Why professional photographers don't release their proof images
Updated: Oct 7, 2021
Clients sometimes ask me if they can have their proof images. There are a few reasons that many professional photographers usually do not allow their clients to have proofs. Below, you can see a finished image next to a shot that is "straight out of the camera." The image on the right is an unfinished, work in progress.
It is common practice for a professional artist to refuse their clients' access to "work in progress" materials. If you commissioned a painting of yourself, you would not ask for all of the sketches that lead up to the painting. If you were at an upscale restaurant, you would not ask the chef to serve your meal before it the dish is plated.
You may be asking, "What's the harm in giving me the unused photos?" For the photographer, there can be a lot of harm. If a client were to show these unedited or unretouched images family and friends, it could severely harm the photographer’s reputation. A professional artist only displays their best work. Having raw, unfinished photos represented to others as their work, could make a photographer look unprofessional and incompetent.
My sessions are organized by packages and a certain number of photos are included with the session fee. The proposal clients sign before the session explains what is included in the purchased package. My prices have taken into account the final number of photos to be delivered, both from a usage/licensing and from an editing standpoint.
In some cases, my client is impressed with the results of the session and requests photos. Or, more images may be needed later for another purpose. The proof galleries will remain up for at least a year and more photos may be purchased from a session. There are additional charges for extra retouched images, just as there would be an additional fee for an extra dish at a restaurant.
I hope this sheds some light on the process for potential clients who may never have thought about photography in this way. These are also good tips for photographers who can use some of these ideas for their businesses. This topic is challenging because we all want to please our clients, but we also have to maintain the integrity of our work and our process.
No. You cannot read all of the rough drafts that lead up to this blog post. :)