I am often asked by my clients if they can get a disc of their photos. This is not a service I offer, and there are two main reasons why. I’m always happy to discuss these reasons with clients, but the thought occurred to me that this is something it may be worth sharing publicly as well.
The first reason I don’t offer my clients full resolution digital copies of their photographs is very simple: When people take my work to be printed at a place like Walmart it breaks my heart. My work is my passion, it’s my life. I put so much into what we create together, the idea of someone turning these precious files over to a place like Walmart or Superstore just mortifies me. At it’s most simple, my work, your family, we’re worth better.
I’m happy to allow my families to download file sizes suitable for small scale printing, and those you are welcome to have printed wherever you like. These small digital images are also social media ready. They are the perfect size for sharing with your family and friends on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, I’m always thrilled when I spot my work (when it’s shared with proper credit) on a client’s wall – and sometimes even surprise families with an unexpected discount or print credit when I stumble across such sightings.
For large scale printing, I ask that you order through me. I have an online preview system that allows you to order directly through your preview album. And those photos are sent to one of the premier photo printing labs in the world. WHCC provides gallery quality, archival safe prints at a great price. For roughly the same cost as a local print lab (that is not gallery quality or archival safe) you can have something worth so much more.
Secondly, many people are under the incorrect assumption that a disc is forever, as this email I received indicates: “As far as I’m concerned photos without the full quality digital versions are useless. That’s the only way to ensure… that we have these photos in 5, 10 or 50 years.” Prints from WHCC are archival safe, a photo CD is not.
If you treat your discs with the utmost care, ensuring the surface is never touched, never cleaned in a circular motion, never stored vertically (or depending on who you talk to, never stored horizontally), only stored in a humidity and temperature controlled environment, never taken outside or in a hot/cold vehicle… even then you cannot guarantee your disc will remain uncorrupted or without data loss.
Audioholics.com – “…media is susceptible to CD or DVD rot that will eat your information – audio, video or data – in as little as two years after it is written.”
Wikipedia.org – “CD-R recordings are designed to be permanent. Over time the dye’s physical characteristics may change, however, causing read errors and data loss until the reading device cannot recover with error correction methods. The design life is from 20 to 100 years, depending on the quality of the discs, the quality of the writing drive, and storage conditions. However, testing has demonstrated such degradation of some discs in as little as 18 months under normal storage conditions. This failure is known as disc rot, for which there are several, mostly environmental, reasons.”
Alethea Chang Fitzpatrick (photographer) for Tiffinbox.org – “Prints and albums (of archival quality) are your most future proof medium. They can sit on a shelf for years and still be viewed with no additional effort required by anyone.”
The only way to be sure that your images are viewable a hundred years from now is to have archival safe hard copies made. Even if you take CD/DVD rot out of the equation, who knows what file formats we will be using fifty years (or longer) from now. Even if your CD is still in perfect read condition, the files themselves may not be readable simply because they’ve become outdated.
In conclusion, my work and your memories are worth more than a one hour photo service or CD can provide. It’s a simple thing, it really is. And I hope this brief blog post helped you to understand why I don’t offer a CD. Sure, there may be other photographers who do, but it’s not what I do. I came to the world of photography as an artist, and as an artist, this is my heart and soul… and I’m not willing to put my faith in (or on) a disc.