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Should You Include Digital Files in Your Photography Packages

 digital images

Putting together your pricing and your packages has to be one of the hardest things to do when converting your hobby to a business.

When you start your photography business, you often balance making a profit with building a clientele. Many potential customers want great photos as well as digital images. Given the growing popularity of social media and file sharing it makes sense to want your files on the go.

But what is the best way to provide your customer with digital files?

 

Benefits of including digital files (CD/DVD) in your session fee.

  1. The customer wants it. Lets give it to them and they will be happy.
  2. There isn’t much cost involved. And it is easier than selling prints.
  3. The customer knows what to expect and is ready to share those images with family and friends.
  4. You don’t have to worry about ordering prints or up-selling to larger products they may or may not want.
  5. May save you time as there is no proofing session needed.
  6. Depending on your pricing you will be known as the all-inclusive guy. Prepare to get busy.

Benefits of selling the digital file separate than the session fee.

  1. You can focus on selling your products: books, prints, gallery wraps, cards, etc.
  2. By not including it in a package it creates value to the digital files. When an item is included it is perceived to have no value.
  3. You can choose to sell the digital files at a higher price to make a better profit as an add-on.
  4. You may be able to filter some of your inquiries who are looking only for an all-inclusive inexpensive solution.
  5. When you are ready to increase your prices you can choose to either increase your session fee or your packages or the price of the digital files.

 

Both options can work depending on your business model.

Some photographers opt to include the digital images and raise their session fees to where it makes sense for them financially and keeps them in business. They don’t have to worry about selling prints, or trying to do up-selling and if they are already super busy it allows them to focus on the next client.

Other photographers prefer to sell prints, and books, and gallery wraps in packages and make their profit that way. It takes a little more work, but the client leaves with professional products to display on their walls the way the photographer intended. Some of these clients may not end up buying the CD/DVD in favor of the beautiful products.

In either case the digital files should have value and be treated as a product.

Do you offer digital images?  If yes, what model do you prefer and why?

Tomas Haran is a Portrait and Wedding Photographer based out of Massachusetts. He enjoys photographing in natural light on location. You can find out more at his website or blog.

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26 Comments

  1. December 16, 2013 at 11:40 am — Reply

    I only offer digital files as an archive to a purchased print or product. So, my clients can get digital files, but they have to buy a print too. Example…a 5×7 print is $20 and the digital archive is an additional $20 and cannot be purchased without the print. This way…they get the digitals and I still get to show them the difference in my prints vs. prints they will get from shutterfly or snapfish. I just do not trust other labs to print my work the way it should be displayed…and my clients know this up front. I tell them that they deserved top-notch quality prints and products for their investment…and they do!!!!

    • December 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm — Reply

      Faye that is a great way to do it!

    • December 18, 2013 at 9:45 am — Reply

      That’s a great idea! I closed down my part-time Photography Business last year do to a HUGE ripple in our family and looking to get back to it again. Was thinking to just offer CDs or thumbdrives but this is a fantastic idea! I use to offer just CDs for printing up to 8×10 anything bigger had to come through me but I honestly love my prints and seeing “walmart” prints makes me sick to my stomach.

  2. December 16, 2013 at 12:26 pm — Reply

    I currently offer digital collections and print collections (with the option to add digital a la carte). I’ve found that I’m mostly selling digital though, so I’m considering restructuring to an “all-inclusive” model (with the option of print a la carte if someone inquires). This would be for my own ease, the simplicity of pricing, and cater to my clients’ preferences.

    I still don’t know if I’m ready for the leap yet.

  3. December 16, 2013 at 1:03 pm — Reply

    We live in a time where cheaper cameras are becoming cheaper and better for the normal user to snap a photo and share it online (iPhone anyone?) – I believe to be someone and create a trustworthy brand and a good brand among your competitions you need to start somewhere and if that means giving your digital files until you are a great entity then that’s what you have to do (after all this shouldn’t be a threat for others photographers). Here is what makes the difference, if you entirely give you DF away then you think you are not that good of a photographer – therefore you will never be making a profitable business. If you do start selling DF and then start adding Prints and what not I think that is fantastic because you know that it times hard work, experience, time and practice to become a great photographer and start building your business. I do however do not like the fact that you make time as a family to get your photography session done, drive to the place, get your family ready, skipped work early, spend time with the photographer and you pay them, but then you have to invest another couple of hundred on prints? and you get no DF at all. I’m sorry but that is such a scam and soon or later those photographers will not last long selling those prints at a higher cost. Either way this is an excellent topic!

