PORTRAIT PHOTOGS - Do you offer Digital Negatives on CD for clients to purchase ?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by rochelle_negle, Nov 20, 2008.

  1. So I know this is a very heated debate amongst pro photographers...but I keep going back and forth on the idea
    and need some more clarity and pointers on the pros & cons.

    I do not offer digital files, as of now.

    But of course it's 2008 and I am asked about it from potential clients over & over & over again.

    I don't have AS MUCH of an issue offering low res digi proofs with my logo, but here's why I don't want to offer
    the full resolution digital files to clients:

    1. I don't want my images manipulated, converted to B&W or digitally touched by my clients.
    2. I don't want my images printed on home computers OR at a local pharmacy
    3. I feel like if people have access to unlimited prints, they're not treasured as much and when I send my
    clients their prints, they're presented in a beautiful way. I feel like it almost cheapens the work..and people
    can be satisfied with JUST having their images online and never getting around to printing & hanging like they
    should be.
    4. The images get emailed all over the country and printed on relatives home computers and stuck on their fridge,
    presented as MY work!

    On the other hand, I feel:

    1. That I'm not up there, yet, with the "better photographers" who can be more forceful about their images
    because they're unbelievably talented, in very high demand and also each picture ACTUALLY IS a piece of art.
    2. It's 2008 and it's a digital world. People WANT digital files!

    For me...this is not as much about the money as it is about my work..and how I feel about it....but on the other
    hand I feel like I should "get over it" ..I'm not good enough yet to be so demanding about what I want and need
    to please my clients.

    I don't have big concerns right now about scanning images & so on...so I don't want the responses to be going
    that way..

    I've been considering offering the CD in a package which included a 5x7 print of EVERY image, an 11x14
    enlargement (just for WOW factor) a document with recommended places for prints & photo products, and an
    agreement to be signed that images won't be cropped, converted to B&W, digitally manipulated, printed on home
    computers, etc. Just to reinforce the quality of the images.

    I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts....
  2. I've been going through the same dilemma. I have no problem selling images for weddings when I'm paid good money for my time, but I feel portraits are different. Why? A portrait is almost always one person or one family group, not a special once-in-a-lifetime event you are capturing. Many people can't see the monetary value in a portrait that they associate with weddings. I have tried to offer high prices sitting fees that cover my time costs, but the response has been disaster. $100. for a good portrait sitting is simply not worth the time & effort unless you combine that with $1,000. in print orders.

    I completely agree with the problem of your reputation being associated with ink-jet prints coming from gramma's computer. Yes, this happens with my wedding files, but color accuracy is much more critical for a portrait. Most wedding shots can look OK with AWB, not so with portraits.

    My solution so far is to say yes, you can have an image on a CD, it's $100. with a minimum order of $1,000. in prints or $1,000. without. So far, no takers.

  3. I do with certain packages (currently re doing my whole deal there) but it costs a lot. & then any extra discs are pricey too.
    I think I will limit it to a certain amount 15 images the client can choose & I will place them on a disc but only printable at 4
    x 6
  4. I'm not a portrait photographer, but as a consumer, I would never utilize the services of the OP. When I want my portrait taken, I want my image to with as I please. I am not some advertising billboard for a photographer. If I want to print them on cards, put them on mySpace, etc., that is my right, imo.

    1. I don't want my images manipulated, converted to B&W or digitally touched by my clients

    Why? Why shouldn't someone who paid you for your service be allowed to manipulate their purchase?

    2. I don't want my images printed on home computers OR at a local pharmacy

    Again, why? This sounds like an excuse to sell high priced prints.

    3. I feel like if people have access to unlimited prints, they're not treasured as much and when I send my clients their prints, they're presented in a beautiful way. I feel like it almost cheapens the work..and people can be satisfied with JUST having their images online and never getting around to printing & hanging like they should be

    Why do you care so much what other people do with their likeness? Who are you to judge the correct way someone has to appreciate an image? Who says images have to hang on the wall?

    4. The images get emailed all over the country and printed on relatives home computers and stuck on their fridge, presented as MY work!

    So? Why is not enough for you that people paid you a fair amount to get a quality portrait that they want to show off? Charge a fee for your time based on your skill level up front, and let people have what they paid for.
  5. Justin, portraits are works of art and images belong to their makers.

