- 2013 Photographer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Photography
- Best Business Practices for Photographers
- The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan: Build a Successful Photography Venture from the Ground Up
- Group Portrait Photography Handbook
- The Best of Family Portrait Photography: Professional Techniques and Images
- 500 Poses for Photographing Group Portraits
- Selling Your Photography: How to Make Money in New and Traditional Markets
- Starting Your Career as a Freelance Photographer
- Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
- Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
- Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
If you are making a living from photography, chances are some of your clients have requested all the photos from a shoot or an event, depending on the case. It is a common occurrence that I believe is due largely to a misunderstanding that people have in our work. Some photographers give in and offer all the photographs, the ones straight out of the camera, unedited. Let me assure you, this is a mistake and I will later explain why. Others refuse to do so directly, or try to steer the discussion in that direction often leaving their clients frustrated and confused. Here is why you should never give away raw files and how to explain it to your clients without harming your relationship with them.
The client has no real need for the raw files
Many people ask for the unedited files because they somehow feel they are entitled to them. Others do so out of a lack of trust in what the finished product will look like. You will often hear someone say you should give them the raw files just in case, because you might overlook a good photo and they also have a cousin who is good with Photoshop. Let’s look at it this way: if you go to a carpenter to have some furniture made, would you ask for the cut out wooden blanks? Or if you were to commission an artist for a painting, would you ask him for the drafts? Probably not, because you have no real need for them. You’re interested is in the finished product and that is what you are paying for. The same goes with the people that come to you for your services.
How to explain your working process to a client
The truth as, we all know, is that from a photo shoot or a wedding, the bulk of the work isn’t top notch. We often have to take a considerable number of photographs to produce those ten, fifty or one hundred images that our clients pay for. It is our job to go through all of them and pick only those that look the most flattering, or meet the client’s full demands. When you explain it to a client, you have to point out that it has taken you years of training and experience to develop the ability to select only your best work. There is nothing to be gained by your customer if you were to provide them with the unedited work. Nobody really wants to see themself in unflattering positions, and the shots that are left behind are dealt with in this manner for a reason. You might come across clients who will try to reassure you that they have no problem with less desirable poses, or flaws in lighting or technique. It is rarely the case and it is a gamble you have no benefit from as a professional. This is particularly true when the photographs are from an important event, such as a wedding or a baptism. People rarely want to see photos of them crying or to be reminded of the less interesting moments of the event. It is therefore your mission to bring peace of mind by explaining that it is part of your duty to present only those images that bring satisfaction and that you spare no time in the selection process.
The editing is part of why you are hired
Your work is never complete without proper editing. It is part of what you are hired for and is equally important as your skills with the camera. There is nothing to be gained from presenting the unfinished product. Your clients pay you for the “magic” and that is what builds your reputation. Nobody has real interest in seeing what goes on behind it, but they might be concerned that you will miss something. Assure them that it is in your full interest to go through all the images many times, precisely to be sure that nothing worthy is being left out. It is part of the reason why the delivery often takes a few weeks.
As a final recommendation, if you are wedding photographer, I strongly advise you to include a printed album in all your packages. There are many photographers who only deliver the finished images on an optical medium. Your work should be delivered in physical form for many reasons, but for one, you will be doing it justice. No matter the amount of money spent, your client will have the feeling that they indeed have paid for something that is touchable and exists in the real world. Delivering a book is also the best way to present your images visually and it will considerably reduce the chances of a client asking for the raw images on a DVD.
If the customer is a company or an ad agency, make sure your contract clearly states the exact number of photos you have to provide. Even so, there will be companies that will try their luck and ask you for all the files in exchange for the promise of future work. Don’t give in as it might make you look unprofessional or easy to manipulate.
Image credit: maigi / 123RF Stock Photo