The other day, in one of my facebook forums, a bride was asking for photographer recommendations for wedding photographers that would be willing to give all of the raw files from her wedding day. She felt that since she was paying thousands of dollars for the photography, that should entitle her to the raw files as well. I understand that wedding photography is a huge investment but let me tell you why professional wedding photographers will not hand over raw images.
Firstly, let’s say you wanted a gorgeous patio for your backyard and you had found a contractor whose work you loved. You saw his references and images of his work, perhaps you even went to one of the job sites and saw the work first hand. Then, let’s say you asked the contractor to give you the raw materials he uses to do his job and that you would assemble the patio, no problem. He wouldn’t even need to worry about that part. So you assemble the patio and you think it looks great. The problem is, the patio looks terrible really and doesn’t represent the work of that contractor at all. You decide you are going to blast images of your project, all the while crediting the contractor for his work, when all he did was provide the raw materials for the job. Now because the job you did was so terrible, the contractor’s reputation and business acumen are now in question and others decide they will for sure not use him for any future jobs. Do you see where I’m going with this? The reason smart photographers don’t hand over their files is because it’s an unfinished job. There is a finishing process that needs to be done to make the image complete. That finishing process, along with the style of photography, are the photographer’s trademark and represent their brand. To ask a photographer to give you their raw images is like asking them to compromise the integrity of the work they do and that’s just bad business for the photographer.
Now on to point number two. The actual processing of a raw image takes a special skill set. Just because you know how to use a curves slider, highlights recovery, or whatever Photoshop tool it is that you have, that doesn’t mean you are well trained enough to process raw images at a professional level. If you are interested in learning more about Photoshop, I would be happy to point you to some helpful online courses that can teach you these things. Again, just because you know how to use the tools doesn’t make you an expert any more than knowing how to sew a straight line with a sewing machine will make you an expert tailor or seamstress.
Thirdly, isn’t the reason you hired your photographer in the first place because you liked the finished product that you first saw that drew you to their work? If that’s the case, then why would you want to spend the time working on your images when they are well equipped to do so and you will have printable art when it’s all done?
I once had a groom that told me he would only book me on condition that he could have the raw images. I asked him what he intended to do with them? He stated that he wanted to “play around” with them in Photoshop. Immediately a siren went off and I realized my work could end up in the pinterest category of “Bad Wedding Photos.” So if you are a photographer and you feel pressure to accept work from clients that make you feel uncomfortable and could potentially compromise your brand, I urge you to simply say no. It will better serve you and your clientele in the long run.
This top image shows Emma and Ryan on their wedding day with very overcast weather with natural light, but the sky was getting dark. I took this image originally for the purpose of demonstrating off camera flash.
This second image shows Emma and Ryan in the same spot with a flash used to light them, and a little help in Photoshop with a ray of sun put in.This first image of baby “A” shows the image as a raw file, without skin correction and editing done.This second image shows baby “A” with more favorable skin tones throughout and light editing done on the skin and blanket.See what a difference the right edit can make?