On Selling Digital Portraits

Digital Portraits

First of all, I consider myself a Portraitist - a person that creates portraits with my specialty being wall portraits. The vast majority of my clients are looking for a beautiful portrait to hang on the wall in their home, to celebrate their family and enjoy whenever they like.

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

Generations Lost

In today's world of SmartPhones, tablets, computers and video, people often forget about permanence. The now old adage of, it's not if your device will fail, but rather, when it will fail. We often have to 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, or lost in cyber-space.

It's a shame nowadays that the only artwork displayed in homes is the mass-produced kind from the big box stores. We're going to lose generations of family portraits 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 They're either on outdated media (including certain CD's) or the files have simply deteriorated beyond recovery.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 'hard-copy', or prints. The prints we produce are made to last generations. 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, you should. And a carefully crafted print will last longer than just about anything.

But even that isn't enough of a reason. I still would not sell them and here's the real reason...

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? 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 "real 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 great, the resolution 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 left my studio. I can't afford that.

I didn't spend 30 years time perfecting my skills 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.


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, SmartPhones, etc. This digital copy isn't of sufficient resolution to make prints 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 order 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. 

Thank you.

Mike Guilbault