I’ll be honest, I had to look up the definition of a digital file so you would know I wasn’t making up all kinds of nonsense. This is what the web told me: At a high level of abstraction, a digital or computer file is a stored segment or block of information that is available to a computer program.
As a CNY Newborn Portrait Photographer, I create a LOT of digital files. I invest in memory cards that can quickly write and save my files as I press that shutter button, click, click, click, with images soaring through my media like a high-speed reproducing factory machine.
And that is where the problem lies. In our digital world, where information is available at our fingertips, we often forget the value of HOW something is created. A digital file may seem like a menial investment that doesn’t take much to produce, but if your phone crashed and you LOST all your digital files, not just photos either, but ALL YOUR FILES you may break down and cry. I know I would.
Some of us have years of photos, and other information saved into our little computers we carry in our back pockets. And we often go back and view these moments saved and smile. We re-watch the adorable, hilarious, sad, and astounding videos we happened to document. We are in awe of in one years’ time how different our child may look, and yet we may have 10 years available to look back on! We saved those files for a reason. They bring us joy and remind us of our ‘WHY’.
Stored Segments and blocks of information
The above definition describes a digital file as “stored segment” or “block of information”. As a portrait photographer, my sessions are the “stored segment” that contain several “blocks of information”. And we are going to break down those blocks to 5 sets of information. You ready? Let’s go!
1. Basic Equipment – I think this goes without saying, but I can’t create digital files without a digital camera. I need something to start with to capture the moment and save it to my memory card. I understand that almost every teenager/adult has a camera in their pocket. And we know that not all cellphone cameras are created equal. If you only know the basics of the said camera in your pocket, you will only get a basic photo/digital file. If you haven’t priced a professional Digital SLR in a while, take a moment to see how much a photographer must pay out to start a business in selling digital files to their clients. And don’t forget the lens! The professional lenses are sold separately. Add those two price tags and you have the start of what a digital file cost the photographer to create.
2. Training – Now that I decided I wanted to be a professional, newborn photographer I needed some professional training. I sought out the best of the best and attended a hands on training seminar in 2016 with Bianca Hubble. It was a 2-day event out of state. Since then, I have continued in my newborn education to keep up with the market and keep improving my talents. Not every photographer will go about it the way I did, depending on the niche they find themselves specializing in. YouTube is a wonderful teacher for photographers, but when it comes to the details and hands on with newborns, I HIGHLY recommend a mentor and classroom. Speaking of classrooms, I have 5 college credited courses to add to my study of “how to use my camera” let alone the baby safety and posing courses. So, we must add training to the cost of producing a digital file.
3. Experience – is a wonderful teacher, and much time is invested into experience. I am grateful to all the wonderful clients who have entrusted me with their families, newborns, and little ones and helped me build my business. I wouldn’t be here without them. However, as the Good Book declares, “a workman is worthy of his wages”. My newborn sessions aren’t done in 3 clicks of the shutter button. I spend an hour or more cleaning and prepping my studio, creating sets, practicing my lighting to provide wonderful heirloom art for my clients. And then, the real sessions happen, and I put my knowledge of my camera and newborn posing and safety to work and have a 3-hour session. Newborn sessions often leave me depleted of energy for the rest of my day, and with a hunched over back and I still have to clean up, wash, and put away everything I used during the session. The time spent preparing a session, and conducting a session, again, must be added to the cost of a digital file.
4. Editing – is a monster to conquer all on its own. Before I learned the art of newborn photography, and though I was in ‘business’ for 10 years before, the one thing I HATED was editing. I honestly, didn’t know how to edit a photo. I could do the basics, lighten, and darken, changing to black and white, and crops, but other than that, I was pretty clueless. I had to learn real quick how to edit and I had to learn how to navigate Photoshop! I didn’t even own the program! I used it sparingly in college, but that was many years prior. Editing, like any other skill that needs to be learned, takes time, practice, and a whole lot of trying before you get it right. Then when you finally learn how, you must apply it to each digital file you have to edit for your client. And there is NO quick fix to editing baby skin. There is a process, and it must be faithfully walked through to produce the soft, smooth results for high end portraits you claim you deliver on. All that editing goes into its own block on the digital file for your client. Delivering an unedited file just wouldn’t be professional. Please add the time spent editing to the cost of the digital file.
5. Extra equipment – Now if you are a minimalist photographer, you may not have all the whistles and bells of a big studio that offers a full-service photography experience. I have a professional light and octobox. I have invested in many backdrops, props, outfits, wraps, and much more that my clients love and appreciate me having so they don’t have to provide it. They want these items included in their digital files, so I have them on hand as a service to them. My laptop for editing purposes is an adding expense that must be taken into consideration too. These all add to the quality of the digital file that I am producing as an end product for my client.
So now that you know what a digital file contains of “blocks of information”, you may appreciate the price tag your photographer puts on that intangible media. Obviously, we do not add all the figures above or no one would ever be able to purchase a digital file. Many newborn portrait photographers like myself, offer a full-service, to not only create the digital file for you, but prepare heirloom wall art, albums etc. because we know, that you will love even more, a finished tangible product that can be viewed daily on your wall. There is nothing like a classic canvas that is being displayed beautifully on your wall, and when your friends see it, they just swoon!
I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of the digital file, and that I didn’t scare you too much. Please stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series, The Tragedy of Gone Digital.