File Delivery Details

The final details that need to be addressed for proper file delivery are metadata, file naming, delivery media, method, and delivery paperwork. To improve the odds that the published version of your files look like the ones on your computer, it is essential to document and communicate the technical specifications used to produce the files included in this delivery.

In addition, dpBestflow® recommends that you take the time to drop the delivery file folder into Adobe Bridge, or another file browser that reads metadata, to double check that the IPTC data is intact and complete. It’s also a good idea to educate image receivers about metadata: how to view it and how to use it as an organizational tool.

Minimum metadata requirements for delivery file delivery
PLUS Metadata
File naming and delivery files
EXIF data in delivery files
Delivery media
Delivery paperwork: The “ReadMe” file

Minimum metadata requirements for delivery files

All delivery files should have basic IPTC metadata embedded in them — which is copyright and contact information. The copyright status field should indicate that the images are copyrighted. This is the minimum. Ideally, the IPTC metadata was embedded in or attached to camera files during ingestion. More metadata may have been added during editing. If nothing has been done to strip metadata during processing or master file creation, it should be intact in the derivative files. If images were copied to a new canvas in the process of making master files, the metadata will have been stripped. In this case, the metadata should be re-embedded.

minimum metadata
Figure 1 This  IPTC metadata panel shows the minimum metadata that should be embedded in delivery files.

PLUS metadata

PLUS metadata is an emerging standard that describes picture-licensing terms, organizing all rights-related fields into a standardized metadata framework. This is accomplished via The PLUS Media Summary code, an alphanumeric string representing all of the media rights included in an image license. These codes, in combination with an Internet database under development (The PLUS registry), will link images to rights holders. This database will contain updated versions of licenses, allowing users to match images to available licensing options. The PLUS glossary of licensing terms allows precise, multilingual communication of the media usage offered. Although gaining some acceptance, there is still no file info panel dedicated to showing PLUS information. For the time being, PLUS codes can be inserted into the instructions or rights usage terms fields.
Read more about PLUS in the Metadata Overview section

File naming and delivery files

File names should be as short as possible, and should make it easy to identify specific files. Far too often the file name is used to provide information about digital images. Instead, file information should be stored in the caption, headline and keyword metadata fields. Not only does this result in unwieldy filenames, but leads to renaming files, a leading cause of miscommunication with regard to file delivery. DPBestflow® recommends putting the file name into the title field of the metadata. This makes it easy to determine the original file name if someone changes it along the production path.

EXIF data in delivery files

Delivery files do not necessarily need to have EXIF data in them. Many photographers prefer to strip out the camera data and leave only the IPTC metadata. Photographers who are delivering to news organizations, however, may be instructed to keep the camera data intact for verification purposes.

Delivery media

Today’s technology provides many ways to deliver image files. The possibilities are:

Electronic delivery

Which includes:
  • E-mail
  • FTP delivery services
  • FTP to and from a file server
  • File hosting services
  • Professional image display and delivery services

Electronic delivery is attractive for its speed, low cost and immediacy. Image files can potentially be delivered nearly as quickly as they can be burned to optical media if you have fast broadband upload speeds. The downside is that there are limits on the size of the delivery and it is dependent on good bandwidth on both ends. There is also the slight possibility of file corruption if some of the bits don’t get reassembled correctly. Electronic delivery also depends on the image receiver having a reasonable color management set-up. Unless they have profiled monitors, they may not see the same color and tone you assume they do.

E-mail delivery has the smallest capacity — often 10MB or less, so it is only good for a few image files at a time. Folders of files can be sent by e-mail if they are compressed (zipped) using WinZip or Stuffit utilities. There are many FTP delivery services, such as YouSendIt, that make sending large files or large numbers of files quite easy. They often incorporate lossless ZIP compression, which improves upload, and download speeds. FTP can also be used to place files on a file server. All that is required is an FTP application such as FileZilla, Fetch, Transmit and space on a server to park the files. As mentioned earlier in the proofing chapter, Internet services such as,, and, among others, can be used as file servers in addition to their other services.

Electronic delivery of high volume, large file size can be very time consuming, even with good bandwidth. Do keep in mind that sometimes it is simply more efficient to burn the files to disk and use any of the mail options available to us.

Physical delivery

Which includes:
  • Optical media: CD, DVD or Blu-ray
  • Hard drive

Physical delivery is often preferred since it serves as an archive for the image. It is sometimes used as a backup to electronic delivery for that very reason. Physical delivery also allows for the delivery of printed proofs or CMYK guide prints, as well as any readme files' instructions printed out as well as burned to disk. This alleviates the concern of purely electronic delivery being totally dependent on profiled monitors on the receiving end.

CDs can hold up to 750MB of data. We recommend using only CD-R and not CD-RW since CD-R writes faster and cannot be overwritten. DVD-R holds up to 4.7GB of data making them more useful for larger file delivery needs. Dual sided and double layer DVDs are also available but have four drawbacks: they have slower write times, are not backwardly compatible with older CD/DVD reader/writers, are much more expensive, and more delicate.

A concern for physical delivery is cross-platform compatibility. CDs should be written in a format that is readable on both Mac and PC. This is simply an option to select in the CD burning software. DVDs are compatible with both platforms. Hard drives are usually formatted either for Mac or for PC, since the two platforms have different file systems. If a hard drive needs to be compatible with both platforms, it can be formatted with the Windows FAT32 format, since both platforms can read and write to this file system. On the Mac this formatting option is listed as MS-DOS (FAT) in the Disk Utility.

Hard drives used for file delivery should ideally feature FireWire connectivity, although it is increasingly common for portable drives to have multiple connectivity. These small drives are usually designed to withstand shock better than 3.5 inch drives since they are designed for use in portable devices. They are also smaller and have lighter shipping weight.

While hard drives are definitely the highest capacity media for file delivery, they are the most expensive option. They can also be overwritten, so they are less secure than write-once optical media.

Delivery paperwork: The “ReadMe” file

Just as good transmittal paperwork was required for film delivery, a transmittal readme file should accompany every digital file delivery. This can be an RTF format, .PDF,  or MS Word document that describes the number of files, the file format, color space (and whether the profile is embedded or not), the file characteristics, such as the bit depth, whether the files are layered, and whether they have been sharpened for output.

There should be a statement indicating whether the files are copyrighted and to whom, as well as the rights usage and licensing terms. It is best to include this document where it can be easily deciphered on the delivery disc. This information can also be printed on inkjet or light-scribe writable CD or DVD media. It is not a good idea to use adhesive labels on CD/DVD media since labels can separate during use, potentially jamming the CD/DVD reader. An adhesive label can be safely put on delivery hard drives.

If delivering files electronically, the readme file should be zipped or stuffed into the same archive as the image files so the client cannot receive the images without also receiving the delivery terms.

You may also want include warnings about Adobe Photoshop Save For Web & Devices and other applications or procedures that result in the stripping of metadata as well as a caveat about how, due to variances between platforms, browsers and individual monitors, you cannot accept any responsibility for color or tonality on the web.

Figure 2 Sample readme file included with the delivery file folder.


feedback icon
Last Updated September 22, 2015