BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
Pat Harry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/26/2006

Portrait Photography

Do any of you portrait photographers not offer your images for sell on a CD? Or in this day and age of digital photography, is it expected that the images be available on CD? Could you share your approach?

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12/7/2011 9:10:25 AM

Lynn R. Powers   I am not in the portrait business, but when I did a lot of portraits, the customer did not get the negatives. When you give them a CD, what you are doing is giving them the negatives. As a portrait photographer, you should have a contract made up as to how the photograph can be used. If you make a CD, are you going to have all of the so-so shots on it too? I have seen your work and you don't have many so-so photos. :=) Now if the customer wants to purchase "All Rights," they are going to pay dearly for the privilege.

My prints have my initials in a bottom corner and on the back, my signature and date, as well as a "Do not Copy" stamp on it.

If I do make a CD, the photos would be at the lowest resolution, 72ppi, and small so they could only make 4x6 photos. Also my copyright would be on the photos and I would only include what I considered to be decent photos. The customer may "love" all of them, but I wouldn't want someone who knows photography to see my throw-aways on Facebook.

Some photographers do make CDs of all the photos taken for an additional $50-$150. They don't want to be bothered for re-making prints. Different strokes for different folks.

I feel a good contract with different options that give the subject more freedom of use is the best way to handle the situation. I would also have a clause that, as the photographer, I may use the photo in my gallery or portfolio but not to be sold for other purposes.

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12/8/2011 1:23:16 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
  Hi Pat,
I offer prints and provide a CD of JPEGs but do not give them the Raw files or all the throw-away shots. My last senior had a tough time smiling without scrunching her forehead and I didn't include any of these shots on the site or the CD. I had to distract her to get her relaxed :)

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12/8/2011 6:29:32 PM

Pat Harry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/26/2006
  Thanks Lynn (without an "e" this time!), and Carlton. I don't want to sell my digital "negatives", but wondered if I'd be going against the norm. I don't mind the low res images for Facebook and email, but that's all I want to do for now -- unless I change my pricing structure so that I don't rely on prints for my income from a shoot. And as far as low resolution, I'd only offer the ones that I also offer for print - no rejects!

I think my next step should probably be a class on the business side of photography. I've owned and operated my own business before, but it was product - so my issues were quite different.

Thanks again - I appreciate your input and help.

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12/9/2011 9:22:39 AM

Lynn R. Powers   Hi Pat,

I went to the "Search" section and found a book that will help. "Business and Legal Forms for Photographers" by Crawford. Since you are selling a product and providing a service I feel a contract is very important in order to protect you, the client, and your photos. Also I recommend that you copy all photos on a CD that you take for others or ones that you want to sell and officially copywrite them. It will only cost about $35 (may have gone up) for the whole disk. If someone uses the photo illegally you will have the proof of copywrite. Technically the Exif data is enough for up to one year after the photo is taken but sometimes is not enough in some courts of law.

I took a quick partial scan of your gallery. I would like to suggest that when taking photos outside for your customers that you use a fill flash routinely. You will find the results much better than without the flash.

Good idea about taking the course on the business side of photography.

Good Luck,


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12/9/2011 10:22:23 AM

Karen Poelmann
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/8/2006
  Hi Pat,
We are in the same course with Vic at the moment!

I live in Holland but I do not give negative files.

If they order a print the can get the file for their facebook or email of that print.
Above an order of 500 euro's they will get it for free (BUT with companyname in the right hand corner) and below the 500 euro they have to pay me a fee of 5 euro per picture (also with my name on the file). It is always low res (72dpi) and like you said, only if they ordered a print of it.

But, I am always struggeling with this too! And do not know if I am on the right track.

I work with a contract since a year in which this is all stated!

Good luck,
best regards,
Karen Poelmann

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12/13/2011 4:45:45 AM

Bruce A. Dart   As a professional portrait photographer for the past 30 years, I can tell you that this is a subject of much discussion that is argued both ways and the "jury is still out" on this one. The "old school" still maintains, and with some validity, that if you sell your negatives (or now a CD) that you are shooting yourself in the foot, so to speak, in regard to sales. Your sales will be lower as they can get all the images, theoretically at a lower price. The newer school says sell what you can and make the price of the CD high enough to have a profit. When in business, the bottom line is that you have to get paid to stay in business. That is your paycheck and if you start giving things away, pretty soon you won't have enough money to pay the bills. Charge enough for the CD to get paid, and all you are really giving away is any reorder. Historically, once the customer places an order, additional orders are rare but they do occur once in a while. Only you can make a decision that's best for you. Both are being done and some folks spend more time worrying about the potential "lost sales" than the time is worth.

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12/13/2011 5:49:46 AM

Cory Labrie   I provide a CD of the digital "keepers" at 800x600 pixels with my logo on it. That is the resolution of most digital picture frames and is a good size to upload on Facebook or email. If they want prints (even 4x6), they generally come back to me. So far, this is the best of both worlds for both parties!

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12/13/2011 6:32:22 AM

Bruce A. Dart   Marketing for the needs of e-mail and Facebook is a whole 'nother concept, and a good one. Low resolution images for the internet is vastly different than a cd of hi- res images. Sometimes when customers ask for images on a cd this is all they are looking for.... other times, they want it all and will take what we give them. We, as professionals, need to serve our customers or clients at price that is fair to both parties!

