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Why Physical Prints Matter in an Age of Digital Overload

13 min read

“I just want digitals!” How many times have you heard that as a photographer? Most clients tend to think that digitals are what they need, and it makes sense. But here’s the thing, digital images do not compare to physical prints and products. In this world of digital overload, it is so important that photographers convey WHY physical prints matter.

Educate Your Clients about Prints from the Beginning

The biggest reason clients resist physical prints is because they haven’t been educated. They’ve been told again and again by someone that digitals are the way to go, but they might not even know why. It is your job to explain the benefit of prints over digitals, and you should start early in the process.

The first step is to make it very clear that printing is a service you provide. When they are researching photographers and see you, they need to know that you are a print photographer. Make it very clear on your website and social media. You can do that by sharing photos of products, describing your products, and having customer reviews talking about their print products.

Couple kissing under veil

Once they reach out, get them on a phone call or meet up so you can explain your process. Ask them questions about what they are wanting to achieve with their photoshoot. What is the end goal for the photos? Ask them where they plan on displaying the photos and what kind of products they are interested in purchasing. At this point, you might get some resistance or pushback. That’s normal. They most likely need more information and clarification.

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Explain Why Prints are Different from Digital Files

When you get someone that is resistant to prints, the way you think about things and proceed is important. Don’t feel like you have to change their minds. Let go of all emotion and focus on on conveying your why. Explain your process and why you do what you do. If you really believe prints are important, then that conviction should show when you talk to potential clients.

One great thing to do is tell a story about an experience with prints. It could be from a client or maybe even your own story. A few key points that I like to talk about are:

  • Digitals tend to be forgotten over the years
  • Digitals get viewed on a little screen and can’t be fully appreciated
  • Physical products are more likely to be seen on a daily basis and trigger memories and emotions
  • You’ll value the picture more when it is a physical product
  • Seeing prints can build self-esteem and a stronger tie to the people in it


Point Out the Longevity and Preservation of Physical Prints

The biggest point people try to make for digital files is that you can back them up and have them forever. This is true to a degree, but there are some issues with the longevity of digital files.

A few years ago, I wanted to watch my high school football film. I’m older, so it was on a VHS. I grabbed it and shockingly, I had a VHS player sitting around. I got everything hooked up, but sadly, my trusty VHS player no longer worked. I had no way of watching the film.

This same thing can happen with digital files. Formats are always changing. We’ve gone from CDs to DVD to Blu Ray to USB sticks. At any point, one of those formats could become obsolete. My two computers don’t even have a disc drive anymore. Unless you are consistently updating your storage, there is a good chance some files will get stuck in an old format.

Another issue is that hard drives break and things get misplaced. Over the past 10 years, I’ve had at least four hard drive fail. Because I’m a professional, I had the files backed up to other locations, but most people don’t do that. One struggle I do have is finding files. Once you start collecting digital files, it can be hard to find certain photos. Sometimes I’m spending 30 minutes to an hour to find one photo because I have so many folders.

Physical prints don’t get affected by any of those problems. Once it is printed, you can enjoy it over and over again for years to come. Most prints will last 40-100 years, so it can be a family heirloom that gets passed down generation to generation to share the memories.

married couple

Benefits of Prints for Your Photography Business

Think about your restaurant experiences in the past year. How much did you spend and how was the experience at a fast food place? What about a really nice restaurant? Which did you enjoy more? Most likely the food was cheaper at the fast food place and you were in and out without really having any kind of experience. On the other hand, at the nice restaurant, you sat down, the atmosphere was pleasant, you were served, and the food was higher quality. Paying more was totally worth it!

The same is true for your photography business. Offering prints makes you more like the nice restaurant. You create a better experience and provide a better product. Several good things will come from that.

First, you’ll be able to charge more. If you sell only digitals, you might charge $200-$600 per session. With prints, you are more likely to sell anywhere from $500 to $10,000 per session. I know that seems crazy, but there are plenty of photographers that have hit that mark.

