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parent(s) requesting digital photos vs. print
Chad Lightner, Photographer
Mount Juliet | TN | US | Posted: 10:11 AM on 11.06.13
->> I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but I'm also getting asked for digital versions of my files. My prerogative is no, but willing to sell a low-res version (not printer friendly). Anyone have thoughts on this route? I'm somewhat new to this, but I didn't realize how cocky people can be about wanting digital version instead of print. My reaction is if you don't want it, don't buy it. I'm not twisting anyone's arm and am not going to go down the road of just giving my stuff away and risk them printing copies for all of their family members.

Also, considered selling higher res versions (non raw) for approx. $30 or so, but know I'd hear gripes from parents about that also. Any thoughts?

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Mark Peters, Photographer
Highland | IL | USA | Posted: 10:25 AM on 11.06.13
->> The primary display medium is quickly becoming digital. Not offering a product in demand is dismissive of your customers and runs the risk of alienating them. Pricing and resolution of that offering is a different discussion.
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Delane B. Rouse, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | US | Posted: 10:27 AM on 11.06.13
->> There are arguments for both sides but it's your business and your business model. Do whatever makes you happy and makes you money.

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David Bernacchi, Photographer
Milwaukee | WI | USA | Posted: 10:34 AM on 11.06.13
->> Mark is right. When was the last time someone showed you a photograph that came out of their wallet or a small album in their purse?

At a recent Zenfolio seminar, the average price for a download (youth sports) was between 40.00 - 50.00.

As Delane what you want...there doesn't seem to be an ethical or unethical practice in this regard anymore.
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Chad Lightner, Photographer
Mount Juliet | TN | US | Posted: 10:48 AM on 11.06.13
->> Thanks guys, I think you're right. Since I'm new to this (selling photos), I'm not sure my business model is working (yet) so I'm open. Any thoughts on pricing digital at lower resolution? Or should I just sell at highest resolution? I'm currently getting requests from college athlete parents. thanks again, chad
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Chad Lightner, Photographer
Mount Juliet | TN | US | Posted: 11:11 AM on 11.06.13
->> I pulled the trigger. 3 megapixel download (max) at $45 (I use zenfolio). So I'll see how this goes. Seriously, thank you guys for your feedback, comments, and guidance:)

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Mike Last, Photographer, Assistant
Toronto | ON | Canada | Posted: 11:13 AM on 11.06.13
->> I'd suggest three tiers for digital image pricing these days:
1200px @ 72DPI - Good for social media, tablets, emailing to friends, desktop wallpapers, and maybe a 4x6 print.
2000-3000px @ 300DPI - Good for an 8x12 print or below.
4000px+ @ 300DPI - For those who want the absolute best quality.

Specify that everything is for personal use, and any commercial use would need additional licensing. Make sure your print pricing is less than your digital pricing.

At a previous event photo company I managed, we sold individual images, full size JPG for $30.00 each after the event. Some parents complained, some thought it was great pricing, so we knew we were in the right place. Our pricing was much cheaper at the event to encourage on-site sales, as there is a big drop-off after the event, and a lot more work to upload all of those images to Zenfolio or similar. We had about 1.2 million photos in 30,000 galleries and were definitely stressing the Zenfolio system by that point.
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Chad Lightner, Photographer
Mount Juliet | TN | US | Posted: 11:30 AM on 11.06.13
->> Thanks Mike, this is good to know. I added 3 versions:

- 1MP at $35
- 3MP at $40
- original size at $45

Hope this works...may adjust if necessary (based on customer feedback).

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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 3:15 PM on 11.06.13
->> I offer three tiers as well for youth and high school images, $10 for 500px which is only good for social media/phone display; $20 for 1200px which can print up to 5x7; $40 for large that can print up to 16x20. Pricing was based off what MaxPreps was selling for, as for awhile I tried to have my sites pricing the same as theirs, since images were going on both. However after they raised prices and sales plummeted changed back, digital still remains the same though, seems people understand the pricing structure for those pretty good though you hear the occasional questioning.
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Sam Santilli, Photographer, Photo Editor
Philippi | WV | USA | Posted: 3:21 PM on 11.06.13
->> not sell the team pix...just individual images.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 5:31 PM on 11.06.13
->> Something to consider in your building a digital file pricing model/philosophy.

