10 Ways a Photographer Can Improve Business By Trusting Their Clients

10 Ways a Photographer Can Improve Business By Trusting Their Clients

by Grover Sanschagrin

Do you trust your clients? If you
answered “no,” then you might want to start. Placing trust in your
clients, by giving them access to your archive, can open you up to
greater revenue opportunities.


Many photographers have learned that by unlocking their archive to their most trusted clients, they can make more money. Photo by Grover Sanschagrin

PhotoShelter’s “Trusted Client” feature allows a photographer to give easy access to a photographer’s archive (not including anything marked as “private.”)

To some, this sounds like a risky, potentially disastrous situation. But many photographers have discovered otherwise.

“I think it sends a huge message to a client when you extend this privilege to them,” said photographer John Thawley. “And, given the controls of setting the size of file, the number of downloads and even an expiration date, you’re never really in danger of anyone taking advantage of you. It’s a fantastic relationship builder.”

I’ve compiled a list of ways that, if you can trust your clients with access to your archive, you could stand to improve your business bottom-line.

10 Ways a Photographer Can Improve Business By Trusting Their Clients

1) Turning Small Sales into Big Ones
If your archive is easier to use, and the images are easier to access and download, you are already far ahead of your competition. The truth is, most photographers are either too disorganized, too busy, or too worried about image theft – and as a result, they are more difficult to work with.

Once you’ve made the connection with a client, giving them easy access to everything you’ve got will usually set you apart from the other photographers they typically work with. It could turn a single-image sale into a multi-image deal, and a happy client who checks your archive as part of their regular routine.

“In 2008 I was contacted by a Fortune 500 company creating a calendar featuring race cars using the company’s turbo-chargers,” said John Thawley, a full-time motor sports photographer. “In 2009, instead of leaving the phone call to chance, I created Trusted Client access and emailed the project manager in advance. The end result was my photos were used for three of the 12 months and the calendar’s front cover.”

Ian Roman has been active in England’s sailing world for years, as a sailor and a photographer.


“I was at a big regatta in Valencia, Spain,” Roman said. “One of my colleagues was reading one of the largest circulation yachting magazines in the UK, as he turned the page there was a double page spread of one of my images, it turned out that it was actually a four page article, and all the images used were mine, all downloaded using the trusted client function. When I got back to the UK there was a cheque from the magazine waiting for me.”

Randy Santos, a professional photographer based in Washington DC, has a large archive of Washington DC stock photography, and uses the Trusted Client feature with his best clients.

A book just released, titled “America The Beautiful – Washington, DC“, is filled with images by Santos. The images were acquired directly utilizing lightboxes and trusted client downloads.

“They were looking to license a few of my images,” Santos said. “Once I showed them what I can do for them with my PhotoShelter site they decided to use only my images for the entire project.”

2) Easier Access to Comps/Proofs Can Result in More Sale
It takes lots of time to design a page, a product, an ad campaign, etc. The more time people have with your images, the more likely they stand a chance of actually being used. Making it easier to get their hands on images that are large enough to use in proofing, during the design phase, gives you an edge over most photographers.


“For commercial clients, testing photos on layouts is all part of the design process,” said Craig Holmes, a United Kingdom-based photographer who runs “Images of Birmingham,” the largest supplier of professional stock photographs relating to Birmingham and its surrounding areas.

“Just today I had one of my regular image users send an email saying that they were using nine images that they had downloaded last month. The Trusted Client facility builds a huge amount of loyalty and the client comes to see our library as a first port of call for images, due to the ease with which they can get photos,” Holmes said.

Nova Scotia-based photographer Dean Casavechia specializes in portraiture, advertising and fine art photography, and recently used the Trusted Client feature to manage the proofing aspect of a project.

“I recently did a number of photo shoots for Nova Scotia Tourism and used collections and TC downloads for proofing and to manage model releases,” Casavechia said. “It made a job that would be a hassle much easier. They log in to their collection, pick a gallery, various departments can view and download placement photos. Rather then burning DVD’s of proofs and sending out copies to the agency I could spend more time shooting.”

3) Maintaining Longer, Deeper Client Relationships
Having a robust, easy-to-use archive can be a major incentive for a client to maintain a continued relationship with a photographer, often times beyond shooting – in many cases, it’s continued access to the archive that keeps them coming back.

