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  1. #1
    raucousimages's Avatar
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    How long to keep a customers negs?

    Over two years ago I did a portrait of a young girl. After developing the negs and making a proof sheet I left a message followed by another call. At that time the number had been disconnected. I was never paid. The entire cost was to be about $40.00 and to be paid at pickup. My outlay was one roll of 120 and one proof sheet. I had no model release and no reason to keep the negs for personal use. A few months ago the negs were shredded when I cleaned out some of my files. Today the mother called me and wanted the photo. They were in the middle of moving when I shot the portrait and forgot about it. She was a bit upset but understanding about the situation.

    How long should we keep negs, proofs, photos Etc. for customers? Does the situation mater (unpaid portrait VS. paid wedding lets say)? What do you do.
    DIGITAL IS FOR THOSE AFRAID OF THE DARK.

  2. #2
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    I keep my negs for 1 year from the event, then I offer to sell the negatives to the customer and if they don't want them, they are destroyed, this is all spelled out in the paper work that I provide my customers when booking an event, my contract also states right up front that it is a model release as well and as such, I reserved the right to use images from the event in an appropriate manner. But again, even in the studio/lab I worked in, we kept them 1 year and followed the same protocol, it has worked very well for me and I have never had any problems.

    Dave

  3. #3
    Lopaka's Avatar
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    My experience has been that the large, high-volume studios (like those that did senior graduation portraits) usually had a specific retention policy, most often 7 years. Small operations could vary from 3 years to forever. A friend acquired a studio in a small town that had been in business for generations and upon reviewing the basement full of old negs, discovered some photos of historical interest to the town. Also, on the shelf under a few layers of dust, was a wedding album about 7-8 years old never picked up by the customer. It seems they got divorced before the album was finished, then got back together and wanted the album - came in and paid the balance.

    I would say it depends on how much space you can afford to give to storage - and no less than 3 years.

    Bob
    "I always take a camera, That way I never have to say 'Gee, look at that - I wish I had a camera'" -Joe Clark, H.B.S.S.

  4. #4
    blansky's Avatar
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    Once you go to digital, that won't be much of a concern. It will be looked after automatically. (sorry)

    I think we owe people the access to these photographs/negs since we are sort of the keepers of the family archives. Personally, I've never thrown away any negatives in 30 years. When I sold my studio, the negatives went with them. As for the last 20 years, I still have them.

    To me it's simply a matter of communication with people how long you will keep them and that's your decision. At that time I would guess you should contact them and give/sell them to them.

    As for people that have moved etc. it's not my fault. We're not the National Archives. As long as you do your due diligence.


    Michael
    Last edited by blansky; 08-08-2006 at 05:10 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  5. #5
    Sparky's Avatar
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    I'm FULLY on board with Blansky. Besides - what does it cost YOU to keep them safe? Somewhere around.... oh, maybe nothing...?

    Isn't it just your ego that would make you want to destroy them? Besides... why throw away potential money if the client should come calling?

  6. #6
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky
    I'm FULLY on board with Blansky. Besides - what does it cost YOU to keep them safe? Somewhere around.... oh, maybe nothing...?

    Isn't it just your ego that would make you want to destroy them? Besides... why throw away potential money if the client should come calling?
    Hey Sparky,

    How many sets of negs do you have stored? I am just wondering, some of us that do this for a living, have a tendancy to accumilate a massive amount of negatives, my last dump of negatives was over 500 sets of 36 exposure negs, quite a pile to say the least...

    As long as you spell it out up front before the job commences, there is no problems at all, my clients understand fully my policies and if they want them, they contact me before the expiration of their contract, of course, I stay in contact with them over the year, just in case of babies, or new grads and such to see if I can get follow up work..but once a year is expired, they either go to the client or they go in the trash, there is no ego at all involved in it, it is just a job...no better, no worse than the last one or the next one!

    Dave

  7. #7

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    well, if they never even paid in the first place - tough!

  8. #8
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tim atherton
    well, if they never even paid in the first place - tough!
    Tim,

    Not often do we agree, but I agree with this one!, No money, no obligations..

    LOL



    Dave

  9. #9
    eddym's Avatar
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    If they are wedding photos, keep 'em until the divorce is final.

    Seriously, I'm solidly in Blansky's camp as well. I have kept almost all my negs for the last 28 years. Yes, I even kept the ones that got divorced... Ya never know.

    In my dance photography business, I have sold prints from negs that are 20 years old. They are indeed an important archive for the history of ballet in Puerto Rico.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  10. #10
    Sparky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Parker
    Hey Sparky,

    How many sets of negs do you have stored?

    Dave
    I keep 'em all. I don't let the clients have the negs. I need to control how my stuff gets printed/presented. But we're talking maybe 20 negs (4x5) per job, tops. Still - I have a single bookshelf where I keep all of them. That can store a LOT of jobs! Besides - I get reprints pretty frequently - so that makes for extra revenue. Ka-ching ka-ching!

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