Why Giving Clients Raw Files Could Be a Great Idea

Why Giving Clients Raw Files Could Be a Great Idea

“My client wants all the raw images,” or, “My client wants to see the raw images. What do I do?” The general consensus seems to be a resounding no, but handing over raw files to your client might be a great idea. Here's why.

Photographers in social media groups ask this question as if they’ve just discovered a strange rash on an unmentionable body part. The most common response I see is, “Omg don’t ever let them see those files! Your camera will explode. Your computer will explode. You’ll explode! Don’t work with those crazy people.”

Maybe it’s just me, but this response always confuses me because I often show my clients raw images as I work — yes, even non-industry portraits of regular people — and will email galleries of raw images for the client to choose which they’d like edited. If they’re already happy with the way the raw images look, imagine how thrilled they are when I hand over the edited version. So, why not let your clients see or buy raw images? Is this an insecurity issue? Whenever I read through posts on this topic, these are the most popular responses I see:

  • My editing is part of my style.
  • I don’t want unedited photos representing my brand.
  • Clients who want raw images are usually difficult to work with, and if they ask for raws before you sign a contract then it’s a good sign they’re probably not your client.
  • Raw images don’t look very good.
  • The cake analogy: if I ordered a wedding cake, I wouldn’t expect the baker to give me a tray full of ingredients.
  • The client might edit them terribly.

Two disclaimers before we begin:

  1. This article doesn’t apply to artists who use photography as a tool to create a finished image that consists heavily of composites or digital art. In that circumstance, photography is only one piece of the finished image and seeing or selling a raw image would make no sense as it’s only a small piece of the final artwork.
  2. The article is predicated upon the clients being willing to pay for the images in question.

Moving on, my plan is to address the common reasons against allowing clients to see or buy raw images one at a time and give a rebuttal to each, followed by my personal reasons for allowing clients access. Hopefully the result will be a new way to think about this issue.

The Common Reasons Against, and a Rebuttal

1. The Cake Analogy

There is one big reason why the cake analogy doesn’t work: if you’re comparing the elements of a finished photograph to the elements of making a cake, then editing is putting on the decorative frosting, not baking the cake. The elements of making a good photograph — the ingredients — are not in the editing. They’re in the light, the settings, the posing, the styling, the angle, the color palette, and the hundreds of other little details that photographers control to create a photo. The only problem with handing over an undecorated cake is if the client has asked you to decorate it. If the client wants to decorate the cake themselves or if frosting is just too sweet for them, then handing over an undecorated cake makes perfect sense. The cake is made is still made and it tastes delicious.

2. My Editing Is Part of My Style

Doesn’t your style start with how you conceive an idea, how you execute the idea, how you choose to work with light, how you direct your subject, and work with your team? Removing the editing doesn’t negate your style, it simply removes the finishing touches. Of course, the finishing touches are important and that’s why we do them, but if your style is completely dependent on Photoshop, then you might want to consider yourself more of a digital artist and less of a photographer. Please do not get insulted on behalf of digital artists. Their work is is just as valuable and it's just as legitimate a job as photography, it's just not the same job.

3. Raw Files Look Terrible

If your raw files look terrible, you might way to spend a bit more time dialing in technique before you start charging clients.

A well taken image remains a well taken image, and the editing is simply the icing on the cake

4. I Don’t Want Unedited Photos Representing My Brand

My question in this circumstance would be, why? Are you relying on Photoshop to make up for a lack of experience or technique? If so, I can understand why you wouldn’t want anyone to see them. If, however, your straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) shots are technically solid, then I think you’ve got a few options in this instance.

With so many editing programs available to the average consumer, we’ve reached a point where most people understand that the finished images they see have been edited. This is why “photoshopped” is an adjective. Most clients will be able to understand the difference between an edited and an unedited photo. I have serious doubts as to whether a solid SOOC will damage your business.

If you’re concerned with SOOC images having a negative affect on your business, you always have the option of adding a clause to your contract that specifies clients not tag you or your business in social media posts.

You can also do your own preferred edits on the images to share on your platforms so that the finished version is out there in the world.