When transitioning to digital a decade ago, myself and a few other photographers speculated on average, based on buyer behavior the past three decades at the time, a photo that has intrinsic or endearing quality will be printed on average of two additional times in the lifetime of the photo. "Lifetime" was considered the life span of the individual or business. The relevant question for my colleagues was how to retain profitability in the upcoming age where digital files, not prints would be the primary product.

In the 'old days' people would return to a studio - for those who are old enough to remember - to purchase a reprint for some significant event, like a wedding, birth or death, or to create a personal mementos of some sort thus generating future revenue for the photographer/business. Why else retain the negatives, right?

In the creation of a price point, consider what income that would not be enjoyed in the future after giving the person who receives the image. We came to the conclusion that digital files, based on file dimensions, should be price at 3x the comparable print size to realize the current value as well as receive the loss of the potential future revenue. If 4x6 prints are priced at $5 a pop, the digital file offered for the consumer at that printable size should be priced at $15. I am a proponent of around four times the base print price - much like the MSRP vs retail pricing in the auto, appliance and other industries, because that allows some flexibility in offering a "discount" but yet reach the target revenue/image quota.

Unless the person obtaining the image accidentally deletes the file(s), a photographer will more than likely never earn another penny from that particular unit. Offering digital files - essentially the "negative" - a photographer drastically lowers their ability to derive future income from that image. The objective in your structure, in my opinion, should include collecting the future revenue in the present that would otherwise be unrealized.
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Ralph Mawyer, Photographer
San Antonio | TX | United States | Posted: 5:50 PM on 11.06.13
->> Chad, I used the logic that Clark articulates, basically providing my 1MB files at roughly 3x of a 4x6 price. For prep sports and as another data point you might see what MaxPreps is charging nationally, relative to your local market.

FWIW, my sales this year are trending to 50% digital, but tend to skew to the small web use only size.

With respect to what you can print by file size, I found this chart very useful..
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 11:18 PM on 11.06.13
->> Be sure to watermark your digital files within the image itself and make it part of your contract that the metadata shall not be removed whereupon erasing it is admission to violating the copyright law of 1976 and DMCA. This way if your image rights are abused you have legal recourse. Stripping the metadata allows you to sue for $2,500-25,000 per image PLUS attorney fees under DMCA.

I have the language in my contracts and even on my print order forms right above where they sign. While I've never had to sue, just pointing out the language that the clients have agreed to has quickly changed their attitudes whereupon they immediately repost images with the metadata or remove the images they didn't have the rights to.

If television stations can clearly label images from Getty, Reuters, AP, etc. on the images they broadcast, so can you for the images posted online. There is no rule that says you can't. Now, if the client wants images without watermarks they can certainly have them -- at a much higher price.
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Palm Springs | CA | USA | Posted: 11:37 PM on 11.06.13
->> PhotoShelter has a download for personal use sales option that I have used for some time. You can set up 3 different sizes and price each.

I am not really a retail sales photographer but everyone now and then someone makes a purchase typically of themselves at a bodybuilding show. And when someone asks me for a digital file expecting "Free" I just send them there and they either buy or not but it ends the discussion of "Free".

One guy did complain about how much I was charging for photos of him that cost me "nothing" because it was digital. So I said I would take care of that and just deleted them. Solved the problem!
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Chad Lightner, Photographer
Mount Juliet | TN | US | Posted: 8:49 AM on 11.07.13
->> Thanks everyone,

Sam, regarding not selling team pictures, do you mean as a group (all players)?

Doug, you sell digital copies with and without a watermark? Do you see more requests in either? Also, how varied are your prices on watermark versions vs. non-watermark? I hadn't considered this at all. Also, I do like the idea that you mentioned regarding DCMA:

"..... contract that the metadata shall not be removed whereupon erasing it is admission to violating the copyright law of 1976 and DMCA."

