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‘Can I Just Get the Digital Files?’


Dear potential client, I have no crystal ball, yet I know you will be calling me this week for information about what I do. You might have seen one of my displays or my website or, hopefully, you were referred by a friend. And you will have liked what you saw—otherwise, you wouldn’t be calling me. And for that, I am truly happy.

We will speak together on the phone: me asking questions to better understand what it is you are needing, but more importantly, what you are “wanting.” The wants are always more important than the needs when it comes to Art. And we will speak of the love you have for your family and ideas for your session and I will share your excitement, for this is an exciting time.

And then, dear potential client, you will ask that question that is asked every day in phone calls to photography studios everywhere: “Can I just get the digital files?”

I don’t blame you for asking this. I really don’t. It’s become as common as “Would you like fries with that?”

And when I first began to hear this question, I reasoned I had to come up with a simple response. It couldn’t be wordy or lengthy—just a one or two line answer as to why I don’t do that. But I couldn’t fit my response into just a couple sentences, because to do that would be to answer simply “no” without helping you to understand why, and that’s not fair to you.

See, my dear potential client, anyone can “give you JUST digital files.”

Anyone. It takes no special skill.

You must know that, as that was part of your inquiry. And may I be completely honest? If all you want is someone to snap off some images, run some actions and send you the files, well… you don’t need me.


Anyone can do that for you.

There are thousands of people out there who do just that and no more. Heck, you can do it with your own iPhone. No need to pay for that. That would be silly, right? If all you want is a hot dog, why pay good money for steak?

My clients come to me because they want more than that.

See, I don’t believe in selling JUST digital files that will be shared a few times and then forgotten. Think I’m wrong? Let me ask you: when was the last time you printed the snapshot photos you’ve taken with your camera phone? Exactly. We’re all guilty of it.

You called me, dear potential client, because (hopefully) you like what I do. And in order to get what I do, you have to let me do it.

See, I don’t believe the photography experience is over until I place a print in your hand. And not just any print, but an image created with great care and attention to detail, and edited the same way. I don’t run your precious images through a bunch of Photoshop actions, attach it to an email and call it a day.

I believe portrait photography isn’t about that.

I will go over your images inch-by-inch—softening skin, removing fly-away hairs, calming down distractions, brightening eyes and teeth, making sure the image is as warm and pleasing as possible. Then, I’ll have it printed. And, once printed, if it doesn’t meet with my expectations, I’ll re-do it until it does.


Because I know how it is supposed to look, and I won’t settle for anything less than perfect. That’s why clients come to me. And, unlike the drugstore or Walmart or one of the countless online sites from which you can get a print, it’s important to me that your prints be the best they can be.

This is not “just paper.”

I would be doing you a great disservice by handing off digital images for you to “finish.” What artist of merit does that?

You told me at the beginning of this conversation that it had been years since your last family portrait. We talked about how quickly the children are growing and how difficult it is to get everyone together and how important this is to you.

And that, dear potential client, is exactly why we will print them—so that 20, 30, 50 years from now, your children and grandchildren won’t be holding a USB or hard drive or link to an online gallery that refuses to open. Instead, they’ll be holding a glorious image in their hands, thankful that you cared enough to preserve it for them in print.

Now, my dear new client, let’s make something together that’s going to last.

About the author: Missy Mwac is a photography satirist, a lover of bacon, a drinker of vodka, a lover of sparkle, and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can connect with her on her website, Tumblr, and Facebook. This article was also published here.