Almost every photographer I know has been asked for the RAW (unedited) files by their customers at one point or another. For some, it can be hard to understand why their photographer has refused to part ways with their RAW files but know that your photographer is not trying to be difficult. Your photographer actually has several good reasons why they don’t just hand over all the images that were taken during your session.
When you’re working with a professional photographer during a session, you’ll notice that they’re constantly snapping away. This is because, despite all of their best efforts, not all of the images come out perfectly. Sometimes a specific pose or scenario needs to be shot multiple times just to capture one good shot. Your professional photographer expertly sorts through all of the images that were taken to select the very best ones to present to you. I promise your photographer isn’t holding back any amazing shots – if you don’t see a particular image, it is because the quality of that image wasn’t on par with your photographer’s expectations.
Once the best images have been chosen, they are brought to life through post-process editing with professional editing software. This stage can take a considerable amount of time and results in the beautiful, photographer-specific end product that is handed over to you. If your photographer provided the RAW files you wouldn’t be seeing that amazing end result.
You’d also be surprised at how many people want the RAW files in order to alter the actual images themselves. If that individual then chose to share those images after making their own personal adjustments, the integrity of your photographer’s work is at risk. And please note, photographers always retain the copyright of each image they take, unless you receive a specific copyright release. Modifying your images in any way, without permission from your photographer, is considered copyright infringement and can carry civil and criminal penalties. When in doubt, ask! 🙂
Something else to keep in mind is that RAW files are HUGE and you need a lot of memory to store them. You might also find that you don’t have the proper software available at home to view this type of file, so again you would be sitting with megabytes of files that you can’t do anything with.
When you hire a professional photographer you’re putting trust in their abilities. You need to feel confident that the photos they hand over to you are a result of their hard work, experience, and eye for the perfect shot.