Digital Files or No Digital Files?

Digital Files or No Digital Files?

by Mary Fisk-Taylor, M. Photog., Cr., CPP, ABI, API

This is a great and timely question, one we struggle with as professional photographers.  I have found that the CD of images can actually become a deal breaker with most wedding clients and even my high school seniors. The ownership of the images has become a necessity for my brides and teens. They want to be able to show these images off on their cell phones and networking pages. In a world full of digital capture, many of our clients have unfortunately translated photography into a file versus an actual printed image. I have found that the iphone, ipad, etc. are the new gift print. We carry them around and show off our images to everyone like we used to show our wallet prints, or display 5x7s in our homes and offices. We did not want this to happen at our studio so we set out to find the perfect balance between our products (albums, portraits, etc.) and the client owning the CD.

With our wedding clients we chose to say “Yes!” much earlier than any portrait clients since my brides and grooms were the most concerned about a CD of images. We all understand that anything we print has the potential of being copied. This is a fact we can choose to ignore or pretend does not exist, but the sheer fact that scanners are attached to the majority of household computers is a pretty good indicator that they are being used.  So, our solution was to take any wedding candid that is printed either in their wedding album or as a loose candid and add it to their Wedding CD of images. The Wedding CD of images is delivered at the same time as their wedding album. This was our best solution and compromise because we were still delivering quality prints and beautiful albums to our client insuring that they had beautiful wedding images to share and enjoy. However, we could also give them the CD of images. It has worked very well for us over the past several years and I am not inclined to change it anytime soon. My clients are happy and I am pleased that I am able to maintain high wedding averages and deliver beautiful portraits and albums from the wedding.

This past year we realized very quickly that our high school senior portrait clients were not just interested in the CD of images, but demanding it. We have a thriving senior business and did not want to lose those sessions over the CD. So again we decided to come up with a working compromise that would allow us to say “Yes!” to the client but maintain our portrait average and quality of work. Our price list allows our clients to get the image on CD for any portrait purchase. Our portraits are 11×14 and larger and of course this does not include albums, collages or any small prints. This has worked very well for us so far and our high school senior portrait business
actually doubled last year.

I think that it is very hard for us as professional photographers to accept the CD of images concept and find that perfect balance. However, as our clients change and the environment we live in constantly is growing we must do the same. If you find yourself on the telephone or during consultations saying “No.” to potential clients questions and requests you may need to sit back, evaluate and figure out how to say, “Yes!”

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There are 14 comments for this article
  1. Bob Harper at 2:03 pm

    Are these high-resolution images on the CD? We have been providing low-res versions with our watermark as a complimentary portion of our packages and encouraging our clients to use these images in electronic media.

  2. Mary Ann Halpin at 2:34 pm

    This was very helpful as our studio struggles with the dilemma of holding on to the digital file. I have lost several maternity/newborn portrait session because they demanded all the images on CD. Of course there are just some potential clients who demand more than they are willing to pay.
    I am also curious to know what file size you give your clients if they order an 11×14 or larger. Thank you!

  3. John Mainieri at 2:39 pm

    This has always been a problem for us. A disk of the images are provided at the completion of the wedding albums but have found the couples that know this simply do not order and extra prints at all. They will wait for the albums and the disk to make their own prints. Use to be a time when couples asked “How much are your 8×10’s” Now they ask when do I get my hi-res disk. I found watermarks do not work very well. There are programs out there that will remove watermarks form a file. Do not know the answer!!

  4. Ken Mellott at 3:10 pm

    Interesting and informative article. I appreciate it. Always considering new ideas. We do about 80-100 seniors and avg around $1300 per senior (including session fee) and I rarely have anyone ask for high res files. 95% of our senior parents buy one or more albums. I give lots of ways for web-shareable and give all the high res at even higher levels but hardly anyone asks for them (or gets them). I think one key reason is that everything we talk about with clients is about albums, wall art, collages, etc. and make it a point to talk about home much value tangible and touchable image product are lasting. I have tons of tangible samples all over our studio. Just my thoughts and experience.

  5. Kristal Lohse at 3:47 pm

    So you deliver the CD with the Album. But you still make them pay a separate price for the CD, correct? It just isn’t available until the album is delivered?
    What do you mean you allow Senior clients to get an image on CD for any portrait purchase?

  6. Elizabeth Monge at 7:34 pm

    Its a very tricky subject. Most clients want the entire session for just s few hundred dollars. I tend to turn away many potential clients. We do sell the images on cd but they have to meet a minimum purchase that will qualify to the images on disk. As time passes by and more amateurs are in the market is just a matter of time that is going to get worse.

  7. Elizabeth Monge at 7:36 pm

    Its a very tricky subject. Most clients want the entire session for just s few hundred dollars. I tend to turn away many potential clients. We do sell the images on cd but they have to meet a minimum purchase that will qualify to the images on disk. As time passes by and more amateurs are in the market is just a matter of time that is going to get worse.

  8. Michelle McCormick at 8:03 pm

    This is a great question. I have said that if they want the touchups they will order my prints otherwise they can pay for the flashdrive and do their own editing. I get my sitting fee and I get paid for the flash drive and don’t have the headache of processing. On to the next.

  9. junephoto at 10:52 pm

    This is an issue worth discussing but this post is a little confusing. My policy has become that the low resolution file of any purchased image (print or album or book) is available for additional charge. Prices depend on total amount spent – per file price goes down with higher purchase total.

  10. Jamie Klesmith at 7:05 am

    I agree that brides demand the disc, and have turned away many potential clients at my lack of willingness to compromise the point. I’ve since built into my wedding collections a low res disc with our middle collection and high res disc with our most expensive collection. This allows me to be compensated for the print sales I will certainly lose because of the disc, and allows me to say “yes” we offer a disc option. The brides that don’t have the budget for the disc option will also not have the budget for purchasing prints, and as such they are not my target market anyway. We are a full time studio, with seniors being our largest source of income, and I’ve not had a single senior client/parent ask for a disc of images. I include web res (we call them facebook files) images of every image that is ordered for print, and part of my workflow is having the senior friend us on facebook when the session is booked. This allows us to build excitement for their session in the newsfeed as well as tag them when we post their facebook images-a sneak peek of one or two of MY favorites with 24 hours of their session, and then the images that they order once their prints are delivered and paid in full. The social media is a HUGE driver for referrals and bookings, so I love that I can stay out in front of these students, their family and friends…it generates a huge amount of repeat business once that connection has been made….all because we share those digital files. Is a great thing for us.

  11. canvas prints at 7:40 am

    yes i found the post very interesting. i think all photographers should give all the photos taken to the customer in the package they have chosen for either on cd or usb stick. most people can then do as they will with them and go about there ways to show them off.

  12. Luis Martinez at 9:26 am

    well if we give them low or hi res file we should make them pay for it we as photographers have to just be smarter and always come out on top.

  13. Tim Huelin at 6:43 am

    I think all that the consumer is trying to do is to ‘show’ their pro photography – just like they always have done. They used to do this in photo albums and in their homes, but the difference now is that they can do it digitally in many different ways. Digital is not personable and so digital photography doesn’t fell like photography used to.
    What the consumer wants is the digital file but there isn’t anything all that exciting about getting a CD-ROM through the mail! So the key is to DELIVER the digital images to the client in an exciting way, so photography feels exciting again and the client gets the product they truly desire.
    Check out for what I think is a solution

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