“A major International pharmaceutical company has trusted me to be the gate master of all the images I have shot over the years for one of their medications,” said Christian Peacock, a commercial photographer located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“There are a number of outside vendors who need access to these images. I am held responsible for who can have access to the images. This keeps tight control of the history of usage for these images. I can update the list of trusted invited clients from anywhere in the world,” Peacock said.

Photographer John Thawley has also been able to use this tactic in a successful marketing effort for his own photography.

“On my Southwest Florida Stock Photos web site (SWFL), I have a working relationship with the local Chamber of Commerce,” said Thawley. “Being a tourist destination, they like to change up the scenery on their Web site. As a promotional effort and neighborly proposition, I allow them to download images to rotate on their web site and give acknowledgment to SWFL. It’s been very good for us both.”

Editors’ Picks – Images by SWFL Stock Photo

4) Making Tight Deadlines
We all know that deadlines are often a photographer’s worst enemy. It’s common to lose a sale just because you can’t get the image to the client on time. The busier you are shooting picture, the more time you spend away from the computer – which is a good thing.

But if you trust a client and give them access to your archive, you’ll never find yourself standing between a deadline and a sale.

“For me it is essential to have the trusted clients feature to make my Motorcycle Racing stock accessible to my editorial clients,” said Andrea Wilson, a motor sports photographer specializing in motorcycle racing, motorcycle editorial, and personal watercraft.

“I work with many motorcycle magazines here in the states as well as a few over seas and it’s important that they can pull whatever image they need for a story at their convenience. It’s time zone and field proof. So no matter what time of day or whether I’m at a computer or not I have the confidence that my clients have access to what they need.”

Wilson said that she gives access to clients that either have a subscription in place or good working relationship where usage rates are established ahead of time.

“For my business of selling editorial race stock, I found that developing those relationships was important in the first place,” she said. “Chances of selling an image outside of my trusted client list is significantly less, no matter how great the image. During the deadline crunch, the last thing editors want to worry about is price negotiations. And lets face it, for most of us, if it weren’t for the last minute it wouldn’t get done.”

Matt Slaby is a photographer based in Denver, Colorado. As a member of the cooperative Luceo Images, his current photographic efforts are divided between the Rocky Mountain West and Latin America. The trusted client feature is critical for him.

“The most recent client that used the Trusted Client feature was on a super-tight deadline for a last minute illustration that was for the international edition of a major news magazine,” Slaby said. “The simple truth of the matter is that had they not been able to get the picture in a pinch, the sale would have defaulted to someone else.”

Andrew Wheeler, a professional California-based motor sports and motorcycle racing photographer, says that during a busy race weekend many of his clients that run “win ads” need images immediately after the event, and don’t have the time to contact the photographer, negotiate a price, then have to chase down high resolution images.

“It slows the process down, and could possibly lose business, especially in this ‘need it now’ culture,” Wheeler said.

“For me, working with the ad agency that handles Yamaha (global and USA) and who are one of my main commercial clients, the work is streamlined. During the week and just prior to a MotoGP race I will be attending, my client will contact me with whoever is ‘on duty’ to handle win advertising. We will then pre-negotiate a fee for image usage. Then providing all goes well and one of the clients’ riders win on Sunday, I will upload a selection of images to my PhotoShelter account, and text them to alert them to there being images on server.”

“Deadlines are usually very tight depending on where in the world I am in comparison to the US and the offices of the ad agency,” he said.

“With each of the ad designers [having trusted client access], they can simply go to the gallery, they usually select three or four samples to create comps, and then just go with one for the main ad.”

“After which, I will receive a PO for the pre-negotiated fee and the job is done, until the following race weekend,” he said.


The Finished Results: A photo by Andrew Wheeler used in a “win ad” for Yamaha.

5) Letting The Client Be The Editor Can Result in More Sales
Photographers are their own worst editors. The truth is, we’re often too close to the images, too emotionally invested, to make objective editing decisions. When a photographer prepares a tightly-edited gallery for their website or portfolio, they may leave out an image that might be just what an editor is looking for.

Opening up your archive to a trusted client can make sure that they can see everything you’ve got, and allow them to be the editor – not you.

“Most of the people on my trusted clients list are editors I’ve worked with a long time,” said Eric Engbretson, a Wisconsin-based photographer who has began shooting underwater photographs from the Great Lakes region since 1993.


