Thanks, but I’ll PASS

Inspiration April 3rd 2013 2:00 PM 38 Comments

PASS is a new photo sharing service for photographers that has been garnering quite a bit of press lately. I recently got my hands on an invite to the invite-only beta and have had a chance to try it out. I will warn you though, this is not a fanboy post – I have some concerns that I think deserve some thought. So I suggest you read the post before jumping on the PASS bandwagon with all your friends.


PASS is a photo sharing service marketed heavily for wedding photographers. The idea is that it is a simple desktop application, you can upload, share and check analytics for your galleries all in one place. From this standpoint it is hard to see anything wrong with PASS, but it’s when you look deeper that you start to find chinks in the armor.

My first issue with PASS is the insane lack of information available about it to people who are interested in it, and finding out more information even after getting an invite is frustrating. PASS is only in Beta, so a lot of this could simply be because they are focusing on getting the system setup before spending time writing about it and its features. But when researching PASS the best information available about it came from outside sources, and that is not usually a good sign.


Specifically when I was looking for information on how much galleries cost to upgrade – PASS is heavily marketed as being a free service – after the initial 30 days on each event is up, and what happens to the galleries if you don’t upgrade them. I was finally able to find out the price to upgrade each gallery is $29/year. But many other things that I looked for information about there was simply no information to come by.

This leads me to my other issue with PASS and that is the $29 per gallery upgrade. When you upload a gallery to share with your clients you get all of the PASS features free for the first 30 days, after that you must upgrade the gallery – which costs $29 – in order to keep most of the features. That in itself is not an issue, they have to make their money somewhere after all. But where I start to have problems is the fact that I could not find anywhere what exactly happens to galleries that are not upgraded after the 30 days. What features are taken away? How long does the gallery last? These are pretty big questions that I could not find answers to.


The other thing with $29 per gallery upgrades is that it is a rather steep price, unless you upload TONS of photos in your galleries. I understand that PASS is heavily marketed towards wedding photographers who routinely upload thousands of photos in a gallery, so this may just be a case of my workflow not meshing with their market. For example, with ShootProof for $60/month ($720/year) I am able to upload up to 50,000 photos. Let’s say that I upload 50 weddings in a year each with 1,000 photos in the gallery – in order to have full access to those galleries for the entire year at PASS I would pay roughly $1450.

Now many wedding photographers upload galleries with 2-5 thousand images in them, for them $29 per year is a steal! But if you are uploading galleries with less than 1000 images in them, as most portrait photographers would be, then that $29 can turn out to be much more expensive than other options available to you.

In Conclusion

I know this post is starting to sound like a bash on PASS, but that is simply not the case. I did rather like the desktop app, it was simple and easy to use. I like how the galleries looked, and over all I enjoyed PASS. But I have just concluded that PASS is not just heavily marketed towards wedding photographers, it is optimized for them as well. The pricing of the galleries is a pretty good proof of that. So my suggestion to all of you non-wedding photographers is take a serious look at PASS and weigh if it is worth it to you and fits your shooting style.

In my case I can say that while I love PASS and would love to find a reason to use it. I would love for someone to come out with a PASS like service optimized for portrait photographers. I would be all over that. I just simply can’t justify the added cost based on my shooting style, where I upload galleries of under 500 photos for clients to view. So, thanks PASS – but I will have to pass.



Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. You can check out some of his work on his Website or over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.


  1. Layton McCLinton

    Anthony. Would you be interested in doing an article on doing a review on some free/cheap photography portfolio sites with perks such as pass like Squarespace and SmugMug. I’d be really interested if you did! Thank you!

