View Full Version : Protecting or Proofing 35mm print sets from scanning and dodgy re-printing

08-03-2010, 10:13 AM
I've shot a couple of weddings now. Having passed over the 6x4 proofs (which looked really good by the way) the Brides first question was "Am I able to scan them in or are they copyrighted?". Legal issues and the fact that I had standard low res scans on CD anyway aside, how are photographers preventing customers simply scanning in your prints and then trying to print off their own versions using crumby domestic printers or "mini-lab" printers at Walmart\ASDA to avoid paying you cash for proper enlargements from negatives? I have done my best on all occasions to explain how a scan from a print that is then printed will never ever look anyway near as good as a proper pro print from negative but still, I am keen to know for future ref.

I asked my lab if they can add a "Proof Only" watermark and they said they can't - they can only do that when printing digital files with an embedded watermark.

I guess my overall concern is, in the digital age, how are us film photographers protecting our professional product and professionalism and preventing crumby low res scans appearing in frames in our customers homes or workplace? (You can imagine it can't you - a colleague of a customer wants to see a sample of your work and your former customer shows them a dodgy print of their own scan!!)

Steve Smith
08-03-2010, 10:23 AM
Am I able to scan them in or are they copyrighted

Unfortunately, both. They have copyright and they can be scanned.

If people are happy with the poor quality they can get by scanning and printing themselves, that's what they are going to do. I don't think you can do much about it other than to charge enough to cover the time you have spent working.

Especially with digital, I can see the business model for weddings changing so that the up front fee includes transfer of all rights to the customer as once they have files, you no longer have control.


08-03-2010, 12:22 PM
Even in the old days, a few people would try to get copy prints made from the proofs at their local photolab. That is one of the reasons that some pro labs imprint copyright warnings on the back of every proof.

There really is nothing you can do, practically, to eliminate this. If people are prepared to accept a lousy copy in order to save a few bucks, they'll do it.

That being said, it sometimes helps to include a "free" small print with a more expensive enlargement.

08-03-2010, 12:54 PM
First, get some software that allows you to display your proofs on line without the ability to download or copy the photo. Double check the software because a lot of them don't really stop a person with some computer skills. Then, impose your copyright on the photos. Allow them to pick a set number that was included in your Package price. Another words, they can buy more photos than the package but they are buying X number, as part of the package, period.

Ian Grant
08-03-2010, 01:08 PM
You could get a rubber stamp made and hand stamp each print as "Proof" or "Proof print".


08-03-2010, 02:19 PM
Or get an embosser that says PROOF PRINT on it? Ink is one thing, embossing is more like "watermark" in my mind. You could put it more than once to "ruin" it without ruining the picture too badly if you're viewing it in your hands, if you see what I mean.

08-03-2010, 02:28 PM
Ink or embossing a lot of proofs is definitely an analog solution to a modern technology problem. I wonder how long it would take to do a 100 pllus prints. Ink would be removable, emobsing would not, but a lot more work.

But, since we are using modern technology to discus the problem, why not solve it with modern technology. I guess then, finding a printer to incorporate it into the prints would be an alternative.

12-05-2010, 09:17 PM
As a person that works in a photolab, I can promise you that most walmart type quick labs often ignore any copyright marks on the image, once customers, grown adults, start screaming at the 17 year old employees, they just print off some crummy prints for them to make them go away. And thats IF the lab clerk even checks or cares.

There is no solution other then to show them the quality available when its left in your hands, and maybe contrasting that to something done from a quick lab from a crummy scan.

David A. Goldfarb
12-05-2010, 09:28 PM
I don't think it would take that long to emboss a few hundred proof prints, particularly with an electric embosser.

12-06-2010, 01:22 AM
My current business model (still in the works) includes a set of 4X6 prints and I scan all the photos as high res as I can on my Epson - good enough for 11x14 prints for 35mm and probably 20x24 for medium format. (I should note that I currently shoot digital + film side by side at the moment).

I make the suggestion that I would prefer to do the printing for them (or atleast give them suggestions to get better quality than photocopying. LOL), but I ultimately leave it up to the client to do what they want. I know that this means that quality may suffer if they send to un-color corrected, different RGB, only 4-bit, 72 dpi printing place but I figure that my high quality 4x6 prints can be a reference for a good print. If they want a print enlargements, I offer to do it for them and just charge a fee.

I more or less follow a model of frontloading the service fee to cover my general costs and leave the client to decide on enlargements. The purpose of the 4x6 prints is to show them what the photo *should* look like, but more importantly to give them a set of prints - my gift to them. As they say on Inside Analog Photo - You don't have a photo unless you have a print!

To be honest, this model of business is still a work in progress for me. Will see how it goes in the upcoming months!

12-06-2010, 06:27 PM
I'm not sure I understand. Are they buying the proofs, or are you giving them away for free?

12-06-2010, 06:45 PM
A couple of friends and neighbors recently got married. At least in my area and for the price/quality range of photographers they hired, they all received a CD containing decent quality jpegs as part of their package. With recent abundant availability of scanners and printers, you may be fighting a losing battle trying to protect your proofs.... Even if you say NO, many are going to do so anyway. Unless good size watermark goes across face or something (which I think, destroys the beautiful proof and defeats the purpose.....) I don't think there is much you can do about it...

12-06-2010, 07:13 PM
This is not a digital problem. People paid to have copy negs made all the time for the same purposes before scanners were commonplace household items. I certainly had my share of them made to protect family photos that existed as prints only. I agree with Steve and Matt. There is not much you can do if they are willing to settle for the quality they get by copying proof prints. The best way to fight it is to choose your clients wisely. Working for scumbags is rarely worth it, no matter how much money they are paying you.

12-06-2010, 07:54 PM
Today, with home scanners being as good as they are and printing kiosks everywhere, you're fighting a losing battle if you stick to the old model of charging a low sitting fee and then making your money on expensive prints. Charge them a price that makes you the money you need to live and give them the film or high res scans. Everyone's happy, you get a good payment for your work, they get no hassle printing.