More wedding photographers today are providing full resolution and custom retouched JPEGs on DVD with full copyright release. But is getting your precious wedding images on DVDs such a great idea?
Some people, including a few professional photographers, believe DVDs may only hold data for up to 8 to 10 years at best. This is probably pretty accurate for most standard consumer grade DVDs. However, for archiving important files, gold archival DVDs are available which may keep precious photographs and other files archived over 100 years. You may find suppliers of gold archival DVDs by simply searching with this phrase in all the popular search engines. As of time of this writing, gold archival DVDs cost around $2.50 each. It is also good to know that there are blu-ray discs for high definition wedding videos which may expect to hold the video for over 200 years as well. To those photographers who are not so sure whether Gold Archival DVDs will keep wedding photos for so many decades, I remind them, gold is inert and does not oxidize. At minimum, it is reasonable to expect and believe 24 karat gold enveloped in a scratch resistant coating must be more archival than the conventional photo paper and chemical process which puts a wedding image on top of a sheet of paper! Yet, there are some photographers who want brides to believe the chemical process of putting an image on top of a sheet of conventional photo paper is more archival than 24 karat gold and which has been enveloped in a scratch resistant coating!
Brides who retain a professional wedding photographer who will provide her wedding images on DVDs might want to make sure the photographer uses gold archival DVDs. Some pro photographers, including myself, will provide on gold archival DVDs at a slightly higher cost. Brides who prefer not to pay the higher cost for gold archival DVDs know they will just be using the standard DVDs as a medium through which to acquire their wedding images for archiving on electronic storage media in its various forms. The DVD is simply a temporary portable means of sharing those images with others to copy and print.
DVD technology is therefore not a problem. But the concept of providing professional wedding photography with full resolution, custom retouched and full copyright released JPEGs on DVDs is the basis of a non-traditional business model for the wedding photographer. How does this new and growing “DVD wedding photographer” business model compare to the traditional “album package wedding photographer” model?
First thing you will notice which distinguishes these two photographers is the DVD wedding photographer does not contractually obligate the customer to a wedding album at time of signing the wedding contract. The DVD photographer prefers to allow the customer to first view their wedding photographs. Once the client has viewed her photographs, selected her favorite horizontal, vertical and various sizes, it can be more easily determined the wedding album the bride will actually need which best fits her particular needs and taste. Album package photographers on the other hand must obligate the bride to some pre-designed album package before the bride has seen any photography at all. While this makes business sense and must be required by the album package photographer, it is purely in the self-interest of the photographer and shows no concern for the best interest of the bride.
The second most distinguishing difference is that from the DVD wedding photographer the bride simply receives the valuable DVD of full resolution, custom retouched and full copyright released images. This benefit is not even on the table with album package photographers. And what a list of practical benefits the wedding DVD provides to the bride!
1. Cropping, retouching, photo tilting, blowing-up and other creative photo manipulation and control as she desires for her photographs and album(s).
2. If her photographer retires, moves out of state, passes away, goes out of business, suffers a business catastrophe or whatever, the bride has her wedding images! She has them!
3. If the bride’s wedding album gets lost, damaged or stolen, she can always easily have another new album created since she has her wedding DVD.
4. She does not have to pay the photographer a middle man fee to have prints made. She may send her photos from her DVD to her favorite online or local photo lab for printing at direct lab prices. Of course, we all know that album package photographers sure can have a middle man fee tacked on print and album prices!
5. Most, though not all, album package photographers require the bride and groom to place their album order within 30 to 60 days after the wedding date. This can often be an inconvenience for the new couple just starting and who have arrangements to make to get their new life together organized. Some photographers will rush the bride and groom through this process and that really isn’t the best way to make sure the bride receives a wedding album she is going to love. The DVD photographer does not require the purchase of a wedding album. If the bride wants to order one from her DVD photographer, she may do so at her convenience, on her schedule when she is ready. She may order an album if she chooses from any one of the dozens of online album services. It is her decision to do what she believes is best.