    • December 16, 2013 at 6:56 pm — Reply

      Jonatan. That is a very interesting view point on the subject. But, about 15 yrs ago there were no DF, only film and prints. And photographers who worked hard made a living out of it. But now, in the digital age, there are photographers for everyone. Some only give out digital files, others only prints and many are in between. The consumer has many choices of who to hire and totally have that right. This article is geared towards the photographer who is looking to grow their business in the digital age and still be able to turn a profit to both stay in business and make a living of it. By including the DF in the package they are both limiting their sales potential and limiting the client’s options. This approach of course is not right for everyone.

  4. December 18, 2013 at 9:26 am — Reply

    I don’t sell digitals but do include them at certain purchase levels. So at $600 (pretax) they received only the ordered images in Facebook size (no print release). At $1000 pretax, they receive all of the images with a print release up to 11×14. That gives an incentive to purchase $1000, which most of my clients end up doing.

    http://www.estherdorotik.com

    • December 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm — Reply

      Esther that is a great approach and it sounds like you truly believe in it which is the most important thing. Good job!

  5. December 18, 2013 at 9:39 am — Reply

    What sizes do you use for digital images? I’m new to this so would LOVE any feedback or suggestions!!!

    • December 19, 2013 at 9:14 pm — Reply

      Hi Michelle.
      It really depends on if you want web friendly or full hi-res. For web friendly you can start at a resolution of 200ppi, and no larger than 1500 kb. For high res somewhere around 8000 kb and a resolution of 300ppi. These are just ball park of course. Hope that helps.

  6. December 18, 2013 at 11:21 am — Reply

    I offer web-sized (400x600pixel) digital images included in my session fee, but do not offer full-sized digital images at all. I have seen the difference in professional printing vs somewhere like walgreens and I do not want my studio name associated with bad prints. This way, I control the quality, and they can still share their images with their friends and family online.

  7. December 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    People do not go to a fine restaurant to be given the ingredients for their meal so they can cook it themselves. They pay for the full-service experience. I do not want to provide digital files to be printed at Wal-Mart and then advertised as mine or to be lost in cyberspace and out-dated media land. I am providing artwork that should be printed at top quality. There fore, all of my digital images come with reference prints so the client knows what a quality print looks like. Too many people have “nice cameras” and then are satisfied with awful prints. If someone is going to pay time and money to me, they will receive a quality product.

    • December 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm — Reply

      Great approach Christine by showing reference prints. Showing instead of telling can go a long way.

  8. December 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm — Reply

    I offer digital files only. I no longer get involved with selling prints as I found it was too time consuming. I also realized that people these days, in this tough economic climate, want value for money. Because I no longer have to factor time spent organizing printing into my price structure, I could reduce my prices and hey presto… I got more bookings.

    When I give my clients their USB of digital files, I include a huge disclaimer about printing cheap prints. I give them information about professional photo labs versus cheap, supermarket prints. If they still choose to print their photos at a cheap lab, and they turn out green… so be it. My blog and Facebook page speak for themselves so anyone wanting to book me can see that I offer beautiful, top quality work.

    So far this new way of doing business is really working for me and I’ll be putting up my prices next year. I firmly believe, now that I’ve tried it myself, that photographers who deal only in prints, or who hold their clients to ransom (buy $1,000 in prints before you can buy digital files) will slowly start to see their business model is no longer relevant in this day and age.

  9. December 18, 2013 at 11:13 pm — Reply

    The #1 reason is really the only reason I think we need. Because clients want them. Give the customer what they want. Price it how you need to, but offer them what they want. Period.

