June 7, 2021

Why You Don’t Want the RAW Files

“I want a quote for just the RAW files.”

In Professional Wedding Photography, an awkward topic sometimes comes up.  “I want a quote for just the RAW files.”  I had this thrown at me a couple times in the last month and I figured maybe there was a need to address this. There might be a little confusion in the minds of the the general public about RAW files.  I must confess, I am always a little mystified when people say they want them.

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Proper skin tones and exposure is really important–and RAW files always need minor tweaks.  This photo was created at Union Station Hotel in St. Louis.

You don’t want the RAW files.

First of all–You.  Don’t.  Want.  RAW.  Files.  Why?  Because they are bad.  BAAAAD.  It is like going to a restaurant and asking for a raw steak–It is Simply NOT Done.  It is not even listed as a menu option.  I was talking to a friend and he said it is kind of like a restaurant patron asking if it is cheaper to enter the restaurant through the kitchen.    It is the same with Professional Wedding Photography.  Part of what you are paying for when you hire a Professional Photographer is their ability to quickly cull, exposure/color correct, and edit images.  RAW straight out of camera images are flat, low contrast, low saturation.  Not appealing at all.  Plus most clients cannot even open RAW files because they do not have the necessary software to do so.

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For group photos, I take quite a few and narrow down to the best four or five. Because you don’t want images with blinks or poor expressions.

RAW files are unprocessed data.

RAW files are unedited, unculled and basically unfinished.  First off, when we shoot thousands of exposures at a wedding, we know not every photo we create is perfect.  Professional Photographers cull their images to save you time.  When we cull photos here, we remove images with blinks, poor expressions, the ones with your best friend in the background picking their nose, etc.  Because guess what?  You won’t  WANT them.  You will never do anything with them, and they will only take up storage space on your hard drive.  And most clients do not want to spend hours upon hours going through images to find the best ones.  We have been doing this for years and we just know which ones are the “keepers.”  Trust us, we are saving you time by getting rid of them.  I personally never get rid of anything I think you would use or want.  And I never delete great shots.

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We always keep the very best expressions, even in the candid, photojournalistic images.  I just love this one.

Second, the RAW files are like an artist’s sketch.  They need minor exposure and color adjustments for optimal printing quality.  Most of our clients do not have the software or the eye to get this right.  RAW files also contain a huge amount of data (so we can fine tune the final images) that many times you cannot even open without professional software.  When we give you your edited files, we save them as JPEGS so you can open them, save them, print them, whatever.

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Color and exposure corrected with the sky made a tad bit more dramatic. The RAW file did not look this good.

You want the finished product.

Finally, and I admit this is selfish–I don’t want unfinished work floating around in public representing my brand.  Unfinished, uncorrected color and exposure do not represent my brand and what I create.  And think of it this way:  When you buy a car, do you want to have to put the tires on or install the engine yourself?  Probably not.

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We did a little color and exposure adjustment to this image as well as getting rid of a tiny bit of shine on the faces due to the heat and humidity that day. Little details add up.

I hope this has been helpful in explaining why we do not offer RAW files to our clients.  If you found this interesting, you might also like a post on Retouching.  Our Wedding Photography FAQs might also be interesting.  And be sure to visit our Wedding Photography Portfolio.

Are you ready to book a Professional Wedding Photographer for your event?  Please use our Contact Form or give us a call at (518) 584-4237 today.

Susan Blackburn is a Saratoga NY based Wedding Photographer serving the 518 area as well as providing Destination Wedding Photography services.