6. Depending on the wedding contract, with the DVD wedding photographer, the bride does not have to pay for an album which she may lose if she has to cancel her original wedding date. The only nonrefundable fee to the DVD wedding photographer is the booking retainer for the date. Any and all other money paid on the contract to a DVD photographer is refundable in the event the wedding date is canceled or rescheduled.
There are other differences inherent between DVD wedding photographers and album package wedding photographers but those differences vary in how both types of photographers choose to treat those issues in both their policies and contracts. That is beyond the scope of this article for me to address.
The reluctance of so many album package photographers today to accept the DVD photographer business model reminds me of the same reluctance to switch to digital photography from film. So many album package photographers were film photographers originally. It took many of them years before making the switch to the digital camera. Now that most of them have switched to digital photography, they still have this age-long industry mentality of placing their profits largely on the photographic prints and albums they sell. In this case, they want to keep the “digital negatives” and full copyright ownership and charge an arm and a leg for photographs and albums. But this old pricing philosophy does not take into account the inherent differences between digital photography and film photography as the benefits of each relates to the consumer and even to the professional photographer.
There are a lot of reasons why album package photographers still hold to the old business model. I’m not sure but I think it is mostly due to photo labs and album companies which are constantly providing programs and incentives to keep photographers thinking in terms of placing their profit on photographs and albums. Otherwise, there would be a dramatic decrease in business for photo labs and professional album companies. So photo labs and album companies have a lot of reasons to keep photographers thinking in terms of placing large profits on prints and albums.
But when it comes to digital photography, there are a growing number of photographers who feel that we can provide better and more efficient services and products to our customers through a different business approach. Instead of pricing photographic prints and albums at high enough prices to collect our necessary profits, we instead price our wedding photography skills and full resolution and custom retouched JPEGs at prices to collect our necessary profits. Unlike film negatives which were useful only for printing photos from, our JPEGs are immediately viewable and enjoyable “as is” right out of our cameras. Since wedding photography customers may use JPEGs in a wide variety of ways to include digital magazine style wedding albums and very sophisticated slide shows set to music, our “digital negatives” are in fact a more marketable or desirable photographic product than what photographs and wedding albums use to be. With all of today’s digital devices including large 50″ plus plasma monitors, being able to view one’s wedding day images as a sophisticated slide show set to music IS very often more enjoyable to modern brides than flipping through photos in a small book.
When it comes to pricing our photo quality images, there are a few basic approaches. First, the larger the JPEG, the greater the price per JPEG. Secondly, some photographers sell their photo quality JPEGs in quantity discounts. The more photo quality JPEGs a bride purchases, the lower the price per JPEG. Also some photographers do not provide a full copyright release and they definitely will not transfer copyright ownership under any circumstances. But some do and at a hefty profit and then only after a certain minimum number of JPEGs have also been purchased. The idea behind this pricing approach: We as professional digital photographers are selling our actual work; we are selling what the vast majority of electronic media savvy customers really want to have – the digital negatives. Finally, we are still getting paid and handsomely for doing this!
Now, IF and when the customer wants to buy photographs and albums, she may do so anytime after her wedding day. She may still order photos and albums from her photographer or from any of the many labs and album companies online. The choice is hers.
This article is not by any means intended to persuade album package photographers to switch to the DVD wedding photographer business model. (I don’t want the extra competition). I’ve simply hoped to explain why many of us have adopted this approach. I know this approach to operating a digital wedding photography business is NOT for everyone. Especially those photographers who feel they may lose money on the additional sales of photographs and albums if they give up full resolution images and copyright. That is a very good point in theory. And sometimes it is a practical fact. I’ve operated my business both ways over the years. For me, I personally feel the advantages to my customers and for my reputation far outweighs the loss of some extra income. Instead, I prefer to make more money serving more customers than trying to get larger sells from a single customer.
In conclusion, there are many benefits to both the digital photographer and to the bride when the photographer simply offers the full resolution and copyright released wedding images on DVDs to the bride.