Client sends Photo A to you for use in a design. The photo is a portrait with a background.

In the course of work you remove the background and color-correct the photo for your use. This can sometimes take considerable work depending upon the photo itself. This is all part of the project billing. So, really the client pays for this editing as well.

Contract states the client is paying for final deliverables (PDF generally) and not any construction, working, or native files.

Some time later the client ask you to send Photo A to another designer so they can use it in some unrelated project. The client doesn't specifically state they'd like the edited version sent. Merely "Can you send that photo to...."


  • I don't own the photo. I am aware. The client owns the photo.
  • I have no problem sending the photo as requested
  • I did put in several hours of work to refine the client-provided photo for use in my office

I honestly have no issue forwarding client-owned resources when asked. But I wonder......

Should a designer flatten or otherwise restrict the image when sending it elsewhere?

What I mean by that is....

  • Should the layers be merged resulting in all masks and various correction layers being merged?
  • Should color corrections be merged removing the easy access to further adjustments?
  • Should the image merely be flattened and all transparency removed resulting in a white background and no defined outline for the portrait?
  • Should I merely forward the original image the client sent me? Keeping the edited version to myself for my use?
  • Should the layered, constructed, corrected, .psd file be sent?

I am aware that any other designer would appreciate having as editable a file as possible. I mean, I certainly wouldn't turn down someone sending me a fully layered, editable, .psd image. I'm more considering the client request. The contract stated they aren't paying for assets, only final deliverables. So by providing a single, edited, asset I am technically breeching the contract, am I not?

I primarily wonder if it is merely good practice to send the original image I was sent.

What's the best practice when asked to send client-owned resources which have considerable work in them to another office?

Current Practice: Traditionally, I don't "hoard" this type of thing and don't really do anything to make life hard on others. I'd merely save the image as a jpg if there's no transparency, or a png if there is, and forward that image. So, things are merged but not necessarily flattened removing transparency. For some images, having the PNG allows for easy access to the defined outline of the photo and then subsequent text wraps or other editing possibilities while saving the new office the time it would take to remove the background the way I did. I've really never seen that as an issue.


2 Answers 2


Professional courtesy

Whenever I work with other designers my number one priority is to make their life as easy as possible, and not just because I'm a nice guy ;)

I've already been paid for the work I did, so making their life harder by flattening the art-work wouldn't achieve anything except making them have a worse day.

I would also take the extra five minutes to make sure they understand - that I understand - I am sending them the layered files to make their life easier, and then relax in the knowledge that:

  1. If I deal with that designer again he'd afford me the same courtesy
  2. He'd have only nice things to say to me to co-workers, contacts and likely the end client, whom in many scenarios he will be in touch with.
  3. I will sleep easy knowing that this guy also has to deal with difficult clients, like we all do, but when dealing with a fellow professional he was treated with respect (for his time) and courtesy.

I also try to afford similar consideration "the other way around". I recently had to request files from another designer, he was doing print, I was brought in for web. When I wrote to him I made it clear I was also a designer and that there really was no need to start cleaning up all his layers, renaming them (or naming them!) and (God forbid) grouping and colour coding them haha. I instantly made a friend, and he not only sent me the files I asked for, but all the source media as well, which made my life ten times easier.

I've talked here before about "loss leaders" and their value. Here we are talking about a "non-loss leader" as far as I can tell. It's simply a win win situation to make fellow professionals like you :)

Of course if they only require .png, .pdf etc, then naturally I would only send that. In that case a 180mb .psd file would simply make their life more difficult.

"What goes around, comes around"

  • While I get designer to designer and professional courtesy and all that and I agree.. I was thinking more client requests. Sure the clients other designer would love to have as editable file as possible. That goes without saying, but does that mean the client has a right to that sort of file distribution when it clearly was not part of any contract but they do own the actual IP of the image. I mean, I could simply send the original I was sent... so.... again, I typically agree with you here. I'm wondering if there are arguments to the contrary.
    – Scott
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 21:39
  • OK I see. I think then, at this kind of "thought experiment" level, the problem becomes purely contractual. Does the client "own" the layered artwork that you created during the work to create the new file? That's an age-old question of course, usually side-stepped because only other designers have ever asked for it/appreciated it/knew it existed anyway. In my opinion, the client would have a RIGHT to that kind of distribution if that kind of distribution was included in the original contract. If not then they don't, although all my original courtesy suggestions hold. Commented May 9, 2018 at 5:32

I would say it depends on the client and the kind of relationship you have, or wish to build. Its actually quite opinion based as this can be handled in different ways depending on a specific situation.

Sure, its always good to be polite and helpful, but that does not mean you should help the client replace your service with a lower-cost provider.

If native files are not included, as you specifically mentioned, sending one file from a folder of dozens will not generally be such a big deal. They will not be able to replicate a 20-page brochure by just receiving one of the links in original PSD format.

If there's a potential to build trust with this client so he can design different assets with other providers while coming back to you for updates on your own files and potentially request new work, sure, why not. Send that one file.

But then, if that single PSD file means a substantial part of the native files value (eg. 1 of 3 PSD files or 50% of the editing volume), that can be seen as partially requesting native files. Which goes back to "the kind of relationship you have, or wish to build".

  • Kind of irrelevant but I don't utilize Photoshop for entire page designs. I'd be more apt to use Illustrator, in which case I do always flatten, expand, and merge. Vector files are a bit different, to me at least. And clients rarely, if ever, provide vector files beyond a logo... which I'll happily pass along.
    – Scott
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 21:46
  • For web/app design related works it is common here that we deliver the files in a tool such as Zeplin or Invision, with exported assets as needed. I wonder if there is a similar tool for print.
    – Summer
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 11:55
  • @JaneDoe1337 not that I'm aware of. Print merely requires properly formatted PDFx files, that's all. And while it's possible to harvest assets from a PDF, it doesn't always result in "better" or "more editable" assets.
    – Scott
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 12:38
  • @Scott I meant for commenting etc, although I guess you could still use invision for that
    – Summer
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 8:44

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