The question of obtaining the RAW photos from your wedding is one that kept coming up during my early days of being a wedding photographer. Among fellow photographer friends, most of us have got the question at some point:
“I love the photos from my wedding! Can I get all of the RAW files or images that you shot? You don’t need to edit them or anything.”
The short answer is no, you cannot have – or purchase – the RAW files (or jpegs, even if unedited) from your wedding. But here’s a more nuanced and informative article that explains in satisfying detail what informs that standard industry response.
You have all the good images, really!
The industry standard among professional wedding photographers is that RAW files and unedited jpegs are not available for purchase. Whether you want to purchase them or would like them given away for free, the same principle apples.
Ditto for other shoot types, unless this was agreed upon in the contract prior to entering into a working relationship (and of course reflected in a higher price, as giving out the RAW files also would mean relinquishing copyright). Everything you agree to is detailed in the contract you’ll sign, and I always give my couples time to sign before sending the invoice (to give them a chance to back out if it’s not right for them).
However, reading the fine print is a chore few of us engage in. That’s why when you sign with me, I’ll provide you with a summarized version of the main points to draw your attention to on my contract. And I am very transparent about what is and isn’t included – hence articles like this that I’ll point my clients to (and I hope I can also become a voice in my industry to help those who are not actually my clients).
That said, it doesn’t replace the need to understand each clause of the contract and ask your questions beforehand. Especially if you’re using another photographer who perhaps doesn’t have a detailed contract.
The gallery in its final form represents every image that is worthy of inclusion. They are the images which aren’t out of focus, blurry, under/overexposed, a near duplicate, badly composed, with blinking/ bad expressions etc.
Each image represents my brand. I am proud to stand behind that, given that there is so much more to creating images than clicking the shutter. In fact, what comes home with me at the end of the wedding day are just the raw ingredients.
What happens when I select images
When I cull through the photos, which takes several hours together with years of experience, there is a quality control process that happens. This ensures that you receive every image that is a worthy representation of both my work and the moments of your wedding day.
Much like the leftover ingredients used to prepare your wedding cake, the images that are not selected for inclusion are a byproduct of creating the product for which I am commissioned.
They are not suitable to represent the standard you set for your wedding or the measure of the quality that I seek to provide as your photographer. I haven’t left out any gems or halfway-decent images by mistake.
You’ve paid for a professional service and I’m honored to provide that service.
Photographers take thousands or RAW images at a wedding. We supply those that are good enough to tell the story of your day, keeping in mind variety, pace and flow of the finished gallery.
It’s just like writing a book, where all the elements come together. The overarching plot, the fine details, setting the scene, introducing the characters and continuing the narrative. All the while building pace and momentum, then wrapping up the tale in a satisfying way.
You wouldn’t ask a writer for his rough notes or even his first draft. Not a perfect analogy, I know, but hopefully it serves to make a point in not too facetious a way. 😉
The agreed-upon expectations
There will be an agreed set of expectations where the final number of images are concerned. This takes into account what I have to charge to remain in business and the corresponding editing time.
That said, I never restrict the image count. I simply deliver what I need to in order to tell the complete story. That’s why it’s so important you trust your photographer. It’s something I emphasize every step of the way.
It’s my job to be open and upfront. I do everything I can to inform, educate and manage expectations.
We are in the business of protecting our brand, assets and livelihood without compromising our integrity. We are also in the business of keeping our clients happy.
Like many aspects of being a business owner, it’s a fine balance.
Thank you for reading!
I appreciate you taking the time to read about this!
It’s not exactly a fun topic but hopefully you are beginning to see that there’s a lot more involved than you might initially think.
The idea of obtaining the RAW files from your wedding certainly doesn’t end with the idea that you have software that can read RAW files, which is what some of the other articles out there seem to emphasize (like, what hobby photographer these days doesn’t have Lightroom and Photoshop?!) Pretty sure even phones have RAW capabilities these days.
It really has very little to do with software, and much more to do with protecting the integrity of our brands.
Agree, disagree? Leave a comment below & let’s get some conversation going.
Thanks to Caleb Kerr for inspiration for this article!
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