5. Clients Who Want Raw Images Are Usually Difficult to Work With or Not Your Ideal Client

I think this is a rather unfair view of the client, and brings up the issue of communication and setting client expectations. The client may be a professional artist or skilled hobbyist, or even just someone who is incredibly picky and wants control. In any case, that doesn’t necessarily make them difficult as long you set expectations from the beginning. If you make the nature of a raw image clear and the client is still willing to sign a contract, then it doesn’t seem to me that you’re in any more danger of dealing with a difficult client than with any other client.

6. Clients Might Do Terrible Edits on the Raw Files

Let’s get real for a second: clients sometimes do terrible things to beautifully edited and finished images anyway. If a client is dead set on doing their own thing to an image, they’re going to do it whether it’s a raw file or a JPG.

Reasons Why Letting Your Client Have Access to Seeing or Purchasing Raw Files Could Be a Great Idea

1. A Bigger ROI

If you’re running a photography business, you’re a business person first and a photographer second. Giving clients raw files is a solid business decision — as long as they’re willing to pay for them — because it requires the minimum amount of time and effort on your part. You won’t have to spend the additional time retouching the images or paying to outsource the retouching, and if you charge more for raw images (which you absolutely should) then it’s basically pure profit.

2. More Money

When I see this question come up in photography forums, I’m often left wondering why so many photographers are content to leave money on the table. If a client asks if they can have the raw files, you can always say, “sure, but the raw files will cost xxx because I no longer have the ability to control the quality of the image attached to my name,” and client will either say, “that’s more than I’m willing to spend,” or “I’m totally happy to pay xxx.” In either case, the situation is taken care of and, if the client is willing to pay, you’re walking away with more money.

3. People Love Getting What They Want

If you can give your client what they want (you are in the customer service business, remember) and still get what you need from the transaction, then you’ve got a happy client who will more than likely talk to their friends about how their photographer cared about their wants and needs and was willing to work with them, and the additional money to spend on a new lens or more marketing or personal shoots where you control the output 100 percent. Remember that giving the client raw files if they pay for them doesn’t take away your ability to edit and share the finished images on your website and social media platforms.

4. Seeing the Images Gets People Excited

Some people take the “no raws” idea to the extremes in that they don’t even let their clients see the back of the camera or the laptop if they’re tethered. This one is nuts to me simply because of the reaction I get from clients when I show them what a great shot we just got. It gets them jazzed for the final product and keeps the energy high during the shoot. It also shows them that I understand how hard it can be to wait to see the photographs, and lets them know that if the raw image looks good enough to get them that excited, the finished image is going to be amazing.

What it all comes down to in my eyes is that while clients pay me most often for my vision, and rarely ask for raw files in any capacity, my job is primarily to make my clients happy. That begins with good communication and setting client expectations, but ends with finding ways I can both make my client thrilled they worked with me and profit from my ability to do so. If I let a huge chunk of money walk away because I’m overprotective of my art, then I’m doing my business and my client a disservice, and I might consider whether I want to be a business person or a professional artist. If I'm a professional artist, then the result is always controlled by me. If I'm a business person, then I’ve got a client who needs to be made happy, and if I can do that for less work and more money, that seems like a win to me.

What have your experiences been with clients and raw files, and what are your reasons for choosing whether to allow clients to have raw files or not?

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54 Comments

John MacLean's picture

"The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance." Ansel Adams

Most non-commercial clients don't know what to even do with a raw file, let alone process it. Maybe if I was shooting widgets on white for a catalog I'd consider it, otherwise, I'll do it myself. Afterall, that's the performance!

True, but getting paid as a composer is not a bad gig.

Alex Cooke's picture

Composer here. It’s an incredibly hard gig to make a living at.

True, but easier to make a living as a composer than a performer. The performer may have more fun and more fans, but the composer makes more money.

Not arguing how hard it is to compose or publish, but once you do, the performer does all the work, and the composer collects all the money. I have never heard one performance by Rod Templeton, but I here his music all the time, —Michael Jackson's Thriller, for instance— and he retired on that music. (Wait…. Is he retired)?

Yes, there are singer/songwriters like Ansel Adams and Evelyn “Champagne” King, —and, yes, MJ did do some songwriting himself from time to time— but then there are singers like TLC and the wealthy songwriters who got rich off of their backs.

So, whereas trying to make a living as a composer may be a hard gig, getting paid as a composer is not a bad gig.

