No matter how much a client asks, begs or offers to pay you should never, and I repeat never, give the EXIF file. Heck, you shouldn’t even provide clients with the JPEG files. This may seem harsh and unfair to customers, and I guess it is, but that’s tough. As a photographer relying on the income your photos generate you have to make sure you protect yourself and don’t lose out. In my local photography group I know of three members who have been caught out and stung providing digital files to their paying customers, and I am sure there are many more.
One of the photographers I know of was commissioned to take photos of flowers for a paying customer and was asked to walk around a particular flower show taking photos of as many species of flowers as possible. The client agreed to pay the photographer travel expenses, the entrance fee to the flower show and also and hourly rate to walk around taking the photos. The client didn’t want any prints (which should have set alarm bells ringing) but wanted the EXIF data and digital files of all the photos taken. My photographer friend (stupidly) agreed to this arrangement and sold several digital files. A few weeks later my photographer friend stumbled across his customer’s website where there were links to his several products (posters, canvases, wall art, phone cases, duvet covers, pillows and shower curtains to name just a few) featuring his photos. Yep, the paying client had taken the digital files, updated them as his own and was trying to make some money.
My photographer friend contacted the print on demand stores stating the flower photos were his, but the print on demand stores didn’t want to know. You can’t blame the print on demand stores for not doing anything, after all high resolution digital files were uploaded and you wouldn’t have those unless you owned the photos right? My photographer friend was on a losing battle and had no choice but to give up and accept that he had been foolish.
This scenario can be avoided using a photography contract, however it is far easier to avoid the situation altogether and refuse to supply digital files, which is what I do. I don’t care how much a client (or potential client) asks and begs I will not give my digital files, and I have lost photo shoots because of it. Oh well……… there is no way I am going to have anyone re-selling my photos on any print on demand stores, wall art sites and the like.
I have to admit that I am not a fan of printing photos myself. Printing photos is a hassle, it requires specialist equipment for good prints, it requires good ink and it takes time. If a client gives me a list of the photos they want printed, the quantity and the sizes I will (reluctantly) sort everything although I request all money upfront. There was a time when I paid in the first instance, but I got stung by a customer and vowed never to foot the bill in the first instance again.
If I am commissioned to do a shoot I tell the customer I don’t do the printing and I don’t provide digital files for the client to “sort out prints” themselves. Instead, I upload the photos to a print on demand store where I have an account and the client can order prints, cards, posters etc. from there. If the client doesn’t agree to this I don’t do the shoot – simple.
If the client is concerned about other people buying photos they commissioned I include a clause in the photography contract stating that the photos will be available in the print on demand store on a specific date for a specific amount of time. I include a clause confirming I will not market the photos and I will not actively try to sell them to other third parties. If the photos get found by third parties whilst available in the print on demand store and get purchased that is tough luck. I have never had a problem with this because the print on demand stores are flooded with millions of photos and the chances of some of mine being discovered in the short time they are available is millions to one, and has yet to happen.
Using a print on demand store to sell my photos works very well for me. It means I don’t have to own specialist equipment, it means I don’t have to keep buying inks, it means I don’t have to have any money tied up in stock and it doesn’t mean I have trouble with old stock/stock obsolescence.
Using a print on demand store doesn’t just benefit me, and it benefits my customers too. Print on demand stores not only offer prints and photos but also post cards, greetings cards, canvases and wall art. The print on demand stores also offer other products such as mugs, key rings, mouse mats, shower curtains, phone cases, teapots, duvet covers, plates, napkins, clothing…….. the list goes on and on. The print on demand stores offer way more products than I ever could, and the products are also top quality, affordable and delivered directly to the customer’s door. There is no way I could offer this kind of service so I don’t even try.
Because of the way I run my photography business and make money with my photos I will never surrender my digital files or EXIF data, and if you are a photographer offering photography services I strongly suggest you don’t either. So please, learn from the experience of my photography friend and don’t get mugged off like he did.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.
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