Originally posted on BabyPhotographers.com blog-
I love this article by Lauri Baker, a St. Louis photographer. I hope it will shed some light on this sensitive subject. Fyi, my digital files are available for sale and are included in some of the packages. I do not include them with a session.
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 digital files, if available, to compensate your photographer for their 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 photographers do offer the files for sale, many baby photographers who specialize in creating custom art don’t. For them, 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 him or her to still be in business when your new baby starts sitting up. Or walking. Or when your family grows.
If you’re looking for cheap portraits, and you don’t care about prints or a long-term photographer, cheap photography is available in abundance on places like Craigslist. You can have a session and all the files for very little money. But for custom baby photography, the most important things to look for are artistry, image quality, experience with babies, safety, and service. Choose wisely – baby portraits are precious memories and family heirlooms.
Copyright ©2010 Lauri Baker, printed with permission.