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


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