To release or not release, that is the question that is floating around the photography industry, without much of a consensus. Each one of us has our own way of handling our release; we range from zero digital images, period, to a few once a certain dollar amount of prints are purchased to complete release upon gallery delivery. Every photographer does it their own way to allow their clients the experience that photographer wishes to provide–and that is awesome! There is no right or wrong in their area. Let me repeat, there is no right or wrong way to handle this; it all comes down to what you, the client, wants for your experience.
To help you with that, I would like to explain why I go with complete, 100% printing release of my images.
First things first, however, let me explain what “printing release” means. (WARNING: Legal jargon up ahead!). When I grant a client full printing rights, it means that each images can be taken to whatever print shop of choice to make as many copies as you want. This does not grant a client the right to alter or manipulate the images in any way–this means no unauthorized retouching, filtering, or cropping (aside from what it takes to make it fit in the constraints of the photo size) is permitted. This also means that any financial gain from the photos is also not allowed, as the client is not the copyright owner of the images, because print release does equal ownership; there is a difference between print release and copyright release. While the client has the printing rights, the copyright and ownership of the image itself remains with the studio (with me, all you gotta do is ask–want a sepia photo? Cool! Want something edited out? No problem! Just ask and you will probably receive).
OK, enough of the legal-ese! Ready for the good stuff?
I like to do full photo release because of how I view this industry. Photography is a service industry, no doubt, but it has blurred lines with other industries because the client is provided a product as well. When you pay me, I have a hard time saying that it was just for the service; you’re not paying just to hang out with me so I can have awesome photos of you–you want the images, too. I’m not like a hairdo or a massage–I provide a tangible item as well. For this reason, I feel like I am holding your memories hostage when I don’t provide a print release.
It is also out of convenience for both parties when I let clients print in their own way. I sometimes feel by forcing a print order, I am forcing my timeline on clients, and I really don’t like how that feels. I want my clients to feel like they can do things on their own time, not my time. For example, I had a bride and groom who became ill after their wedding day, and it took a couple weeks to recover enough to even think about their photos. In my current work flow method with total print release, they could at least download and love on the photos first while they got better. Another bride and groom could quickly get a handful of 4x6s to take with them on their honeymoon abroad so they could show their international family their big day. If I kept them to myself, these photos wouldn’t do the one thing they are supposed to do: Bring joy.
Furthermore, when I allow my client to go where they want to go, it gets them their images quicker. While my print shop is super-fast (and super-amazing!), it may not be as convenient as bopping down to Walgreen’s. There is also of course also a financial element as well; I don’t think I can demand someone order prints from me when they can get them for a heckuva deal off Shutterfly (I myself got ten magnets for like $20 last week and a free puzzle yesterday, so I know and appreciate a good deal, too). Another blog post about quality is in the works to explore these alternatives!
But the most important reason? Because this isn’t about me. It’s about you. I am here to serve you. I know you, my lovely client, and I know you have a million things going on; I know you like clear-cut, to-the-point expectations. No mess, no fuss, just good time and the images to prove it.
That’s what I am here to provide; this is why I am here for you.