Alex Cooke's picture

Sorry, but it's just not true that it's easier to make a living as a composer than a performer. Composers make significantly less money and have far fewer opportunities than performers, and that's not saying performers have it easy, as they have a very difficult job as well. That's why so many composers also perform, teach, or work some other job. Also, in your example, you're talking about songwriters, not composers. Even so, for every one songwriter that's writing hits for top pop stars, there are 1,000 struggling to make it. When it comes to composers, virtually no one makes their living off composition alone. And no, we don't collect all the money when someone performs our work; we get a small royalty, and that's assuming it gets multiple performances to even generate that income stream, something that itself is exceedingly rare in new art music.

Fine, but we can talk photography the same way.

I was using the term, “composer,” to mean the author of a piece, be it a pop number or modern baroque for orchestra. The money is in being the author, who gets paid more royalties, than the performer/performers, who gets paid significantly less after their vast overhead.

The same is true for photography, where one can be a wedding photographer making money week after week for about 36 weeks each year, or one can be a product photographer who has five to fifteen clients who uses them regularly, or at least in the ‘season,’ or one can be a wildlife or landscape photographer who travels for a good part of the year, and spends the rest marketing prints.

I used a songwriter as an example of a composer, but the analogy does not break down. Depending on what kind of photographer one is, it can be argued that photography is an incredibly hard gig to make a living at, but if one can make a living taking pictures, and let someone else do the retouching, colour grading, cropping, and compositing “the copy,” it is not a bad gig.

My wedding photographer —who I selected because he was excellent— left wedding photography to do purely commercial work, because he did less work for more pay, and did not have to deal with bridezillas.

The breakdown:

«Composers make significantly less money…. …we get a small royalty….»
Yes, but all your overhead comes before publication, within a few months to a couple years, after which, no overhead, and all income. …residual income.

«…for every [successful] songwriter… there are 1,000 struggling to make it.»
…And for every successful singer/performer, there are 10,000 trying to make it. Was not discussing the one's struggling to make it. I was discussing the published composers vs the active performers. E.g., the people who write for the Atlanta symphony orchestra, versus the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, or the people who write for the Boston Pops, versus the Boston Pops. i am not even talking about the violinist nor the cellist in either group.

«When it comes to composers, virtually no one makes their living off composition alone.»
Don't know the actual stats on that, but the same can be said about professional photographers, and although you and I can both name some photographers who make a living off of photography alone, so do some composers. I do not know where to get the stats on either profession, but the actual stats are not relevant. What is relevant, is that for the successful composer, it is not a bad gig.

«…no, we don't collect all the money….»
Hyperbole. The performers don't do all the work, either. But composers do not go on tour for a year or two, do media interviews and appear on late night television, either. Performers have a heavy overhead layout to promote their performance, and it comes out of their cut. The composer spends their time and money composing, then spends the rest of their time composing again as residual income comes in.

Some photographers do that too. They have a semi-opensource licensing model which gives minimal residual income, and when someone wants more than the model allows, the work is licensed for even more residual income, and when a license is violated, even more residual income, all handled by an agency, so the photographer does not do more than continue creating work. (I am not one of those, but I met a couple).

So, again, not arguing whether it is hard or not to make a living as a composer/photographer, nor whether it is easier to make a lot of money one way or another, just that IF one can make a living as a composer/photographer who does not have to spend their time performing/post production, then it is not a bad gig.

Alex Cooke's picture

Ok.

John MacLean's picture

I think you're muddling the analogy and making it about money, not style.

In transparency film days, you got on the film (or didn't), and you delivered your style that way. Lighting paid a huge part of that "look". Nowadays in addition to lighting and all the other comparable components, we have digital processing to finish the look.

I don't mind showing a portrait client my tethered captures, because I've got it already 85% there with the lighting. But they're paying me to give them the finished product. If I'm shooting architecture they get to see it on the camera LCD. The post work on these is at least 3x the time spent shooting. So there's no way they're going to hire me for my look and get it if I'm handing over raw files, nor would I want my brand getting trashed by them. I've given architects finished files and they still manage to hose them a little. They'd absolutely destroy a raw file, I'm sure of it.

First, unless my computer is messing up, this is in the wrong place on the thread, so I had a hard time figuring what you were talking about, so forgive me if I misconstrue.

«…making it about money, not style.»
Er,… nope. I think the article properly addressed both issues, and did so well. If your style is a major issue to you, they addressed that, and if earning money is an issue to you, they addressed that.

«Nowadays in addition to lighting and all the other comparable components, we have digital processing to finish the look.»
I remember film days, and my style did not end after the shutter was pressed. The only time that was an issue, was when shooting in slide, and not negatives, and slides had their own drawbacks, just like shooting JPEG only has its drawbacks today, over raw.

The digital workflow is not that drastic a change from the film workflow. We do the same things, just in different ways.

«…showing a portrait client my tethered captures….»
Not an issue. All I am saying is that what you are showing them is NOT a raw, unprocessed, image, and may skew their expectations when they get an actual raw file. It does not matter that what they see is 85% there; what an actual raw file gives them is barely 50% of the way there. It has not be demosaiced, it has not been white balanced, it has not been denoised, it has not been colour graded, etc.

«…hire me for my look and get it if I'm handing over raw files….»
…But some commercial clients are NOT hiring you for your “looks,” preferring their own look, but are hiring you for your eye on composition, rhythm, and, perhaps framing. They will do the white balancing, colour grading, cropping, compositioning, etc., (and possibly framing), to suit their campaign.

«…my brand getting trashed….»
The only people who knows who shot the Marlborough man, the Grey Goose magazine spread, or the Cisco Smart Router product page images, are photography geeks. commercial shoots rarely trash the brand of the photographer. For non-commercial shoots, that has been addressed by the article.

«…architects….»
Yeah…. That was discussed in the article, also, although, not architects in particular.

No. Just no. Unless there's some super specific reason that makes sense to me (eg. I am photographing one part of a project and someone else is photographing another but the client wants to hire a third party to edit everything so that the entire project has the same look), my answer would be a resounding "NO".

Maybe about a year and a half ago I would have still cared about whether my clients were happy or not in the sense that they got everything that they wanted. Now I only care that they're happy with what they actually get and if they insist on doing it their way, there are plenty of other photographers in the world that they can go to for that. I'm not going to be arrogant enough to say that I'm a great photographer or that I'm better than any of the others out there who are more willing to accommodate, but I've come to a point where I feel like I have a pretty good idea of who I am and who I am not as a photographer and I'm willing to stick up for my principles and style through the jobs that I take or decline.

I won't really argue with most of your points since I think they're largely correct as long as income is your primary concern. The only one I would take exception to would be the showing clients the back of the LCD thing because unless they're professional models, I've found that doing that tends to make them much more self-conscious and paranoid then excited. Even if they look fine, people have a tendency to be their own harshest critics.

Marc Perino's picture

I second your last paragraph.
We photograph actors all the time and they are very self-conscious. Even to that degree that most of them don't even want to watch the final result until it is chosen and edited.
Then there are some who understand how they look and come to the computer or LCD and afterwards know exactly what they have to change in their attitude or posture. But this is a rare thing.
The third kind is heavly (also) heavily insecure and any glimpse of themselves throws them into weird mood and you see them "melt down". The last group you cannot show anything during shooting. ;)

I'm sure you know Peter Hurley. His shooting sessions are in fact 2 or 3 mini-sessions back to back where he reviews the portraits with his client right away. This enables him to learn what makes the client comfortable or not and to coach him about what needs to be done to improve. He does that with everybody. He shoots a lot, and does a terrific job with this process so there surely is some good to showing photos to the subject (even the ultra insecure ones).

Marc Perino's picture

I know Peter Hurley. And if that system works for him that is fine.
We shot hundreds of people as well. From unknown regular people to celebrities like Bryan Cranston, Emma Thompson and Michael Caine and many many unknown and semi-known actors and I can assure you that the experiences I described above is a reality for us. We tried it out. Actors are a special breed when it comes to being photographed.

But our way to combat insecurity is mostly to talk to them constantly. You don't need to show them any intermediate steps - as I described above we do that too. But it is more building a trust. Make jokes, start with photographing them with color charts and little light tests and engage them somehow.

