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Q&A: Offering Digital Files

Here’s a popular one! It’s a great debate and everyone has their opinions…To burn or not to burn. When making decisions for my business I always ask myself, “well, what would I want?” and I would want the digital files! But I also understand the value that they carry so I only part with them at a premium price.  Here are a few thoughts of my own to answer your Q’s about Digital Files. 

How do you typically format a disc of digital files for the client? 4×6, 5×7, AND 8×10, etc? Then there’s the fact that canvases usually work best at 100 dpi. How do you take all of that into account? That in and of itself is a day’s worth of work!

No way!! They get the FULL RESOLUTION images. I do very little cropping and if I do feel the need to crop I do not crop using dimension. I think doing all of that stuff is a waste of time. It devalues the product, is not customer centered, and is time spent, which equals profit lost. Have you ever gotten ice cream and watched the person put some back and make sure they get the scoop size exactly right – no generosity offered. Ever excited to leave a tip for that guy? Me either! If you’re going to sell digital files, just make up your mind to price them so that you’re comfortable handing them over, full-res and all, and call it good.

How much do you charge for a CD? Or just one image? Do your clients usually buy a CD or just prints?

The disc a la carte is $1500. I know that some think that’s outrageous while others would consider that on the low end, but I’m good with it. It breaks down to about $50 per image. When clients hear that, it helps them understand that it is priced appropriately! I do not advertise that I sell individual negatives until during the ordering appointment and only at my discretion or my sales gal’s discretion…  Most clients purchase a collection that includes the Digital Negatives anyway.

Do you make clients choose a certain number of images for their CD? How about with your mini sessions? Why/why not?

To me, the whole point of offering digital negatives is that they love them all and want them all. A regular session is about 25 images and a petite session is 8 to 10. In both cases, they would get them all. Plus, picking out the ones they wanted would create extra work. I want to always keep things as simple and fast as possible. Our time is out money!

For watermarked images that clients can use on-line, do you include those on the same cd with the other images? Do you resize them for web view?

I do include them. If they purchase digital negatives… Within the file, they will find all of the high resolution final images, along with a small folder of the web images they saw on the blog post and last the copyright release.


If you have more questions or would like clarity, leave a comment that way everyone can benefit from the conversation.

If you’re ready to understand pricing for good, know how to truly wow your clients

and never have them questioning what you charge again… Check out THRIVE!



  1. Alison says:

    Thanks for sharing this!! I raised my digital price this year signficiantly because I did the math and realized I was giving them away! People are a bit shocked when they hear $1000, but when I break down the number of images they are getting and my individual file price, they start to see it. I also started offering collections this year and each collection includes a particular number of digital files- 1, 5, 10, and then my top package has the files included. It feels like a good middle ground with my clients who may not be able to afford the full price but would still love to have some of their images! Now I am facing what I do for my wedding clients…. obviously those images will cost more as there are more of them but I don’t want to put htem out of reach completely!
    I couldn’t help but notice you used the term copyright release- do you issue a copyright release or a print release? I know that is another hotly debated topic as well, I was just curious what your approach is!

    • You’re welcome, and congrats on raising prices! I use the term copy right and I had no idea it was a hot-topic. Maybe I should get out more. 😉

      My clients have zero question where I stand… It’s to take care of them and give them an amazing experience but I’m a-ok with also clarifying that I do own the copyright. Copyright vs Print Release to me is like tomato / tom-ooo-to. Go with what you like. In my own mind (and this is just according to me), It’s not a print release it’s a copyright release. If you go to the local print shop, they ask if you are authorized to print and own copyright to the images. …Still truly, I don’t think THAT makes much of a difference in the grand scheme of a business.

  2. Heather says:

    Can you explain the reasoning between canvases at 100dpi? I have never heard of that and have printed my canvases at full resolution with gorgeous results; given the right company of course.

    • Hey Heather… You’d have to call and ask the “Canvas Co. Print Guru” to get a really good technical answer but according to Simply Canvas, they want you to prepare the files at 100dpi. because the lower resolution creates better quality in the finished product.

