I think every photographer struggles with this dilemma, should they give up their digital files or strictly sell prints? I know I struggle with this all the time .
You see, I was taught old school. There was no such thing as digital, it was all film and hours upon hours of work in the lab perfecting the photographs. I know the times have changed and that as a business person you need to be able to adapt, but I have a hard time simply handing over my work to someone so they can print unlimited quantities at a local print shop. Half of the art in photography is the printing of the photograph itself.
I’ll take you back a bit to when I was going to school at NAIT for my photography diploma. I loved photography so much that I wanted to make a career of it, so I applied to NAIT and was accepted into the program. I thought this was great and looked forward to how fun it would be to take pictures for a living. Well, I didn’t have a clue what it all entailed. I took history classes learning the different photographers that shaped our future in the art, and the different techniques and camera’s they used to perfect their craft. I learned how to actually “see” light and learn how to use it properly. I had to learn film selection depending on varying lighting conditions and paper selection based on the final look of the prints. I also learned how to process my film into photographs (and here I just thought they appeared like magic).
In the film days there was no second chance to take a pictures over again, I couldn’t just look at the back of my camera and see if I got the shot. I had to make sure I had everything right the first time. I would then go to the lab after my shoot and develop my film in the darkroom. If I mixed the wrong chemicals or didn’t process it properly the film would be ruined and I would have to go back to the client and tell them what had happened. If the developed film did turn out well, I would then take it into the darkroom where I would process it into photographs. Aww printing….how I miss it. Honestly, I would spend hours in the darkroom trying to perfect every image, and if I did it wrong….back into the darkroom I went, tweaking until it was just right. The best part was yet to come, I would package the prints up and present it to the clients and watch how their face would light up as they looked through their memories. So yes I call photography an art, not something you simply hand over lightly.
Slowly the digital revolution happened, I thought it was pretty awesome that you could take pictures and actually see them instantly but….computers and programs happened along with it. I was not good at computers at all and had to learn from scratch and teach myself this new skill on a computer screen that previously took so long to perfect in the darkroom. I saved myself hours of time and frustration. Yes I admit it was nice to just dodge and burn something and if you did’t like it simply delete it but at the same time all the fun was gone. The excitement of coming out of the darkroom to see your photograph for the first time wasn’t there anymore.
It’s not just the fact that all the fun was gone but there came other drawbacks to the digital age as well. You no longer had to be good behind the lens anymore, you just had to be good behind the computer screen. You see I did my time, I spent 2 years living, breathing, and learning photography and I’m still learning everyday. Now, at the same time you have “Sally down the street” who takes decent pictures and is great with a computer. Suddenly she is a professional photographer. I don’t want to sound like I’m ranting, don’t get me wrong, yes there are some pretty amazing self taught photographers out there, but there are also some who don’t think of it as an art but just as an easy way to make some money. These individuals are now my competitors in a vast sea of photographers.
So now my dilemma….Do I burn my digital files so that a client can reproduce them in a manner that is not a true representation of my artistic conception or do I stick to my principles and insist on only selling prints? A growing number of people don’t want to hang large canvas portraits in their homes anymore, they simply want the ability to post an image on-line to share with their friends and maybe print a couple of low quality images out of a machine. What I’m trying to get at is there is an art to photography and unfortunately parts of it are fading away and some amazing photographers are forced to simply hand over their work so that they can remain competitive in the market. Although they sell their images, they don’t do it cheap. At times you could expect to pay $100-$200 per digital file, some clients think this is highway robbery but you have to understand the the artist has just lost all creative control of their work. If you happen to be searching for a photographer, please remember that you are paying for their talent.
To make a long story short I have an extremely difficult time just giving away my digital files. I want people to experience what their photographs should truly look like in the end and how beautiful this piece of art is. If you want my digital files for archiving purposes that’s fine but you’ll pay for it.
By: Bobbie Machalka, Pink Partner: sponsored.