Can I have the RAWs?
This question comes up in photography groups I’m in DAILY: clients and potential clients who are asking photographers for RAW files from their weddings. Photographers understand why this is NOT an industry standard, but many clients do not. And after 10 years in the industry, I can also tell you that clients often don’t understand the term RAW and what they are even asking for with these files. This post is to hopefully educate clients on what RAW files are and truly why you don’t need them all.
Here are questions and arguments photographers often get from clients asking for RAW files:
1) Can I have all of the pictures, even the RAW files? I promise I won’t publish them. I just want them all!
2) I have a friend who can edit them for me. (Or I can do it myself.) Will that make the price cheaper?
3) I want to remember EVERY part of the day, even the ones that are blurry or have people with their eyes closed.
4) I’m paying for all of the pictures. I want all of them, even the not-so-good ones.
I’m going to explain to you why photographers tell you NO when you ask for RAW files:
1) RAW Files are Unfinished
Asking for a RAW file from your photographer is like asking your cake person for your wedding to just bring the ingredients and you’ll put it together yourself. You’ll bake the cake and decorate it yourself. This is exactly, well not exactly, the same thing. A RAW file is just that- it’s raw. It’s in the first state. It needs to be touched and worked on by the artist (your photographer) to make it beautiful and presentable. No cake person is going to agree to just delivering ingredients. You shouldn’t ask your photographer to do so.
The left is the RAW file and right is the edited one. You can see the difference in the picture from one to the next.
2) RAW Files are HUGE
These files are in their first format and very large files. It would take very large (and multiple) USB’s or hard drives to transfer the files to a client. See the example below from Jenna and Tanner’s recent wedding. The file I screenshotted is 33MB before any editing and exporting as a JPG. This is a massive file. Most client JPG’s range from 4MB to maybe 12MB usually. Imagine how much memory would be needed to transfer all of the RAW files to a client.
3) RAW Files Cannot Be Opened
Unless you have a photo editing system like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop for example, you cannot even open the files on your computer. They have to be opened through an editing software and then exported to the clients as a JPG file.
4) RAW Files Do Not Represent the Photographer
Kind of like what I said in #1, no cake person is going to give you ingredients and then have you make the cake and then tell everyone the cake is from So and So Bakery. They would NOT want their name attached to the product YOU created, because THEY didn’t create it. Same goes for photographers. I have a certain style of editing that matches my work. I do not want pictures out there that do not correctly represent my brand. Plus, if you see this example, why in the world would you want the first picture? There’s nothing appealing about what is straight out of camera there.
5) Clients Do Not Need Every Picture from the Day
Clients need to remember that when photographers take pictures, they take thousands of them during the course of a wedding day. So why are you delivered only 1/2 or maybe a 1/3 of those pictures? Because photographers take a handful of each shot and moment, but only need to deliver one or two of those to the client. With my photojournalistic style of photography, capturing the moments as they happen to tell a story, my second shooters and I can easily capture 4000-6000 pictures in a wedding day. We pick the best ones of the moments. Trust your photographer; they aren’t keeping anything from you. Another example, when we do family portraits the day of, I always take at least 5-6 pictures of each set before I do more pictures. I do this to capture everyone looking, no eyes blinking, all smiles. The client does not need all of these pictures, but needs only one to print and use.
6) Editing is a Skill
Unless you know how to edit, it’s not something you can just do once and be good at it. There’s really nothing out there that you can do once and be good at it. It takes years of perfecting your craft as a photographer to get great at editing. There might be someone or something in the background of the picture that needs to go. There might be some lighting scenarios that need help on the backend of editing. Trust your photographer to do this for you. It’s why you hired them!
Note the editing I did in this picture. You can see the lighting differences, but also note the trashcan in the background. I got rid of it in the finished product. The trashcan now looks likes a well manicured bush.
I hope that as a bride or potential bride, you find this post helpful in understanding what RAW files actually are and why you don’t need them from your photographer. There are some photographers out there who will sell you the copyright of the RAW images, but know that costs A LOT of money. You will find almost no photographers out there who will give RAW files to a client. Thanks for tuning in today!