One of the greatest dilemmas facing digital wedding photographers has to do with whether to give or not to give the digital files as part of the wedding package to the couple.
The Case for Not Giving the Digital Files
1. Some photographers argue that giving the digital files is equivalent to giving up their business profit and forfeiting any future sales.
2. Quality control can be an issue. The photographer has not control over who will print the files and the quality of the printing.
3. It is almost impossible to individually edit hundreds of files and if we give them to the client they will be shown to potential clients and future sales will be in jeopardy.
4. There is not control on the editing that the given files will go through. The person doing the editing is not likely to be qualified and the photographer’s reputation is on the line.
5. The possibility exists that the digital files could be misused to promote another business or end up in the hands of the competition.
6. Several photographers believe that the ultimate and finest representation of their artistic work is a finished high quality album. Giving the client digital files without an album is providing them a big disservice and also the photographer’s potential clients won’t have the opportunity to see the best of their work.
The Case for Giving the Digital Files
1. Giving the digital files provides the digital wedding photographer with an additional backup of the files in the event of a disaster.
2. The goal of every business is to make profit. Giving the digital files should be accompanied by a package price increase to compensate for any potential future sales.
3. Quality control can be accomplished in two ways. After the wedding the digital files can go though a selection process along with basic editing and color and density correction. The photographer then provides the customer with a list of high-quality photo labs that can produce professional grade prints. In addition, a disclaimer should be included along with the digital files that they should not be considered a finished custom product.
4. An agreement can be signed between client and photographer that the digital files are to be used for personal non-commercial use. Releasing the files to third parties could lead to legal action.
5. Giving the digital files does not mean that you automatically forfeit any future sales. It is wise to include a few samples of custom finished prints to show the client how the prints would look when you add your professional touch.
6. Including a web gallery with all the wedding packages increases the likelihood that the couple or relatives will buy additional prints. With the fast pace of our daily lives the typical couple simply doesn’t have the time to be making prints for friends and relatives.
7. Giving the digital files should not hurt albums sales. The clients most likely don’t have the expertise or the time to produce an artistic album. In addition, the album industry, with a few exceptions, deals only with established professional studios.
8. Ethics in our society have “evolved”. Scanners are everywhere and some people will not hesitate to make scans of the proofs instead of buying from you.
Undoubtedly the wedding photography business model has evolved in the last years. Photographers have to evolve and at the same time be profitable. Studios trying to compete and stay profitable should seriously consider including the digital files as part of their wedding packages.
Some studios include the digital files only if the client also purchases an album. Other release the digital files after a couple of years.
Whatever business model the studio follows it must seek to stay profitable and to serve their clients their best.
Juan Carlos Torres
Oregon Wedding Photographer
I love your wedding photos! You have great use of color and B&W and selective focus. I?m impressed that you go for the peak moment. I am a retired portrait and wedding photographer. I have sold all my equipment (Bronicas) and am using a prosumer K/M A200 8MB camera.
Thanks for a well-written explanation of the pros and cons of giving digital negatives. Once, a friend showed me an ?album? she?d made herself with her digital files, printing them out on a consumer grade printer. I knew the photographer she used would have been shocked by how the prints looked. One of the reasons we?re pros is that we can make sure our prints are profiled to our pro labs? settings, and we provide that assurance of quality for our clients? final product. Why spend the money on a photographer, if you?re going to take your images to a one-hour lab or worse, your home inkjet?
Love your work, by the way!
Thanks for your kind words. It is sad that potentially great wedding photography work is being judged based on cheaply made prints from bad labs and inkjet printers. I like the idea of recommending specific high quality photo labs for reprints to my clients. However there is no substitute for custom color corrected and professionally retouched prints printed professionally.