Among professionals with photography businesses, the debate on whether or not to sell digital files is a lively one. In today’s business tips, we take a look at the pros and cons of offering an image CD to your clients.
Photography Tip – To CD or not to CD?
If you are looking for the most debated topic amongst photographers out there right now, look no further than the simple question “Do you sell Image CDs?”
I do. And I am a pretty firm believer in doing so for many reasons, but I also see both sides of the debate. If you are on the fence, let’s work through some of the positive and negative outcomes of selling Image CDs.
- Photography is a business.
Image CDs are what people want. Period. We live in an age of sharing. Can you honestly get through the day on Facebook without seeing at least a dozen pictures of your ‘friends’ kids? And we are talking the cell phone blurry kind. Present these folks with gorgeous custom images and they will want the world to see. There are a lot of photographers selling CDs so unless you are prepared to potentially lose business to another photographer because they are selling the CD of images, that is fine. I am not condoning bending to every customer’s whim (some people want selective color, and I don’t go near it) but if someone VALUES and is willing to pay a PREMIUM for my work, so be it. Which leads me to…
- Low COG = high profit.
No matter how you approach this, be it pricing it out of the gate at a premium or requiring a certain minimum order amount before being able to purchase digital files, this control lies in your hands. I approach the sale of my CDs by assuming this may be the only thing my client will purchase. I know where my happy place is in terms of what I want and need to make each session. So I price my CD accordingly. If you give away a CD for $50 the message is pretty clear. You just valued your work and time per session at about .5 cents an hour. And aside from a custom CD case (which I strongly recommend and talk about later) your out-of-pocket for the COG (cost of goods) is low.
- Minimal work required = more time to book sessions and more time with your family.
Minimal work meaning, once a session is edited, you’ve already done the work required to sell a CD. Order the cover, burn the CD and that’s it! Time is money, especially when you are super busy and want to turn sessions over quickly. Time is also valuable to your life outside of photography.
Or Not to Sell:
- One of the strongest arguments against selling digital files is the idea that the clients will print at less than desirable places and that will reflect back on reputation. You are 100% right. Which is why if you do sell CDs you absolutely have to educate your client. Go into each session with the same picture printed from 4 different places including the consumer lab you recommend. Seeing is not only believing, it’s UNDERSTANDING. You show someone a washed out, color cast picture next to a perfect one and they will get it. Then if they do purchase the CD, they will be reminded on the CD label once again where I recommend they print outside of my professional printing services. Will they still take the CD and head over to CVS? Maybe. But I feel I’ve educated them enough and reminded them enough to think twice about it.
- Clients will alter your images.
This is a tough one. They might! They may go ahead and crop or turn color images into B&W. There really is no way to prevent it other than letting them know they will be in direct violation of copyright law. However, I will go back to my earlier comment that if you charge a premium for the images, those buying them and investing in the product probably won’t mess with the perfect images you already presented to them.
- You will lose money because people will just buy the CD and not prints.
First, put a size limit on them and size them accordingly. For me, it’s 8×10 max print size. If they attempt to print higher, the resolution will be compromised and the images will look less than desirable. Secondly, price accordingly (you heard that before!). Third, show them how amazing the images will look larger than 8×10 via Gallery Blocks and/or Canvas. When someone purchases an Image CD it should be so they could run off prints for their photo album, give a few to Grandma and Grandpa and have a keepsake of their session. What a CD does NOT supply is a beautiful 16×24 piece of art hanging on their wall.
One final note if you do decide to offer Image CDs: If you are selling them at a premium, a jewel case just won’t cut it. WHCC, Miller’s etc. all offer custom keepsake CD cases. If you offer a premium product, you best follow through with a premium case and some thought out packaging.
With the right education (printing recommendations), stipulations (print no bigger than 8×10) and cost (price at a premium), I’m sold on selling them.
There really is no right/wrong answer. The best answer lies in what your own personal business goals and objectives are and what makes you feel most comfortable as a photographer.
Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman, owner of JellyBean Pictures is a die-hard, natural light, lifestyle photographer in New York who loves to search for the light. Like her on Facebook and follow her blog to continue being inspired by her beautiful work!