Nicole O'Neil Photography
We live in a digital world. We want everything at our fingertips. For many photographers, myself included, the digital age brought a shift from ensuring our clients had quality products to providing digital images instead and basically for free. I followed the trend. I thought I was doing what was best for my clients, my business and me. But, I don't think that is the case. I think as an industry, we've been doing a huge disservice to our clients and to ourselves as artists.
A few weeks ago, I went looking for an old picture on an old external hard drive. I then, discovered folders of personal images I hadn't even remembered existed. I spent hours looking through folder after folder of images forgotten, collecting "dust" on these old drives. I also thought of the day my laptop was stolen and with it, two hard drives that had a bunch of my personal digital items on them (work stuff was luckily backed up in many places). Or the time I lost two hard drives at once. They simply stopped working on the same day. Those images and documents are gone forever OR I can pay $1000 to see if they can possibly be recovered. I hear people who lose everything from their phone when it dies. Again, gone forever. My boyfriend is a tech guy. He has told me that even the cloud storage we've come to love and rely on is highly vulnerable. UGH, right? My solution is that it's best to have both hard copies and digital. SO, as much as you take so many (TOO MANY) images, make sure you print out the ones most important to you to be sure they are safe. And also, try to be more intentional as you take images on your phone. It's easy to snap 20 images at a time but you need ONE good one. It doesn't have to perfect. It just has to capture that memory.
Every so often, I pull out the old albums from my grandmother's house. I go through boxes of prints I am starting the daunting task of scanning and putting into new albums. I even have some framed prints that I still keep in my home. I love seeing my family back then, my grandmother and her siblings at a young age, my mother and hers as well and then, of course, us when we were little. At the time, you could only get prints. You didn't just buy the negatives. And, so, I have these memories because they were printed and on high quality papers that would last.
Here is one framed picture I have of my mother and I. I'm so glad they had this and not just a negative because I would not have this print to enjoy, 37 years later. And this was printed through a professional studio so the paper and inks were archival and great quality for it to last this long. Shutterfly or similar would have been fading by long before now.
How are you going to hand down your images someday? We take SO MANY. I have almost 14,000. YES, FOURTEEN THOUSAND images on my phone and that's just since the last time I deleted a bunch. Add on all of the images I take with my camera and that people send me. How do you hand that down? Do you hand over a hard drive or a password to cloud storage and say, "here you go. Good luck weeding through 100,000+ pictures I took over my lifetime." Are they even organized to easily locate images? I can say, I'd be pretty annoyed if someone did that to me and I wouldn't ever actually look through them all and enjoy all of the memories of those special moments. Plus, we don't even know what formats pictures will be in. I used to give CDs but my computer doesn't even have a CD drive. USBs are already becoming obsolete. Technology changes FAST. When you have digitals, you have to back up everything and continue backing it all up to the latest technology. Even if you have it in a cloud, there is no guarantee it will be safe and free from loss.
So, that brings me to the benefits of product over digitals. If you spend money on a photo shoot with a professional, you are wanting great images of your kids and your family, memories that will last a lifetime, if you can easily view them. How fun to go back 20 years from now when your children are off to or out of college and see those beautiful moments you spent together when they were little. How great to hand down some tangible products, easily viewable to them and their future kids and grandkids. To me, THAT is the long term reason why we take photos and the reason we invest in photography.
Maybe you're unlike most of my clients who come back telling me they still haven't done anything with the digitals they have, months or years later. Maybe you print some. But, where? Shutterfly? CVS? I can assure you, those won't stand the test of time. See my comment above. They also can't be guaranteed to even look close to what a professional lab does. Every printer is different. I match my files to my labs. I can't ensure what you print elsewhere will look right. I've had countless clients come back to me to purchase new products because they tried not their own and were disappointed.
I want clients to have the absolute best quality products to pass down through generations. I want you to actually ENJOY your images, your investment every day in your home, whether with beautiful wall art or an album to browse through and share with others. I want to provide a full service experience from beginning to end, from planning the session down to every detail and then helping narrow down your favorite images from the session (let's be honest, they aren't all favorites) and find the products that work best for you. It ends with design and personal delivery of your finished items.
I offer a wide range of products for every need. Some don't want to hang a lot of pictures on the wall. Albums, to me are the best option. As I look through my grandmother's albums, I think of this. Even better, they aren't albums like when we were young, so there aren't prints now slipping out of the sleeves.
My prints last from 75-120 years depending on which you get. Albums will last 100-200 years (depending on how you care for it) so you can be sure your grandchildren will still have those memories of you and their parents and can share with their own children. The thought of this gives me goosebumps, honestly. There are options for every need, from small products to large and in different styles to suit your taste. They aren't cheap but that is because they are only the best quality and ensure quality control by an actual person through every step of the printing process. They are well worth the investment. YOUR memories are worth it. Think about how you spend money on a weekend away, a great dinner, fake lashes, skin care. You do you. Spend on what you want and see the value in for YOU. This photography investment is just spending money on quality products that will last a lot longer than any of those things. ;)
Now, does this mean I don't offer digitals? Absolutely not. I see the value to clients to have digitals to add to their yearly albums that also include cell phone pictures. Sure, these won't last as long and aren't the highest quality, but they are still very important. I also know it's fun to share on social media and have images on your phone to look at. So, digitals are still offered. They come in some sets complimentary with albums and other keepsakes and they are available in sets of images at a premium price. Please remember, many photographers are giving them away for free. This is a mistake of the photography industry. These people are not making an income on their most valuable product. I value myself and the art I create. I have worked very hard to learn and grow and I continue learning and growing to provide beautiful images to my clients and seeing as digitals can be printed as many times and on as many different mediums as a client wants once they are released, I do have to figure that in when I provide digitals. Hopefully you can respect that. This is my art, this is what I work hard to create for YOU, this is my original work. Sure, I would do this all for free if I didn't have to actually make a living but that's not the case. I need to provide housing, food, health insurance and everything else everyone else does. ;)
Let's chat more about preserving those precious memories in a concrete and lasting way. Don't hand over your hard drive one day to your children. Spare them that task. :)