Why I Don’t Give or Sell Digital Files


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

One of the questions that I’m asked most often is, “Sarah…why don’t you sell digital files to your clients?”

My answer to that question is that I’m not in the CD-selling business.

It’s not a sustainable business model for me, as a portrait photographer, to sell high-resolution digital files for a few hundred bucks. If I wanted to do that, I’d consider myself a hobbyist.

Instead, I was named one of Professional Photographer of America’s most profitable photographers. I didn’t achieve that honor by selling digital images.

Let me explain.

Why I Don’t Sell Digital Files – My Case for Heirloom Quality, Printed Artwork

When you sell digital files, it  pushes you closer to being a commodity photographer. You’ll be forced to compete against the prices of other commodity photographers in your area and that’s a battle you can’t possibly win.


Because there will ALWAYS be someone out there who is able and willing to undercut your prices and take away your business.

When I say that I don’t give away or sell digital images, I’m talking about high-res digital files.

Any printed image a client purchases, I will provide as a low-res digital file for their social media and to email to their friends and family. In 99% of cases when a client asks for digital files, they’re perfectly fine with that.

Now you may be saying, “But Sarah…I’m afraid of losing business if I don’t give away digital files!”

First, I truly don’t think that’s the case.

Here’s why.

When people call, they don’t know exactly what to ask for, so they simply ask for the things that are familiar to them. For most people wanting to hire a photographer,  8 x 10s and / or digital files from the session are the products they are familiar with. It doesn’t mean that’s what they want! It’s just what they know.

So you have to look past their questioning and dig a little bit deeper. When I hear the questions “How much is your 8 x 10? or “How much do the digital files cost?” what I’m really hearing my client say is, “tell me the reasons I should do business with you. Give me the benefits!”

When a Client Asks Me to Sell Digital Files, Here’s What I Say

I teach students in my Photography Selling System to say, “Yes, we’ll give you a digital file of ANYTHING you purchase for you to use on FACEBOOK or your PHONE or EMAIL. You will have those forever to remember this session. We keep the printable digital files here because it’s our job to make sure you get the absolute best artwork possible, which can only come from us.”

I believe that as a professional photographer, you should showcase your expertise instead of a tossing over a file of digital images.

This is the bottom line…People come to us for our expertise and part of that is the quality we put into all of our artwork.

If we sell high-resolution digital files, we know that people can’t color correct or manage exposure and get the prints that are to the quality that reflects our brand. By doing that, we’re doing our clients a disservice.

I only let products leave the door of Sarah Petty Photography that I know are perfect. There have even been times when a finished product has come back from the lab and I look at it and say, “ya know, it can be better,” so my team and I will redo it as many times as it takes until it’s perfect. That’s part of what makes our reputation so strong…the quality of product we create.

What my clients have found is that I hold their hand and help guide them during the entire process. Because of this, when they get their artwork home, they are absolutely THRILLED. My clients are completely satisfied with having the low-res digital files for social media, while having gorgeous artwork for their home that they can look at each day.

So selling high-resolution digital files is really a non-issue in my opinion.

The real issue is how you’re talking to your client and how deep you’re digging into what their needs are.

If you’re struggling to find clients and make a living with your photography, examine your sales process. Are you using an in-person sales model? Do you only sell digital files?

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