Splendid Details: Processed images vs retouched images and costs of CDs

I help service businesses build your personal brand,  and grow your business through marketing, content and messaging.

 The Blog



 Business Tips

Photo Tips




Social Media

Client spotlights


The last couple of weeks have been crazy for me. My season is starting to wind down, which is fun but sad also. I have two weddings this weekend, and then a break for a couple weeks. Which will help me catch up for sure, but I am sad that I won’t be sharing my Saturdays with my awesome couples anymore. I am happy to have some weekends to play with my hubby and my friends though,  andPete is an ever loving husband willing to have very little time with me during the summer months. When I am gone during the weekends and working to all hours during the week, there is little “hang out time” for me and Pete. Which makes us both sad, but he is a trooper and very supportive.
So thanks honey… for helping me through the crazy season!

Now onto the actual post for today 🙂

I’ve been on a kick lately about educating my clients and my readers via this Splendid Details post. I find that there are so many nuances about wedding photography and portrait photography that keeps people confused. Things I know all about, but might not be instantly obvious to someone looking to hire me. There are so many options and so many differences depending on photographer and depending on products offered that can scare people away from choosing.

You can see the post about why choosing a professional over a friend to shoot your wedding is key, and about why you would want to schedule an engagement session in my recent posts. Today is about why a disc of full resolution images from your session costs what it does and the difference between processed files and retouched files.

I was finishing up a wedding a while back, and while my second shooter and I were taking our gear to the car, we were stopped by one of the groomsmen. He was super sweet and telling us how great of a job we did and how much fun taking pictures unexpectedly was (which by the way MAKES MY DAY! I love hearing feedback from my clients and from people at the wedding.) He was a little drunk (as everyone is at that point in a wedding) and he asked if he could get images from the wedding. I said of course, that the images would be up in full in about a month or so. He was super excited and was like “will you give them to me?”

I replied that they would be up for purchase and that I can’t just give images out, and he was a bit disappointed but thanked us again and went back to the party.

This encounter has stuck with me. The groomsman wasn’t wrong in asking if he could just receive the images, he just wasn’t well educated in the situation of this being a business. Having a photographer who shoots digitally doesn’t mean that their images are not worth paying for. Yes, we no longer have lab expenses, but we do have ever changing computer and camera expenses to  keep up with the times.

It has made me realize that with digital, and how easily accessible it is, people have started to devalue what it means to have digital copies of an image.

Images are still artwork.

Images are still very valuable.

The image is still my product.

Just because the immediate cost of me producing an image, doesn’t cost me lab expenses, it does cost time and creativity, and should still be seen with value attached to it.


So this brings me to my original point. There is a reason why a disc of images from a portrait session or wedding costs a lot of money for the client. It seems that this is a common sentence in my blog posts…. “there is a reason”. Isn’t there always?

And I know some might disagree with me, and that is your right. But for those of you who don’t know and would like to, here it is. There is also a difference between some photographers who don’t charge anything or very much for their disc, but they are giving you unedited, unprocessed images for you to deal with yourselves.

I am a photographer because I love making beautiful photographs. I love working with people and capturing them in a light they don’t usually see themselves in. I love making people feel beautiful. But I am also in business.

I need to make my rent, pay my bills, have my savings account, and pay for my ever increasing cost of healthcare each year (even though I am only 26!).  I wouldn’t be able to do that if I gave away my products. Just because it doesn’t cost me a lot to burn a cd of images, doesn’t mean there isn’t a high value to what is on that cd. You are paying for the value of the images, not the cost of producing them. Microsoft still charges an arm and a leg for their operating system. Adobe Photoshop is almost $1000 and those are just burnt discs also. It’s not that it is easy to distribute, it’s the value of the product that determines the cost.
So to break it down, I will let you in on what I charge and why.

I charge for my time and talent. If it is a portrait session, that is the session fee, if  it’s a wedding, that is the hourly rate built into what ever package you bought.  This fee doesn’t include a cd or prints. It includes me photographing you and your event and the experience and knowledge I bring to make sure you look the best you can possibly look.

