There is a great deal of discussion among photographers about selling digital images from a photoshoot. There are a lot of arguments for providing digital images (um, hello, maybe people like to share photos of their pets on Facebook) and there are an equal number of arguments for only selling prints. Personally, I make both available. However, before you immediately say, "Great, I'll take a CD of my 5 favorite images", let me make a case for prints.
1. Digital media fails. Yes, it's true. Hard drives fail. Backup hard drives can fail. What you thought you were backing up to the cloud turns out to be only a small segment of what is on your hard drive. CDs get scratched/broken/lost. If you've ever had a hard drive fail, you know that sinking feeling of having lost your tax returns for the last 5 years, the pictures of the last family reunion where all of your family was actually able to attend have vanished, and pictures of your pets who have long since crossed the Rainbow Bridge are gone forever.
2. Digital media collects dust. This sounds silly, but I'll give you a personal example. My father has invested a lot of time in converting old family prints into digital images, so the photos, slides and Polaroids (yes, Polaroids) weren't lost forever. Don't get me wrong. This is a noble endeavor, and I'm glad that our old family photos (and my parents' family photos) aren't going to just crumble into dust. But without fail, when my Dad sends me a CD of images he has converted, I look at them, chuckle, and then put the CD in a filing cabinet. Yes, the images are there, but I don't ever look at them. This year for Christmas, however, my Dad took a number of family photos that he had restored and created a photo book, and my brothers and I got copies of the book. It is only January 3rd, and I have already looked at the book many more times than I have the CDs my father has made. The photo book also sits out on the coffee table, so other people can look at the photos.
3. Prints are visible. My house is plastered with photos of my pets and every time I walk by one of the photos, I see it and I smile. The number of photos on my walls is a fraction of a percent of the photos I have on my hard drives. But I look at the photos on my walls, not the ones on my hard drives.
4. Prints are tangible memories. I have had the great fortune to love many pets over the years, and sadly, I have lost many pets over the years. But I have framed prints of every pet I have had on a table, where I can look at their pictures and relive memories of my pets that have long since crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Every time I look at the photo of my miniature poodle with the excited look in her eyes and black spot on her tongue, I remember her dogged determination to be fed from the table. When I see our Maine Coon wearing a paper dish on his head, I laugh at how such a serious cat was willing to put up with our silliness.
Digital images are great for preserving memories, and a great way to share photos online with family and friends, but prints are real, physical, visible images that bring forth a flood of memories. And that is something a CD in a file cabinet can never do.