Shoot & Burn Vs High Quality Portrait Printing. What is the right way to do Business?

Me holding a client print


Me holding a client print
Me holding a client print

Why do I offer prints for your portraits and not just a CD?

Why not just toss everything on a CD and let me print what I want, when I want? The short answer is, we do offer the CD for sale after you have already purchased a print package for wedding photography valued at $750.00 or more. Now the reasons behind this option.
My personal answer to this question is a bit longer and may give you some insight as to why we value prints so much more then just a CD. First off, we want you to not only value your session, we want you to enjoy the session for years to come, getting more out of it than you have put in. We know the CD seems to be the best value at first, but walking out of the ordering session knowing that prints are on the way to you is so much more rewarding then holding a CD full of images you may or may not ever print. In fact, many people take the CD home, toss it on the desk and might come back to it in a few days or weeks and start to put them on their computer. A small percentage of people will, in fact, take the CD to a printer, though in most cases it is a Walmart print center or other user-interfaced print service that offers cheap printing. We know that it sound like this would be easy to do, but consider the following.
Some of the issues you will run into with this method are that you will still need to buy frames, matting, and mounting products and many of your portraits will not be cropped in a way that enhances the portrait. This type of print center will print straight from the CD, which will add extra work on your end. In addition, they may remove aspects from your portraits that we, as photographers, have included to make them creative and stylish. You will also have to select the right print finish such as glossy, luster or matte. Do you know the difference between this products? Don’t worry, most people do not. Another issue that you may run into is the size limit that these labs will offer. Our professional print lab can create beautifully framed wall art that is available in sizes ranging from 8×10 prints all the way up to a 20×34 printed canvas and everything in between. These are available in many styles to fit any decor and every budget.

You just booked a session with a photographer after many hours of research, so let’s support each other in this final process of the ordering session. Let us help you select sizes that match the area of the home you’re planing to display them. Let us help guide you to a product that will last for many years after your Walmart print has faded or the frame has fallen apart. Remember, we are offering top of the line products supplied by a professional print lab. After a lot of research we find that most people will never even print the portraits or display them after the photo shoot. In fact, the ones that do only print a few and only display them for a short time, as they are often not framed or being displayed in a way that they should be. There is nothing like looking at your beautiful home in a new way with your beautiful portraits proudly hanging for all to see. Lets face it, we all love to hear we are beautiful and loved. Think how it will feel when friends and family see and comment on your new beautiful portraits.

We know there is an investment involved with your print order and we respect that and understand that everyone is at a different place in their ability to purchase prints. If you are going to buy prints, why not get them from your photographer? They use the best labs and will guide you to help create the look and feel you are after. Let’s look at this from a few different ways. You have already shown support to the photographer by way of hiring them for their services for the portrait session, so why not show them support again when it comes to printing your portraits? You are going to have to pay someone to print them, right? Using your photographer’s skills and knowledge can make this enjoyable and rewarding for everyone and can save you time and money. You would not walk into a car dealership ask for the cheapest car on the lot and take the one that needed all kinds of expensive work after leaving the lot, over the car that is ready to drive across the country from the first time you turned the key. In a sense that is what you are doing when you’re using a photographer that does a shoot and burn session. They are taken the photos and burning them to a CD and handing the rest of the transaction to you for you to deal with on your own. We want to give you the attention your deserve from first contact to our last meeting.

Now, I will tell you I used to do just that; I would take the time to book your session, finding a time and place that meets both of our needs, then create some beautiful portraits of you or your family for whatever event it was intended, from wedding, family or senior portraits. Then I would edit the files, burn them to disk and hand them off, not really giving a second thought of what was to be done after that. Now, after years of being a photographer, and seeing the great innovations and products that have come out in the recent past, I understand how important it is to offer a total portrait experience to my clients. This is the way I wish I had done it from the start.

Some photographers think this shoot and burn type of business is giving the industry a bad name. In some ways it is. It is like the quick oil change businesses that are popping up in every town nowadays. They offer a quick, affordable way of getting your vehicle’s oil changed. If you look at it the same way as the print vs shoot and burn method of making portraits, there are a lot of the same things happening. You get a fast and cheap oil change, but the oil they use is much like the paper they use at a Walmart type of print center; it is cheap and fades quickly, in turn making you have to change your oil more frequently. And it does not treat your vehicle with the respect it needs to run the way it was designed to. With these oil services, the person working there is not trained in a way to notice, or offer to fix or repair, any other issues your car my have at the time of service. Now, if you take your car to a trained professional that knows more about cars then just about its oil, you will not only be treated better as a client, but you will receive better service, and in most cases, have more options and suggestions to help you make quality decisions about your vehicle. In short, we all need a professional in whatever field we are dealing with. Another way to think of it is like a Super-Cuts hair salon (if you can call it that). You pay ten dollars for a hair cut. With a price like that are these hair cuts adding to your style? Is this a place you would use to prepare for your wedding day portraits? I don’t think many would make that choice.

One thing I have not touched on is the images on the CD. Let’s remember that we are running a business. That business is to offer our clients the best products and service that we can. Then why offer this CD at all and why must we have a print order in place prior to the purchase the images on CD? We only offer the CD after a commitment of a print order has been place for a few reasons. We need to cover all the costs of running the business and part of the way we cover the costs is through the sale of fine art prints. The session fees that are paid prior cover just a small percent of the costs associated with running a successful photography business. Some people might say that offering the cheaper option of a shoot and burn vs a print sale is the difference between a “real” professional photographer and someone that is more of a hobbyist. I will leave that up to the client to decide. I will say I have heard that the people who offer prints, and the people who buy prints, take a special pride in the work that has been created.

Lets face it, we all like nice things. We spend money on things like good wholesome foods. Some people will eat at McDonalds and be satisfied with that, while others will only eat at the best restaurant in town. I would much rather have the service and quality of food that comes from the full service restaurant than settle for eating food of sub-par quality in my car .

Next time you’re looking to have your family’s portraits done, please remember to put the skills of your photographer to work for you. Let them help you select what will work for your budget and your unique style. I know every business has to evolve in a way that works for them. For now this is my evolution. Thanks for joining me in it. If you’re looking for a photographer, we thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you.

Please leave a comment below with your view on this topic. If you want to receive email updates when a new blog has been posted, check the second option to be notified via email.

Thank you, Joe


  Why do I offer prints for your portraits and not just a CD? Why not just toss everything on a CD and let me print what I want, when I want? The short answer is, we do offer the CD for sale after you have already purchased a print package for wedding photography valued…


  1. As a professional photographer since 1968, I have experienced the evolution of digital photography. Personal, I have been totally digital for 14 years. I only offer a CD/DVD, after a specific monetary amount has been spent by the client. Any paper “proofs” given to the client come with a disclaimer. These proofs have not been retouched, color balanced or enhanced in any way. The finished images, that you purchase, will have all artwork done to them.

    To offer a CD/DVD right from the start, not having all artwork done to the images, will result in a lesser quality printed images. And I don’t want my work viewed as mediocre.


    1. Rick, Thanks for your input. I agree we need to keep this art, “art”. There is one to many cameras out there and now anyone can take a photo but that does not make it art. It is all about the lab for sure. When someone sees one of your prints you want to be proud of it. When someone sees your images that was printed at a service center you don’t even want your name associated with it. I think slowing the true photographers will steer the art back into this digital age. Thanks for the comment and good luck in the coming year. Joe

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