    1. Standard image pricing does not necessarily include the "right" to edit an image. If I make a beautiful portrait, and then you do something stupid and ugly to it, that is damaging to my reputation.

    2. If someone prints one of my photos on their piece of crap desktop inkjet printer, on which the colors are not properly calibrated, or have the high school kid at the pharmacy 1 hour photomat print it and it doesn't turn out right, that is damaging to my reputation. People look at these images, my images that I made, and there are flaws that aren't my doing.

    3. Many artists feel attachment their their works. A lot of folks say that a work of art is like a child. If you pay $20 for an 8x10, you'll get it mounted and put in a nice frame and hang it up on the wall. If you print a dozen 8x10's out then you're more likely to leave them laying around on your desk to have coffee spilled on them. Frankly, it's offensive. We're PROUD of our work and don't want to feel like it's just another piece of paper to become clutter.

    4. A "fair amount" is relative. You're obviously not a pro or advanced student or you would understand things like licensing and copyright ownership, which you don't seem to. Or even pride in one's work.

    If you don't want to "utilize the services" of a photographer who takes pride in their work, then don't call me either. Head on down to Sears Portrait Studios.
  6. *No offense to anyone who might work at Sears Portrait Studios. :)
  7. Trust me, I know plenty about copyright and such matters. However, the days of overcharging for print should fade into the past. You can be plenty proud about your work, without restricting the customer from using the work as they would like to.

    If I want to print my portrait on my desktop printer, that is up to me. If I want to modify it for a Christmas card, that's my choice. I'm not here to provide you with free advertising. That's your responsibility. If I want to spill coffee on it, that's my problem. Do you hide outside people's windows to make sure they are displaying the works as you see fit?

    I think when photographers complain about not getting work these days, they should look at what the customer really wants. You can have pride in the work you do, and get paid appropriately for it, if you provide the customer what they want. I would have no problem paying for the skills of an appropriate photographer that takes into account their level of professionalism, if they offered what I wanted. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
  8. Justin,

    It is your right to not utilize the services of a photographer that does not offer digital files if you are adamant that you want access to them. At the same time it is our right as professional photographers to not offer the digital files if we don't want to. Realize that there are different models of business that each have their place.

    Back to the original post- We don't offer digital files. We don't charge a sitting fee, only deposits, and our profit comes from print sales. We also believe in maintaining the quality of our work, and as you, we don't want someone to produce something that is below our standards and still refer to it as our photography.

    We do however offer a dvd slideshow. It is encrypted and the actual image files are nowhere to be found for the average consumer. This allows the consumer to play the slideshow on a dvd player or their computer and also provides a low-res version they can send over the net, put on myspace, or send via cell phones. This offers them the convenience of digital files buts limits the average person from actually getting to the digital images.

    The slideshow is actually pretty cool- the customer chooses an unlimited number of images. It is randomly sorted with random fades and is set to your choice of royalty free music. The interface our lab offers is to simply drag and drop the images and choose your music. There are different packaging levels as well. If you're interested in more info, shoot me an email. It has been a good "in-between" answer for us.
  9. Joseph, I can't agree with you more! I used to try to please my clients with lower sitting fees and reasonable
    packages for them to purchase after providing them some really nice proofs. I even resisting putting watermarks on
    the proofs, specifically so they could be used and shared among family members and put into an album if they so
    desired. But I got tired of clients taking the proofs to WalMart and printing all their copies for friends and family and
    for Christmas cards, instead of coming back to me with orders for what they needed. I put all my professional
    expertise into providing nice portraits, and offered them quite reasonable quotes for packages and individual
    prints/enlargements, and ended up losing money in the end. So I finally jacked up my prices for sittings and don't
    give proofs anymore. I do all the work on the images, then upload them to a hosting site where clients can view
    them all and order what they want. It's made my life so much easier -- and I'm finally making enough money to
    almost justify my struggle to make a living at this!

    I feel I've been forced to do this to protect MY images (yes, they ARE mine!), and I really don't like it. But it's very
    frustrating and discouraging to put all my hours aof skill and training into producing quality portraits, to get ripped off
    in sales and have to deal with calls from WalMart asking me if so-and-so has been given permission to copy my

    Something to think about... A painter can sell a painting, but that doesn't give the buyer the right to reproduce it at
    will. Why should a photographer's art be considered any differently?
  10. I have been stung by this...

