Unfortunately, it really is a case of "when" rather than "if" you will experience a bad photography or video client. The biggest problem is that once a person or business has your work there really is nothing to stop them from leaving you high and dry. Here's how to keep the upper hand and maximize your chances of always getting paid.
Depending on what industry you work in, the payment terms for photographers can vary massively. Like it or not, some of us still don't get paid for our services until long after the work has been delivered. In the fashion industry, for example, I can wait as long as 90 days to be paid. This really does pose a potential problem in that some clients may not keep up their side of the agreement and actually pay you.
This article is not about how to extract money from a client who won't pay, but more a preventative measure you can occasionally put in place to help keep the balance of power in your favor and minimize the chances that you will be left out of pocket. The simple technique I suggest using is to send the client two folders of your images, one containing the full resolution files and another folder containing low-resolution preview files (you could even watermark these if you want to add more protection). The trick here is that the folder with the full-size images in is actually password protected. This means the client will only be able to see the smaller versions of the preview files until you decide to give out the password to access the larger ones.
Now I appreciate you won't be able to use this method for every client you have but it is something worth having in your arsenal to give you an extra level of protection on some occasions. What I love about this approach is that I only have to send files out from a job once. The alternative is much more time consuming in that I would have to send low-resolution files first, wait to be paid, and then send the larger files at a later date. The other benefit of sending everything in one go is that having password protected files sat on a clients computer is a great reminder and motivator to pay a photographer what they are owed.
There are many ways you can password protect folders on both Mac and PC, but I have found the simplest and most universal way to do this cross-platform is to password protect a zip file. Not only can this be done with free or existing software, but it won't require your client to download any third-party program to access the encrypted folder.
Here's how I do this on a Mac:
1. Open Terminal
First, you'll need to start the Terminal application by either opening the Spotlight search bar on your Mac and typing “Terminal” or by going into the Applications folder, opening up “Utilities,” and then clicking on “Terminal.”
2. Encrypting Single Files
If you just have one file to add a password to type the following into Terminal and hit enter:
In my example "NameToGiveZipFile.zip" is called "Final_Image.zip" and "FileToEncrypt.jpeg" which is the image I am adding the password to is called: "Hero_Shot.jpeg." To keep this example as simple as possible I placed the image in the location of HD/Users/YourName/ as that is where Terminal looks first as default.
After hitting enter you will be asked to input a password. Type the password that you will use for this protected Zip file and hit enter. You’ll then verify the password you’ve chosen by typing it in again when prompted. Unlike other places that you type in a password, Terminal won't actually show any characters being typed out, this is totally normal.
After that, the process will be completed and you will find your new encrypted file in HD/Users/YourName/. To test the file out you can click on the zip file where you will be greeted with a password screen.
3. Encrypting Multiple Folders
To compress several files within a folder, you will need to type the following and hit enter:
In my example, "NameToGiveZipFile.zip" is called "Full_Resolution_Tiffs.zip" and the "FolderName" is called "Processed_Tiffs." This folder is located on my desktop at /Users/Paul/Desktop but can be anywhere on your computer. Just be sure to type the full path out correctly.
After hitting enter you will be asked to input a password. Type the password that you will use for this archive in and hit enter. You’ll then verify the password you’ve chosen by typing it in again when prompted.
Next, Terminal will show you a list of all the folders it has encrypted. The zip file has now been successfully created.
This time as requested in the code the newly created zip file has been saved to the desktop. If you want to check the password is working correctly you can click on the zip where you will be greeted with a password screen.
To keep things simple for those who have not used Terminal before all file and folder names in the examples above do not include spaces. You can learn about how to use spaces in names here but as this may be some people's first foray into using command lines I didn't want to make things any more complex than they needed to be. It is also worth knowing that everything is case sensitive in Terminal so make sure all names are typed exactly as they were created.
For those not on a Mac here's how to add passwords to zip files on Windows.
So there you have it, a quick and easy way to keep some of the power in your hands while waiting to be paid. As mentioned earlier I appreciate that this technique won't always be appropriate to use but it may just be something you implement when you get a bad feeling about a client. Password protecting zip files is far from the most secure method of encryption but the goal here is to use something that will work across platforms and requires no additional software. If adding passwords to folders via Terminal doesn't appeal to you then there are online transfer services which will allow you to add a password during the upload process. Whichever way you choose to password protect be sure to be upfront with clients about what they are to expect when they receive their files and most importantly don't forget the passwords that you use.
Is password protection something you would consider using on clients from time to time? Do you implement something like this already? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Lead image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.