What if I just want the digital files? {Asheville Photographer Pricing}

“What if I just want the digital files?” is a question I get asked often as a photographer. We live in a digital age. We expect our imagery instantly in the form of digital files and with license to do with those files as we please. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between photographers and clients about the reasoning here. I try to educate my clients about how our pricing with Studio 828 Photography is structured but, sometimes, between the excitement of shooting or the value of time approaching our shoot together, that understanding gets away from us. That’s okay. I thought it would be best to, at the very least post here for you to read and to direct new clients to read when we’re booking new sessions. It will also be a part of our contracts to be initialed from this point forward too. See? Now we all win.

Now, about those digital files.

Yes. You absolutely can purchase just the digital files. That is the short answer.

Let me back up a bit. There are (on average) two kinds of photographers. This post isn’t to say that this is the holy grail, but it is my experience.

  • Shoot and Burners – Photographers that shoot and burn everything to a disc and hand it over to the client.
    • There are also two kinds of shoot and burners (I know…it gets confusing for me too). One of the S&B’s will burn everything un-edited directly to disc and that is that. End of their workday. The other, typically a very new photographer that is just learning editing skills and simply happy to practice on your beautiful faces will over-edit just about everything, apply crazy filters and call it a day. I am even guilty of the latter.
    • Typically a low price point (<$150 for a portrait session and on average around $700 for a wedding). That’s okay too. They’re just starting out and they don’t understand that an average sale of less than $200 is just not a sustainable business model. Not if you want to stay sane and on top of your bills anyway. *S&B’s, don’t hate! Notice the previous point where I mentioned that I was guilty of that too?
    • Philosophy – Their session fee is to cover their time both shooting and editing. “If they’ve already paid me for it, why are they paying me again?” I struggled with this too, for over a year. Then epiphany came (angels sing here)
    • Seem to be everywhere in any given US market
    • Average business life of <2 years
  • Established photographers with a business plan in place – These photographers have been around the block a little bit. They invest in their businesses both in equipment, education and overhead.
    • Philosophy – Consider their photography artwork and sell products (individual images, albums, canvas, etc.) based on that artwork
    • Typically have a session fee and prints and products priced separately.
      • Their average sale can range from $600 all the way to $4000.  “WHAT?! $4000?!!!! That is crazytalk!!!!” I know. I know. That price tag will getcha won’t it? Don’t worry, we’ll break it down n just a bit.
      • Average business life >10 years
      • Have the digital files built-in to their packages

Personally, I evolved from the first type of photographer to the second in mid-2013. It takes some time to educate your existing repeat clients and I even do still S&B for some clients (my family mostly or in some business partnerships for events). However, given that I specialize in portraiture I learned quickly that $200 per client simply wasn’t sustainable. I had no way to reinvest in  my business (advertise, pay subscription fees, purchase new equipment, take continuing education classes etc.), had zero time with my husband where my laptop wasn’t directly in front of my face (that can still be a problem sometimes 😉 and paying my personal bills was something of a juggling act. One afternoon it hit me. I realized that my time and energy are worth more than that. That I deserve more than a living wage doing what I love. As an S&B…$200 inevitably turns to $40 in the photographer’s pocket. I don’t know any self-respecting adult that would work for $40 for a week’s worth of work. Do you? And if they have staff? Forget it. They’d be in the hole for about $50 per session and no income to show for it.

So, let’s assume that you come to me, Studio 828 Photography for your portrait session. You pay the retainer for your session, have professional hair and makeup done at the shoot and we shoot for an hour and a half or so. You come back in for your viewing and ordering session and we go through all of the edited imagery. You received the price list on two separate occasions via email and a third time in person at your session and you choose to purchase a single image and plan to purchase a 15 spread album but you need to check your finances to coordinate the best way to handle a payment plan. All of this is fine. We love working with our clients and I am a firm believer that, no matter what, everyone deserves to afford beautiful pictures of themselves.

Now here’s the key, this is important, the digital files of those images that are delivered to you are sized exactly to how you order them. So, if you ordered a single 8×10, that is how the file is sized, an 11×14 the same way and so on and so forth. “But why Cat? If I’m paying for the 8×10’s, why wouldn’t you send me the largest file size? I was hoping to have a canvas made for my parents for their anniversary.”

Am I aware that my products are priced higher than some of the big box printers out there? Yes. Is my product of a better quality? Absolutely. If you take a look at our pricing sheet you will notice that 8×10’s are one price, 11×14’s are a bit more, 24×36 are more and so on and so forth. Would it make sense for me to sell you an 8×10 and give you a file for a 24×36? You could then go and print off that file anywhere and I have worked for the price of a single 8×10 image. It would be similar to you trying to purchase a brand new sports car for the price of a used 4 cylinder sedan.

