We live in a digital age and clients want their images electronically. Photographers understand this, but also wrestle because we care about how our images are ultimately shared or presented to others, in addition to protecting our copyrights. We also hope that our clients will put some images up on their walls or into frames so they don’t just sit on a computer somewhere. As someone who takes thousands of pictures of my kids, do you realize how long my images sit in my computer without ever making it into frames, or books, or anything? I have so many that now I just cant decide what I want to print as large prints or even small prints! The point is to get them up (on the wall) and share them and enjoy them, and this is one of the downsides to the digital age and wanting everything on our computers. The reason we hire photographers is to get some great photographs and if we never print them out, it kind of defeats the purpose.
There are many photographers who will not sell their digital “negatives” (image CD / high res images / JPEG files, whatever you want to call them). However, these days, many more do. For my wedding clients, I do include the image DVD of negatives in any wedding album package and then offer them for sale for those clients who opt for ala carte pricing. In other words, if clients purchase an album package, I give the negatives as a gift with the wedding album. If they don’t buy an album, they can opt to buy the negatives instead.
I have always sold the negatives for portrait clients as well, and will continue to do so, although those discs will be increasing in price this year. However, because of the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and clients sharing images this way, Jennifer Bowen Photography will now offer all portrait and wedding clients a free bonus as a way of sharing their images via Facebook. (IF the client wants them for this purpose.) With all portrait sessions, the client will receive 10 of their favorite images free of charge that Jennifer uploads and then “tags” to the client Facebook account. These images will be watermarked with the Jennifer Bowen Photography studio logo and will be web-optimized images for quick electronic sharing. Additionally, Jennifer can also share any web-based slideshows that may come with your portrait session. If you wish to share your slideshow via Facebook, just let us know and we will upload your show directly and tag your account.
Wedding clients: we can post and share your slideshows and some images as well, as well as your your wedding album slideshow. Please let us know if you would like any of these items posted to your account.
In regards to protecting our copyright, here is something we photographers need to consider: If our images are placed online in any medium by our clients, especially if we are not aware of where they are placed and the image does not contain a logo or other identifying marks, the photographer’s image can potentially be taken and used by a third party. This can happen intentionally where another person may seek to use an image they find on the internet as their own, in some sort of personal project a person is creating, or when businesses or individuals seek to use any image as part of a larger marketing campaign without the photographer’s consent.
It can also happen unintentionally where a third party may try to locate the copyright owner of that image, but cannot because there are no identifying marks (logos) or metadata included in the file, and then the image becomes public domain and can be used without compensating the owner. In either case, if the images are ultimately used without permission, the copyright has been violated.
For this reason that it’s very important that photographers 1) include their metadata inside the file and 2) watermark their logo or copyright info on their images. Additionally, if photographers sell or give away the digital negatives to their clients, the two parties must establish clear guidelines about how the images may be used. As I mentioned, I do sell discs to both my portrait and wedding clients, and include a set of instructions about how the images may be used. I have always asked for my name as well as a link back to my website be issued as credit if they client is placing those images online. This year, due to the popularity of personal blogs and people posting their images to those sites, I will actually be modifying these instructions to also include that at least a small watermarked logo must also be included (for any images online) to protect against third party infringement. As always, clients have the right to print off those files for home and personal use in frames, as gifts, etc. and do not need to include logo or watermark info for those files.