I am going to continue as if we are talking about a wedding, to make it easiest to follow.

Now,  the disc of images is generally included in the wedding package, but that doesn’t mean that it is  free. I currently charge $1000 for the disc of high resolution images from a wedding day. That cost is included into the entire package price as most couples request the disc.

Yes,  $1000 dollars does sound like a lot of money at the beginning. But if you break it down, it is actually an incredibly good price for high resolution images of the entire wedding day. I tell my clients that they can expect approximately 100 images per hour I am there. That is 100 final, processed images, so if you have me there for 7 hours, you can expect at least 700 images in your final edit. I take closer to 2500 images that day, but edit them down to the best of the best. No one would want 2500 images. That is just too much.

Lets break it down.

700 images full resolution to print as you want for $1000 (plus tax of course). That equals $1.42 an image!

You can’t honestly think that is a lot of money for what you are getting. The thing is, you have to order the entire disc of images to get this price. If you want to pick and choose the files that you get, you can do that too. For that, it is $50 a file. Yes, it is more, but again… this is a business. I don’t give bulk discounts if there is no bulk buying:)

The other part to think about when just getting a disc versus ordering actual prints of the images, is that images ordered as prints or in an album are retouched by me, where if a disc is ordered without the ordering of prints, you receive processed images not retouched ones.

What does that mean?? Let me show you.

Below I have posted two different photos in three different stages. The first image is what the image looked like directly out of camera. No processing, no touching at all. The image looks good, but it doesn’t have my flair I put on it yet. The image to the right is a processed image or “proof.” This is what the image looks like after I have run my special favorite action in Lightroom. All images that clients see are processed, but none are retouched until an album or print is ordered. That is because it takes a long time to retouch an image. From a business perspective, why would I give  the ultra fancy product without charging for it?

You don’t get an upgrade to the suite at your hotel just because you booked the regular room right? Same principal here…

What is the difference between ? Scroll down and you can see the final retouched image.

As you can see, the final retouched image is just a bit more refined than that of the processed image. The groom had a hot spot on his forehead that I toned down. Their skin now has a glow to it, her eyes are a bit whiter, and any small blemishes/imperfections on her skin are gone. This is the difference between an image straight out of camera, to a processed image that you will get on the CD,  and a retouched image that would look amazing in your album or as a print on your wall.

And below is another example. As you can see if you have a good eye for color, I like slightly desaturated, warmer images. That is my style and what people hire me for. It is what they see on my blog and what they can expect  when they hire me for weddings or portraits.

But, just like if you are a frequent traveler and get “travel points”, you might get upgraded to that suite you want for nothing other than being a great customer, there is a similar option here.

I don’t retouch images until a print or album is ordered including that image, but once it has been ordered, and it has been retouched, if you order a digital copy of that file, you will get the retouched file. That is because the work is already done, and I already have the image in the final stage. For this reason, many clients who get a CD and also are getting an album wait to receive their disc of images until after they have ordered their album.

I retouch those images, and include the retouched files into the CD then, but not if you want your CD before your album. It’s one of the perks of waiting for your CD, and of getting an album…other than the fact that an album will showcase your images way better than a CD ever will… but that is a whole other post 🙂

So, I hope some of the mystery of why images cost what they do, and what a processed image vs a retouched image looks like is gone!

Please feel free to comment and ask any questions!

Looking for a 

Business Coach?

 learn more about how I can help you build your business online

click here!

The comments +

  1. karine.zwicki@gmail.com says:

    Very informative 🙂

  2. karine.zwicki@gmail.com says:

    Very informative 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    […] Tips: The difference between procesed images and retouched images. […]

  4. Anonymous says:

    […] Tips: The difference between procesed images and retouched images. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Download our Free Personal Brand Checklist 

to remove the questions and confusion

If you're a service pro, you are a personal brand.

Artboard 3

Grab it now

Do you wonder if you're doing it right?