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pricing digital files

Isabel Q , Nov 11, 2009; 04:10 p.m.

hi. i would like to know how to go about pricing digital files. i take a lot of pride in my prints, work very hard at them. i went to art school (not that it matters, really) and have a fine art photog background so i am VERY specific w/ my prints. however, i realize that it's 2009 and people want digital files. i understand that and if i were a client i would to.
i have done a little research and there seems to be a variety of approaches to this. i would like to have a several options for this but i'm having a hard time deciding what to do. one option may be to purchase all the images at screen res for personal use. another might be some higher or med res files w/ a min print order, but what amt? and should the images be the same as what was purchased?
i am just really torn over what to do. recently, i've had clients ask me if i will provide a hi res file for xmas cards. what do i charge for this? i sell cards so obviously i'd like to sell mine instead of a file. another client was not a traditional session client. i recently did an event w/ a company here where i shot halloween portraits for about 30 clients. one of these asked about the hi res file. my only revenue for this event is print sales. she wanted to buy one 5x7 ($20) and another hi res file of a different image for the cards. i just have no idea what to say!
i'd love some advice on this.


Rod Melotte , Nov 11, 2009; 04:34 p.m.

One way to NOT sell the digital file is to say that you really do not own the files, the company does (which they actually might!) . Personally I TRY to stay away from selling the digitals because it opens up all sorts of cans of worms.
HOWEVER - One way is to sell the digital image for what would be 8x10 price. It's only halloween portraits and how much will you make in the long run. The problem comes from non portrait images of scenics and people asking for those!
Just my personal take on the problem.

Kevin Delson , Nov 11, 2009; 05:33 p.m.

Many shooters (myself included) have gone to a hybrid pricing structure depending on use.

One method is to sell by the pixel. (i.e) 800x600= X price, 1200x900= x price etc..etc...
This way, someone who may want a photo for a simple Christmas card would not need
a 4200 x 3200 pixel image.

Mikael Karlsson , Nov 11, 2009; 05:33 p.m.


First, unless you have signed away the copyright to the images in a contract you own the copyright. Assuming you're in the US.

Second, typically it's not the files that are sold but rather a license to use those files in a particular way. For instance, when a book publisher "buys" an image from me they don't own the file. They get a license to use that particular image in a particular project/book under specific conditions.

To a family or individual this method isn't likely to work because they typically have no experience with the publishing industry and how the licensing typically works. I think you'd be better off making the files part of your sitting fee. For example, say that your sitting fee now is $300 and that includes no prints or files. Raise your sitting fee to $600 and include the files on CD for the client to do whatever they want with as long as it is for personal use. Have different pricing for commercial clients who would want to use the images for marketing, promotions, web site etc.

You can get a good idea of the current pricing models as far as licensing goes by checking stock agencies like Getty, Alamy etc. Disregard the microstock agencies unless you feel like selling your files for $5 a pop.

Rod Melotte , Nov 11, 2009; 07:05 p.m.

Correct - files are yours - I was just saying it's a way to get them off your tail if you really don't want to sell the digital files.

Isabel Q , Nov 11, 2009; 07:09 p.m.

thanks, everyone. just to clarify, i am not talking about selling stock or my images to anyone other than the parents. i retain copyright. this is just becoming more common, parents seeking digital files for their personal use. i'm just not sure how to price and structure it.

Steve Smith , Nov 11, 2009; 07:12 p.m.

First, unless you have signed away the copyright to the images in a contract you own the copyright. Assuming you're in the US.

Or most other countries.

jeremey guttilla , Nov 12, 2009; 11:12 p.m.

If your doing portraits then I think it depends on your volume and how you sell. If you are relying on print sales to pay your rent then it is possible to cut your legs off if you don't handle it right. It seems like everyone does it differently, get an idea of how much your average sale needs to be to stay in business and work around that.
You should also take into account that a lot of these people will be taking there files to Walmart ect... and getting really bad looking prints. Try taking your own prints to Walgreens or where ever and see how they look. You might want to have a prof lab print and a local 12 cent print to compare and show your clients and point them to a place where they can get quality prints made.

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