- I think I'll add that language.

Ian, psychologically, I think I'd leave the photos out there (unless they requested). Make them drool and realize that you get what you pay for. They may come back after seeing it again and realizing that you made them look like a supermodel (assuming you made them look good).

Man, I really appreciate the interest in helping me with knowledge on these things!:)

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Brad Barr, Photographer
Port St. Lucie | FL | USA | Posted: 9:45 AM on 11.07.13
->> You guys that have the multi tier need to make some prints. A 1200px image will print fine up to 8x10, so if you are counting on that to drive sales of larger files you are fooling yourself. Also...1mb does not mean anything when it comes to file size. You need to specify pixel dimensions. Thats the only true method, and the only one that is easily explainable. If you are doing a low res option, it NEEDS to be low enough that it ONLY looks good on screen. The 500px stated above is a good reference. As for the third tier of super are asking for trouble, especially if your capture was cropped a bit and maybe no longer has 4000px on the long side. IMO, a better way, is to simply offer a super low...say 400-500px and a full res version. Bonus to that, is if you sell a full res version, no further work is required. We do offer two levels as well.

I had a parent calling me a highway robber charging 30 for a digital file of her kid. Once I explained that the image she has...which was shot using a green screen 3 lights, and 5k worth of equipment, then converted to a cool background was something that she simply could not replicate, and now has the ability to take that file and make all the 19ct prints she wanted, the little lightbulb finally went off in her head. She bought again this season too.

The public seems to think that just because there was no printing costs that we are ripping them off. Once they actually realize what went into making that digital file, often the are a bit more open to it.
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Brad Barr, Photographer
Port St. Lucie | FL | USA | Posted: 9:47 AM on 11.07.13
->> Also, RE that language re stripping the metadata. Really? Who cares if they strip it. Facebook strips it out of every shot, as does Instagram. Thats where most of these kids and parents are gonna use the images, so are you now gonna sue every kid that posts on FB?? It sounds good at first, but when you actually think about how the kids/families are using the images...exif means crap. They dont care if its there or not, and more than likely, if it got stripped, it did so without their knowledge FB.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 11:17 AM on 11.07.13
->> Chad...

My commercial clients get images without watermarks because they are commercial they pay the fees that cover it.

As to parents and like consumers, I've never had any opt for non-watermarked images which are marked up 3x. Having my copyright notice on the image magically turns into blindness when it comes to paying extra money.

I also don't allow parents and the like to post my high-res images on Facebook and other social media because of the sharing TOS on them. Another sentence in my contracts is that the images (digital or print) cannot be copied in any form -- again, doing so is a violation of copyright and DMCA laws. That is also stamped on the back of delivered prints; the phrasing is boxed using copyright symbols instead of lines. If they want to post a pic I give them a postage-stamp size copy and the URL to the bigger version on my Photoshelter site. This way it drives traffic to me.

I'm also starting to use this business model with newspapers and other publications. As a "business" EVERYTHING has value.

So when a paper wants free images the answer is no because it literally costs me money to provide the photos to them and I'm -- and none of us -- are in the business of giving away our work for free let alone operate at loss. To counter their argument that there websites are free and so should the pictures, I give them free access to my pictures -- via the URL to my website gallery. Then when they insist on having the images on their website because they have advertisers that in itself is a declaration by them that their site has value. And if my pictures enhance that value then they have value and the paper can pay for them. Now they have no argument and my images remain in my control. (The Deseret News here in Salt Lake City is now adding a live URL link to the contributing photographer's website as part of the caption.)

Another counter to their argument that they have no money is that I go into journalism mode and start asking questions like how long has the paper been in financial straights, how soon is it going to file for bankruptcy, etc. They counter that the paper is healthy. And with that they just admitted they have money -- money that can pay me.

