Digital Images - For Sale?

Camera Equipment and Lenses

Selling digital files of your portrait photography is a practice that photographers either love or hate. We asked long time client and good friend of One Vision imaging Bob Caddick of ‘Bob Caddick Photography’ to tell us how he feels about selling digital files. Bob recently won the ‘National Children’s Portrait Photographer of the Year’ title for 2018 so we think he knows what he is talking about…

"Do you sell your files? Or “include” them with your top priced packages? I have to ask why do we photographers do this? What benefit do we get…? 

OK, I know it’s one of those things that “everybody” does now. Just look at most professional photographer’s web sites and you will find something like…”all of the files from your shoot for £x”, or sometimes “with every framed print you get a free digital file included”
Again …I ask why? 

An admission: I used to do this but certainly don’t anymore. I’m old enough to have sold prints to newspapers and private customers that started out as negatives in my dark room. There was no way that I would have let those negatives go…and more importantly no one ever asked or expected to get them! They were future income for as long as the customers or newspapers wanted them

So why do we do it now? This is addressed to photographers and studios that make their living solely from photography. The ones that have invested thousands of pounds in equipment and marketing, rents and insurances etc. The cost of doing business has never been higher with business rates, materials and energy rises annually - yet, still we think that by giving away assets we will grow the profits of our businesses! 

I know that many photographers charge for files….£50/£75 each in some cases. Great we think, that’s £50 or more without any cost of printing and framing…pure profit….! Well of course, there is rarely anything that is pure profit, but look at it this way: Your customer has now got the means to reproduce unlimited copies of your work for family members and friends, so instead of you selling perhaps 3 more prints at £35 each, you’ve lost £55 in additional sales.

There’s also the question of your reputation and brand to consider. When I sell a framed product I know that it has been made to high production standards and quality guaranteed. I know that the frame is sealed and the glazing is optically clear. I put my name on all of my products because I’m proud of them and want my customers to be even more proud of hanging them at home. Now consider this scenario …your beautiful photograph, that you possibly spent hours working on, may be printed on a high street mini lab in a shopping centre. It could then be framed inside a mass produced frame with the cheapest possible float glass behind a mount that will yellow in 6 months. This is not hypothetical I’ve seen it done to my own photographs in the past - hell, I’ve even bought some of those cheap frames and done it myself “to save costs”. So now instead of your customer’s friends going “wow!” when they see the family photo on the wall they will be distinctly under impressed…and bang goes an opportunity for them to ask…”who did your photograph?” 

Since I stopped offering files and concentrating on first selling a high quality framed product, before even discussing extra unframed prints, I have seen my sales and crucially, profits, rise dramatically

It takes a little courage to say “no” to a customer, I understand, but if you can explain the reasons why you need to retain control over the quality of you products, most reasonable people will understand - and if they’re not reasonable, you don’t want them as a customer …right? You want to build long term relationships with the families and pet owners that come through your business portals…for that is the way to grow your business profits 

A final reason for not releasing files…and it happened to me this week! Like most pro studios we run promotional offers…loss leaders in quiet periods, if you like. I had a customer who came in for her free shoot and bought the minimum £35 print several months ago. She messaged me today asking would I mind sending a file of her print to her mum (in another country) so she could “get a large canvas printed over there for the wall”.  Not even a mention of payment, because we have allowed the public to think that our files should be “free” in the same way that music downloads were “free” before regulation and sanity kicked in to the music business. Imagine if I had even sold the file to the person overseas…how many other family members would also want a nice canvas on the wall….hundreds of pounds of potential sales disappear and I would have no control over my product !

Just a final, final thought: If you get a plumber in to fit a new tap, would you dream of asking him to come a fit a new washer every time it started to drip….just compare a plumber’s income to a photographer’s and you will know the answer!"

Make sure you check out the work of this award winning photographer! Click the link to find out more

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Published By Sharon Lyttle


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