Don’t Give It Away! The Case for Charging for Hi-Res Images!


When I was just starting out and barely charging $150 a roll to take headshots, keeping my negatives and not giving them to clients was not negotiable.

When I transitioned from film to digital, keeping my Hi-Rez files (RAW or processed) and not giving them away with my sessions was not negotiable and still isn’t.

If anyone tries to negotiate that point, I take a firm stance on my policies as outlined in my contract for clients to sign. If a client pushes, it’s a deal breaker and I will respectfully let them know we are not a good fit.

There are two reasons why you WANT to keep your Hi-Rez files and only provide retouched versions of them on an a la carté basis.

First, having full control over what the final image looks like IS EVERYTHING!

I didn’t fully appreciate this fact until I started shooting digital and started processing my own images. I realized how little control I had over my final product because I was relying on labs to do the work. As the little guy, it was hard to get labs to acquiesce to my requests.

Once I started processing and retouching my own images, it became a game changer for my business. I got waaay more work from my images and began to develop a reputation for a specific style.

Today, I don’t retouch my own images but I also don’t turn them over to a “company.” My VAs (virtual assistants) are trained to retouch my images with my process as I’ve laid out for them to follow.

Second, your Hi-Rez files should be sold separately and not be included as part of your session fee. If you’re only charging one fee and giving away Hi-Rez files, you’re leaving GOOD money on the table.

I recently photographed a team of lawyers at their firm. The session itself was $3000. Had I given away Hi-Rez files, that would have been the end of my earning potential from that client.

But because I don’t, the client ordered another $1200‼️ worth of retouched Hi-Rez files.

While it’s very important to understand the needs of your clients and provide the right kind of packages for them, it’s never a good idea to not charge for Hi-Rez files separately.

For example, if you photograph families and charge for your session plus you sell wall art for a few thousand dollars, Hi-Rez images for a few hundred dollars each, and Low-Rez images for a fee, you won’t be able to sell that same package to actors because their needs are different.

Actors need all their Low-Rez images to upload to casting sites. If they don’t want to purchase Hi-Rez retouched versions first to then reduce for uploading, that’s their prerogative. You can’t take a star ⭐️ shaped client and try to fit him or her into a square shaped package.

However, no matter where you are in your journey, while your competition may be using bad business practices, it doesn’t mean you have to. If I didn’t have to as a beginner, you don’t either.

Giving away more isn’t going to give you a booking edge. When clients book with you, it’s because they have a connection with you and they choose you.

Remember, your photos are a commodity, what makes your business different is YOU.

If you stop giving away Hi-Rez files with your session fee, I promise, you won’t lose clients but your pockets will grow bigger. Because you’ll have full control over the quality of your images and because you’ll be charging for the work you do in post!

Let me know in the comments below if you give away your Hi-Rez files and why!

Hi, I’m Vanie!

Pronounced like Bonnie… and I blame my parents for the misspelling of my name! I went from having $300 in the bank to building a six-figure headshot photography business doing what I love. I’m here to teach you how to do the same!




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