Why Photographers Do Not Give RAW Unedited Images

Destination wedding photographer.JPG

Occasionally I get asked if a client can have the Raw images from their wedding, and I know that I am not the only one. I see this come up in my photo groups several times a week. So, I decided to write a short blog on why we do not give our Raw images to clients. 

For one I am confused as to why people think that they need these. I remember a wedding blog somewhere mentioning it but that was a couple years ago, and I think that people feel like they need to have them. But when you hire a photographer, you hire them because you like their style. So, why would you need photos to edit? 

My number one reason is that my photos represent my brand. I have worked hard to get where I am and to establish my brand. My photos represent a part of that. If I give Raw files anyone can edit them and say that it was me. They have the base beginning image, with all my metadata. 

The photos we take with digital cameras now are supposed to be edited. Back in the olden days with film, you know the thing that you can hold and is carbon based, not 0's and 1's, photographers could shape and image in their darkroom. They held on to the negative so they could reproduce it. 

Moody Couples Photos Before and after.jpg

Some people like to make the analogy that you don't go to the restaurant and order the ingredients to make the food. 

Unless it is a commercial client that has paid for the raw files, I will never give these away. I am an artist and these are my canvas, my manuscript with all its mistakes, markups, and cuts. 

Go ask J.K. Rowling for her unedited manuscripts. She will roast you on Twitter. 

The Raw images are ugly. Well, not really, but I expose for how I will edit. I know what I want my end product to look like. I know my camera, and the capabilities of the sensor, and what I will do with it in post. 

When it comes down to it, unless you pay and pay well, the raw photos are mine. Im not holding an epic photo back from you. I want you to have the best and only the best. 

Boulder Colorado Couples photos before and after

So here are several responses that you can send when you are asked. 

"Hello ______, 

My company policy is that I do not release the raw files. 

Thank you"

Hello ________, 

 In order to maintain the integrity of my brand I do not release the raw files to anyone. The exception to this is when a contract is negotiated, and the appropriate fee is charged. The fee for each raw file is $___ (large amount). Many times this is only for commercial work. If you would like to discuss this option let me know. 

Thank you.  

Before using this one make sure that it is stated in your contract that you do not release raw files. 

Hello _____, 

As per section _ in my contract I do not release raw files. The final editing style is determined by ________ (company name). We chose only the very best images and spend time making sure that they are perfect for you. 

Thank you.