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12/13/2011 11:40:01 AM

Vik Orenstein   hi, pat and karen and friends! this is a GREAT thread! I would never recommend selling anything for any price on disk that is not up to your personal standards. so no "out takes" or throw aways, or so-so images. not even at 72dpi!

back when I shot film, no one ever bought an entire take (which for me was on average 36 or 72 images) and I don't think anyone needs the entire take now just because we shoot with digital capture.

i resisted selling efiles until just this year, when the pressure from clients seemed insurmountable. now I give away the efile with every wall portrait the client orders, or they can purchase efiles with 4x6 or 5x7 prints for diminishing cost the more images they order. ($200 for one image, $350 for 2 images, $400 for 4 images, up to $750 for 20 images, which is a really great deal, and most people go for this "package" in addition to gallery wrap, hand-colored or art paper wall portraits of 11x14 and larger.

i agree with bruce that resales are a very small part of most portrait businesses, so as long as we get paid once for an image, we are covered.

i have also realized that in this new age of digital capture, most clients perceive more value in an image that they can reproduce and share online at will, than in one wall portrait.

the 72dpi issue is one that I tend to struggle with, because I don't like to let images out of the studio that are unretouched. seniors really want 72dpi files for sharing on facebook, etc, but they are the ones who generally need blemish retouching. as far as my labor goes, it takes almost the same amount of time to retouch an image regardless of whether it's going to be "just" shared online or printed as a wall portrait. I have been offering 72dpi files, retouched, to seniors for $25 each this year. I am looking at changing that for next year.

in this era of digital capture I have started to view my fee structure not portrait by portrait, but client by client. I know I need to make x number of dollars per client, and I can rework my fee structure numerous different ways so that I make that amount while giving them exactly what they want and a little bit more.

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12/19/2011 12:34:40 PM

Pat Harry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/26/2006
  So Vik and others - do you find that clients will purchase the digital image and a print? I would assume once they purchase the digital image, they would get them printed elsewhere, if at all.

Also, when you sell one image, is that one crop? What do you do about a vignette which isn't going to look right if they crop the image differently?

So many questions!!

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12/19/2011 1:11:57 PM

Bruce A. Dart   Here we go again! LOl Years ago I made a marketing decision, for weddings, to ONLY let the work go out of the studio if I provided the album. I had numerous folks say they were given an album and would I consider a lesser price without an album. NO, and I wouldn't do the wedding if the results were not in my album! Not just an ego thing, or sales entirely, but marketing. If someone took my good work and put it in a cheap would look cheap. And then they show it off as my best work, and the person to whom it is shown doesn't know they put it in a cheap album and not one of mine. Consequently, nothing went out unless I was sure it looked first class. To me, selling images on a CD has a short term profit but a potential for long term damage if they do a lousy job of printing, framing or any other way of showing off my work and perhaps with good intentions, telling everyone that I did the work. I don't want that to happen! This is one area that I DO have control and I don't want to give that up. What you do you have to decide. This is what works for me.

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12/19/2011 6:12:25 PM

Vik Orenstein   hi bruce and pat! bruce --i used to have the same rule (never sold negatives or original files to preserve my artistic integrity) but last year started selling efiles due to pressure from clients. I recommended they use a quality local lab or mpix. I told them NEVER to use costco, target, or walgreens. so I thought I was ok, BUT --2 days ago I saw some 8x10 enlargements that a client had printed at target on their "prints in seconds" machine, and they looked just HIDEOUS!!! so now i'm reassessing. it is difficult when you have clients who can't tell a good quality print for a terrible quality print! I try to educate them, but I guess I have to try harder.

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12/30/2011 1:51:57 PM

Bruce A. Dart   Vik and Pat,
That is EXACTLY what will happen, no matter how much one tries to educate their clients. Some folks don't see the difference and other don't care. "It is good enough for the price!" People want what they can't have and the perceived value goes up when they can't obtain it cheaply. I routinely supply a CD for commercial venues.... local banks and hospitals for their PR and as part of an annual contract for our local university for their use....but, generally, it is rare when I supply them to other customers. One analogy compares to advice from a mentor given years ago... do NOT put 4-4x5's (now 4x6)as an option in packages. That gives them an "easy out," so to speak, and lets them purchase four cheaper gifts when they would have, could have, and should have purchased a larger size for a bigger sale. Experience has shown that sales will be bigger if they cannot get it all for a cheap price, including CD's. That said, it is getting harder to maintain that policy (and you do have to have studio policies, it puts the onus on a "third party" rather than you as an individual) in this totally electronic age.

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12/31/2011 6:35:32 AM

Kerby Pfrangle
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/19/2005
Contact Kerby
Kerby's Gallery

Hi Pat,

Barry Druxman is one the best portrait photographers ever and he offers digital and print in some of his work.

Check him out.

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12/31/2011 9:56:41 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  But when you have somebody providing a budget behind you that pays for an actual working, professional model, make-up people, etc... you can sell a print and file for $20.

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12/31/2011 11:02:17 AM

Bruce A. Dart   These are indeed a case in point...there is always a good photographer who will sell their work on a cd and others, who perhaps have someone else helping to foot the bills, who will sell things cheaply. I stand by my earlier assumption, WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO EARN A LIVING WITH PHOTOGRAPHY, I STILL MAINTAIN THAT YOU TEND TO SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT AND KILL POTENTIAL SALES BY SELLING IMAGES ON A CD. Yes, you have a sale where sometimes you may not have but more often than not the sales are LESS than if you did not sell the CD. One of my friends had a saying, "People will always let you work for free!" Meaning, if you are not making money on the sale, they don't care as long as they got a bargain!! You have to choose what works for you. I'm just trying to show both sides.

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12/31/2011 7:11:25 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  I know. I was responding to the Barry Druxman example in particular.

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12/31/2011 7:36:20 PM

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