  2. Taylor

    What is even more concerning with PASS is the fact the creators are also billing it as the ultimate “Share” tool, aka file give away. It is setup to encourage people to allow their clients to download all their HI-RES files from a shoot. I have been following this for the past week and even went so far as to create a gallery (and paid for the $29 upgrade) so I could try and see how it actually works. While its possible to turn off the downloading feature, the language is all there in the public gallery and its just a matter of time before your client starts asking why they can not also download the images (if its shut off). Now this isn’t a huge deal if you can charge appropriately for giving people rights to their photos. At first this seems to be somewhat innocent but I have been checking out new galleries users are posting through the PASS FB group page and the majority are setting up their galleries for a client with the ability to access the HI-RES files which is what the PASS team is suggesting you do. I am actually amazed that people seem to be ignoring this fact, particularly the PORTRAIT folks. If you give people access to their Hi-res files they are not going to buy prints from you too (print fulfillment is another supposed feature being added). That sort of thing will sort itself out though b/c if you give away your assets for free then you will not make money and your business will fail. (This seems like a pretty harsh review but this is what I have been seeing from them over the past few days during my research of it.) I think the interface is incredibly cool and has amazing potential but the language behind it is extremely misleading and vague. I have a PASS gallery ready to go but I am not yet sure whether I will send it out to my client or not b/c I just have this real bad feeling about it all. I hope its not yet another influential push to further commoditize photography but given who is behind it I am not surprised. The incredibly savy, snake in the grass salesman David Jay. There is plenty of info on him out there for you to determine his motives. I think what is more amazing is how many people lack the solid and confident knowledge of running a photography business. Just scan the PASS FB group page and you will see what I mean. Someone actually responded to one of my posts that they wouldn’t be surprised to see printing vanish all together and that PASS was the new era in digital photography! WTF!?! If we no longer can provide physical photographs (beautiful prints and albums) then we are all done. You can not make a living sharing photos only on social media now matter how much of a ‘Rockstar Photographer’ you think you are. That is a bit of an extreme example b/c the people I work for value the photography and prints and books I make for them. But for the very large ‘middle of the road’ level of shooters out there its just going to get harder and harder to make a living if they continue down this path, and PASS is not helping. I have spent a lot of time the last couple of days looking at PASS and even chatted with the support team some. Happy to share more of my thoughts on it but BE WARNED. Where there is smoke…..

    • Mikey

      Hey Taylor those are interesting thoughts and PASS doesn’t work for everyone’s business model but one thing for certain is like it or not this industry is changing and its going to be hard to stay on top with a product based business model when everything we sell and do is being commoditized. Think about Nikon Canon Sony all produce cameras marketed as being able to replace the photographer; Walmart, Costco ect all have the capability to print all the same pro level products we offer so what’s left to sell? Your service and that’s what PASS is based on providing you a service to share the clients images with them. It’s was never designed to compete or replace other proofing solutions like zenfolio or smugmug.

    • taylor

      It will be even harder to run a photo business where all you do is show up and then handover files at the end. Then all you are doing is trading your time for money and that seems like a horrible long term business plan. If you can make a good living doing that then good on ya but it will be an exception rather than the norm. The fact is photography already is a commodity at many levels and so you really have to set yourself apart. I dont care how ‘sexy’ your online gallery is it will never be the same as physical photographs. One of the ideas that is being overlooked here is the final product for the client. We are talking about a family’s history here! What we do is incredibly important and I am very concerned about providing the best possible service AND finished product I can. And I believe digital files in any form are not a finished product….. But maybe I’m wrong….. Only way to know is to push forward and follow your intuition. I just read a wonderful post the other day which I think everyone should read. Check it out here:

    • Johnny Deis

      seems to me like what PASS has to offer just doesn’t suit your needs or business model ..doesn’t mean it’s bad for other people’s businesses though. I want to give it a try as I don’t sell file by file anymore. My clients order a package which includes the delivery of all digital files.. to me it seems like PASS is just a comfortable online delivery platform for those large digital files.

    • Sandra

      Agreed. Let them us PASS in studio with no downloading capacity… and if they want to “take PASS home” with full access… sell that. Seemed straight forward. Yes, it costs more than a DVD… but the visual effect works.

