Don’t Give Away Your Raw Footage or Negatives

Voight Thornton
4 min readDec 11, 2021



Raw footage of a mountain climber swinging on a rope in Yosemite is worth more than b-roll of an employee typing in an office.

Yesterday I wrote about the value of licensing your photos or videos for more money when the audience is larger. This is something you need to address in your contract with your clients. But don’t stop there.

Your contract should specify not only how broad the license is, but whether or not the client gets the raw footage or negatives. Again, my photography brethren have more experience in this area than my fellow film/video peeps. Photogs have always had to deal with whether or not a client gets the “negatives.” In the days of film it was actual film negatives. In today’s digital age, it’s raw image files.

Videographers have dealt with this to an extent, but I don’t know how savvy they have been in getting fairly compensated for their raw footage. Remember, you’re hired for the edit, not the footage. If you’re hired to produce a 3-minute promo video, then that’s what you’re entitled to deliver.

There are three primary reasons you should charge for raw footage or negatives:

  1. Empowerment. When you hand over the raw footage or negatives you empower your clients to make future videos (or future prints) whenever and however they want, with or without your input. That means you can lose future earnings from your creativity and sweat. If you’re going to give up that revenue potential, you’re entitled to be paid for it.
  2. Protecting your brand. When you hand over the power of a client to do whatever they want with the footage/negatives, that means they have the power to make a crappy video/prints from videos/photos you created. That means you and your work could be associated with or connected to a final product that looks bad, exposing you to “guilt by association” critique. Imagine if a wedding client edits your footage terribly, a friend sees that video, asks who shot it, and guess what the answer is. YOU. If you are going to have work that you shot out on the interwebs, or on people’s devices, you should be compensated for the chance you could be associated with work below your quality standards. That is one of the reasons why Steve Jobs did away with Mac clones when he regained power after his exile. Those clones sucked and he didn’t want Mac software associated with a crappy computer experience. One area where this is not a huge deal is if you strictly shoot for other studios. In cases like that, your brand is not about the finished, edited product.
  3. It’s worth it. Last but certainly not least, if they client wants it, that means they’re willing to pay for it. Why do you pay $4 for a cup of coffee that cost Starbucks 40 cents to make? Because you want it. You don’t NEED it. You WANT it. And you’re willing to pay $4 to $5 to get it. Your raw footage is no different. If your client wants it, they’ll pay for it. If they’re willing to pay for it, you can charge for it. Simple as that.

How Much to Charge?

Didn’t you ask me this yesterday? The answer is the same. Whatever the client will bear. There are many factors which will go into how much you’ll charge:

  • how much footage there is
  • the potential for the client to make additional videos from that footage
  • the scarcity or abundance of additional videographers/photographers in the client’s area
  • the production quality of the original footage (e.g. was it shot on a RED? Did you have a lot of crane and dolly shots? Do you have very clean green screen? etc.)
  • the location of the footage (e.g. b-roll of an expedition to the south pole or wandering the streets of Paris may be worth ten times than b-roll of a client or customer in an office environment you could film anywhere)

I put into my contracts now a clause in the copyrights paragraph granting clients rights to the final video, but stipulating up front that the raw footage will cost the greater of $500 or 5% of the total fee. (I will change or even remove this clause on a case by case basis, depending on the job).

Don’t be shy about charging for this footage. It’s worth it. Your craft is worth it. So charge for it.