Secondly, you’ll stick out from all the other photographers in your area. When you take the time to get to know your clients, find out what they need, and help them achieve it. Clients will view you differently from all the other photographers that take the photos and then hand them the digital files. People will come to you for the experience and the end product: prints!

couple married

Third, you’ll get more referrals and return customers. If people think you are like every other photographer, they only care about price or convenience. They’ll hire any photographer. Once you create that experience, people will keep coming back to you and referring you to friends.

Lastly, you’ll be proud of what you do! You are no longer rushing through clients. You are getting to know them and creating something that is truly important. You are giving them something lasting to cherish. You’ll see the happiness and tears when they receive their products, and that will fuel you to keep doing it again and again.

Tips for Offering Physical Prints

Transitioning to offering prints can be scary to some. There’s more involved, and that’s why many photographers don’t try. Here are some tips that can make things easier and help you be more successful.

Get clients. Get paid. Get happy.

Tip #1: Educate and guide your clients

Most clients don’t really know what they want or need. The more you help them and guide them, the better things will be. As we mentioned, talk about your process early on, so they know what to expect. Give them advice on what would work well for them, and let them know what most people do.

Tip #2: Learn how to sell

Most people aren’t naturally good at sales especially when you are selling something you created. Learn some of the tips and tricks to be a better salesperson. One of the biggest things is dealing with objections. Find out the most common objections and ways to help them overcome it. Then, practice all of this. The more you practice the better you will get, and less pushy you’ll feel.

When you are first starting out or if you don’t want to handle the sales side of things, use online galleries to sell prints. With Shootproof, you can set up the galleries and products, and then people can purchase without you having to do anything.

first look

Tip #3: Don’t offer too many products

You want to make the buying process easy. When you offer too many products, people have to sit there and think about which one to buy. Confusion leads to frustration and that kills sales. Pick two or three products that you really love and focus on that. Within those two to three, try to limit your options as well. For me, I offer canvas prints, albums, and gift prints. Within those, I offer three sizes for albums, four to five sizes for canvas prints, and three sizes for gift prints.

Tip #4: Offer quality products

One of the benefits of offering prints is raising the perception of your company. The last thing you want to do is all this work and then give someone a cheap product. It doesn’t matter how great the experience was if the product doesn’t match. This is one of the reasons photographers should handle prints for the clients. Most clients will use cheap printers, and in turn, the quality will make your business look cheap. I once showed up a wedding, and the couple had printed an engagement photo themselves. It looked out of focus and the color was off. I felt embarrassed the whole night.

First, find a printer you like. I use Millers and Bay Photo for prints and Kiss for my albums. There are so many great options out there, so keep looking till you find one that offers the products you want and delivers the quality as well.

Two, be involved in the majority of the process. If you’re using an online gallery, look at the crop before ordering. If you’re more involved, look at where they plan on displaying the print, and some will even help install it.

Tip #5: Reward clients with digital files

One way to get over the digital file objection is to gift clients a digital file for each product purchased. I usually give them a social media sized file because many are wanting to post it. This motivates them to buy more products, and they feel like they are getting everything they wanted.

Tip #6: Believe in the physical prints you offer

No matter what you decide to offer or do with physical prints, the most important thing is to believe in what you do. If you don’t value prints, neither will your clients. The more enthusiastic you are, the more likely they are to feel that energy and excitement as well. Don’t do something because you feel like you have to. Really believe in what you are doing and let that guide you.

coupleRemember, Physical Prints Make a Huge Impact

It is important not to overlook the value of physical prints in our increasingly digital world. They offer a tangible and lasting way to preserve memories and enhance experiences, as well as provide a sense of authenticity and uniqueness that cannot be replicated digitally. While digital technology has undoubtedly revolutionized the way we capture and share images, there is still something special about holding a physical print in your hands. Offering prints to your clients not only helps your business, but it is also is going to have a larger impact on their lives and future generations.

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Written by Bryan Striegler  | Images by Shaina Sterrett Photography via Two Bright Lights

Client Experience
Apr 2024

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