Every now and again I get an inquiry about Wedding Photography or Engagement Photography and this question pops up; “Do we get the RAW files from our shoot?”
The short answer to the question of RAW files is “No” – at least for me and my Photography business.
But in this post I’m going to explain not only why I don’t give my clients the RAW files, but what RAW files actually are and why most Wedding Photographers don’t deliver them to their clients.
What are RAW files?
Let’s avoid all the geek-speak and keep it simple; RAW files are the highest quality type of digital image a digital camera can capture. So, to my mind, any pro photographer worth their salt will ALWAYS shoot in RAW format. I always shoot in RAW format for this reason.
However, RAW files are also an unfinished image (as the name “RAW” implies). You can’t print, or in fact do much of anything with a RAW file, you need to convert it into a usable file format (usually JPEG or TIFF) first. Think of RAW files as the negatives in film camera terms. You don’t frame the negative and hang it up on the wall or show it to your friends or put it in an album. You use the negative to create a print and it is this print that you can actually do something with. Or, in baking terms, think of the RAW file as the batter you will use to make a cake. You don’t eat the batter itself (well, maybe you lick the spoon a little), you cook it and use it as the key ingredient of what will eventually become a delicious cake.
If you want to learn more about what RAW files are check this Wikipedia page out.
Why would people want their RAW files?
Usually when people ask me if I will give them the RAW files it is for one of three reasons;
- They are experienced (to some degree) or passionate about image editing and they want to be able to edit their own wedding images their way.
- They are concerned they won’t like the final edit of their images and they want to have the option of getting somebody else to edit them.
- They have heard that RAW files are the highest possible quality image format and they want them for safety reasons because they are the original images and they feel it’s important to keep a copy for data security purposes.
Why do most Wedding Photographers NOT give you your RAW files?
A Wedding Photographer’s style is determined not only by how they actually take the photo (the composition, lighting, timing etc) but also how they edit that image after it has been captured. Eg perhaps they are known for light airy images, or dark and moody images, or even gritty black and white images or a retro look.
Going back to the cake analogy from earlier, when you ask your Wedding Photographer for the RAW files it is like ordering a cake from your local bakery but asking for the raw batter as well so if you don’t like their cake you can bake your own with their cake batter. Is the bakery going to give you their cake batter? No they aren’t. Because how they bake and ice and fill the cake is part of what makes their cakes unique.
If you don’t think you will like their cake the way they bake and ice it, perhaps you should consider buying a cake from a different bakery? The same is true of Wedding Photographers. I would suggest that if you don’t feel confident that your Wedding Photographer can capture and edit your wedding photos to your satisfaction, then book somebody else.
I hope you find this helpful in understanding what RAW files are and why most Wedding Photographers don’t give them to their clients. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. If you found this article helpful, you might also find the following pages/posts helpful;
The Queenstown Wedding Blog (A searchable Queenstown Wedding Venue & Vendor Directory that also contains a bunch of awesome how to articles and blog posts. FYI I am the author).