There is a famous german photographer called Jim Rakete. And he is known for placing himself next to the camera (after checking the shot of course) and holding a remote trigger and then he engages his subjects into a real conversation. And while he is doing that he is constantly pushing the trigger. All of his subjects tell you that they did not feel "photographed" at all. And he is mostly doing analog work. So there is no way of "checking" the image afterwards. I heard Martin Schoeller is doing the same (although he is shooting digital in the meantime).

So I guess there is no "right way" to do it. Whatever works. But I would never tell anybody how to do something or critize his way of working if it works for him.

Dan Howell's picture

In my opinion, your absolutist stance is unrealistic. There are numerous real-world/real-industry reasons to provide raw images to some clients. Within this past year I have had a variety of delivery requirements. In one case, they wanted only wanted refined but unretouched JPGs or TIFFs. In another few clients, they have an extensive, full-time pre-press departments that handles all retouching. Originally they wanted unretouched TIFF files, but currently they are seeking raw files and we have matching versions of Capture One Pro so all my digital tech's refinements are preserved. I have yet another client who archives my raw files but uses my digital tech/retoucher to handle their immediate editing needs. And finally several smaller clients who will never see or bother with raw files, only finals edited by myself.

I am so bored with adamant stances regarding workflow when I have found absolutely no consistency in the industry.

I think I covered those cases when I said, "Unless there's some super specific reason that makes sense to me..."

Of course for plenty of commercial and industrial purposes, they might want RAW files and it makes perfect sense.

So yeah... all you had to do is literally read the third sentence and that would have covered just about every example you gave. Not sure how you think that my stance is "absolutist" when it clearly isn't.

Just as an example of some of the people I've run into, I've literally had people tell me that they'll provide the memory cards for me to shoot on for a portrait shoot and take the memory cards with them right after the shoot, leaving me with absolutely nothing, which is ridiculous. Equally ridiculous is the client that offers the memory cards to shoot on, takes one back so they have ALL of the RAW files (not just the keepers) and because they know every photo that was taken, expects that every single one of those including the ones with the closed eyes should be delivered fully edited, retouched, and photoshopped. And inevitably, the memory cards happen to be some UHS-I crap from Transcend or some other random brand. You could say that I should charge more, but frankly speaking it's not a matter of money at that point so much as it's a matter of damage to my sanity from having to deal with working on photos that I know will never see the light of day. For me, it would take a really unreasonable amount of money for that to be worth it.

There's plenty of consistency to be had so long as you find yourself a consistent clientele. If you're a do-it-all photographer that takes on any job that pays, then of course you'll find yourself making far more compromises (and likely far more money). I just personally don't have the patience for that kind of nonsense. Maybe I'll never be a great photographer (I certainly won't be a rich one), but I still take immense joy in being comfortable enough to tell the occasional psycho customer to go play in traffic because I have zero interest in working with them. I'm sure there are a thousand other photographers that would be willing to take up that job anyway and I'm more than happy to refer them.

Dan Howell's picture

Then i think the problem is that you haven't worked with professional clients who actually know what they are doing with the files that they have hired a photographer to create. Again, your muscle flexing is tiresome. There is NO industry standard. Any suggestion that there is consistency is patently inaccurate. What exactly is consistent clientele anyway? I would venture to say that I have been doing this more consistently and for a longer duration than you.

What muscle flexing? There are certainly industry standards. Do you think "PHOTOGRAPHY" is a single giant industry? In real estate photography, there are standard are pertain to that genre. The same goes with fashion, commercial, architectural, commercial headshots, etc.

If you're doing multiple different things, then yes, you won't find any consistency because every different type of client will want different things.

I don't doubt that you have been doing this much longer than I have (who's the one muscle flexing here?), but I also don't doubt that you've probably worked in more than one field within photography given your response.

If every single client that you have is a real estate agent, then you can pretty much bet that not a single one of them is going to ever ask for a RAW file. You can also make pretty safe bet on other "standard" things like the fact that they are going to want photos taken with wide angle lenses and that they are going to want every vertical to be properly vertical. If every single client of yours is an actor looking for a professional headshot, you can similarly bet that none of them are likely to ask for a RAW file. You can also make pretty safe bets as to the manner of lighting, editing, and delivery that's expected of you. If you're only shooting commercial work for advertisements, then you can pretty safely bet that you'll consistently be asked for RAW files and for very good reason. THAT's what I mean when I say "consistent clientele".