    • Sandra

      view PASS in studio*

    • Sandra

      I think that PASS could be used in a “sample” format with access sold. I currently charge approx. $600. for 40 high res files on DVD… I could just as easily sell a PASS Gallery for $600.. I rarely sell prints… everyone wants the files now anyway.

  3. Julie

    My concern is how many you share and how many people are downloading them for free. It’s one thing to be giving blogs and magazines our images for free as a trade for marketing and advertising but what do we gain by giving away all our wedding images after our clients booked a collection? I make some good cash on the upsell of prints each year off clients weddings. Especially before the holidays. I’d be interested in hearing more of your pros and cons with that topic if you do another feature on PASS. Thanks for the read! I’ve been following this product and trying to work out if it’s a fit?!

    • Amanda

      Totally understand your concern! It’s geared towards wedding photographers who shoot and share. But, PASS also has the ability to disable downloading – you choose whether the client can download the photos or not. That in turn would help you sell prints.

    • ashleywilburphotography

      Do you know if you can disable the downloads without purchasing the upgrade? $29 is kind of a lot when your talking 20-30 images…

    • ashleywilburphotography

      I had the same concern. I’m a newborn/child photographer and I don’t make a ton of money for every shoot. I make my money on the purchase of prints and full res downloads. I love how PASS works and looks so I use it. When I do my workflow I just save a watermarked copy and upload that gallery for my clients. Then if they buy the field I will upload the UN marked gallery. I know it’s a couple extra steps but it’s easy enough to export with my logo from Lightroom and the upload to PASS is super easy and fast…

  4. Archie Campbell

    If anyone has an invite I would really like the option to try it out!

  5. lisa

    To answer the question of what happens if you the photographer do not upgrade:

    PASS will send an email to YOUR client and give YOUR client the option to upgrade for $29. PASS is all about SHOOTING and SHARING and if that is not your business model than ‘bye-bye’ (actually not my words but theirs in simple terms). They have often said ‘PASS will not be for everyone’. So in my opinion, PASS is perfect for the wedding professional who can price right for hi-res files to download (or aka disc images or files on usb drive that most wedding photographers include in their highest packages). But, is not ideal and a really BAD system for the portrait professional who would need to price their packages similar to a wedding professional in order to stay in business as a portrait professional.

  6. Jaques Scheepers

    I am a PASS user and I love it! Yes its in a Beta stage and it has lots of little issues that needs to be worked out but its still amazing!! I do agree they need to update their website with proper information since its really hard to figure out what PASS is all about from their website, I have no idea why they did that but its still an amazing app!

    • Taylor

      They are doing it this way b/c the guy behind it is a marketing genius. Look at how quickly its exploded in a few weeks time. There is something that just doesnt fit.

    • Amanda

      The beta was also mainly for PASS users who already had the first version of PASS and already knew how it worked… only recently have they been releasing invites to “public” (aka people who are new to PASS). That’s probably why their info wasn’t really too informative – totally agree it needs to be updated… but you can find your way around PASS pretty easily now compared to the first version.

  7. Alex

    the passpremier group on facebook is heating up btw lol

    it’s just not meshing well with a lot of peoples business structures and the attitude is, use it as it is or don’t, it is what it is and that’s that.

    which is fair enough i suppose, shame though, it was borderline great, just needs perfecting imho

    • Laura

      Totally agree! It won’t mesh or fit well with everyone’s business/marketing plans. But for those that are looking for a way to present images in a nice layout/gallery it’s great! Depends on your market/area too… some photographers work well and make more with print sales, where for example in my area, hardly anyone sells prints, but clients are willing to pay for the digital images.

  8. Leslie

    I was under the impression that the $29 gave viewers (photographer and/or client) access to the gallery for 10 years. And one photographer I’ve found who has just started using it was suggesting that her clients pay to upgrade their gallery if they so wish. Just some thoughts! I’m still trying to get my hand on an invite to try it out myself, so I appreciate your critique.

