DFY vs. DIY: The full-service experience vs. a partial-service experience

If you decide you want to commission a personal chef to prepare dinner for you at home, you'll probably be most delighted if she takes you through a series of steps to prepare you for the experience. It might go something like this: She would (1) talk with you about the kinds of food you love and don't love, (2) shop for quality ingredients, (3) prep and cook the food, (4) present the meal on a beautifully arranged table, (5) respond to any requests you have during the meal, and (6) clean up afterwards. You'd be even more excited if after all that, she (7) shares the recipes with you.

I promise I’ll get to photography in a minute, but stick with me on this dinner example. ;-) An alternative special meal at home, not something you'd do every night, might be a box from a service like Blue Apron. The ingredients are conveniently apportioned for you and delivered to your doorstep. You unwrap all the little packets, chop and dice and cook with your own bowls and whisks and pots and pans, present the dinner to your loving family who may or may not wolf it down, then clean up every single dish and utensil after you eat. And recycle all the packaging. It may be satisfying (it usually was for me), and you may learn some new skills (I definitely did), but it's not an all-inclusive experience that’s Done For You; it's really more of a DIY. And it can be kind of exhausting.

image via  simplytaralynn

image via simplytaralynn

Now, if we look at hiring a photographer, rather than a chef, this is like comparing a full-service photographer with someone who sells only digital files.

I'll explain.

One of my favorite long-time clients admitted to me years ago that she'd never get around to ordering, framing, measuring, and hanging the photos of her kids from our shoot, even though she absolutely loved them. And that is incredibly common, but not every client admits it. (I mean, just tell me you'd rather go out for dinner tonight than cook, it's totally fine, let’s go!)

I've held an out-of-state client's hands through ordering a slew of prints, plus purchasing frames from West Elm, and then the two never got matched up and hung on the gallery wall we worked out together via e-mail. I checked in with her by phone several times over many months, and ultimately I don't know how long that all stuff just sat in storage gathering moisture. :-(

Retail store overwhelm.

Retail store overwhelm.

So the honest client says "Please just take care of this for me, I already make way too many decisions in my life! I can't make any more right now!" and I say: Ok, awesome. Which photos do you love the best? Go with your gut. Which walls do you pass by and strike you as bare? Do you prefer sleek or rustic? I like to keep the choices pretty simple--I do a lot of legwork first and present you with A or B, rather than asking you to build solutions from scratch. This client, we’ll call her the Honest One, ordered about 15 framed prints, and I brought over a fantastic professional to hang the artwork perfectly spaced and level, in a fraction of the time it would have taken her OR me to do it. And then it was done. Done!

A professional art installer at my relaxed client's home.

A professional art installer at my relaxed client's home.

Matching frames I found in a fabulous Etsy shop showcase a triptych of fraternal twin girls.

Matching frames I found in a fabulous Etsy shop showcase a triptych of fraternal twin girls.

I've been offering digital files for a long time, but I've recently decided to prioritize giving clients physical products, like framed prints, mounted photos, or albums, and those orders will include digital files of those printed images. The ready-to-display photos are the meal, and the digital files are the recipe, in case you want to make it again. But my intention is to customize your photo session so you're left with a great experience and you're able to enjoy the results immediately, without adding another 10 steps to your to-do list after the session.

DFY (done for you) vs. DIY (do it yourself).

Ultimately, I don't think you hire a photographer so that you learn to become a better designer-decorator-framer in the weeks that follow. You hire a photographer to get some photos on your wall-desk-shelf and enjoy them ASAP.