Another counter to the no money plea is that I get their rep to admit that he/she gets paid but has no problem in not paying others (me). Once that happens I ask to speak to their boss where I'll be asking him/her to give me half of the reps' paycheck. Since the rep sees no problem in no compensation for work/services delivered, he/she should have no problem giving up half their paycheck. This way I win by getting paid and the rep's belief in charity is also achieved. I've used this a couple times and it is amazing how fast budget money appears.

As to parents and the like, I've used a similar technique with them. I ask what their spouse does for a living whereupon I will trade my images for his/her spouse's time and services. This is especially effective when the spouse is an attorney or doctor. When I tell the spouse the deal he/she immediately pulls out a checkbook and pays me my full amount.

Using reverse psychology and switching sides are wonderful tactics.
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Ian L. Sitren, Photographer
Palm Springs | CA | USA | Posted: 6:30 PM on 11.08.13
->> Chad...

No he did not request that I delete the photos. I just did. They want to complain about the price, I really do not care. It is not a profit center for me, really just an accommodation and marketing/PR. Their loss, on to the next one for me.

I do keep them in my hard drive archives in case some time later some news organization or such does a request for someone's photos for one reason or another. That has happened more than a few times.
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Mike Janes, Photographer
Attica | NY | USA | Posted: 9:55 PM on 11.08.13
->> Brad, no fooling myself, just a typo. On the site I've been using the last few years a smaller file was used for medium and that's why it said up to 5x7. However, I'm moving everything over to PhotoShelter and they have 1500 as medium, which off the top of my head thought it was 1200. Planned on keeping the three tier system but honestly like what you mentioned better, medium very rarely sold to begin with and with 1500 as PhotoShelter's medium it's just much more efficient to sell two levels and that's it.

Facebook does not strip data anymore, I uploaded some very heavily watermarked ones for promotion this fall after games and it started showing up again, though in the summer a team work with had to do it all one by one copying my caption as FB did strip it, so that got fixed.
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Greg Francis, Photographer
Rochester | NY | USA | Posted: 10:02 AM on 11.09.13
->> This thread alone is worth the price of being a member of sportsshooter, it validates what I've been charging clients for 5 years now!

In summer 2012 I did senior portraits of 4 girls soccer standouts. Two of the parents bought the master disc from the portraits session, two parents haven't spent a dime beyond one high res file for a senior soccer banquet where another parent makes a poster print and I refused to relinquish the high res file without compensation. All 4 girls took screen shots (a function of Iphone I guess) from my exposuremanager sales site for their facebook profile photos, yet no print sales from all 4 parents.

I think we all need to consider today's youth have never had or been given prints. Their point of reference is images on their phone & facebook.

And parents & consumers don't understand resolution, I pretty much either sell the whole hi res file or nothing. Parents will take a small res file and try making a 16x20 print, and if it sucks, it'll simply reflect poorly on the photographer.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 3:30 PM on 11.09.13
->> I have to agree with Greg on that all/nothing model. My next website update will simply offer either the hi-res original or nothing at all when it comes to files. I've tried different ways to educate end users what the different 'sizes' mean and invariably get people who order the 'cheapest' file and then end up calling to ask for 'credit' towards a larger file because 600px won't let them do what they want.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 2:45 PM on 11.11.13
->> Greg Francis wrote: "... And parents & consumers don't understand resolution, ..."

Exactly! So why does every working photographer do their best to make it more confusing? Using pixel dimensions and dpi is fruitless, because the general public is clueless and nor can they visualize a 1500x2100 framed print on their desk.

If you want to offer different size digital files, keep it simple and make it easy for the consumer. Simply offer files based on traditional print formats which nearly everyone, young and old, understand. KISS - Keep It Simple Silly.

Everyone knows how big a 5x7, 8x10, 11x14 is and can easily visualize it. Rather than putting "1500x2100 Digital File" on your order template, put "5x7 Digital File". Produce the files at 300dpi so they will print well on any standard RA-4 photo lab system and be done with it. Ditto with "8x10 Digital File" and whatever sizes you wish to offer. Make it simple for your customers and your clients will be much more receptive.
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Thread Title: parent(s) requesting digital photos vs. print
Thread Started By: Chad Lightner
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