On Selling Digital Portraits

On Digital Portraits

I am a Portraitist - a photographer that earns a living by creating portraits, with my specialty being wall portraits of significant size. My clients want a beautifully crafted portrait to hang on a wall of their home, to celebrate their family and enjoy for a very long time.

I might add that they don't want to turn on an electronic device to do so, but rather to enjoy it as they walk through their home or sit in a favourite room, and remember a remarkable time in their life.

However, I sometimes get asked if I offer "digital copies" of the portraits I create. The simple answer is no, with an 'however".

Loss of Control & Quality

Have you ever taken a digital photo of yours to a big-box store for prints? Sometimes they're ok, and other times not so much? You're at the mercy of that part-time clerk that is thinking about closing time more than the job they're being paid to do.

So what happens when you take one of my crafted images there for printing and it doesn't come out well? Although they may not say anything, are people you show it to going to blame the part-timer in the big box store for the poor print job, or blame the photographer because they assume that what they see is the "end product"? 

Not only that, but digital copies are viewed on just about every electronic device made these days, from watches to big-screen TV's. The colour is not always true, the resolution on small devices not nearly the same as a print, and often too dark or too light, too contrasty or not enough. There are so many ways a digital image can be altered, manipulated, cropped, colourized, processed and degraded that I risk my reputation every time a digital image leaves my studio. I simply can't afford that. 

I didn't spend over 30 years learning my craft, perfecting my skills and keeping on the edge of technology to have someone else produce a print that I would be ashamed to have my name associated with. That's my reputation at stake. And my reputation is how I stay in business and earn a living. The prints we produce are made to last generations, carefully retouched, colour graded, cropped and printed to the highest standards - mine. If you visit my studio, you'll understand the difference.


I do understand that the most common form of sharing photographs these days is digitally. To that end, I will provide a free web-resolution image for customers to share with their family and friends on social media such as Facebook, on SmartPhones, etc. This digital copy isn't of sufficient resolution to make a print from, and it has a small, unobtrusive watermark embedded. The image is prepared and optimized for web viewing and comes with the stipulation that it won't be altered or the watermark removed. All images are Copyright, Mike Guilbault Photography. Digital copies are available after a minimum print order/size is placed (dependant on the type of portrait session). 

I hope that explains my position on digital copies. I welcome comments or questions and also hope that you respect my work by not copying prints or other images.  And here's something to consider with your own photographs...

Generations Lost

In today's world of SmartPhones, tablets, computers and video, people often forget about permanence. The now old adage; it's not if your device will fail, but rather when it will fail, is even truer today. We should go to great lengths to ensure the longevity of our digital assets. The sad truth however, is that most people don't... no security, no backup, no hardcopy. We're going to lose generations of family photos when the digital copies are no longer accessible. I have copies of images that I can no longer access. They're either on outdated media (including certain CD's) or the files have simply deteriorated beyond recovery. It's that reason that I'm a firm believer in prints.

You don't need to come to a professional portrait artist for a snap-shot. But when you want something that will last a lifetime, if not generations, it's something you should consider.

Thank you.

Mike Guilbault, MPF, MPA