Freelance based question.....

Scenario: A piece was designed two years ago. In the piece there are several client-supplied photographs. When the original piece was designed, the only image alterations which were made to these client-supplied photos was to extract them and remove the background. This was all built into the original design fee for the piece.

Today, the client requests just the photos.

  1. They are client supplied images so I automatically do not associate any fee with sending the images back. Client is merely lucky if I still have them years later.
  2. Work was done to facilitate the photos in the original piece. Returning the edited photos would constitute additional use of the work beyond the original scope.
  3. There's no real way to know what the original amount of time the extractions took. It's been years, skills have improved and if time were to be calculated today it may be inaccurate and rates may be different.
  4. If these were designer-supplied photos, original artwork, or even original constructon images based upon client supplied photos I would automatically associate additional usage fees with this request
    Original construction: i.e. a client sends 5 separate photos and all must be extracted then combined to create a "global product shot" and client is requesting this global shot.

Is it appropriate to charge the client anything for return of these edited client-supplied photos?

I do realize this is somewhat subjective and opinion-based. I am merely seeking "best practices" or "common procedures" used by professionals in the field.

I'm leaning towards "no" based upon the quantity of photos in this instance (only 2). However, if there were a great many photos I'd be far more uncertain as to whether or not I should charge.

  • What @DA01 wrote. Charge per hour, minimum 1hr + add to this the time it takes to retrieve, prepare and upload the files. That's the simplest way to deal with these small requests. Plus if they ask for files, that might mean another designer will work with your files; and by asking you the files, they'll save money with the other designer. It's fair to charge for this.
    – go-junta
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 6:04

4 Answers 4


I think it's more than fair to at least charge a 'archive retrieval' fee. It takes time to locate old work and prep it for delivery. That should be time you bill for.

  • Yes, if you explain this fee to your client, they should appreciate the value of your time to track down past files.
    – ispaany
    Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 16:25

In my opinion in this case the hassle of calculating the fee, invoicing, and the loss of goodwill from the client is not worth the possible money you could get out of it. But I agree that if there were more photos or it were less hassle, you should charge.

If you've done more work for this client, I'd give them the photos along with a frindly note explaining they'll get these for free but you normally charge a fee for it.


I would consider who the client is. If they are a larger company, then they are probably not going to complain or feel 'ripped off' about having to pay for work. If this is the case, actually do the work again though; as you said, your skills have improved.

If they are a smaller client, I think charging them just for retrieving the images might leave a bad taste in their mouths. However, if you think you could actually do a better job than you did years ago, maybe explain that to them and charge them for it.


if all you're doing is emailing them photos.... PLEASE don't be that petty to charge them. sure you could charge them, but little things like this is why our industry suffers the way it does with people coming through the door with a million tricks up their sleeve to screw us around somehow.

If this client RESPECTS you and APPRECIATES you, I would suggest not only emailing them the pictures... but if there happens to be a little touching up that could be done, I'd do it and send it back letting them know I polished it up for them. In the end stuff like this lets them know you appreciate the relationship you have AND you actually care about them and their success. When a client knows hands down that you actually truly care about them and what they're doing it instills a stronger sense of loyalty to you that's more valuable than money. I recently had a client ask me if I could vectorize their logo because the Artist they had design it charges $35 for a .png, jpeg or gif, $55 for a TRANSPARENT .png, then $85 for a vector .pdf or .eps..... WHEN THEY DESIGNED IT IN ILLUSTRATOR TO BEGIN WITH!!!!.

All that extra hassle just to click "save as" and choose a format, but told her he has to do more work to it and let it render and a bunch of other mumbo jumbo. If our clients can't even effectively use what they get from us then how valuable are we? If she wanted to get that design silk screened she'd have to pay a good $120 for a setup fee... which would be VECTORIZING IT... when he could've just given her a vector format from the beginning.

Don't be one of those guys, all it does is keep you trapped in a position where you have to be that petty over every little thing that comes through the door to milk as much as possible out of it because NOBODY WANTS TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU!!!. if it's small and simple, just do it, why go through all of that?

  • Note I was considering additional usage fees. Which are pretty standard. Nothing as silly as format fees like you cite. When large amounts of time are put into editing images, there is value in that and unlimited reuse is a tricky subject.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 3:30

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