It's like you're just responding for the sake of responding without even reading what I'm actually writing (or thinking about what it might mean). So no, there is no standard across the industry that would pertain to architecture photography, fashion, wildlife, food, and every other genre of photography. But within each genre, there are absolutely standards that are upheld.

For money, I happen to only do real estate photography and corporate headshots. So no, I've never shot for any client that would have a good reason to want RAW files, but if I did, I wouldn't hesitate to give them the files. One instance would be when I shot a few homes that I knew would be used for marketing material where they wanted everything edited the same way for a consistent look. When they explained that to me, I happily gave them the RAW files. If a random real estate agent or a headshot client wanted RAW files for no good reason, though, I would very gladly tell them to go find someone else because I have no interest in dealing with them because in essence, such a client is saying that they don't have enough respect in what I do with my edits and if that's the case, they can freely find a photographer that is more suited to them.

Anyway, believe what you want and do what you want. Makes no difference to me. I've no aspirations to be a commercial photographer, fashion photographer or anything like that as it simply doesn't interest me. I'm just looking to do my thing and pay my bills doing something that I mildly enjoy so that I can spend the rest of my time doing the things that I actually like to do. That you think that my inexperience working with the type "professional clients" that I clearly have no interest in working with in the first place is somehow a "problem" speaks volumes enough so I think we can just stop at this point.

All the best.

P.S. I really do like your work and you're most definitely a far better photographer than I am so there's that.

Marc Perino's picture

We have clients that absolutely need the RAW images (key art photography for film poster). So we are happy to give it to them because we know (mostly) that they know what to do with it. Those clients make up 5%.

But the rest 95% don't even know exactly what RAW files are - let alone know how to edit them. And even if they did they would probably look horrible. We even see finished copies on their social media on which they ran the worst filters (hello, instagram) and all the effort that went into postproduction is destroyed with one click with a strange color filter or a much too contrasty B/W filter.
So I 'd rather like them to mess up the finished ones than the RAWs. ;)

BTW: the clients who demand RAW files do not pay more for that option. It is taken for granted due to the nature of the job.

So I get where you are coming from with your arguments but it is not congruent with our reality. Or maybe it is.

Daniel Medley's picture

Showing the back of the camera or a tethered example is one thing. Typically the back of the camera image has been processed by the camera's internal profile, and typically, with tethering, in Lightroom say, a profile has been utilized. Either way, they're not seeing a completely raw file.

But to hand over a raw file? Nah, not unless it's part of a commercial project of some sort. But for the average person just getting a portrait done, no. In fact it's gotten to the point that I try to make it as fool-proof as possible if they're just asking for finished files only and no prints. If that's the case I give them two files of each image; one optimized for social networks and one full resolution JPG with an embedded sRGB profile--unless asked for otherwise.

Crystal Johnson's picture

I see nothing wrong with showing my clients raw files. I tend to do a gallery of the raws after culling for them to choose from. With that said, none of my conventional clients receive my raw files unless they pay for it, and none do because of the cost. Commercial clients, however, some often require the raw file, and that is completely fine as it was negotiated in the quote prior to signing.

I know some photographers outsource their retouching/editing, or give clients the raws that is built into their total fee, and that is completely fine for this business model.I've seen newer ones give out every single photo from a session for a minimal fee too. I just don't think there is one right or wrong answer with how someone works, and people tend to do what they want with their own stuff.

Speaking from a client's perspective, I would never deal with a photographer who refused to hand over RAW files. If a client asks for RAW files then they probably know what they are and why they are good to have.
I think it is quite arrogant to assume that you have better taste than your client so if you, for example, decide that one of their wedding photos looks better in black and white then that is all you're going to give them.
I'd be interested to know how many photographers here, if they hired another photographer to take photos at their wedding, would be happy not to receive the RAW files...

I'm a photographer and I was completely fine with not receiving RAW files from my wedding photographer. I hired him because I liked the way he shot and edited so why would I pay him thousands of dollars to shoot my wedding and then proceed to do hours of work myself to edit the photos that I'm already paying him to edit when I already intentionally picked him partially for his editing? It makes no sense.

