Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Image files--to share or not to share

Ah, to sell or not to sell, that is the question.  When it comes to selling digital files of the images created it becomes quite a dilemma for many photographers.  There are probably as many schools of thought on this as there are professional photographers.  

As the photographic industry has transitioned from film to digital capture the consumer has become much more astute to the process involved in creating the final images sold to them.  Here a couple of suggestions to help photographers deal with this often times misunderstood process.

First, let’s consider the business side of this decision.  The fundamental question is the photographer’s profitability.  In other words what does the photographer need to make from each session to maintain the profit level they need to stay in business?

Understanding and knowing where the sales average needs to be on each job and pricing appropriately to achieve that average will assure you are profitable.  So now the question becomes how to make the image files available to our client once we have met our threshold of profitability.  Once it is met it probably begins to make sense, from a pure business perspective, to allow the client to purchase the image files. 

With this in mind, once the client has reached a certain investment level with the studio it may be alright to sell them the image files for an additional fee.  Creating additional incentives, bonuses and minimum order requirements are all ways to get the client to the purchase level the photographers needs them to be.

The photographer can also consider allowing the client to purchase reprints from them at a much reduced price once the minimum order requirement is met.  This way they are still on control of the quality of prints which are being made.

The client may decide it is simply easier and better for the photographer to maintain the files and get additional prints from them if and when the need arises.

Secondly, and more fundamental to most photographers is the idea of giving up control of their image files.  Losing creative control can be frightening and the products created outside of that control can put sub-par images on the street. 

This should be a decision made by each photographer as a reflection to their desire to maintain creative control and the overall mission and vision for their business.  Also, if the photographer wants to keep the image file it will require a system of file management, backup and storage.

Either way, consider only offering the image files which the client placed orders.  If they did not like an image well enough to purchase an image originally why would they want the image file?

In summary, set your prices and create a structure which assures your profitability.  Consider the pros and cons as they apply to your business and your desired ongoing relationship with the client and finally how you want to be perceived in your market area.

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