Tuesday, July 1, 2008

An Aside: CD Conundrum

I simply wasn't prepared for it when I got what my photography colleagues are now telling me was an inevitable request: "What will you charge for a CD of all the wedding photos including the reception?" It seems like an innocent request, but it's not. The potential fallout in loss of sales related to that one question is why so many digital photographers do not offer CDs in their contracts.

I sell prints and digital downloads on my business website and a professional printing company makes the prints and mails them out to clients. Many clients think that the photos should belong to them, so it shouldn't cost anything for a photographer to give them a CD. However, clients need to be made to understand that they are paying for your service to photograph the wedding and not the price of reprints or ownership rights unless that's clearly stated in the wedding contract.

The bride told me she understood what she was paying for, given the fact that I only charged her $500, and that she would have to purchase prints from my website. It helped her understand the situation better when she tried to hire a previous photographer and found out she couldn't possibly afford the $3,500 price tag for those services.

A quick search of online photography blogs and forums netted these responses to whether or not a CD should be sold:

1) NO -- because the client will take the CD to the nearest drug store and print up hundreds of low quality pics for their friends, relatives and wedding guests for mere pennies. That means no print sales for you. And the print quality will most definitely be terrible, making the photographer seem at fault for terrible workmanship.

2) YES -- but only after a certain amount of predetermined print sales have been made.

3) NO -- sell a DVD with an AVI files or a CD with a slide show of low resolutoin images instead that cannot be reprinted.

4) YES -- include CDs only in predetermined packages

5) YES -- but only at fair market value, making it clear that the client is paying fo reprint rights, not the actual CD.

Let's look at the numbers. I ended up with a little more than 600 shots taken between myself, Mike and Jason for that entire day worth of photography, not to mention the bridal portraits I took a week before the wedding. Even if I charged just $5 (waaaay too low) for each of those high resolution images, that would still run a client $3,000 for the CD.

So here's what I told my client: The high res images on CD would cost $3,000 due to shared ownership and reprint rights, BUT, it might be more economical to buy the actual prints you want from my business website where you will receive pro-quality prints.

So far, all I've heard is crickets chirping out in the audience. I may run the risk of losing more sales this way, but I think I've reached my limit in offering freebies and selling myself short.


Mark Hayes Photography said...

This is a sign of the times and a question all pro photographers have to deal with. Sometimes it's tough to explain to the client that as a business you have to have a profit model to survive. You can either profit by the total package costs, cost of prints, cost of digital images.

On the flip side there are so many things a person can do with digital images these days it's understandable that they desire to have larger digital images. Web sized images won't even make good wallpaper or slideshows on larger computer monitors.

One risk of not making digital images available is that they'll buy a lot of 4x6 prints and then run them through a $79 scanner to get a crappy digital image.

So what's the answer. Depends. Depends on your business model, profit goals, etc.

Personally I like the options that either use a package or tie to print orders. Say for a portrait package I might charge a set amount that covers sitting fee, a set amount of prepaid prints, and a CD of the edited images. This way I meet my profit goals for the session up front. I know the client is getting professional prints to display and they have the disk for future use.

But I've flip flopped on this so many times in the last year who knows what I'll say about this next month. :-)

Sheba Wheeler said...

Hey there Mark! I hope all is going well for you, your wife and your business. I miss seeing you. It's been several days and I have yet to hear from the family regarding the prints. I may have to chalk this one up to a lose. But to be prepared for the next wedding I cover, I think I will create a number of packages to suit different budgets...from the $500 "just shoot the wedding" to the "skies the limit" coverage that includes bridal portraits, wedding and reception shots, and cds or dvds, etc starting at $1,500 and up.

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