Are Digital Files Included with my Baby or Portrait Session?

I get asked this question a lot, “are the digital files included with my session?”  I do not include the digital files with my sessions, but I do offer a package where you can purchase the digital images on a CD.  I came across a very well written article by another photographer, Lauri Baker on Blog.

“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 {and Portrait} 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 {and portrait} 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 {and portrait} 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.”

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