IN MY OPINION
Establishing prices and a policy for selling files is a tough nut to crack. And it must be fluid as the digital landscape evolves. In the past I’ve discussed reasons and ways to sell or not sell files, but today I’ll share my thoughts on how I price files based on our studio’s sales goals. I won’t share or suggest actual prices because each studio needs to evaluate and calculate what its profit requirements are. You know what your studio needs to make in dollars per hour more than anyone else. I’ll simply explain the concepts.
There was a time when it simply didn’t matter what your competition charged or sold. But now more than ever they probably play a role in your decisions. We all struggle with prices and policies that keep us attractive in the competitive marketplace while at the same time remaining a sustainable business. We all know how photographers who have resorted to selling files as a way to make a fast buck. But unfortunately it takes more than a buck to stay in business!
Established studios know the best way to survive is to do it the old fashioned way… sell photographs. After all, this is the end product that most clients come to us for, right? Why should we hand over the ingredients and make them cook the meal? Not only is it a disservice, but it also cuts our business off at the knees. Yet, some studios may need to offer files to stay competitive in their tough market area.
We all have our own decisions to make about this. If you’re looking for some thoughts to consider as you decide how to handle it, I’ll share my philosophy.
For the purpose of this discussion, I’ll stay with standard portraiture… not business or commercial photography where files ARE the intended final product. I won’t be discussing adding files to an existing package as a way of increasing the sale. I don’t offer that, so I have no expertise in that area to share.
THE WALL PORTRAIT CONNECTION
At our studio, we prefer to sell wall portraits whenever possible because wall portraits give the highest return to the client. Think about it... What photos do YOU see every day? While it’s possible you have a photo on your desk, images on your walls are there enjoy all the time. For the many years it’s displayed on your walls, it costs only a few pennies per viewing. And of course, they look so beautiful when they are appropriately sized. So that’s the focus at our studio, and why we have wall portrait purchase requirements for families and high school seniors.
Getting back to the file selling question… If we sold only files, it’s quite possible we’d be losing the sale of a wall portrait. Therefore, we price a single file equal to my smallest wall portrait.
If a client wants that file AFTER purchasing a wall portrait, we price that file (not other files) at twice the cost of a desk portrait (8x10, 5x7, 3x5).
This policy gives us the option to reply “Yes” when asked if we sell files, but also that it would likely be more cost advantageous for the client to purchase prints through us… which is the best way for them to get the highest quality, longest lasting photographs.
At this time we have no bulk purchase option. But if we did, it would be at least equal the average sale and number of images sold in that type of portrait.
Should we offer full size files or only files large enough to print 8x10s? That too depends on you. Keep in mind that no matter how you choose to limit the file size, SOME people will probably ignore your pleas to not enlarge beyond your suggestions. But I doubt that many will try to enlarge to wall sizes. If you would prefer to not have them make wall portraits, you could limit the file size to 5x7 at 250 ppi. An 8x10 will still print quite nicely from that file, but not much larger than that.
If you don’t care what they do with the files, go ahead and leave them at full size.
OTHER REASONS FOR FILES
Clients may have reasons for wanting digital files other than printing them. They might simply want to share the files on social media. No problem… we often supply small files of images purchased at no extra charge for social media.
What if they want them for posterity? No problem there either…we offer a VERY affordable disc of files purchased. The images on this disc are password-protected so that the client can’t see or print them. We also suggest that the client copy these files to any other media so that they don’t become hard to access once that type of media becomes obsolete.
At this time, those are the three main purposes for digital files. I have an answer for all three. One requires a substantial and appropriate investment, while the other two are very low cost or no extra charge.
IT’S UP TO YOU!
I’m not advising anyone to follow my methods, nor am I suggesting any specific prices. I’m only sharing concepts to consider that I feel are logical and designed to keep us in business.
The question and manner of selling files will always be with us. That Pandora’s Box was opened long ago. All we can do is deal with it. But let’s deal with it in a responsible way that doesn’t negatively affect us or others more than we must.