Surely you’ve noticed an increase in the number of photographers giving away digital files. As a customer, should you expect them to be for sale? Why don’t all photographers include them in the session fee for free, or at least make them affordable? Don’t the files belong to you anyway?
Federal copyright law is very clear about image ownership. They belong to your photographer, who has the sole right to print, display, and sell them. You should expect the price of files, if available, to compensate your photographer for her work and talent. Baby photographers don’t always sell a large package up front like wedding photographers. Instead, most charge a session fee that just covers some costs of providing the shoot. We rely on print sales as our sole source of income. The digital images are the key to those print sales. This is good for you. It means I have to do a good job for you, or I won’t get paid.
While many baby photographers do offer the files for sale, many custom photographers don’t. It’s a matter of quality control from start to finish. They realize cutting corners on that is a disservice to their clients.
Almost all of the file inquiries I get stem from an attempt to get my work for cheap…to get my vision, but to skip out on buying prints from me. Or from a misconception that digital is cheaper to produce than film. It’s not. The equipment is much more expensive, replacements are necessary more often, and the workflow, maintenance, troubleshooting, and constant education requirements make digital much more expensive.
Even at that, the real value of digital files comes not from the cost, but what the files contain: the work and artistry that prompted you to choose that photographer. If you purchase files, expect to pay a price that values the work, and is sustainable for the photographer. You want her to still be in business when your new baby starts sitting up. Or walking. Or when your family grows.
If you’re just looking for average portraits, you don’t care about prints or a long-term photographer, cheap photography is available in abundance on places like Craigslist and all the mommy boards. You can have a session and all the files for cheap. But for good baby photography, the important things to look for are artistry, print quality, experience with babies, safety, and service. Not the availability or price of digital files.
Copyright ©2010 Lauri Baker, printed with permission.