Can I have the RAW files?

Something that potential clients ask me about a lot is delivery of RAW files. I don’t provide RAW files, nor do I sell them for a premium price. Let’s go through some of the basics about RAW files and why I handle this question the way I do.

What are RAW files?

Simply put, a RAW file is exactly what it sounds like – raw, unedited data from my camera. Most cell phone photos, in comparison, take JPG photos. This is a smaller file size, and does not include as much data as the RAW file does. This is how I save my final edited images.

When I initially take a photo in RAW, the file size is about 5 times larger than the final JPG product, and it contains a lot of extra information: details about the lights and shadows, different color profiles, lens and focal length descriptions…you get the idea. This is all information that helps the photographer when editing in post (which means after the event, on the computer). The program I use to edit is able to read all of this metadata, and gives me greater control over editing things like the brightness, the saturation, or the color tones of your image.

At the risk of taking away some of the “magic” of my editing process, let’s look at an example. Here’s a photo that I took on Easter Sunday, before (unedited RAW) and after (edited JPG):

You can see that the RAW photo isn’t bad – it’s what you might want out of a cell phone shot. Still well lit, colors look ok, and we look good! The JPG photo though is touched up and brightened in all the right places. Our skin tones are brightened, the photo is straightened out, and the background is whiter. This is part of what you pay me to do.

Why don’t you provide RAW files?

Couple of reasons: for starters, it would be sort of like handing you the film from a film camera and saying, “Here are your photos!” 🙂 Here’s some more in depth info:

  1. Most people wouldn’t know what to do with the RAW files. RAW is a very specific file type (it’s a very large file) and you need special software to be able to view it properly.
  2. RAW photos don’t represent my photography. They don’t look nearly as good as the edited photos. They are basically just a collection of data about the colors and the light. RAW files are actually meant to be manipulated with software.

But what if you know how to edit RAW files? What if you want to keep the backups just in case? I’ve decided that to protect the integrity of my business, I choose to not release RAW files. If there are edits out there that don’t look like my work, it can be damaging to my photography reputation.

Part of what I provide in my services is a complete experience with fully edited photos that are representative of my style as an artist since you’re hiring me based on what you see in my portfolio and online galleries.

What do I get if I can’t have RAWs?

While this is pretty standard across the industry among professional photographers, it is helpful to explain anyway. What you’re paying for with a photography package is the preparation leading up to the wedding (help designing your timeline to fit in the photos you want, engagement photos to get a feel for my style, etc.), the wedding day itself, and the editing afterwards.

You will get all of the edited photos that turn out!

You don’t want to sort through 2,000 photos where someone might be blinking or mid-sneeze. This is also part of my job. Don’t worry, I don’t leave anything out except for photos that are bad (like due to closed eyes, or severely out of focus), or photos that are truly duplicates (my camera can take up to 7 shots per second…sometimes nothing changes between two photos!). I edit all of your photos to look like the work that you see on my website – true to life colors, very bright and natural.

I provide my photos in a high resolution online gallery for you to download!

Two reasons:

  1. It’s easy for you to view, download, and share!
  2. In the state of California, once I provide you with a physical product I’m legally obligated to charge you sales tax. Digital downloads are exempt from that! The package price on my website is what you pay.

The service that I use for digital galleries and downloads allows you to create favorites lists, share only certain photos that you approve, download in hi-res and web-sized, and easily purchase prints if you choose to do that through the online shop (you can also download and print elsewhere).

I hope this helps you to understand where I’m coming from with my RAW files, and why most photographers won’t give them away. Feel free to email me if you have any more questions or concerns!

  1. Monica says:

    Very thorough response.

  2. This explains it so well! This definitely clears up the miscommunication that could happen when RAW files are requested.

  3. Millie says:

    Great insight for your clients to see! 🙂

  4. Catherine says:

    very educational and a great guide for your couples to have to understand what all you do with their photos!

  5. Jordyn says:

    Such important info! It provides great insight to what we do as photographers 🙂

  6. Holly says:

    Love how well you wrote this! Such a good topic!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *