Seeing your images for the first time is always such a fun experience, but deciding on what to do with the images can be difficult. You probably value being able to share them on social media or hanging your favorites in your home, but what else is there to consider? Here are some of the benefits of having digital files, prints, and albums.
When I was in middle or high school, a friend mentioned not having any baby pictures. I couldn’t understand why since my family had so many pictures of me from when I was little. His parents did take pictures of him when he was little, but his house had burned down when he was in elementary school, and any pictures that were in that house were gone. This was before digital photography became the norm, so any pictures they had that were taken before the fire were either copied from photos given to friends and family, or from the school’s database of school pictures.
This is the biggest reason why I never think twice about offering digital files. Another reason is that it’s always nice to be able to share your photos with so many friends and family members at once and to have them on your phone whenever you want to show someone, and you can get more prints if you need to years after I’ve given you the files. But only having digital files isn't ideal for every situation.
When I got engaged, my grandma, who was losing her memory, asked me every time we talked on the phone what my ring looked like. It was kind of hard to describe, so I texted a picture to my aunt, who I knew visited her often. Still, my grandma would ask me during every conversation what it looked like, insisting that my aunt had never shown her the photo, even though I knew she had several times. My grandma didn’t have access to a cell phone or a computer, so she couldn't see a digital file unless someone came and showed it to her, which we already knew wasn't working out. I printed off a photo and mailed it to her, along with some photos from our engagement session. That way, they could hang on the fridge she passed every day, and she wouldn’t forget what my ring looked like or whose ring it was.
So why would you want to order prints if you can just print the digital files yourself?
The short answer I give in my portrait guide is that I give you the option to order prints from a professional lab so that they’ll last longer over time and look closer to what you see on your screen. Plus, it’s easier than downloading the photos and re-uploading them to wherever you’re printing them.
As for lasting over time, I always think back to the section of the athletic hallway at my high school with all the photos of teams that won state titles. The color and clarity on some of these photos was pretty typical for the years printed on them—large, pixelated photos with overexposed faces from the 80s and 90s, and then smaller black and white photos from the 70s. Then there was an ivory-colored piece of paper in a frame, where you could see outlines of something if you got really close to it in good lighting. It was on a wall that faced away from the windows, presumably moved away from the sun a few years too late, but it was still there as a reminder that some team had won a state title sometime. I'm not sure that any teachers could tell us what the picture was, but I was sure that the team members would be upset if they came back to visit and the important picture of their winning team was all but gone from the wall
As for color, I went to Clemson. Sometimes, I would take photos of athletes and their uniforms would look orange and blue instead of orange and purple. Other times, the orange in their uniforms would look like Tennessee orange or Texas orange, or even red. I worked hard in my editing to make sure the colors in my photos looked like what I saw in person. Still, I soon realized that this didn’t always matter if I was printing from the least expensive print source I could get to, because the print could be more yellow or blurry than the file I sent. In college, I'd either pick up smaller prints from a pharmacy in a flimsy envelope, or the larger ones would be mailed to me in a cardboard tube. Not even millimeters separated my prints from whatever could be happening outside. What if a bigger package fell on it? What if I spilled something on the envelope on the drive home? Well, I can assure you that the prints that come from my galleries come from the same lab as the photos that hang on my walls. They came in thick boxes with tons of layers, and you can see that our wedding colors are CLEARLY purple and orange.
Let’s go back to my grandma: my dad made my grandma an album of family photos he had scanned, dating back to before my grandparents were married. He said that when he showed her the photos, she was suddenly able to recall specific details about the photos. Around that time, I made my sister's wedding album as her wedding gift, and my dad asked me to make another copy for my grandma. I sometimes had to describe my cousins' weddings to her, even though she was at all of them, and we wanted her to remember how happy she was at my sister's wedding. The album had pictures of the extended family, my sister’s accessories, and the sign they got with their names and wedding date on it. She could pick it up from her coffee table and remember what my sister’s new last name was, the date of the wedding, who was there, and what everything looked like. And someday, my sister and her husband won’t remember that day so well, and they’ll have the album to show their kids.
I decided to make my own wedding album because it’s something I like to do. And I did make it…a year after my wedding. It wouldn’t surprise me if other couples planned to make their own and just never did. Unless you’re like me and you’re obsessed with detail shots, you probably won’t have prints of your shoes and rings hanging on your wall, but you would want to have some photos in your album that highlighted some of the important items from your wedding day, like any heirlooms or the lace on your veil that you love so much. You wouldn’t hang pictures that included every guest, but you’d put some of them in an album so you can remember who was there. Plus, looking through my grandparents’ wedding album is so much fun because everything was so different back then, and it’s only when I look at those photos that my family and I see how much I look like my grandma.
My approach to delivering photos has always been to serve you the best I can without making things too complicated for you. Everyone has different photography needs, so hopefully this has helped you get a better idea of what your needs are. Thanks for reading!
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