We’ve written extensively about backing up your photography and how to safely manage client images.  Now we’ll address a common issue about servers getting full.  With ever-increasing file sizes, hard drives can fill up pretty quickly.

So we decided to do some housekeeping ourselves and it sparked a discussion between us on how long we should keep our clients’ images on our office servers AFTER the contracted obligation is fulfilled.  Keep in mind, we have their images backed up online and that we’re only talking about how long we keep them on our servers here in our office.

Our photography contracts state that we’ll keep them for a year for weddings, it is so darn difficult to press that delete button even after nearly a decade of shooting.

We had to answer some important questions:

  • What if a client calls and says, “I lost my wedding images?”
  • What if they had a computer crash or lost the thumb-drive?
  • What kind of customer service experience do we want to provide in a case?
  • What if their house burned down and the only copy in the entire world was lost in the fire?  This one probably trumps any profit motivation for us personally, but we wanted to mention it.

As we asked ourselves these questions the first answers that come to mind are that the customer is ultimately responsible after our contract period has passed.   However, what kind of customer service would that be?  On the other hand, we don’t need to be their backup plan and we certainly don’t need to be their personal backup service for free forever.

Here’s what we came up with

Here’s the plan we came up with to reduce the burden on our server drives and to provide excellent customer service to our wedding clients. Of course, this assumes that you’ve delivered the images and you know that your customer is happy and you’ve fulfilled all of the contracted obligations.

  • All edited jpgs are uploaded to SmugMug prior to delivering to the customer.  This means that we know that the images are safe and sound in an off-site storage area.  This is usually done within one week of the wedding.
  • Full resolution jpgs are also left on our office server for at least one year.  This makes album design and working with the images easier than having to download them from Smugmug.
  • After at least one year, images are verified to be on Smugmug and the folder on our servers can be safely deleted. (note that we didn’t say will be)
  • The online gallery is switched over to a download only gallery.  This means that prints are no longer available, but downloading the entire gallery is permitted for a price.  We ONLY allow them to buy the download after the year has passed
  • We set the price of the download for the entire gallery.  Remember that the couple already has the images, so this is a courtesy price of $250.  Your business will probably be different.

Since we know the images are safe and sound on SmugMug, we can delete them from our servers without worrying.  If a customer calls us and says “I lost my images, can I get them from you.”  We can reply, “we don’t have them anymore on our servers, but they are archived with a company called SmugMug.  Here is the link you’ll need and you can pay them to download the entire gallery.”

Hitting that delete button for the images on our server is hard, but we’ve taken every precaution we can for their images to be safe and sound online.  Even though our contract only requires a year, it is quite a bonus to our perception to be able to save the day for a customer.