Updated: Sep 1, 2020
I, like many other photographers through their career, will inevitably be asked by a client,
“Can I get the raw photos from the session?”
I don't give out RAW files, as stated in my contract. Along with that, clients are also not allowed to edit my images. This may leave some customers confused, possibly even upset because they don’t understand the ‘why’ behind that policy.
Simply put, you don’t ask a professional photographer to give you their RAW photos, because that would only be giving you half of a finished work of art. Photographers brand their work based on a photograph + editing as one combined product. RAW files being unedited, are therefore not an accurate or complete representation of my work or my brand. You will never see an unedited image from me, your galleries are always fully edited.
Think of it like this:
You go to a restaurant, decide you’d like to eat there, get seated... but when the waitress comes out, you place your order and request the entire thing be brought to you uncooked on a plate.
OR You commission a painting… but you later request all of the sketches and studies that went into the finished piece.
OR You have a dress made… but you ask for the muslin fitting trials or the fabric cut-offs.
“Come on Sarah, what’s the harm in having all of the photos?”
Sadly, there can be a good deal of harm done to the professional photographer.
Let’s face it, not every photo is going to come out perfectly. I take many, many photos during your session. From there, I take the very best, the ones that are most flattering to you and have the most potential to be works of art.
THEN, I perfect them through editing until they are the best they can be. These edited photos will show the best possible you, which is what you want out of your pictures!
Wading through hundreds of unedited, unused photos, sometimes dozens of the same pose with only the most minor differences… I do this work for you, so you don’t have to.
Here are three samples of RAW images straight out of the camera compared to the edited final copy.
Another reason I don’t offer RAW files - those files are huge, and most clients don't know what they are. A client expects that they’ll get unedited JPEG images and be able to view them. In reality, when you try to open a RAW file you need specific software that can open them, or else you won't be able to view them.
By hiring a photographer and then asking them to deliver their work unfinished, half complete, you aren’t receiving the service intended. By asking your photographer for their RAW unedited photos, it comes across that you don’t trust them to deliver an edited image you’ll love.
And honestly, if you don’t trust the photographer to deliver quality edited images you love, you probably don’t like their editing.
Which begs the question: should you be hiring them in the first place?