Deliver with Style — 6 Tips for Delivering Files to Clients


Hi folks, Megan here again, Producer at CJ Inc. We recently delivered a couple of big jobs to clients, and it got me thinking about file management, tracking + job wrap-up. As the producer, I’m responsible for creating + managing the post production schedule, sending files to clients for approval, then delivering final images once all files have been been given the thumbs up. I work closely with Chase and the digital artist to ensure that we’re delivering exactly what the client has asked for, which means cross-checking each image with both the creative brief AND the contract to ensure that our bases are covered.

Here are some things to keep in mind prior to arriving on set.

_File size:
What are the images going to be used for? A billboard or in-store signage? A web banner or e-brochure? Usage is usually defined at the contract stage, so it should be well documented and understood prior to shoot day. This will perhaps inform which camera you opt to shoot with and image resolution.

_File format:
TIFFs? Layered PSDs? JPGs? RAWs?

Is shot #4 a horizontal or vertical? Be sure to have the creative brief handy if there’s no Art Director on set to advise.

_Naming convention + folder structure:
Has your client provided you with a specific naming convention or preferred folder structure? This is especially common on retail and catalog jobs, where each shot usually coincides with a garment SKU.
[If not, you may want to decide upon an agreeable solution before you start shooting.]

How many files are you providing? Are you able to upload to an FTP fairly quickly? Or will you need to send a hard drive to your client?
[If you are sending a hard drive, be sure to label it with your name + contact info so it’s easily identifiable.]

_Description of files + thumbnails:
Along with the hard drive, we like to include a memo (or cover letter, of sorts) outlining the project name, shoot description, deliverables + usage terms. All of the pertinent info relating to the files is concisely captured in 1 document for the client’s reference.

I also include a page (or more, depending on how many images are being delivered) of thumbnails, so the client knows what he or she is getting at a glance. A copy of each of these documents gets saved in the project folder on the server so if there’s ever any question about what was delivered and when, it’s easily trackable. File delivery is usually the last step of a job, with the exception of final billing, and can leave a lasting impression on your client. You really want to nail it.

Feel like I’ve missed something important? Have anything to add? Feel free to leave comments below.

(Disclaimer: I’m no Digital Asset Manager, so if you want additional info on any of the items above, check out the Complete Workflow and Backup for Photo + Video here.)

24 Responses to Deliver with Style — 6 Tips for Delivering Files to Clients

  1. Brian York October 8, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Knowing the end use is key for myself in creating estimates for myself. I have had a few jobs early on where I found out after the initial estimate that the client was never going to use the images for print so I was able to meet more within their budget by working on files closer to the size they were going to be used. Sometimes its unfortunate to only have a file that is screen resolution in the end but the difference in time for myself and end cost is considerable as opposed to working on a 40mp file. As for the layered PSD files I have requests for layered files from time to time what no one generally wants is a working file though. I create what I call a SemiFlat file which has the different elements merged together preserving layer masks if possible and the global curves and tone adjustment layers. This seems to provide them with everything they want; a file that they can make those little color adjustments needed for prepress without working against what was already done. It also doesn’t allow them to mess anything up and they will be able to open it on their laptop!

    Some photographers I have found have an issue with providing raw files to the agency. I worked on one agency earlier this year who they couldn’t get the photographer to give them the raw files when they were needed for doing composite work. After talking with the photographer he eventually agreed to send them to me (as long as I didn’t give them to the agency). The agencies response to this was, we will never work with him over that. Its best to understand why they want raw files instead of saying no.

    • Jeremy Givens January 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

      Megan, where would we (and Chase) be without you ;

  2. Colleen Dubois October 8, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Is that a FTP that you think is the best out there? I’m realizing I will need to set up an account with one sooner than later…THANKS!

  3. Girish October 8, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    I feel the last part is very important.

    Description of files + thumbnails

    It tell the entire project in detail and a client get the idea right then and there. Probably a senior officer in a clients office might not know the details and could expect more or different. This part solves that issue. And is a BIG time life saver avoiding a lot of time waste.

  4. Dan McManus October 8, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Great topic and some excellent suggestions. I always do the Thumbnails / Contact sheet thing too. Lately I’ve started asking clients if they have a dropbox account. If so I publish directly to a folder in their account from Lightroom. If not I discuss it and if they agree I create an account for them and organize it so they see it can be a tool for them in the future too.

    Mahalo for the great blog!

  5. Elaine October 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Thanks for the summary. It is handy to have a checklist when quoting even for me (a photographer and digital asset manager).

