Why Photographers Do Not Give RAW Images

The hardest part about being a photographer is the negotiations with a client. Most often, people think taking photographs is easy, and I’ve matured enough not to bother trying to disabuse them of that notion. Go on thinking that, and try to make great images and be doomed to disappointment, I think.

But with clients, it is tougher. You negotiate a fee for a certain amount of work – the final outcome of work that needs to be given the client.

You plan your shoot, you climb on chairs, tables and do whatever it requires to get those images for your client. And since we’ve been around doing this for a while, we always learn to take a few extra shots, as insurance, though you know when you’ve got the money shot. Then we select, edit and work the computer magic.

Then you create a contact sheet, or your version of it and send it to the client so they can choose the photographs. Why not, right? They are the client, they deserve to choose.

Except the client then comes back saying either one of two things:

  • I love all of them and I want all of them
  • So I love this set of 10 and I’m not sure about the rest but I’d still like to have them for insurance.

If you are the nice sort, you try to explain that our deal (aka fee) was for a set amount of photographs. I could shoot a zillion photographs, but the final set what the client gets is decided upon. Not the entire set, even if I don’t have to work on it.

And you could be thinking “I could have and probably should’ve been an asshole and just chosen the set number of images, worked on it and sent it to you.”

There’s a reason why we do not give out RAW images. Buying a photographer’s services is akin to buying a novel – not the author’s services. Which means you’ve signed up for the end product (according to which the cost is decided) and not the process and the clay itself.

Secondly, as photographers, we need to be conscious of the kind of images that are out there with our name on it. RAW images are often shot with a particular edit in mind. With the digital world, they need edits (however minor). When you are shooting people or interiors in a fixed amount of time, you do not have the luxury of getting every minute detail correct. There’s a blur of a hand, an object flying into the frame the minute you click the shutter, a sudden light switched on… many many many many issues.

The images are edited to remove such errors. Our image, our pride and our reputation is attached to that RAW file and we will not hand it over to anyone, no matter what.

So going back to the argument of “I want all the images you shot” if we are not handing over the RAW images to the client, this means we need to work on those images. I could convert it to an easily viewable format, but that still leaves the question of what we actually signed up for – the end product.

By asking for extra images, it often seems that the client is simply asking for extra images – for which there are additional charges.

In wedding photography, we face this question more often than not. There’s sometimes an emotional element attached and the client feels that they even a bad photo could be a good photo to them. They just want every single photo of that day.

You could try telling them to trust your judgement. You could try telling them to pay for the extra ones (it depends on what is in your contract). But more often than not, I find it simpler to give them the few rejected ones with the condition that it can NEVER EVER be shared on a public platform. These are generally the ones that do not meet my artistic standards but are decent enough. (Yes, I keep a few of them). The rest – the ones that do not the criteria – are deleted straightaway, so I can just tell the client ‘Sorry. They are gone’.



One Comment Add yours

  1. TopEndTweets says:

    Interesting to hear it from the perspective of a photographer. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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