  3. Amy Pinney says:

    I watched Sue Bryce a week or two ago on creativeLIVE, and she explained how she gives her clients the digitals of every image they purchase–completely eliminating the need to sell discs and whatnot, making money from those images, and making sure the client has a quality print of the image in their hand (deters them from making crappy copies!). I thought that was genius…I totally plan to work that idea into my business model. Still working out the kinks to make sure I don’t lose money on it, but it seems pretty genius to me!

    • Sue is amazing… And I LOVE the simplicity she uses in her pricing. My pricing philosophy and structure is very simple as well. Just remember that she offers to a different clientele and in a different niche from you. 🙂

  4. Alison says:

    Couldn’t agree more Leah, It just keeps popping up over and over again (and in a heated context most of the time!) on some message boards I am a part of! It kind of baffled me, I chose to term it print release, but hey, whatever works, as you said on FB much better things to spend my limited time and resources on!! 🙂 Thanks for all that you do!

    • Allison, will you help me out? I totally feel like I’m missing something… Why is it heated? Obviously there is a concern but what is it?

      • Alison says:

        From what I observe, there are those who view a “copyright release” as giving everything away, all control of the image, and the right to state how it is used and/or presented. I guess for lack of a better analogy (I am a bit tired!) they view it simular to the title of your car- if you sign it and give it to another person, you no longer have any claim to that car what-so-ever.

        I want to hope that it is of concern for helping others thrive and prosper, but I don’t know that that is the case. Sadly, I see it stated (both blatantly and between the lines) time and time again that someone giving a “copyright release” is somehow less knowledgable, not a pro, not as good. It sometimes goes hand in hand with the argument over digital images and selling them or being “shoot and burn” photographer. I have been saddened and suprised by how adament people can get about the topic when there is so so so much more to spend time and energy on!

        It just happened to strike me as I read your post…

        • Oh ok. Well that makes a little more sense, still a tomato vs tomotoe thing but I’m getting it more. So then i should clarify that mine does say limited copyright release in the text… I still own the copyright and would never release that. But let’s be real… If they have the file they “can” do whatever they want with it. Despite what we ask them to and not to do. Thanks for helping me understand… I knew I was missing something. 🙂

  5. elizabeth says:

    good stuff.. I have been trying to figure out that magic number as well.. not to scare ppl off, but also to allow me to give over my ‘work’ and potentially miss out on profit from prints.. I have learned that more than not, when clients purchase my full CD of images, they are not actually printing more than 5-6 of the images.. the like the idea of ‘having them all’.. and in a digital world, they like to have them to put on facebook,etc.
    I do worry about the quality though and feel like what they print is a reflection of my work and the ‘average’ person that would see their images displayed in their home wouldn’t understand that it is the printing quality and could make judgements on my work based off of wonky color from store labs.. what does your limited print relase show? where are your preferred labs for clients?

  6. elizabeth says:

    oh, and those abulms are are gorgeous.. I recognize your signature back design.. do you have templates for that and what lab do you print the albums (or is it a press book/) thanks!

  7. Nakesha says:

    I am not super knowledgeable in this but I do believe if say a magazine wanted to print your image and you gave away the copyright release then you are not authorized to let it be printed. For that reason alone I always use the term “print release” because that’s what they are getting, the digital files to print, not to submit for publication or whatnot. I also don’t use the term digital negative because with film, if you gave away the negatives than you have nothing left, so I either say digital files or print release!

    Also, what you said about if they just wanted the CD alone than that would be a higher price, however it does come in the highest package. I think that’s a great idea! I am trying to restructure my pricing right now and that was a good eye opener for me. So glad to always read your blog, so much useful information!

    • Good points Nakesha! The most important thing is to educate. My clients have limited copyright and they understand what that means. For me they are called digital negatives, I wouldn’t change that because that is what they are to me (it’s explained in great detail in Thrive) but it’s also important to mention that I don’t ever sell disks with a ‘go DIY it yourself’ mentality and my clients know that. 🙂 Last it’s important that it’s made clear what the files can and can not be used for. There is info given with each purchase, inside the disk itself and in print stating very clearly what they can and can’t do… Magazine, no! Aunt Mildred wants a print, yes! 😉

      As long as WE understand the value and can communicate that is an upbeat and positive way to our clients, DN can be a great thing!!! 🙂

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