Thursday, June 12, 2008

File Delivery

Anthony Georgis from Portland, Oregon sent me an email last week about what I thought about file delivery. In his words specifically:
I've had a lot of issues with file delivery and maybe you have some thoughts on the subject. My personal preference is to deliver a final custom image from client selects. I make a point in bringing that up early in the conversation about the job and have very specific delivery terms and turn around times listed in the estimate. The most common problem is that the client calls and needs a final image RIGHT NOW and I have to scramble to prepare an image and FTP it. (This usually happens when I am on vacation)

As a precaution I usually hand over a back up drive to the client at the end of the shoot with whole job on it. I have mixed feelings about that because once the files are out of your hands you have no control over what they look like or how they get used.
Is handing over a drive is becoming an industry standard thing that art buyers expect?

File delivery is always a little difficult and sometimes can get overlooked if the photo shoot is a big production. Everyone worries about everything that needs to get done for the shoot that the delivery comes last. Repeating myself from a prior post - microwave society - we expect things to be instantaneous. Many clients and several agency people assume that if the photo shoot is being shot with digital that it should automatically be ready to go when the last shot is taken. It's a simple fact of being very up front with all parties in the beginning and building into the estimate and the schedule the necessary steps for the post production process.

It is also the art buyer's job to work with the print producer and traffic manager on the project and make sure there is an understanding for all parties of when the final layout needs to ship and back out the schedule from there. However there are quite a few cases when the client does request the image ASAP (usually a positive thing because it means they love the image so much they want to bump up its insertion date) and this is when everyone needs to scramble.

I have found the normal process usually goes as follows:
1. Photographer and art director review all images from shoot and their respective selects.
2. Art director and account manager present selects to client (sometimes in rough comp form)
4. Client gives feedback
This can sometimes go for a few rounds and can make timing tight depending on the feedback. The timing may not allow the photographer to do retouching as he/she might like but there should be collaboration between the art director and the photographer.

As far as handing over a hard drive this is starting to become an industry norm but not expected as of yet. I have worked on several shoots where we have brought our own drive along, the images all get copied over to it, and the art director leaves with it to make selects. More often than not the team is walking off the set with the images. This is a double sided coin though. While it works out great for the agency and the client, it doesn't necessarily give the photographer enough time to tag all the images or catalog them as he/she would like. The turnaround time for the agency is becoming shorter and shorter and having this drive is a huge help so the art director can start editing immediately.

However a downfall for the photographer is being able to track those images and make sure that the correct usage is being adhered to. In all the shoots I've worked on most of the time when we left with a drive there were only low or medium res jpegs and not camera raw files. It is also very important to have the conversations ahead of time with the agency (art buyer, art director and/or account manager) and get the agreement/usage license in writing. I'm not saying you should not trust your art buyer or your client but you also need to protect yourself. Handing over a drive with all the shots requires a leap of faith and mutual understanding.

Timing for shoots is never an exact science and we all know days get cut or added on. The best thing is to have a few buffer days built in for file prep and delivery... especially if the photographer wants to color correct/retouch the image. Keep an open conversation with the art buyer or whoever your contact is and make sure they know about how you like to work and your timeline, but compromise if necessary.

check out Anthony's work and his blog (he has some fun posts) over at


burnsautoparts said...

Handing over a drive at the shoot is extremely dangerous for the photographer. S/he will not have had the time to correctly encode the usage information into the metadata...or even the basic copyright info, for that matter! As the Orphan Works situation looms, it is absolutely vital that photographers sort out the metadata for every single file that leaves her/his hands BEFORE it goes.

I suggest providing lo-res jpegs of the images to the AD if s/he needs to start selecting immediately, but certainly not the full-sized files.

This is an important legal and business issue--not just one of convenience. Many photographers do not know this. Thanks for starting the dialogue!

Anonymous said...

Fight this at all costs. In the film days, if you shot E-6, would you just run everything Normal, and not do clip tests? No way. Even shooting tethered, the photographer needs time to live with the raw files, and tweak them after the fact, even if a digital tech is running the computer. Maybe you want to warm them up a bit; maybe you want to push them a bit hotter; all of these things you need to do, back at home, on a calibrated monitor, while you're not under the gun and the pressures of a shoot.

If I had a dollar for every client that insisted that they were going to edit the job the next day, and then get back to you quickly, (due to some supposed deadline), and then the job sits on their desk for four days or so, while you busted your ass to turn the job so quickly -- well, I'd be a rich man.

It is part of the photographers' job to continually educated clients about digital workflow -- I don't give a damn who you are, every frame does not get shot with perfect exposure and perfect color balance, and every frame does not pop out of the camera ready to deliver immediately.

Stand your ground.

Nothing worse than delivering a job too quickly, and then you look at the job two days later, and wish you'd tweaked the job better before delivering.

Stand your ground. In the end, it is your job, with your name on it, no matter what some flunky Account Person says, about their "tomorrow deadline". Like the old saying, "Your lack of preparation -- your problem -- does not immediately transfer in MY problem".

Brian Pieters said...

Talking of file delivery, we have been using an online image file delivery tool by LightboxEditPro for a few years. We don't give any images to the client at the end of the shoot. This is a very bad practise. LightboxEditPro has awesome tools for the client to view, make selects and download high rez, retouched finals. This product allows us to control a professional workflow, we only give the client final high rez files and thereby control where the files are, the client can be editing files anywhere on the web by the time he has arrived back from the shoot. It saves us time, courier costs and above all provides a far superior and professional selection process for the client.

Check it out at