Side note* If you are planning to order a canvas in addition to your folio collection, by all means tell me. For starters, I am happy to work out a great rate for larger purchases and packages. Secondly, with every order I do each month, I check in with my vendors for specials they may be running so that I can pass that savings on TO my clients. Just a little food for thought :-)

“So, how does this work? How can any middle-American, hard-working individual afford anything BUT a shoot & burner? It sounds like I’m going to need to cough up a few grand to shoot with you?” Maybe you will and maybe you wont. Our average client spends $1200 with us. It all depends on what kind of imagery you need, how much of it and what size too. If you only need 3 8×10’s for new corporate headshots, that’s doable. If you need a folio collection, canvas and an album we can do that too. We offer payment plans to fit your budget and schedule so that no one is over-extended. Once your final payment has been processed and received by us, your order is placed with our vendor(s) and delivered to you upon my final inspection of your order.

So, can you have the digital files? Sure. The weight of a photographer’s price list is not necessarily in the product itself (prints, canvas etc.) though, I personally ensure that we use only heirloom quality products and artwork. The weight of that price list is in the artwork itself. As artists, we spend hours working on details about your image that you perhaps never would have known existed. Our process is how we polish your image so that you look your absolute best in our imagery.  Our business allows us the freedom to perfect those skills so that when you see your imagery with us, it blows you away.

Thanks for taking the time to read this posting. Have a question or thought on the matter, shoot me a line or post in the comments below.




Are you considering a portrait session in Asheville? I would love to shoot for you. Please do reach out via telephone or email. 828-275-9932 or Cat@Studio-828.com


The versatility in shooting for everyday women in Asheville {Asheville Portrait Photographer}

As a photographer who shoots primarily for women, I occasionally have a client that is so incredibly versatile that it blows me away. Destonie is one of those clients. She photographs as though she should have been 25 years old in the mid 70’s, her wardrobe is filled with beautiful pieces from different eras and seemingly all over the world and she is, well just gorgeous. Take a look for yourself below. She is one of those photography clients here in Asheville that gives a photographer a liiiittle bit more room for artistic expression. Thank you Destonie. Glad we could finally get together (we’ve been planning this shoot for almost a year)! Hope you love them!

Are you considering a photography session here in Asheville? I’d love to shoot for you. We’ll work together to plan the perfect shoot for our vision. We are accepting new clients for September and October of this year. Call Cat today. 828-275-9932 View more of our portfolio at the Studio 828 Photography website

timeless - sultry - boudoir - portraits in asheville vogue - 1974 - photographer having alittle fun modern - beauty portraiture - asheville photographer magazine style photography - not your average photographer in asheville boudoir - asheville - modern and timeless

From “Make Do Suzie” to learning more in 3 days than I have in 6 months {Asheville Photographer’s Assistant}

Make Do Suzie: A “make do Susie” is one that always makes do with whatever is easiest (and sometimes most affordable out of necessity or laziness). GUILTY as charged. The 3 days I worked as a photographer’s assistant on a commercial shoot, taught me more than I’ve learned in 6 months!

I am, by far and away incredibly guilty of being a “make do Susie”. What is that exactly? Well, outside of my photography classes in my first round of a collegiate education ( we won’t talk about WHEN that was. We’ll just say it was a while back :-D) I am self-taught. I have always had a camera in hand. And by always I truly mean always, and forever, as long as I can remember. My lighting arsenal includes the sun, a white 42″ reflector, a 580ex speedlight and insulation boards wrapped in aluminum foil. Since I only just picked up molding light beyond my speedlight and the sun as of 2 months ago, you can imagine my elation to be asked to assist Montana Pritchard, a photographer from West Palm Beach here in Asheville on a commercial shoot for the new Asheville Outlets (formerly Biltmore Square Mall) opening in 2015.

I have never really been involved in much commercial work as a photographer. I modeled some in the 90’s for a few recognizable companies and worked as an actor in films, but never anything on the tech side of things. WOW!

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love LOVE my work. Beauty and portrait work is my heart. Being exposed to what I do from an aspect of the commercial world…there are almost no words. I realized that my “make do suzieness” (mds) was out of control. I’ve never seen, let alone used most of the equipment we were working with and after 3 days with Montana and the crew, I was able to comprehend HOW to take my own work to another level, items to plan for purchase to build my business (instead of buying what I think I might, maybe need) and how to work with and learn from others to make their job(s) more streamlined and efficient and use that experience to my own betterment as well.