    • Laura

      the $29 is for one year… but the gallery is saved for up to 10 years in “cold storage”! :) That means, if the client doesn’t feel like renewing the following year they don’t have to and they can still access their photos in the future. Say their computer crashes, they loose a backup of their images, they can simply go back to the gallery, pay the $29 and their gallery will be back up. This can be done within the 10 years anytime.

    • Julie

  9. Joy

    I just signed up for the beta version of PASS, with much hesitation. I am a newborn/wedding photographer and really am interested in using PASS for my newborn galleries. The $29 is a steep fee to pay for a 70 image gallery, but at this point, 30 days is sufficient time for my clients to select their favorites and send me their print order.
    When you pay the $29, you can turn off the hi-res download. When you use the free version, clients are able to download low res files (you cannot turn this feature off), but they are not water marked. I decided to watermark my images before uploading, so that I don’t mind the downloading of the low res files.
    I will definitely not be paying the $29 fee for my portrait sessions, and would like to see a $10-$15 for galleries less than 200 images. But I will pay the $29 fee for my wedding galleries. We’ll see how it goes!

  10. NursultanTulyakbay

    I guess I am lucky to have website building skills. My only cost is website hosting which is only $4 per month for unlimited storage and bandwidth. Add to that a one time licensing fee for Lightroom web gallery templates from The Turning Gate and I am set.

  11. Mike Penney

    Free sharing of photos with everybody is a gold plated road to financial ruin… How could you ever get a sufficient fee to photograph a wedding to make up for all the time you are going to put in (sometimes almost 5 or more whole days), products you can’t sell anymore, and complete loss of control over your images, who prints them, and what kind of crap they will look like to defeat your ability to get the next job because you “did (not so) good work”?

  12. Mike Penney

    You’re not a business (nor are you a professional) if you are losing money and supporting the whole thing with your job at jack in the box, boeing, microsoft, or any other operation… You are a hobbyist and feel free to make all the pictures you want FOR YOURSELF.

  13. Wendy Leigh Cunningham

    I am a long time PASS user and it has honestly been the best thing that has ever happened to my business. I am still waiting to see how things have changed in the new version compared to what it was like for me last year. But I will say this: PASS is not for everyone. It is designed to work as a marketing tool for your business, as well as a way to deliver digital files to your clients. If you are a product based photographer and make the majority of your money on prints and other product sales after your shoot or wedding, then this is probably not for you. But then again… maybe it will be once the new print fulfillment feature is up and running. We are all still waiting to see what that is going to be like. But the bottom line is this: I booked four weddings alone from ONE SINGLE GALLERY that I PASSED last year. When that bride shared her PASS gallery to her Facebook wall, I ended up booking FOUR of her friends because they were so in love with the images, the gallery, the sharing features, and the download options. I charge a service fee, not a product fee. So I am paid heftily up front before I ever PASS any images to my clients. This is a workflow that I have developed in order to work PASS into my business model. That is how much this program has done for my business. No I am not on their payroll! LOL. I am just a small time wedding photographer trying to raise a family on a photographer’s income. I honestly believe that if it weren’t for the WOW factor that my clients express to me, I would not be able to stay afloat. Just wanted to make sure that you all hear a positive side to PASS. Again… PASS is a marketing tool and a digital delivery system.

  14. Quentin Décaillet

    I dont understand why people are complaining about the download functionality… There are ways to avoid your clients or anyone downloading the files and then not printing with you.

    I mean no one has to upload the original files! You can upload small compressed JPGS that look good on a computer but don’t print well or you can watermark your files so people can keep the pictures but not print.

    You could also disable the download functionality. Yes, people will still see the “Download all” button and so what? Use it as an opportunity to sell more! You shoot a wedding and mom & dad ask to download the pictures? Sure, I can give them access… it’ll be considered like a DVD copy and I’ll charge a fee. As simple as that.

    Finally another way to do it is upload small JPGs files with watermarks in collections that anyone can see and have another bunch of collections with the digital negatives that only your clients can see (and, why not, download).

