It’s a rather controversial subject in the photography industry; should I sell my digital files? There isn't a right or wrong answer; it depends on your business model. If you are in the high school senior market, digital files are like gold and highly sought after by the senior.
The first thing to realize in this market is that you are appealing to two separate audiences. You want to appeal to the parent, as they are paying the bills, but you also want to appeal to the senior as they are likely the ones who will make the final choice in hiring their photographer. Also, realize that this generation has been born and raised in a digital age. Their cell phones have always had a camera and they most likely don’t have a box of printed images or a scrapbook from their school days. They socialize and entertain themselves on social media. The value of a printed image to a teenager is far less than what it is to their parents.
If you aren't selling digital images to this market, I believe you are missing the boat and potential income. I am not suggesting to give your files away, I am suggesting you offer the option to sell your files. The price to sell files should be determined by your business and your associated overhead and costs to produce the session. Seniors value the experience of their session, and the images they will have to share with their friends on varies social networks. The bonus for you, your work will be spread all over their social media (free marketing) and you made more money in the process.
There are a couple different ways to sell your files. In my studio, we have packages that include printed images and a certain number of digital files. Thus, making both parties happy with our product offerings. There are also other solutions that create apps for smart phones and tablets like Sticky Albums and WebPics. Another option, is a social media package, which allows the client to choose and pay for which files will go online for them to share. I am a firm believer that this age group is one of the most viral groups of clients out there. I may photograph 5-10 other friends just from photographing one senior. Getting images to a senior's phone or online to share is one of the most powerful advertising tools that I have in my marketing plan. Who says you have to give high res files? Sell web sized files or files that only print up to a certain size. This ensures they will purchase their nice printed products from your studio.
One of the most common mistakes I have made, and I am sure several others have experienced, is giving too much before the sale. Do not give digital files or access to web files before they purchase prints! This will hurt your bottom dollar as the senior is already satisfied. Even if it is just web sized files. Another rule of thumb is to blog the session after they order and pay for their package. I haven't had any negative ramifications from sharing one image or a "sneak peek" on social media prior to their ordering session. This seems to build excitement to come into the studio to see the rest of the images. Remember what is important to the senior, digital files, and you will on your way to building profitable packages for your clients.