  10. December 19, 2013 at 1:13 am — Reply

    I live in Cape Town, South Africa. On the pet photography side, I find it is best to educate the client that their images are worth nothing unless printed. I supply a DVD with web sized images for social media use from their shoot, along with a slide show for their bragging purposes. Minimum prerequisite is at least one 40cm canvas print. If they are not planning to print their images, I suggest that my services is not going to suit their needs. In the film days, if the client went to a studio to have their photographs taken professionally, they would not receive the negatives. They would need to order their prints from the photographer. I don’t see why, in the digital world, things should change. I prefer to control the end product as it is a direct representation of my work. If I were to give the client the high res digital files, they could end up printing the images badly. I would never go to a high end bakery and say that I am a baker too, and would the chef please give me their recipe so I may bake my own bread with their recipe. It is all about control of the end product. Having ones photograph taken is only half of the product and half of the experience.

    • December 28, 2013 at 5:28 pm — Reply

      Lisa that is very well put and it shows that you truly value your experience, hard work and quality of your products. Expressing your worth and believing in it is huge.

  11. December 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm — Reply

    Hello,
    I have just recently started by part time photography business and I have only been offering digital files. I like the aspect of giving my clients prints as well but I am not sure where to start…a lot of you talk about “your prints” vs “retail store” prints. Do you guys print them at your studio on high end printers, or do you take them somewhere (not a retail store I am assuming …lol) to be printed? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • December 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm — Reply

      They don’t use WalMart or Walgreens-type stores where the only “training” the photo tech has is how to turn on the machine, pick up the prints, and place them in the envelope.
      Real photo labs individually check each and every photo for color correctness, proper cropping, etc. For my weddings, I use Adorama out of New York City, but there are others. Real photo labs offer a variety of paper stock which does make a difference.
      Walmart and such are fine for family vacation photos, but not real photography.

      • December 28, 2013 at 5:33 pm — Reply

        Brittany, there are several reputable printing companies available nationwide which offer high resolution printing, amazing paper options, and decades of reliability. These of course cost a little more but truly shine when you are looking to impress a client. I often suggest printing a 4×6 print from a retail chain and an 8×10 from a high end lab. These can make a great show and tell. Including a proper markup it is easy to use a trusted professional print lab and still make a profit.

  12. January 25, 2014 at 9:08 am — Reply

    I’m a photographer just starting out and I just wanted to say- this is probably the most valuable exchange I’ve read. What a great collaboration of ideas. I really like that everyone was so respectful of each other’s opinions, that has not been my experience on other sites, unfortunately. I too am torn between what my customers want versus the true value of my time and quality of work (which is still developing). I struggle with feeling as though i need to “make up” for my inexperience by throwing a bunch of digital files at customers but in reality I probably work harder than anyone to create a beautiful image due to my inexperience and shaky confidence. I love the idea of giving a digital file only with the purchase of a print. That is probably the direction I will go- I may not be making a “fundamental stand” against giving away digital files but it does make a point while still allowing customers to get what they want. Thanks all!

  13. March 31, 2014 at 11:21 am — Reply

    It is something that you can include in your package. Some photographer make it an option that their clients can choose from which seems to be a popular option. Most clients do want a digital copy of their photography session.

  14. April 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm — Reply

    This is a great subject. I really struggled with what to do when I began my business. I read a lot of advice on pricing and the location of your business. I live in a rather low-income small town. I had to go with a model that worked for my area. I think that’s really what the break down is here. What works best for where you live? I currently offer packages that include digital images PLUS prints. They sell the best. This way, they get the digital files, AND professional prints that show my work the way it SHOULD look. If they choose to head to walmart and print the pictures, then they see the difference in quality. You wouldn’t believe how many people contact me after I give them their items to order more prints 🙂 However, I know I am selling myself short of what I could be making because of my current location. Notice I said “current” and not “permanent” 🙂

  15. April 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm — Reply

    I am currently struggling with this right now, as I have just recently started my business. Faye, I think that is a fantastic idea to offer the digital file for sale only after purchasing a print. I too, am very particular about my printing and know that other printing companies won’t do my portraits justice. I worry that those who get digital files will print the pictures at Walgreens and not get to see the true beauty of my work.

  16. April 24, 2014 at 10:46 am — Reply

    I am a new photographer looking to turn my hobby into a business. I am interested in selling prints, web based digitals and print digitals (all for an extra a cost of course), but I wondering how to size the print digitals. Since RAW files are so large do you size every photo to standard photo sizes (4×6, 5×7 etc) which is very time consuming or do you give the client the large file and let them crop it on their own when they print?

    Any feedback on how to size images would be greatly appreciated!

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Should You Include Digital Files in Your Photography Packages