    I personally use my Pass Galleries to deliver the Digital Negatives and share the pictures with the clients friends. However only my clients can download the digital negatives and my negatives are negatives, not fully retouched pictures. So they’ll be able to get prints themselves at their local store if they want to but if they want a higher quality products and a better image quality they’ll print with my studio.

    As with DVDs you must find a way of making it work with your pricing. Otherwise it won’t be any good for your business. And for people saying you can’t sell any products or upsell your clients after letting them download, I think that’s not true! In fact I know it’s not… or you are not a really good business person! I shot an Engagement Session this week, gave my clients their Pass Gallery and they already asked to order a few small and large prints despite having downloaded the files.

    Anyways, I can understand that some people are still working out the DVD thing and don’t want to add Pass on top of it. Also it’s a shame that Pass doesn’t have a better documentation, but seriously, it’s not that hard to figure out the interface and functionalities (and that’s coming from a non-native english speaker…)!

  15. Donte Tidwell

    can someone send a PASS invite to [email protected] ? i really want to see what the big deal is

  16. Sabrena

    I’m a portrait photographer and have decided to add the cost in with session fees, that way the cost goes to the customer and not me. For me, its an easier and better option than usb and discs bc it cuts down on my time and my time is very important to me. Other option, let the client know up front, the gallery is available for 1 week to view and make orders (if that’s how you use it) and/or the full 30 days and after that, its no longer available. Basically, think outside the box on how to make such an easy tool work for you. No system is perfect, however, I’m adapting it to fit for me bc I can’t beat it for the time I’m going to save using it. And let’s be real, we are in a digital age. If you set up your business on the front end that the client must purchase prints and you’re giving them the files anyway, what’s the big deal? I’m looking forward to your review after all the bugs have been worked out.

  17. Tammy Blalock

    I only purchase a PASS gallery for a client IF they purchase my (more expensive) digital package. The PASS gallery is meant to replace a DVD of images, not serve as a proofing/viewing arena. Yes, $29 is more of an expense that burning a DVD, but PASS solves many problems that the DVD does not: (1) it works for everyone; there’s no DVD writing or reading errors, (2) if shared properly, I always get credit for my work, (3) I can view statistics and see how far my work went (to China?), and (4) it provides a bragging place that the client can just whip out their images (in the grocery store) to show people–like a digitla version of that of the old, fold-out plastic thingy you used to keep in your wallet. I like PASS and I’ll keep using it! When I PASS a session/event, I also give the client access to my pro labs at a discounted rate, so there’s still pooprtunity to make a little money on prints.

  18. Mary

    I see everyone’s side of this and am not here to be devil’s advocate, but I use PASS for weddings & portraits & even vendors and absolutely LOVE it and find it worth it. I find some of the info here misleading, such as not enough information on it. There is a whole wiki on it plus online community that are constantly there for each other to answer questions immediately. Plus the support team are quick to respond as well. Everything is going digital. Things have changed so much. Wallet photos have been replaced with whipping out your cell phone to share pictures, frames have been replaced with digital frames to a point, you don’t send hard copies of photos via snail mail you share them through email, Facebook, twitter, & Pinterest. People want the digital images so they have them forever. Even with PASS I still sell prints as my client who truly value my work still order professional prints through me. PASS also backs up the files for 10 years! That’s huge! Computers crash. Houses catch on fire & flood. But your clients have the reassurance of their images still being there. It’s such an awesome selling point. PASS saves so much time, designing CDs ordering them, burning them, sending them… It can cost just as much when you add up the material cost, gas, wear and tear on running your car, packaging & shipping…. This is instant. I have had a groom whose brother passed away days after the wedding. I was able to go through and edit some photos of the brother for the funeral and get them to the client instantly to use. This meant a lot. I’ve had several instants where clients needed a few photos quickly for these kinds of situations. It meant a lot to get them quickly and easily. Also if you travel or have clients with family/friebds from out if town. They are able to access the photos and see them easily.

