Why Photographers are Ditching CDs for USB Drives

Picture this: you’re a photographer, and you’ve just mailed your client a CD filled with awesome images you shot. When the client receives the package, the first thing she does is go to her computer – a slick new Mac – and searches for the CD drive. But wait! There isn’t one.

The client takes a deep breath, unearths her old laptop, boots it up, inserts the CD, and waits. And waits. And waits some more. Nothing. She removes it and inserts it again. Still nothing. Maybe the CD is scratched. Maybe it just needs extra time to load. Or maybe it’s another tech issue altogether. She calls you in a panic because she REALLY needs those images, and, suddenly, all those great shots that you were so proud to share with her become eclipsed by this tech problem.

Has this scenario (or something like it) happened to you? If not, consider yourself lucky. While CDs (and, more recently, DVDs) have been a mainstay of most photography businesses over the last two decades, their necessity today has come into question, and for three important reasons: ease of use, cost, and obsolescence.Custom USB Key Drive, inserted

The good news? A product exists that solves all of these problems: custom USB drives.

In today’s post, we’re highlighting three photographers who’ve made the leap from CDs/DVDs to USB drives, including why they did it, how it’s working for them, and why they haven’t looked back.

Ease of Use (for You AND Your Clients)

Judy Burris and Wayne Richards are authors/freelance writers and nature photographers at ButterflyNature.com in Erlanger, Kentucky. They supply customers with high-resolution images for use in magazines, books, or on educational displays in nature centers and on park signs.

Burris and Richards switched from CDs to USB drives two years ago because of ease-of-use issues – for themselves, but also for their clients. USB drives hold much more information than a CD, making it easier to keep track of projects and have project-related images in one place (Burris notes that their drives are 4GB, which they find holds all the info they need).

Ease of mind is another bonus. Burris says, “No more scratched CDs that won’t read and no more fear that the disc will warp in a hot mail truck.”

The benefits extend to their customers as well. “These drives are well-received by our customers. They love how fast they can download the information onto their computers. The CDs tend to take much longer to read and load,” Burris says. “We would highly recommend that other businesses switch. Customer satisfaction should be the most compelling reason.”

Plenty of customization options exist as well. In order to stand out, Burris and Richards chose plastic nature-themed drives (turtles, frogs, etc.). They find that their USB drives are colorful and easy for clients to spot on cluttered desks.

NOTE: Check out these cool 4GB rotate USB drives from Amsterdam Printing,

Show Me the Money!

Melani Lust owns Melani Lust Photography, a photo studio in Westport, Connecticut, specializing in commercial, editorial, wedding, and portrait photography. Lust had been delivering photos via CDs and DVDs, often averaging four DVDs per wedding client alone. She customized the actual disc with a personal photo label and sent the disc cases to her pro lab where they would print the personalized, custom cover that she designed in her studio.

Every February, Lust re-evaluates her business, including how she uses technology and how it has changed. This past February was no different, but what she realized when looking back over the last year was all the technological “issues” she and her clients were encountering.

Lust says, “We had been having many issues with clients not being able to work their DVDs, and we had to spend lots of administrative time on the phone explaining the process to them. But the most compelling reason [for the switch] is that the new Apple computers do not have CD drives anymore.”

As a result, Lust made the jump from CDs to custom USB drives. She ordered 4GB drives for her commercial clients and 32GB drives for wedding clients. She chose a standard looking drive in brushed silver with her studio logo engraved on the side and, for added panache, she bought brushed silver boxes for each drive to be placed in as well.

Regarding her decision, Lust says, “I am thrilled with the decision. The time and cost involved in producing a custom DVD label, designing a custom DVD case, sending the design to the lab, paying for the case, and waiting for the case to come back from the lab is no longer an issue. Our clients receive their photos quicker and we spend more time on important tasks.”

CDs Going the Way of VHS

Julia Beckmann, owner of Amore Vita Photography in Concord, North Carolina, specializes in weddings and senior portraits. When she first started out, CDs seemed like the easy thing to do. But she admits, “I felt like I could never get the CD to look how I wanted. It was always missing something.” Because of this, she’d been thinking about making the switch from CDs to USB drives for quite some time, but it wasn’t until two months ago that she made the leap.

Beckmann explains her decision: “I noticed that some of the newer computers didn’t have disk drives anymore. I was thinking how much that would stink to be a client and be so excited for your images and you couldn’t even open them on your computer. Sure, they can buy a disk drive for the computer (I think), but I want to make things as easy as possible for my clients. I want to make them happy.”2GB Bamboo Custom USB Drives

Beckmann ordered 2GB USB drives for portrait sessions and 16GB USB drives for weddings. She chose wooden drives and had her logo laser-edged into the front. As for the reaction from her customers? Beckmann says she’s heard nothing but positive reviews. She recommends other business owners who rely on CDs to make the switch to USBs, and to do it fast. “Pretty soon CDs are going to be a thing of the past. Keep your clients up-to-date and happy,” she says.

NOTE: Check out the bamboo USB drive from Amsterdam Printing

Are you thinking of making the switch from CDs to USB drives?

We can help. Read more at: Ultimate Buying Guide for USB Flash Drives


Have you already made the switch from CDs/DVDs to custom USB drives? If yes, why? Are you happy with your decision? Share in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “Why Photographers are Ditching CDs for USB Drives

  1. Who in the 21st century uses Cd’s or USB drives. I use the web (ftp or cloud shares to distribute proofs and have for 5 years) clients love it and they get instant acess.

    1. John, thanks for chiming in. I recently got married myself and while it was awesome to get faster access to photos on a site like Snapfish, my wife appreciated a physical USB drive, which was less hassle to download photos from and also makes sure you’ve got a proper backup (cloud storage, USB Drive, computer).

      Thanks, Slavik Volinsky

    2. Using online transfer is really not a good idea for lots of people. Who wants to have to download multiple gigs worth of photos? Id rather have the usb thanks.

  2. Very interesting and this is something that I have been giving considerable thought to myself. One of my concerns is the lifetime of the CDs & DVDs which I have been using for archiving photos and videos for many years but is this not also a potential problem for archiving on USB drives? I seem to remember reading on the Internet some time ago that USB drives also have “a finite lifetime of up to 10 years”…

    1. We found a great infographic which compares lifespan of various media, including CDs, DVDs, and USBs: http://www.crashplan.com/medialifespan/
      It seems that DVD does beat the USB lifespan (30 years of regular use to DVDs vs. 10 years for USBs), however, there’s always risk of CDs/DVDs being scratched.

      Under ‘extreme care’ conditions, the infographic puts CDs, DVDs at 100 year lifespan with USBs at 75 years. This is almost a lifetime :).

      Thanks, Slavik

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