want the digitals files, I think it has now just become ‘normal’ to ask for them. And to support this, one of my recent orders was for two combo frames, with absolutely no desire for a digital file at all. I offered them, and they didn't even want them
Quite a big chunk of my work comes through word of mouth, still to date the best and most reliable method of advertising - no matter what service you do or what product you sell, word of mouth is king! My clients often tell me of how their friends comment on photos that hang proudly in their homes and hallways. This makes me extremely happy!
So I have sat here asking myself this question today “ what use are digital files if they are never going to see the light of day, sitting on a computer hard drive, CD or USB stick just waiting to be corrupted by some digital data eating alien? ” And corrupted they will eventually become, because the fact is hard drives fail, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when
It comforts me though that even with the amazing modern and digital technologies we have at our fingertips today, there is still the desire to see and touch something in the flesh, something real, something that has value. Prints have that value! Nothing has more sentimental value than a photograph of your family hanging on your wall at home - even more so when our loved ones leave us
The photo below is one that is very special to me. It has now become my favourite photograph. I saw this print for the first time only recently, and I can’t begin to explain how it made me feel. I don’t care that its not technically amazing, i’m not fussed that I can hardly see 2 of my siblings under that rock at the back - I know they were there. I’m not sure how old I was here, but that doesn’t matter to me either, it means the world to me because of who is in the photo. It’s a photograph of my 3 older siblings and my Mother, holding me. I don't remember this moment, but we were on holiday in what looks like a pretty scary drop. We lost our special Mother when I was young, but I have this print that I can physically hold in my hands to gaze at, and gaze at it I do
So my advice is this. Sure - get your digital files, keep them, back them up (twice if you can), put them in your digital frames, upload them to Facebook albums etc …. I don’t mind, but please please please print your work too. Make photo albums, frame them, put them on your desk at work, just make sure your photographs come to life in the form of a printed product, so you can actually enjoy them daily.
Hang them on your walls, different sizes, different shapes, both in colour and black & white - be proud of your families and be proud of who you are, because at the end of the day the only ones who matter are family. Money, cars, wealth, fancy houses etc - all of that nonsense means nothing when compared to family!