    PASS keeps it simple. They don’t want to over when your clients with the product “PASS” they want you to wow them with your logo. You have the freedom to explain pass to them in your own terms and show it to them to get them excited. Many photographers have written up and shared the info sheets they use for their clients through the Facebook group where you can download and customize what they use.

    The community is amazing. The clients eat it up. I am a PASS user for life. :D

    • Steve

      I just really don’t see it that way, Mary. For serious pros, PASS is a pass to giving your photos away for free. Forget about ever sending any PASSed images to a stock image bank. Once you’ve shared your photos on PASS they aren’t yours anymore.

  19. Mary

    Also- (I keep thinking of more great things) it brings you more clients! People see someone else’s gallery and share it and then you have more inquiries. It sticks your your name to the images. You are always accredited.

    I know some people have a minimum print order then they give the clients their digital images to have. Why should we hold people’s memories for ransom? I take lots of candids. Those moments are precious & priceless. I make sure I covered financially. And explain to my clients my expenses so they understand where their money is going and why it’s beneficially to hire me.

    This is what the public wants. First question out of everyone’s mouth: “Do I get a cd or USB drive so I can have my photos?”

  20. Van Middleton

    I’m interested in PASS, but annoyed at the lack of info – specifically, does PASS serve non-US customers? Obviously we live in a digital world, but print fulfillment tends to be regional. Shoot Proof has been excellent in serving photographers in Europe and Australia. PASS seems to think people outside America don’t exist. As soon as they get their act together and at least provide info about their print fulfillment plans for the rest of the world, they’ll fall further behind Shoot Proof.

  21. Steve

    UPDATE: Early 2014. Pass is out of Beta now and still marketing to wedding photogs like us. We tried it and ran headlong into everything brought up in this article. (Which I found after the fact and will now forward to anyone who asks about Pass.) We paid the $29 upgrade fee which would inflate our proofing site costs by a factor of ten if we were to use it on a regular basis. (I asked Pass later whether they offered or planned to offer any kind of bulk gallery price to pros. No, was the answer.) We then sent what we thought was a secure gallery (with password – the only reason we upgraded) to a new client. Obnoxiously, Pass demands your client’s e-mail address when you go to share the gallery with them. Of course we’ve given them fake e-mails. (Can you imagine any other vendor asking for direct contact info to your client list?) Our client, not an unsavvy computer user, tried to post one photo from the gallery to her FB profile. To her horror and mortification, all images in the entire gallery were made available to everyone who clicked on that one image (by-passing FB’s own meager privacy protections). We immediately contacted Pass (no customer service phone numbers, chat or e-mail only) and they informed us that there was no way to undo what had been done, putting severe stress on our relationship with that client. When I looked at what she had posted, it turns out that Pass created a FB photo gallery posted as though it were from Pass (shared “via” Pass) and though there was credit to the photographer, Pass apparently has no problem completely disregarding past industry standards in terms of general copyright usage and does not respect a photographer’s intellectual property rights at all.

    Another complaint I have is that Pass’ default setting is to cut photogs out of the profits from reprints. I wasn’t able to get an answer from the chat dude about whether or not that could be modified to include a cut to the artist. Apparently, Pass doesn’t really give a dam.

    My conclusions: Pass is not suitable for professional photographers. Avoid Pass if you have any professional dignity and self-respect at all.

  22. Pat Harris

    Not in love with how they won’t give you any money until your account hits $50. It doesn’t encourage me to use it more so I can get my $50, rather it encourages me to cut and run. I use Instaproofs and it has its problems, but it’s still a WAY better deal for the photographer. PASS just isn’t necessary when there are things around like Instaproofs. It’s an attractive gallery, but nothing that you couldn’t get in a WP plugin or template from Themeforest. Only getting half of the profits suck, and the $50 threshold to redeem your “credits” is horrible. If any of these things were stated upfront, I might not have had a problem. But they make you try it before you can find out ANY information!

Leave a reply