“They used to call me with photo requests (and still do), but I’ve told them about my PhotoShelter site and many of them use it to download photos on their own. In the old days, I used to select and send them photos I thought they might like, but with PS, they can browse my galleries and download the pictures they like.”

“At certain times of the year, I’m out of the office, on trips or out taking pictures, and am unable to respond to photo requests. The trusted clients go directly to my PhotoShelter site and get pictures without needing to talk to me. There are many that really appreciate that function,” he said.

“Basically the idea is to automate myself out of the process.”

6) Keeping Better Download Records, Easier Follow-up
Each time a trusted client downloads an image from a PhotoShelter archive, it shows up in the photographer’s download report. This means the photographer can easily follow-up with the editor to see how the image was used, if at all.

John Fowler, an Ontario, Canada-based stock and corporate photographer, makes heavy use of the feature for this very reason.

“I have a substantial database of researchers and editors I’ve built up over the years,” said Fowler. “I send them an email about once a month, using the services of Constant Contact. Whenever I get a request for an image that I have, I add that person immediately to the trusted client list and send them a link to my image(s) that may be of interest.”

Fowler says that he will notify the client with an email that explains that they can download 600 pixel files for proofing purposes, purchase high resolution images via Paypal or order a file from him to be invoiced later.

“I take every opportunity to chat live without being a pest, treat my best clients with regard and careful attention and communicate, communicate, communicate,” he said.

Lisa Reese, a freelance photojournalist and lifestyle photographer based in San Marcos, Texas, also uses this feature to gain more control over the way her images are accessed and used.

“I shot an event for a non-profit called Texas Ventures in Austin, Texas,” Reese said. “The sixty or so images I created for them needed to be for their usage only, but also available to view for future potential clients. With the trusted client feature I was able to only allow a select number of people from Texas Ventures to have access to them.”

“It’s a comfort knowing that a variety of people can see the images, but only those you have within your trusted client list may have access to the images under settings/limitations that you’ve created.”

7) Making it Easier For Everyone by Offering Subscriptions
What could be simpler than opening up your archive to a trusted client, and allowing them to have all-you-can-eat access (well, almost) for a set fee? This approach could work well for a photographer who has a lot of images from a particular niche.

Photographer Craig Holmes has signed a 10-year deal to supply tourism photography to a client.

“They paid in advance and can just help themselves to images when they want them,” he said.

“The client has basically purchased a license for 500 images over ten years, and essentially we have to do nothing, the client simply logs on, and downloads. After several months, the client hasn’t contacted us once with a problem, which just shows how easy the front end is for clients. This is huge story for us! Selling ‘packages’ like this would be something we would actively pursue again.”

“This is an example of how the stock world is changing,” Holmes said. “I don’t need to know how the images are being used, or any other details – simply that 500 photos will be used over 10 years – I work out an average price and multiply by 500 – the client decides if they want to go ahead, and then has access to the images. Essentially, I am giving them their own photo library for 10 years.”

8) Getting Your Images into Their Workflow/System Can Increase Sales
Most editors work directly with their own internal office archiving, publishing, and design systems – and are most comfortable using this system simply because they know it so well.

Some photographers have found that, if they can just get their images into a client’s system, more of their images will end up being used.

“What has really been helpful is the ability to use the trusted client function to work into the workflow of my clients,” said Mark Moore, a writer and photographer who specializes in agricultural stock photography.

“For instance, I have one client who will look at my website during non-production times. If she sees a photo that might work in some future editorial project, she will download the high-resolution photo. It’s basically allowing her to stockpile high-resolution photos within her ‘system’ for possible use. She then pays a set fee when the photos are used.”

“Allowing that function has significantly increased the number of stock photos used by that publication,” said Moore.

Featured Images – Images by Mark Moore

9) Communicate Better and Easier During an Assignment
During longer-term assignments that often involve travel, it’s often difficult to stay in touch with the client to let them know what you’re up to. But doing so is important because you want to be sure that what you’re shooting is what they need. Going off-track and not being able to deliver upon their expectations could result in an unhappy (non-repeat) customer.

Michael Rose, a freelance photographer working in Cape Town, South Africa, likes to be sure the lines of communication are open, and his clients are happy. He uses the trusted client feature as a communication tool.

“I’ve just been traveling around South Africa for a local client to do a travel story, albeit a very rushed travel story with tight deadlines as per usual,” Rose said.

