Want to get a really good look at the state of the photography industry? Play tourist for a couple of weeks. We spent two weeks running around all over California, and as we sat in rides and shows in places like Disney, Universal and Sea World, I began to really look at how people were taking pictures.

With either a point and shoot or a phone camera, they would hold the camera out at arms length, and shoot a picture of themselves with a friend or two, or maybe flip it around and use flash to capture a quick snapshot. Everything is focused on what is happening right there in front of them. No focus on telling the story, only on capturing a quick snapshot of them in a situation.

Add in the fact that most pictures probably never make it off the flash drive or card, or make it out of the cell phone. A few weeks or months down the road when a person needs more space, it’s simply a matter of “delete”.

When I went on vacation as a kid, I always had a roll or two of film, and couldn’t wait to get them developed when I got home. A week or two later, it was like living your vacation all over again. You remembered exactly how that cotton candy tasted. Or how excited you were to see that koala bear at the zoo. It felt like you were there again. And it made you smile as you looked through your photos, shared them with family and friends, and put them into your photo or scrapbook. And if you pick up that scrapbook today, I bet you still can remember some of those same feelings.

So what will change in 10 or 20 years time? This current period of time will produce very few memories.

People now are missing the one element that photographs bring to the experience, and that’s the final output. They love the instant feeling of being able to capture a memory anywhere, anytime. But they don’t follow through and put that memory into a storable, achievable format that will last throughout their lifetime.

Now let’s look at what a professional photographer offers his or her clients. When I head out and look at a variety of sites, I see the same things again and again:

We’ll shoot your [wedding, baby portrait, family portrait, business portrait, commercial products, etc] and hand them over to you on a CD/DVD. You get the files, and that’s it.

So what’s separating you as a professional from what a person is already creating with their digital products?

Being a professional photographer isn’t just about shooting an image, it’s also about creating an experience AND providing a touchy, feely product your customer can look at, feel, and pass around to their family and friends.

They can bring a beautifully designed leather album with them to a family event. A CD will gather dust on their desk.

They can hang a framed portrait above their fireplaces. A CD may get lost or broken over time.

Value isn’t just in the first half of the process – the shooting. Value is in the entire process from beginning to end. And if you are only providing half the process, you can only expect to take in half the fee.

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