Should You Sell Your Raw Files or Not?

If you've worked in photography for a little while, you'll likely have been confronted with the question of whether you should sell your raw files or not. Is there a right answer? Here's one photographer's take on it.

This is a deep question and one that if I were to fully unpack my stance on it, would take an entire article in itself. However, rather than going over what David Bergman says, I'll offer my thoughts in shortened form. 

Firstly, whether you should sell your raw files depends largely on what sort of photography you're doing. There have been shoots I have given over my raw files, but they're typically shots that do not involve creativity in any way, like packshots for products. However, for anything that requires creativity, I do not share my raw files.

My post-production is a key part of my workflow. It isn't a crutch to fix the mistakes made in-camera, it is the second leg of the same race. I shoot with editing in mind, and to share the raw files is to share the incomplete product. I've always made this very clear upfront and I haven't had any issues yet. That said, there's a caveat to this doctrine: everything has a price. If I'm offered enough money, I will gladly relinquish my raw files without a second thought.

What is your view on this question? Have you ever had to debate it with a client?

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4 Comments

craig salmon's picture

Doesn't matter if you deliver dngs it matters what the photographer's licensing contract reads. I can't believe Adorama would sponsor this type of dialog as if photographers running a business are nothing but simpletons.

How about a three minute video discussing how to politely explain to bullheaded clients the concept of licensing? You know like everyone who has ever purchased an iTunes song needs to understand.

p.s. in the USA copyright transfer needs a signature so again the photographer can't be some Jonny-come-lately delivering files without some sort of written/signed contract.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

---> " I can't believe Adorama would sponsor this type of dialog as if photographers running a business are nothing but simpletons"

Speaking of simpletons, you are aware there is such a thing as new photographers. Yes? So, the dialog is valid.

craig salmon's picture

by discussing a file format and not basic paperwork and proper business practices? (on the topic of sales implying copyright transfer).

Is it any wonder why our clients see us as gullible simpletons willing to sign "their" outrageous contracts. Next time a 20yr old plumber comes to your house to fix your toilet hand them a contract to sign.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Maybe you weren't paying attention to the video, but, he was simply answering a question from one of their viewers. And, ultimately, his answer was, no, he would not sell his raws. So, I'm no sure why your getting your panties in a bunch for.