My clients come from the full spectrum of business types – everything from one and two person start ups to multi-national corporations. Each of these clients, of course, have unique needs and expectations, but I’ve come across one area that more and more clients are in need of. Digital Asset Management (DAM.) Most of the larger corporations have a system in place already, after all they’ve been dealing with this issue for time immemorial, and if there is anything large groups like to do, it’s set procedures and systems. However, many smaller clients are just beginning to realize that they need to keep better track of their images. And, if you’re working with startups, chances are they have no idea that this will become an issue for them later on. This is an opportunity for you to educate them and set them on a good path now.

It’s important to say at the outset that none of the things I discuss here take the place of a well executed backup and archiving strategy for your business. What we’re talking about is helping your clients keep track of the images you deliver to them. If they’re able to extend the lessons you impart to them for more, all the better.

Since each client has their own needs and abilities no cookie cutter solution will work for everything but a few basics apply.

  1. Keep everything. Keep your raw files, keep your working layer psd files. Keep the emails they send you, and of course, the final deliverable files. You don’t have to have all of this stuff available to the client but if you’ve got the raw files somewhere, you can always re-deliver the job.
  2. Keep your client informed. If you intend to keep image files on your server for 30 days, be sure to send them a reminder email a couple days before you take them down.
  3. Use meta data. Embedding your copyright and usage license information in the file helps the client. In my experience unauthorized use by a client almost always comes from an error and not malice.
  4. Remember your clients level of sophistication. Just because you know to right click on an image to save it off of the web doesn’t mean your client does.

Depending on the type of work you do, your delivery methods will vary. Since most of my work is low volume, I’m able to use an online delivery system. My personal choice is photoshelter.com. I like Photoshelter because it allows me to easily create password protected galleries from any image type. I can upload tiffs, eps files, movie files as well as jpgs. The service will automatically generate thumbnails and convert to the proper format for web viewing, while keeping the original file format intact for download. I realize these probably are not earth shattering capabilities for many of you, and that there are several other services similar to Photoshelter, this is the direction I’ve found works for me, your mileage may vary.

When I deliver a job, I create a new Photoshelter gallery specific to that job, upload the files to it and send the client a link via email. In the email I make sure to tell the client they can download high resolution files directly from the gallery, no disk necessary. I tell them that the gallery will stay active for 30 days, and that they should immediately download the images from the gallery and archive them on their end. One nice feature about the online gallery is the ability for the client to easily share files with others. Many times I’ve been hired by the end client. The client is also working with a graphic designer or (eek) “Graphics person” who puts together their collateral materials. The client can simply forward the link to whomever needs the images.

For many of my clients I maintain a master gallery of all their work. Many clients come to me on a regular basis to shoot new products and I would regularly get calls that went something like, “Hey Steve, you remember that desk we shot last November, I can’t find my file, can you send it over again?” Of course being the service oriented guy I am, I’d get right on it and they’d be happy. Sure, I could start charging for these but my mantras is “Don’t be a dick.” Now that client has a master library on my Photoshelter account that only they can access. The library contains every image I’ve ever shot for them. I’ve already set them up with the password and link so they don’t even need to call me, they just go get the image.

I personally do this for free for my large clients. I chalk it up to customer service. It may be a revenue opportunity for some though, so think it through. My thinking is, storage is cheap and the goodwill it builds is priceless.

Something else I’ve done in the past is to help clients build a graphic library using commercially available software. There are several good programs for this purpose (Portfolio, Expression Media.) that I would install on site for the client on a consultant contract. Although I haven’t done this lately and if a client requested it, I’d probably refer it out since software changes so quickly, but if you’re up on the current systems this is a great way to solidify your relationship with a client.

Regardless of whether you use an online system or a local system to help your clients manage what you’ve delivered, you have to help them. After all, you’re the expert.

If you’re looking to learn all you ever wanted to know about DAM and then some – I highly recommend  The DAM Book by Peter Krogh.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. could you explain what exactly is the function of password protected libraries like photshelter ? is that the main form of delivery ? dont most photographers deliver a DVD ? and if so, what do they use the proofing libraries for ?

  2. I use Photoshelter as my main delivery method. I only burn disks on rare occasions for delivery. I shoot commercial work, primarily food and architecture so I don’t deliver large numbers of images with each job. It’s not unusual for me to shoot all day and deliver 4 images.

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