Agree, keep them. They shouldn't take up that much room. Or if that becomes a problem maybe your lab will archive for you (assuming that if you're doing that kind of volume then you're using a lab for processing and printing...maybe not though).
It still beats the pants of digital. Visit a pro who shoots digi in volume and archiving/back-up is both an IT work-out and a big use of space (either servers, swappable drives, or lots of media). They'll envy your film storage problems.
I'm sure this will stir up a lot of hate mail, but personally, I don't think any of you should keep any of the negatives, period. The idea that you should be the keepers of someones personal archives is well... ludicrous. The fact that you maintain them for future profit is... more realistic.
I worked as a commercial photographer in NY and Boston for about 20 years. I can't remember one instance where the company I shot for would have agreed for me to keep any of the chromes. I had rights to them. I could use the images for promotional use whenever I chose. But I didn't own them. I got paid for my work. That included my skills plus expenses and materials. My contracts and my model releases gave me full access to the work. The client, on the other hand could do whatever they wanted with the work. In any channel, as long as it was presented in a way that associated the image with the business. If I was shooting without a client (building my portfolio of work) then I had exclusive copyright ownership.
It is my opinion that this retail trend where people are repeatedly charged for access to their images is ethically wrong. I'm sure all of you would vehemently disagree, but I don't consider most wedding or standard portrait work stock photo material. How you feel you have a right to treat them as such is beyond me.
In my ignorance, I will acknowledge that I don't do and have never done any wedding, or retail work. Most of my career had been in the commercial/corporate/fashion field.
I am sure I will hear a multitude of defenses justifying this ownership issue. But I think not one of them will be based on ethics.
The fact that you would consider someones personal archives have reached a point in time where you have the authority to destroy them indicates that the only value you place on them is monetary. And the only beneficiary associated to that value is you. I would think that if its worth nothing to you, you could make an attempt to ship the material to the client.
You have very valid points, in the fashion or commercial arena, what you describe it very common, I don't retain any of the negs or chromes I have shot for this type of work, it is always spelled out in the contract who owns the shots and price set accourdingly, now when I shot for a studio it was always between the studio and the client, I had no ownership rights at all the studio is the one that negotiated that.
The wedding field has always been different in this respect, going back decades, if they wanted to purchase the negs that was negotiated if they wanted enlargements or reprints they went through the photographer or the studio to purchase them.
But as and independant photographer, I don't have to worry about a studio been involved or having any say on me keeping the negs.
Thanks for the input.
Along with keeping negs for future income is the problem of what the customer will do with them. If I shoot great images on properly exposed negs only to have the customer take them to a discount photolab for scans and prints my reputation is in the hands of some high school kid at wallmart. Just because I shoot your portrait dosen't mean discount or free photos for life.
We have a lot of new digital wedding photographers we call "Hundred Dollar Wonders". For $100.00 to $300.00 they will shoot your wedding and put it all on disc. They are running into a few problems #1 Someone looses/damages the disc and they want another. If you dont have it the young bride calls daddys lawyer or if you do they don't want to pay a fair price. #2 you shoot great images to have your reputation killed by their lousey printing.
They are dropping like flys only to be replaced by another crop of idiots with a Rebel XT, Photography for Dummies and a laptop. No kidding I know one girl who tried it with nothing more than that, not an off camera flash or even a reflector. She thought a killer idea would be to shoot the wedding on your card and give it to full of RAW files the same night. The second time she tried that they called her cell before she made it home telling her they card was missing and wanting another copy.
On the other side my old boss has almost 50 years of negs in a secure storage facility all in filing cabinets. He makes enough on reprints to pay for the facility but thats about it.
I have only done three heavy clean out's of my negs in 30 years and one was due to leakage from a bottle of Poly-toner in a move. It was just bad timing that I shreaded her negs to soon. The reason her negs went into the shread pile along with several years of junk and test negs was she was a minor I had no way of contacting and no name (only her mothers name) or model release. I just had a funny feeling about it so out they went.
DIGITAL IS FOR THOSE AFRAID OF THE DARK.
Originally Posted by Dave Parker
What I'm questioning is the "difference". It seems to me that ownership is far to heavily swung toward the photographer in the case of retail. I question what a photographer has rights to own in any paid for service situation. The commercial world is more equitable to both parties (in my mind anyway). I'm not saying a photographer should not be compensated for services rendered. I am a photographer as well. Its just that I take exception to any perspective that refers to the current retail condition as the photographer being the keeper of a (current or former) customers family archives for no other purpose than to attempt to continually profit from that customer. Destroying the negatives when they can no longer profit from them, hardly falls under the realm of "Keeper of the archives". If you can't profit from them and you have no use for them (and you were paid for the shoot), I feel they should be handed over to the customer.
