And there are probably 150 million photographers who've covered this topic already. They'll talk about how your digital image might get lost on your computer, or that flash drive will die or some other emotional reason you might not want your images in only digital format. Each and every point is very valid. However, as a single mom who lives (and hopefully doesn't die) by a budget, there's a whole different factor to consider.
Let's look at this two ways: Once with all inclusive pricing and once with full service pricing. For purposes of this article, All inclusive photographers are those that will photograph you then give you a USB/CD/Gallery download link. You get to print your photos wherever you'd like and however many times you like, as well as upload to social media, websites or email them to friends. Full service photographers typically sit down with you to help you pick out prints, canvas and other products, and may or may not include digital images in their packages.
A base rate for all inclusive photographers in the South Puget Sound area, runs about $350* per hour. Many tend to give 20-30 fully edited images with their packages. Without including any tip for the photographer, you're paying about $14 per image based on 25 images. Not a bad price when you just want to post them on Facebook, run a slideshow on your computer's screen saver function or share them digitally (check your contracts though. Some photo releases prevent "sharing" digital files with friends and families).
Consumer labs, such as Costco, Walmart and Target, offer a variety of products that you can have your images printed on for a small price. One of my favorite online consumer labs is Shutterfly. You can actually get free 4x6 prints from time to time, and just pay shipping charges, adding a measly $8.97** to your digital purchase, bringing the total bill to $358.97! A steal if you ask me. But lets say you need several different sized prints. Your list might look a bit like this: 1 - wall print for your home, 2 - 8x10s for grandparents, 4 - 5x7 for great grandparents, and 32 wallets for your Christmas cards.
Using current (9/27/16) Shutterfly pricing:
1 - 11x14 small wall print - $7.99
2 - 8x10 gift prints - $7.98
4 - 5x7 gift prints - $3.96
8 - Set of 4 wallets (32 total) - $14.32
Grand Total w/shipping**: $47.28
That's for your one image. One digital image has now cost about $61.28, and that's not yet including additional prints you might want to put up, other products or books. Not to mention, you're stuck doing the 20-30 minutes it takes putting together your order, making sure everything is cropped perfectly, etc. ;)
You could lower the per image price by purchasing mugs with multiple images on them (Shutterfly has some cool ones starting at $16.99), Collage frames (Shutterfly prices start at $59.99) or Collage Posters (Shutterfly prices start at $2.79). Honestly, the all inclusive price is great for the budget, but you do run a few risks too, including poor quality printing and possible fading over time. Those things do make a difference, depending on how long you want your photos on display and what you do with them after you've taken them down.
Full service prices can be SCARY. Believe me, I totally get it. As a single mother who works her tail off at two jobs, I am right there with you cowering in the corner when someone says "Print prices start at $12 for a 4x6 image". Yikes, right? Especially when you've already paid $99 for a session fee and didn't get anything other than a good time to show for it. Let's say your $99 session fee results in 15 images, that's $6.60 per image. Now, if you're anything like me, you'll have some crazy gallery wall started and you'll want to add to that. Maybe you want four 5x7s, two 8x10s and one 11x14.
By the time you're done, those add up to $150 (not including tax!). Wow. But here's the fun part: Even if you don't purchase any of the other images, your per image price is $35.57-ish. And those prints don't even need frames for display. They come mounted on matboard and can easily be displayed on a shelf or hung on the wall with command hangers.
If simple prints aren't your style and you're wanting more bang for your buck, you can get a full gallery USB + 8x8 Photobook for $800. The photobook alone is worth $225. By the time you're done, those digital images are $26.96 each. And you have a gorgeous book to keep for yourself or gift to the grandparents at Christmas.
The best part? Those memories aren't just stuffed away on your computers hard drive, or on a USB in a drawer somewhere. They are up there, on your walls where you get to see them daily and be reminded of the wonderful time you had with those you love dearly.
*these numbers are based on my own research of photographers with business overhead. It does not include Aunt Sally or Uncle Bob and their brand new camera
**Shipping based on Bonney Lake, WA