“Having such tight deadlines meant that my clients had to be able to see what I was shooting to verify I had understood the brief correctly and if I was getting the stuff they where looking for. If not, to guide me in the right direction without physically being on the shoot with me.”

“Every evening I would upload all my images from the day’s shoot and get a phone call the next morning with feedback. Whilst I was shooting for the next day’s stuff they were busy downloading the low resolution images and putting together the layouts. It cut our production time by half,” he said.

10) Giving Access to Third Party Support Services
Trusted client access can also be granted to third-party support people. Printers, retouchers, art galleries, and keywording companies are examples. Giving access to these type of trusted service providers can mean that things don’t come to a grinding halt while you are busy shooting.

Bob Howen is a San Antonio, Texas-based travel photographer. His portfolio includes a variety of landscape, seascape, lifestyle and nature images gathered during 125,000 miles of motor home travel adventures. His latest efforts have been focused on creating High Dynamic Range (HDR) images.

“My primary use for the Trusted Client feature is to allow the Gallery that represents me, and the guy that does all my printing, to have access to the images whenever they need it,” Howen said.

“Prior to this I would give the printer a hard drive with my fine art images so he could fulfill orders when I was out of town (which is quite often). It never failed that the gallery or client would want an image slightly different or that wasn’t on the hard drive. Now I can keep everything up to date on PhotoShelter and they can get access whenever they need it… and I can stay out in the field and take more pictures.”

PhotoShelter members can learn more about setting up Trusted Client access with this Trusted Client help tutorial, or join our monthly webinars for help making the most of your PhotoShelter features.     

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There are 9 comments for this article
  1. Fredrik Naumann at 4:23 am

    The above is all true. However, #6 (6) Keeping Better Download Records, Easier Follow-up) has actually become harder lately, as the records no longer show the type of download (high or low res) the client has made. This makes it impossible to see if an image has been downloaded for comp or print, and trusted clients must be contacted to clarify each download they have made, to find out if/how an image was used. In turn making subscribtion based deals more of a hassle than neccesary. The only current description of download type (“Gallery”) is unfortunately not helpful at all. The “Trusted client” is a great tool! But it needs equally great statistics tools to see its full potential.

  2. Dan at 8:51 am

    Your blog is very cool and useful, but why you do not insert a raw link to easily print your articles, in a good format? Thanks

  3. Caroline at 1:55 pm

    Hi Fredrik, Just chiming in from the PhotoShelter Product dept here. There is actually a distinction made when a lo-res comp is downloaded – in this case, you’ll see type = “LORES” in your Image Statistics. We did recently make a change, but it was only in the wording (what used to be called “HI-RES” is now called “GALLERY”). If the image is downloaded as part of a gallery invite/password permission or by a Trusted Client, you’ll see type = “GALLERY”. Regardless, I can see how it would be helpful to see the size of the image that was downloaded, so I’ll see what we can do about adding that in there. Thx for the feedback! Caroline

  4. Greg Vaughn at 1:00 pm

    Trusted Client status is a great tool, from both practical and marketing/PR standpoints. I’ve been using it since joining PhotoShelter because it makes it easier for me and both quicker and easier for the client. Also I think it gives them a stroke to be considered “trusted client”. Here’s a quote from an email received today from a new client I just designated as TC: “The Trusted Client status is perfect – then I will send you a check for what I finally end up printing. Thanks so much – this is going to be beautiful!” I’d also note that this client originally asked me to send specifically sized files to their FTP site – which would have been a lot more time-consuming for me – but she is quite happy with just downloading the available sizes on PhotoShelter and doing the resizing herself as part of the production process for selected images. Caroline: download size in the Stats would be a very welcome addition.

  5. Allen Russell at 5:55 pm

    I have used “Trusted Client” on a limited basis and would like to use it more. However, one thing that I think should be kept in mind is that the statement you made regarding photographers, “The truth is, most photographers are either too disorganized, too busy, or too worried about image theft”; can be also be attributed to image buyers with the change “many photo buyers are either too disorganized, too busy, or too unworried about image theft”

    So, while this is a great tool I feel caution should be used and the trust it gives seriously considered. It is not just an issue of the person you give access stealing your hi-rez but the longevity and extent of your risk if these images go into a company data-base that your individual client may not control.

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