Don’t Give Away Your Raw Footage or Negatives



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.

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

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.



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