As a client you've probably wondered why your photographer won't give you RAW files from your recent photography shoot. After all, you've paid for a service and you may feel that part of that service is the RAW files.
As photographers, we don't say 'no' because we like to say it or because we are trying to hide anything from you. We want to do our best for our clients and that includes only giving the very best photographs to you. We certainly aren't withholding an amazing photograph from you and rest assured, the final images you received are the best of the best.
If you're still not convinced, have a look at our reasons why a photographer won't give out their RAW files.
1. RAW files aren't much use to someone who doesn't know how to use them
You may think that a RAW file is just an unedited version of the photo you have received. While this is true, it is not as simple as that. A RAW file is not the same as the JPEG you would have received from your photographer and you will not be able to view it in the same way. Simply put, a RAW file is not a finished product in itself. It is a file that holds all of the unprocessed data of the image, but it is not an actual image. When a photographer is editing a RAW file they are accessing the data (not an image) to be able to crop, change the colour, the brightness, contrast and any other editing that need doing to create the final image.
An unedited photo can look like a bad photo, which you may think means a bad photographer, but this is not the case at all. RAW files are supposed to be flat and dull as they contain data, not an image, that are designed to be edited and 'polished'.
A RAW file needs special software to be able to open and view it. Most clients will not have access to this software and would not be able to do anything with the RAW file they have, unlike the JPEG you have received from your photographer which you will be able to open easily and look at over a number of devices.
Even if you do have the software to open and view RAW files, there are the other points below to consider.
2. RAW files are extremely large
A small point, but a valid one. RAW files are huge files which take up a lot of space on your computer hard drive. Depending on the type of shoot, it's unlikely you would have enough storage space to hold thousands of images which can take up a lot of space.
Photographers have storage solutions and systems in place to deal with this for you so you only have to store the small (but high quality) JPEGs of your shoot.
3. RAW files are not the (final) product you've paid for
It would be like a baker giving you flour, eggs, butter etc and not giving you the cake. As a client, you've paid for a cake and shouldn't expect to just be giving the basic ingredients. The final image you receive is your cake, the RAW files are just a part of creating that beautiful cake/image.
A photographer wouldn't be doing their job very well if at the end of your shoot they handed you their memory card with the unedited photographs on. That is not the service you have paid for. Your photographer really does have your best interests at heart and we want you to have the very best of our professional knowledge and skill. Essentially, you're hiring a photographer for their expertise.
4. RAW files do not represent the photographer's style/artwork
While you are paying for a service, you are also paying for artwork. You've carefully chosen your photographer because of their unique style and their ability to capture your event/wedding/portrait. Part of what makes your photographer unique is how they edit their RAW file to create a beautiful final image.
If you are asking for the RAW Files to give them to someone else to edit then the final photos are not a representation of the style of the photographer you have hired. Similar to point 3, if you hire an artist to create a painting and they then supply you with a canvas, paint and brushes and you give those materials to another person to paint with, that is not the artwork/service you have paid for.
There is so much more to the final image that a client receives. A photograph is not complete when a button is pushed on a camera, there are many more hours the photographer puts into creating that beautiful image. The hours it can take to select the best photographs and then edit them into the final product can actually take more time than it did to actually take the photographs!
5. The photographer has already done the hard work of culling photos for you
The photographer has already gone through hundreds or thousands of images taken to carefully choose the very best ones to edit and give to you. They are very meticulous with their selection process and if you had the RAW files you wouldn't find a shot that they have missed and not included in your final selection of images.
A photographer will take many unusable photos during your shoot, but this is not a bad thing. They will take photos to test lighting, test camera settings or accidental images and these will be the first photos to go. They will go through and see people blinking, people mid sneeze, pulling an unintentional silly face or standing in an unflattering way. All of these photos won't be included in your final selection.
You are paying a professional for their expertise and part of that is to discern what is a good photograph and what isn't. It is very unlikely that if you saw the RAW files that you would disagree with the photographer's final choices. The photographer does all this culling for you, so you don't have to. This is all part of the service you are paying for when you hire your photographer.
6. You have an agreement for a set number of images
While this doesn't apply to us at Creative Eye, it will to many other photographers. We personally supply all of the best photographs and do not limit this to a set number, however many photographers do only give a set number of final images to their clients. Every photographer is different and if you have hired a photographer who has promised 100 edited images, it would not be fair to expect the additional RAW files for those images.
It comes down to quality over quantity. You may think that having lots of photographs is a better option for you, but wouldn't you rather have 100 stunning images over 200 unedited, badly lit, average looking photographs where you could be blinking or standing in an unflattering position?
If you are really eager to have those additional photographs then there are 2 options for you to discuss with your photographer. You could hire them again for an additional shoot to get more images, or you can pay for the extra photographs if you would like more than was originally promised.
If your photographer hasn't agreed to a set number of images then they should provide you with a basic/rough estimate of the amount of photographs you should expect to receive. This way, you are prepared and don't have any unexpected surprises.
Check what your contract and/or terms and conditions with your photographer says. Some photographers will state that they will not provide unedited RAW files. If you want to ask your photographer for RAW files, please don't be upset if they say no. They are giving you their best work, and after all, isn't that what you're paying for?