    On points 3 and 4 i disagree
    Print them and spread them across the planet for all i care AS LONG as the professional recognition is not lost in the process. Would love to have my photos on every ones fridge door!

    HOWEVER - Misrepresentation of my work is the biggest stumbling block.

    On points 1 and 2 i am with you
    -Bad print, digital file, or B&W conversion done by the client that does not conform to my standard has the potential to reflect very bad on the photographer. I can handle criticism if its my work being criticized, but it's hard to take when you know "That is not the image i took".
  11. I offer digital negatives as part of my services in part because clients want the freedom to use the images for print as
    will as digital content. I tell them up front that there will be a large different between the quality of a print I provide them
    and one they get elsewhere, but I leave the choice to them.

    I embed copyright information into each image, but I provide them with a license for personal use.

    I guess that my ego is not attached to every image I am able to produce. Also for those who want absolute control of
    their image, copyright is a very good method, but also remember the fable of the great oak vs the willow in the severe
    storm. The oak breaks and falls because it can not bend with the wind, but the weak willow bends, survives and grows
    into the future.

    Lastly, I wish I were famous enough (haha) as a photographer to have to worry about it! Most of us never will be.

    Just thoughts
  12. I give low-quality dig negs for email, small-size printing (4x6 or less). I'm just getting started and will let you know how it works out. Frankly I'm in this to make money, not maintain 100% artistic integrity. If people need to view the quality of my work, they can do so online or with the larger prints I provide.

    I understand the desire to always produce the highest quality print. Often friends and family say, "Just email me a high-res--I want a picture." Instead, I offer to make a print myself (even though it costs me). Now, however, I have to worry about profit. I can print small photos for clients, but offer the opportunity for them to do it themselves for cheaper. It's all about making money and competing against everyone else. When you're Annie Liebovitz you can afford to maintain artistic integrity.

    On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong and you have "it" and can afford to control every single one of your prints. Good luck and have fun.
  13. I don't understand this holding on to images as they are 'yours' idea. I know it stems from the days of holding
    negatives, but nowadays there is no justification beyond ego and a desire to make more money. The concept of
    saying its yours after its been paid for by the client is like picasso charging for a work of art then only providing a
    print and not the original.

    Charge a decent amount for a sitting in the first place and let them do what they want. If they print it on a cheap
    inkjet and stick it on the fridge that means they like it and will probably recommend you to their friends - who would
    probably have as much idea about WB and colour correction as my mum! Get over yourselves and get into the 21st
  14. Lee, I agree with your perspective and I would add that if one generates a print and sells it, the client can scan that
    image and generate derivative works from the image that might not violate copyright law. My other observation is that
    from a business point of view, my margin on sell digital files is a whole lot better than selling prints and seems to satisfy
    a certain customer need. I always offer both and most clients will just want the digital files, some take prints and some
    will do both.

    Another reason for providing digital files is then they become responsible for the image. Yes, I maintain back ups (at
    least three copies with one offsite), but you never know and so when I provide them a copy of the digital files, I tell them
    that this copy is the source document and they should protect it. SInce I generate 30-35,000 images a year, back up
    and maintenance costs are getting to be expensive.

    Just some thoughts.
  15. Might I ask what the going rate for digital negatives is? This is something I have had people ask me for
    and I dont really know how to charge for it.

  16. Digital negatives will always be one of those "should I or should I not" questions.. It really depends on how the photographer feels about his
    work. However, we must remember that we are selling our services and work, not placing it in our galleries. Business is business, keep
    that in mind. I've been shooting weddings and events off and on for about 8 years now. Clients are usually demanding digital negatives. I
    know we (as photographers) lose out but what i figured is that we must offer our services to do any special touchups/refinishing (down the
    line.) Of course, there is a minor fee. This way, if they're going to do something to the photo, at least I get to do it for them and make it
    right. It's really comes down to proper sales pitches and establishing good clientele relationships. Cheers and good luck.
  17. For me, clients want digital negatives as the product. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that they can do a print as well as I
    can. From a business point of view, my margins on digital negatives is very, very high, and my margins on prints are
    considerably lower and clearly consume more of my time. I attempt to recovery my projected print income by charging a
    higher session fee. So I don't think one can answer the question "what do you charge on digital negatives" in isolation of a
    pretty complete understanding of a person's business model. Just a thought

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