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Why photographers do not deliver raw photos | Explained by a photographer


I have wanted to write this blog post: why photographers do not deliver raw photos, for years now. However, I never did because I honestly did not want to make my past clients who had asked for raw images to feel bad about asking for them. If you happen to be someone who asked your photographer for raw images do not feel bad, you are not alone as it happens to come up a couple times a year for all of us. We love you and aim to serve you well!

First of all, its always my job (the photographer) to educate my clients before they even ask this question. Secondly, I do not mind explaining the process to anyone who asks at all. Sure, many years ago I would get frustrated and take this question personally. However, now I understand that if you are not in the photography world you have no idea what is normal to ask and what is not. This is why it always falls back on the photographer to educate their clients before this question comes up.

For the photographers:

In order to avoid this question more times than it needs to come up make sure to educate your clients in many different places. Ideas: I have why I do not deliver raws posted on my questions page on my site, as well as having it in my contract and will now also have this blog post to reference back too if clients need further explanation. You can also include it in your custom proposal under resources if it really comes up a lot for you too.

How to go about answering this question. Yes, it is easy to become frustrated in the earlier years of business especially when this question comes up. However, try to understand that this is all new to them and they have no idea what is normal and what is not in the industry. Its your job to serve them well and answer this question well.

Here is generally what I tell my clients:

So glad you love the gallery so much that you want more! I am sorry, as per contract, raws of video or photo are not able to be released. Raws are like a canvas without the paint on it, so we hold them close to our hearts as it’s our eye that makes them come to life. I promise you the final image is way better than the raw ones. Hope that explains it well, happy to explain more too if needed. I am happy to put together a gallery of extra images for you if you would like to purchase more as well.

I keep it simple, reference the contract and offer one example for them just to help them understand. I then offer for them to purchase more edited images if all they are looking for is more photos too. I believe in always giving your clients options and serving them well.


For clients:

First of all, you are amazing and we would not be where we are today without you all. Thank you for supporting our art and craft. That being said, I am going to explain a couple simple reasons why we do not deliver raw images to the general public and the one exception I make about this rule.

  1. Raw images are basically like our negatives as photographers. These negatives are like handing you a canvas with no paint on it. There is so much work that needs to be done to make it a work of art. The negatives are owned by us (the photographers) and the final product (the edited version of the photo) is what the clients are purchasing when signing a contract. Raw images oftentimes feels like our babies so that is often times why in my earlier years I held them close to my heart and would even take it personal when asked this question. I was a newbie in my business many years ago and I whole heartedly am sorry if I ever came off as defensive when answering this question. I have now grown and am always trying to serve my clients better.
  2. Final edited images represent the photographers brand. If we gave just anyone these photos to edit, they credited us and hundreds or thousands of people saw it on social media it could cost us many jobs if it was not done right. Even if it was done right, but just edited differently it would not reflect well on how the main photographer edits and not help represent the brand to get new jobs.
  3. My exception: If agreed upon before the shoot and the person inquiring is a photographer then I will agree to do a shoot and deliver raw images for their own branding/website purposes. I have done this a handful a time, but it has to be a photographer and has to be agreed upon before the shoot. In these types of agreements they never credit me as it is for their branding purposes. This is all agreed upon before the shoot and often is a trade when I need this done for myself as well.

To help you understand what a raw image looks like I have it below. What I do to my images and why I promise you want the final images more:

-Change exposure, white balance, colors individually, sometimes take off blemishes if needed, take out distracting nature (rocks etc) if needed, change shadows, change lens correction and the list goes on and on. It took 7.5 years to get to this point in my career, so trust me when I say you are hiring your photographer not only for their eye when shooting but their eye when editing. If for some reason you do not love their editing style, then find one you love to hire so that you are stoked about the final product. At the end of the day know we are here to serve you and want you to find the best photographer for you!

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