The Digital Negatives
Time for another controversial post.
I INCLUDE A DVD OF THE HIGH RESOLUTION FILES IN ALL OF MY PACKAGES.
Brides love me for this, but a lot of photographers don't. Of course, since I am primarily a wedding photographer, I am all about pleasing the brides. But I am also a "known figure" in the wedding photography community, so I want to make sure to explain my reasoning and perhaps try to justify why I do this. I intentionally posted this in the Wedding & Clients section and not the Photographers section because I am writing this to inform brides of the big picture (and hopefully some photographers will "get it" too).
Back in the olden days (like in the 1990's), most traditional photographers would charge a relatively small fee to photograph a wedding. They would do their best to shoot great photos that people would in turn want to purchase. After the wedding was over, they switched hats and became a salesman (or woman). Their livelihood was dependent on how many 8x10's and 5x7's they sold. They would sell frames at a huge markups and employ high pressure tactics to upsell the wedding albums. They needed you to pay for the physical prints, frames or albums in order to make a living. The wouldn't even consider giving the negatives away since the negatives were the means to reproduction. Most never let you keep the proofs and they would stamp the word "PROOF" really big right on the front of the print so if you did try to illegally copy it, every one would know.
I do things a bit differently. I charge a higher fee upfront for my time and talent and make my living by taking wonderful photographs in a relaxed, comfortable fashion. I also pride myself on providing excellent customer service while delivering our amazing albums. Now I don't want to sound like I am bragging, but that is simply our goal that we strive for with each and every client. As I've mentioned in the past, I am only a salesman once, during the initial meeting, and I don't rely on selling reprints online, or selling anything at all after the act to make a living. I am certainly not saying that we don't sell anything after the wedding, we just don't worry about having to make a sale. A lot of our clients are thrilled with the work we do, telling me "Becker, there are too many good pictures" and they choose to upgrade their albums, but we don't pressure them at all.
Most of our clients can see and appreciate the job we do in Photoshop (two posts down), and are willing to pay a premium for the quality that we deliver. The online proofing also serves as a way to friends and family members to order images without hassling the newlyweds to do so. Some of our clients or their relatives do not want to pay the premium and that's one of the reasons we include the "dvd o' files" once the album is done. I don't want to nickel and dime my clients over the little things like 4x6's and 5x7's. I rather a client pay me a fair wage for my art, my passion and my heart while taking the images, and be a cool guy by delivering the files as a part of our service, in effort to get tons of referrals from each couple because they liked me and I was fair. I am at least giving every couple the option.
The reason a lot of photographers don't like this, is because they feel if they are they type to never release or perhaps even sell the files, it makes them look bad and less attractive to brides. News flash... it does! The world is changing because of digital. In the past, if a photographer gave up the negatives, the photographer had no means to reproduce the images anymore. Now with digital, even when I give a DVD of images to a client, I still have a copy for myself. Brides know this. They aren't stupid. Most of my clients still order tons of images from our online shopping cart because they want top quality, they upgrade their albums and they still want a copy of the files if nothing else... just to have them.
Note to Photographers: I don't want to tell you how to run your business, but I do want to remind you that the world is changing and you need to learn to adapt your business and give the brides what they want if you plan on making it. Always think win-win. Your clients win because they get what they want (the files) and you win because you have happy clients referring you to their friends (and if you do things right, you'll still get plenty of reprint orders because brides don't have time to make reprints for their friends and families just to save a few bucks).
And one more point for the brides to understand. Not all photographers keep control over the files because of the money issue. They aren't withholding the files from you because they want to make a fortune selling reprints. A good number of them don't want to give away the files because they are afraid that if you just take the images to Costco or Sam's Club, and they don't do a good job printing the files, it makes them look bad. I completely get this. I can't tell you how many times I've showed up at a wedding, and they bride's dad took a screen capture of one of my photos, enlarged it to a 5x7 on his computer, and printed it out on an inkjet printer so it looks all pixelated and crappy. It makes me so mad! Not because I am out the $25 bucks, but because all the guest that see the photo think I am a schmuck and don't know what I am doing. When we finally deliver the dvd of images (straight out of the camera, un-retouched, full resolution files) after the couple's album is complete, we warn them about going to a cheap labs and explain that the photos will most likely never look as good as if we put our TLC into the shot and have it printed at our professional lab. The bottom line is I like being fair and flexible and I like giving my clients the option, and I think that makes my services very attractive because they have a lot of value.
That's just my 50 cent!
By the way, it took about 11 months to get 100,000 visitors to my blog, it has just taken about 4 months to get to 200,000. Thanks again to everyone who visits and takes an interest in my life. I hope you find my blog educational, inspirational, entertaining or at least half way interesting. I enjoy doing it and I have a lot more on my mind that I will be sharing soon!
Posted: Mon - October 23, 2006 at 11:17 AM