Also, back in the film days, it was pretty commonplace to only receive prints as photographers almost never gave the negatives unless you were willing to pay an exorbitant fee. It's entirely possible that I grew up in an era where this kind of thing was normal so I just see it as normal today.

"I hired him because I liked the way he shot and edited"

What if you like the way a photographer shoots but not the way they edit?

Simple. I wouldn't hire them. Photographers are a dime a dozen. Look hard enough and you'll find someone that jives with you.

I attempted to hire another photographer to do some wedding shots in New York. The photographer in question would not deliver RAW files. I actually offered for the photographer not to do any editing of the photos (no cost difference to him), as I would be happy to do any editing (stating that if he wanted to deliver edited photos that was fine too, or use them for his portfolio). The New York photographer refused the shoot.

It seems that there are too many photographers who are precious about their RAW files.

Photography is a service industry. Most photographers take images on behalf of a client. Even if the client does not know what to do with the RAW files it is up to you to educate them about their needs.

Usually though, if a client knows what a RAW file is and requests it, I imagine they have a pretty good idea of what to do with the RAW files and why they would like the files. A lot of the responses on here seem quite condescending.

Daniel Medley's picture

It's reasonable to be hesitant. After all, the photographer's data is all over the meta data contained within the raw files that may or may not be turned in to a horrific mess with your editing. Who knows how they're going to be edited? How is the photographer supposed to know if you're a competent photo retoucher/editor? Or, since you indicate that you're a photographer, perhaps they saw your results and wasn't comfortable having their name on it for whatever reason. The reason doesn't necessarily have to be that you're bad at it, but it could be that your style is wildly divergent from his, thus affecting his "brand" so to speak.

Also, typically, a photographer will retain ownership of the photos. When you pay for the "service" of the photographer you're paying for the service, not ownership if the photos; not entirely unlike purchasing software. You are purchasing the license to use it, not the ownership of the source code to do with as you please.

But, at the end of the day, if you feel comfortable handing over raw files or you demand them from a photographer you want to hire, that is your call.

I'm a photographer and here I am. I simply would ask him/her to give me the final product in a loseless format, like a TIFF-16 or the like, only because I can't know if tomorrow someone is going to invent something better that JPEG. I don't agree with the author when she says you're a photographer and not a retoucher. You MAYBE that kind of photographer and it's very convenient for you. But you often know that your final work is made by two phases: shooting AND editing. Like it was at the Adams time: shoot AND print. Print was the "camera raw" of their time, and also lots of photoshop, before camera raw has had the brush for zones. So yes, I think is her: it'a choice in how to shot. If you shot for the non-edited or not. You start observing and thinking. You think based on your gear, your workflow, everything. The shoot is only a part of this. But of course: if my client is a retoucher, I'll give her/him raws. My experience says that when I deliver PRINTS (in 2018? yes) I can expect to be judged for my real work. In every other situation something can go wrong and it starts from monitors and TV's.
But in a wonderful world you can be called a photographer even if you don't actually do the shoot: you tell someone else exactly what to do. And you're the author.
So : if I hire a photographer, as a photographer, I hire him/her for his/her whole work: I may not hire him/her because it's not nice with me or my girl, even if it's the best at camera AND photoshop.
I 've got RAWs only from friends: they're lazy, I know it, they know that I know, and they know that I know what they can do with their final, complete, not "unfinished" work.
Adams knewed perfectly what he was going to do with the print, when he shotted. And many of us do the same: you shot knowing what you're going to do next.
[sorry for bad English: I'm not a natura English speaker]

When most clients say raw they don't even know what it is. I offer full size jpg that are not retouched. To them that is raw. Commercial clients I love giving raw. I do the fun part and they do the boring part.

Dan Howell's picture

Exactly. There is a disconnect between photographers here who only work on the retail side of photography versus photographers who have magazine and advertising clientele who are professionals at hiring photographers. I find that retail photographers are more often limited in the scope of experience yet quicker to make proclamations about how all photographers work. Individual photographers can set their standards and workflow and I have absolutely no problem with it. I do, however, have a problem with an individual suggesting that there is only one way for a professional to operate.

Simply put, I never give\sell my raw files unless there is a very specific reason to do so, and that needs to be agreed beforehand

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