So Cat, what did you actually DO for 3 days?

  • I pushed 300+ pounds of gear up a steep 20′ hill with the grip
  • lugged 70 pound pelican cases up and down flights of stairs and through parks
  • put my foot in my mouth
  • set up and broke down sets
  • shot behind the scenes with my iPhone (yup. my iPhone)
  • got lost at the Grove Park Inn
  • listened…closely
  • grabbed coffee refill(s)
  • carried a myriad of crazy gear and reflectors and lights and stands and power boxes and lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!
  • sweated like a banshee
  • learned
  • Loved. Every. Second. of. It.

Being a photographer’s assistant is not for the faint of heart. Figuratively and literally. It can be hard work. For someone in my position, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I know, it sounds sappy, but it is so true. With a lack in a formal photography education, I’ve made do and built my own gear and needs and have never been exposed to the type of gear (& the knowledge to utilize that gear) that would allow me to dream big for my shoots. It isn’t rocket science, I know but it certainly was inspirational and an eye opener. Frankly, it was just the kick in the you-know-where that I needed to revisit my business plan to adjust my own plans and forecast for 828 for the next 18 months.

*Sidenote, for those of you not treating your business plan as a living document, get it together! Do it! Come back to it, and regularly. It will change your life! But, that’s for another post all together, anyhoo*

One of the things that was discovered along the way was that Asheville doesn’t seem to have a central web presence with contact information on crew here in the area. Crew, studios, anything. So, that is on the way. Once it is built and live, I’ll be sure to link out so that photographers can actually source people here in WNC for their commercial projects and work.

In the meantime, below are some fun pictures from our commercial photography shoot this week for New England Development handling the campaign for the upcoming Asheville Outlets. (*Are you excited? I AM!). Try not to hate too hard on the snapshots. Not only were they from my iPhone but on a set, you’ve gotta move FAST!

To everyone involved and especially Montana and his studio manager Kat, THANK YOU. It was an incredible experience for me and I hope to find myself working with you again.



PS – Did I mention Montana was shooting with a Hasselblad? Just being in the vicinity of one was worth the job…one day (sigh)


Asheville Outlets Commercial Photography Campaign: New England Development

Photographer: Montana Pritchard Photography, West Palm Beach FL

Stylist: Lydia Santangelo, Boston MA



Photography production crew:

  • Production Manager – Miles Rice
  • Digital Assistant – Matt Sellers
  • 1st Photographer’s Assistant – Paul Lewis Anderson
  • 2nd Photographer’s Assistant – Cat Ford-Coates (yours truly)
  • 3rd Photographer’s Assistant – Morgan Ford
  • Grip, Smokey Mountain Grip & Lighting – Mark Lewis
asheville arboretum - commercial photoshoot permit
Beautiful location at the Arboretum
staging a dining shot - montana pritchard photography - rad - lift studios
Staging a dining shot at the Lift Studios in Asheville’s River Arts District
grove park inn - amazing view - asheville outlets fashion campaign
BTS at Grove Park Inn, What a VIEW!
behind the scenes - asheville arboretum - commercial photography production crew
More behind the scenes at the Arboretum
Depot Street - commercial shoot - RAD - Avl
Shooting on Depot Street in RAD
photographer's first assistant - 1st assistant - paul lewis anderson - hasselblad camera - on set - junction
The first assistant (Paul Anderson) setting up the Hasselblad on set in front of thee Junction in RAD
photo shoot production crew - grove park inn - asheville outlets photo shoot - fashion in avl
Working as a team!
hair and makeup - behind the scenes - BTS
Professional hair and makeup is ESSENTIAL!
pro HMUA - asheville makeup artists
The hair and makeup team did an Ah-Mazing job with the models!
touchup - makeup - on set - commercial shoot
Touchup on set!
montana pritchard photography - asheville - fashion campaign - asheville outlets
Montana working the team!
montana pritchard - grove park inn - commercial fashion photo shoot - commercial
Setting up the best shot at the Grove Park Inn!
grove park inn - outdoor fashion shoot
Outdoor shoot at the Grove Park Inn
morgan ford - assisting montana pritchard photography - asheville rad
Morgan Ford assisting here in Asheville’s RAD for Montana Pritchard Photography
photo assisting - asheville photo production crew
What’s my light at?
asheville trolley tours - grove park inn - fashion campaign in asheville
The Asheville Trolley Tours even made an appearance!