"Do You Sell Pictures on a CD?"

Pitchers on a CD ready for Printing at your local Costco...
Over the past half dozen years I cannot count the number of times I've received phone calls and emails from potential clients asking about family portraits only to conclude their inquiry with the ubiquitous comment that they only need "pictures on a CD." You know the drill...

My question to you is, "How do you respond?" Are you one of the minons who've given in to the ignorant masses or have you remained firm, educating the public why you're a family photographer? Obviously, I would not be writing were I not a photographer dedicated to the latter option.

To that end, I am posting my two letter response, which is directed at those who cite their desire to purchase digital files on a CD. Why two parts? The first letter is to establish intent, while the second is to educate.

The first email has two goals. Besides establishing/confirming their request, the other, less conspicuous reason, is to cause them to consider and share what they are really asking. I'm not a fan of assumption. Asking them to articulate the reason they wish to own my digital files (i.e. put it in writing) places the proverbial cards on the table, making it clear their exact intentions; that being, they want to print their own. Most likely at their local Costco.

The purpose of the second letter is to gently and accurately expresse the reality of why family portrait photographers exist. It's perfectly fine that you not be in sync with every aspect of my rationale, as I don't contend it's either cutting edge, comprehensive or the definitive word. It's merel my point of view. Please feel free to extract whatever is relevant and disregard what is not.



Dear _________,

Thank you for writing and inquiring about our family portraits. 

It is our understanding that you wish to purchase a "CD" of the digital files we create but do not wish to have us print any portraits.

Since it is not to have printed photographs from the exposures we create, for what purpose, might we inquire, do you intend with the digital files?

Should you have any questions, no concern is too small. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you, 

Mark Jordan

Now then, considering that for as long as I have been forwarding REPLY ONE and have have yet to receive a single reply that did not express something to the effect that the inquiring client intended to create they're own prints (even though their first reason is typically for some form of electronic display), REPLY TWO is my customary response.



Dear _________,

Thank you for again for writing and informing us of your intention for the purchase of "CD" of our digital files from a family portrait you're considering us to create.

Were it within our business model and artistic pursuit to meet your exclusive needs of purchasing a "CD" of our work, we would do so. However, as a portrait studio, and more in particular, a professional photographer, we design and create portraits, of which printing the finished image is one of the most essential and gratifying components. 

Were your need of owning our digital files restricted to non-printing (i.e. personal projection), we do offer finished digital images, which are perfected in every way, except with a lower resolution and the strict limitation that they cannot be printed.

Understandably, our dedication to the art of portraiture precludes the sale of our most precious resource, our digital files, for the purpose of do-it-yourself printing. I am sorry we are unable to serve you in this capacity.

Should you like to discover more of our heart and rationale, I kindly invite you to read on. If not, thank you again for your inquiry.


Just as an architect and homeowner depend on an expert contractor to complete the painstaking efforts of their blueprints, so does the photographer and family rely on a talented print-master to fulfill their vision captured by mind and camera. What begins as vague impression to record a special moment in time, the photographer creates a photographic representation (a.k.a. "print") to treasure for a lifetime - and beyond.

Everyone knows that the professional photographer makes it possible to revisit the past. However, what is little understood is that the more refined the image (i.e. brilliant, rich color, print dimensionality and contrast, et al), the greater enjoyment and sense of being there. At its essence then, the art of portraiture is found in the extraordinary ability to bring memories to life - technically and emotionally. None of which is possible for the camera buff who sells CDs, shortchanging the process, rather than creating striking portraits.

Please understand, lest you think us persnickety, families hire us for our knowledge and our vision; not theirs. Though it is true that an economical print at Costco might satisfy the novice's eye, ask any Master Photographer and they'll readily disclose a catalogue of finish deficiencies. Whether the failings are inherent in color, contrast, density, subtle retouching, judicious cropping, or any number of essential design principles, any one of them would have been summarily avoided and masterfully effectuated by a bonafide, professional photographer.

The preceding morsel of guidance has proven to be especially relevant for younger families. As they grow so do their aesthetic awareness and acuity. As their appreciation for beauty, line and harmony blossom, what seemed like a great bargain in their early years comes back as a painful reminder of their naiveté and insensitivities. Over the past 32 years I've listened patiently to hundreds of moms and dads tell their stories of regret. The most common phrase we hear is, "What on earth were we thinking?"

As to your immediate need…be comforted in knowing there are a plethora of semiprofessionals throughout Orange County who own a camera and a website who will be elated to help you. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of such folk. If your desire is truly a CD of digital files, you will have no problem whatsoever locating dozens to oblige.

We would forward you photographer recommendations, but we are unaware of a competent photographer, let alone an outstanding one, who sell their "pictures on a CD." Though we are not familiar with the rationale for every photographer who peddles their most precious resource, those who do are primarily focused on the proverbial quick-buck rather than the elevation of the Art of Family Portraiture and their client's best interests. Subsequently, we cannot in good conscience endorse those who sell CDs.

Here at Mark Jordan Photography, we are passionate about our art and masters of our craft. There is no greater reward for the us than watching the ebullient faces our families when they first see their beautiful portraits. If not for this joy, what other possible reason would we toil so arduously, dedicating ourselves to such an emotional demanding and academic intensive enterprise, were it not to see our initial strokes (i.e. digital files) come to life in the lives of the families we photograph? It is for this very reason the family portrait photographer exists.

Should your portrait needs change in the future, and you become interested in having us create a lovely family portrait that you will cherish for a lifetime, we would wholeheartedly welcome the opportunity.

All the best to you and your family,

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