So, why don't most photographers give their clients RAW or unedited images? Let's talk about it.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is whether or not I will send my clients the RAW or the unedited image files after the session. When I say no, I've gotten a lot of mixed reactions - most of which have been extremely negative. Although I would consider myself to be a reasonable person and there have been cases where I have sent RAW images, I'm very selective of who I'm sending them to! It really comes down to what you want them for, and if you're planning on re-editing them yourself or not.
Photographers are artists!
First and foremost, when you're booking with a photographer you're booking an artist. Like different artists, photographers each have their unique ways of working and processing images - and just like how you would commission an artist to create a painting for you, when you're hiring a photographer you're hiring them for their style and for their art. When you ask for the RAWs, you're essentially asking the artist to send their unfinished artwork! And similar to commissioned paintings, the unfinished product is something you most likely won't be as happy with as the finished product.
Editing takes HOURS.
A lot of the time when I get asked if I send RAW images, it's after the actual photoshoot and after I send the images. Which, by the way; I can't stress this enough. If you're not a fan of a photographer's edits (do your research.) DON'T BOOK THEM! Choose a photographer who's editing style works best with what you're looking for, or one like myself who offers multiple editing options to choose from. Like pretty much any photographer you'll encounter, editing each client gallery is very time consuming. Imagine you spend hours retouching, configuring the perfect filter, editing any strange lighting situations or fixing exposure, organizing the images into an attractive gallery and making sure they all match and appear cohesive, just to have your client end up wanting the completely unadjusted images! Not a very fun feeling, at all.
Why hire a photographer in 2021 if YOU want to do most of the work?
The times I send my RAW images to clients are when I trust their editing skills and when I'm familiar with their work (usually this means other photographers or people in the media industry). As long as I'm not credited to the image once re-editing the RAWs has been done, I typically don't mind. It's much better than having my photos edited on top of the edits - which I've had my fair share of. But even saying that, nowadays almost every photographer has their own distinct style and when you hire them for a shoot, they naturally assume that you're hiring them because of their style.
"Okay! But I want a natural look - that's why I'm looking for unedited photos!"
And that's totally all good! This is a great thing to tell any photographer that you're considering hiring - that you're looking for a natural looking finished product. However, naturally edited images are different than completely unedited images. For an example, check out the two images below. To the left is a completely unedited photo, and to the right is one that I would consider naturally edited! As you can see, the natural edit has been done to further accentuate the details and colour featured in the original photo. The moral of the story is, unedited photos usually aren't what you think they are.
RAW files are a whole other type of file!
Lastly if you aren't in the photography or media space and are looking to receive RAW images, you might not know that RAW files are different than JPEGs or PNGs. RAW files are completely uncompressed, which in short allows more details to be edited during the post-production process. These files are also much larger than any other, because they contain much more image data directly from the camera sensors with no loss of quality whatsoever. You may be able to open a RAW file on your phone, however you will most likely not be able to share it directly to a social media platform like Instagram. A software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom will be required to open the image!
In conclusion, RAW files usually aren't as necessary as they seem. My best advice would be to find a photographer who's style aligns with yours, or that will offer you multiple editing options post-shooting so a natural looking edit can be an option on the table. I hope I was able to provide some insight on this question, and help you understand why the majority of photographers in 2021 will not share the unedited images with their clients!