  6. Robert Potter October 8, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I prefer not use third party servers like drop box when handing over the final files. Unlimited server space is so cheap ($7USD a month) these days, my website also sits on the same space. I always password zip the images, etc in chunks no bigger than 250MB as it can be annoying for a client to download large files and their connection bombs out 90% whilst downloading but saying that ftp transfers should resume downloading even after a break in the connection. I also give clients the option to download via a standard web link.

  7. Cody Min October 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    If you aren’t into FTP servers, I’ve found or good old Dropbox to work fantastically.

  8. Chi October 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    bookmarked! B/c it’s awesome.

  9. tom October 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    I recently started using Photoshelter for event photography as well as stock for internal corporate usage. In both cases the client will often end up with several hundred if not over a thousand shots.

    I just finished a corporate stock shoot where the client only roughly knows what the images will be used for. A 5 day shoot resulted in just over 1000 stock images.

    This sounds like a lot but every setup was shot landscape and portrait. Close up and wide. Essentially leaving usage wide options wide open.

    In the past these photos were delivered on DVD or USB stick. In multiple file sizes. But inevitably the disc would always get lost. The Photoshelter system is far from perfect but it does have basic keyword searches, password protection and download stats included. It would be perfect if I could do a per image sale and licensing straight out of the web app but currently that’s not possible for individual user groups.

    From my experience, unless you are dealing with an add agency, people are not very sophisticated when it comes to file management and you have to do a bit of hand holding. That said I have even dealt with large agencies were the asset management and Photoshop skills of their designers could be described as basic at best. When I know the people doing the final image prep I usually trying and deliver print ready shots.

    • Tom June 28, 2013 at 7:14 am #

      Interesting. That’s exactly what I do for the exact same type of photography. I simply got sick of having people call up asking for another disc because they lost their original 5 copies. In corporate it’s sometimes tricky charging a client for small amounts such as cutting a disc.

      The added benefit is that we can give different agencies subsets of the catalogue and keeping track of what they downloaded and when.

      Yes you can do all that with an FTP server but the added features you get with Photoshelter easily justify the small cost.

  10. Bram Berkien October 9, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    It usually use WeTransfer, surprised no one has mentioned it yet. Naturally, file size is limited there, but it’s free and works like a charm. May be slightly less professional but at this point in my carreer is does what I need it to do.

  11. faisal October 9, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    even big companies dont follow half of these

  12. Dan Losowski October 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Great tips for file management and delivery!

  13. Daniel October 11, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    Hi Megan, ths for the info but I have a question. You mention, “..File delivery is usually the last step of a job, with the exception of final billing…”
    Would you ever deliver images without first receiving final payment or do you deliver in good faith? My terms are usually “final payment upon delivery”, but being an independent and my contracts are relatively small, I would typically try to give great customer service and deliver as soon as I can, even if it means before receiving full payment.

  14. Daf October 19, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    One item not covered : Metadata

    Although I don’t really do much with my photography (only semi-pro) my day job is an IT manager in a small image library and we pay special attention.
    As well as caption, keywords, etc you can embed the artist/creator/copyright information.
    Files have a habit of being copied, moved around, renamed etc but for the most part metadata should stay there. So handy if future client employee’s want to know who took a photo or similar.
    Be aware though that there are some programs that strip stuff e.g. Photoshop SaveForWeb strips EXIF (camera data) but thankfully leaves copyright info.

    There are various areas of metadata e.g. EXIF – more about the file and camera settings, IPTC/XMP – caption, keywords, artist etc.

  15. Steven November 16, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Hi Megan,

    I was wondering what FTP use guys use or if you guys have an opinion on any of them.

    Currently we are using Dropbox but are searching around to see if any of the contenders are worth looking into.

    Thank you for your time!


    • Chris Mathews January 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      We use and love it!

  16. Thiago January 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    I too use first to send the gallery with my edited images so the client can choose witch ones to work on. Then I’ll only use it again to send the finished images if the client is of “out of town”.

  17. JC Ruiz June 27, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Great blog post. I never really thought about creating a cover letter type of document specifying what the images are etc. Pretty clever.

  18. David Millington June 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    I use MailBigFile to send my images to clients. It’s simple to use and I also receive an email notification to let me know when the files have been downloaded.

  19. Chris Johnosn August 30, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    This is great – one of the things we started doing is making a show out of delivery. <–that's an example of how the client sees things for the first time.

    We're going to take this to the next level as we get time…

  20. Andreas Timm February 25, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Very good post! Love the idea with the contact sheet!


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