I understand that customers can purchase the negatives outright, but again I find the terms associated with this process to be heavily skewed toward the photographer. I have to believe that the percentage of purchase is considerably lower than the percentage of customers who can't really consider purchasing based on the fees charged. Again, I see this as a "photo warehouse" approach with images that cannot (generally) be classified as such and a client base that cannot be classified as a photo warehouse type client.
I recognize that this process has been going on for years. I don't think it makes it right.
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In all reality the photographer owns the copyright on any image he takes, unless he has transfered that right through employment or agreement with the parties involved in the job, myself personally am not a keeper of the archive, I am a working photographer and as such, don't feel the obligation to warehouse negatives after a certain period of time, the negatives and prints are my product, I normally try to work with my customer so they purchase the negatives at the time the contract is signed, when I do that, I release the copyright to the customer on the pictures, myself personally don't care what happens to them, once I have released the copyright, and I don't accept any responsibility because the customer chooses to have their reprints done at a Walmart type lab, if they want quality, they have me do them, if they just want pictures they have any ole' lab do them, for myself personally I have no attachment to any of my jobs once the completion of the contract is done, and please don't get me wrong, I work very hard to ensure my client is satisfied with their purchase in all of my various business's.
I guess it just comes down to different perspectives, right or wrong, I don't know that there is a correct answer.. What I have posted for my particular situation, may or may not work for others, it has just been the process I have followed for many years now.
Thanks for the reply.
Originally Posted by raucousimages
I would agree with you that the situation has gotten considerably worse with the introduction of digital imaging. In my opinion, the quality of a lot (but not all) of professional work has gotten considerably worse with the introduction of digital technology. Still, there are people left (This forum an example) who care about quality and professionalism. Its too bad many customers don't seem recognize the difference.
I acknowledge your point concerning how the images are used and the reflection on your reputation. I think we all have that concern regardless of the type of photographic business we are in or the channels that we use to produce our images.
But that is what a contract is for. I suppose if I found one of my old Kodak disc camera images being distorted and used for some MTV commercial, I would be contacting my legal council. In reality though, there is limited policing possible these days. Any print you provide can be scanned, photocopied and manipulated, etc. Most of the time by some pimple faced high school kid who simply doesn't care about your rights as a photographer.
I think it admirable that you generally do not discard the images.
But I feel the protection you provide them infringes on the customers ethical rights to image ownership and use.
For plenty more than "a few years now" (and probably longer than anyone here has been practicing commercial photography) a photographer has owned and controls the rights to the images they produce (with certain exceptions). The purpose of that is to give the photographer a limited monopoly (limited by time and certain exceptions) over their work.
Unless the photographer is foolish enough to sign them away it is normal practice in most areas of commercial photography for the photographer to maintain and control those rights licensing and re-licensing the usage to the original (or different) clients.
Now, some images have more value than others and some areas of photography have slightly different practices (though it doesn't change the underlying concept) - e.g. there is fairly limited re-licensing possible with most family portraits, but much more potential for, say, the Space Shuttle.
Many of these rights (they are copy-rights) were hard won by photographers 50/70 etc years ago. They aren't some "new", unethical approach to business - it's the way the business works and has done for many, many years. The client who expects to control the rights to the photographer's images are the ones taking advantage. Anyone who is happy to give away control of their images for a (usually too small) one time fee is probably throwing money away.
The limits of copyright are controlled by contractual agreement between the photographer and the client. I'm not sure where you have done your commercial work, but I worked with fortune 500 companies for years and the contracts I signed with them gave them quite a bit of control over the use of the images I made for them. I don't have many of those original chromes in my files, but I doubt I would have been doing any work commercially if I went into negotiations dictating complete ownership of the images.
There is no question that a photographer should have rights and compensation. But in my opinion, if you are getting paid to document an event for a retail customer, you should be compensated (which I'm sure you are) and negotiate rights for image use. Holding the images for no other purpose than to elicit additional revenue from retail customers and then destroying the images when you can't get any, in my opinion, exceeds the bounds of ethiucal behavior.
In theory, the use of the images are limited if there are no model releases. I as a consumer I would not agree to such a contract where the photographer retains all rights to the images that contain my likeness without being significantly compensated. The idea that I would actually pay someone to give him such carte blanc is beyond my comprehension. In reality, the only worth (not including limited promotional purposes) the images have to the photographer are additional print purchases by the cunstomer. This is very limited worth for such a restrictive contract.
This is my opinion too. Negative is yours, it is yours work, you are author of it. You should sell prints, but negatives should allways be with you. I never sell negatives. That is I am not professional photographer, but when I am asked for payed job, I allways tell my rule is negatives stays with me. If someone insists to have negatives I either quit the job or I charge extremely high price for selling negatives, so no one is ready to pay it
Originally Posted by Sparky