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“Can I Have The RAW Files?”

It’s the question that every photographer dreads because it’s honestly not an easy question to answer.  For people who are not in the photography industry, their understanding of RAW files is usually extremely limited… or, in most cases, non-existent.  So trying to explain what a RAW file actually is to someone who isn’t familiar with our photography workflow is sometimes cumbersome and often times confusing.  So this is my feeble attempt at explaining things.

The answer to this question is almost universally going to be “no”.  You cannot have the RAW files from your session or wedding.  And here’s why:

RAW files are unfinished files that contain all of the minimally processed data from a digital camera’s sensor.  They are raw, in that they haven’t been processed yet and are no where near ready to be printed or displayed.  You’d be very hard pressed to find a professional photographer who would ever release their RAW files to anyone because our work is not presentable to clients in this raw state.  The RAW files need to go through the photographer’s editing process, which will then turn those RAW files into the finished product.

Think of it this way… when you go to a restaurant, you’re paying for the finished product – a well-cooked meal.  NOT the raw ingredients.  This is the same thing with photography.  You are paying for a finished product – the edited digital files.  NOT the RAW files.

Additionally, RAW files are only readable on special software, which most clients do not have access to.  They are essentially worthless to the client in RAW form.

Only after the RAW files go through the photographer’s editing workflow do they become the works of art that you see at the end of the session or wedding.  A LOT of work goes into the editing process because photographers want the finished files to be a good representation of their style and brand.  RAW files are not a good reflection of someone’s style or brand.  They are unfinished and pretty ugly.

Honestly, that’s what you are paying a professional photographer for… their editing!  Anyone could shoot RAW files and deliver them directly to clients, but people would be sorely disappointed in what they receive on those RAW files.  It’s the editing that takes those RAW files from unimpressive to WOW!!

So, don’t be alarmed if your photographer says “no” to releasing RAW files.  This is a common practice in the wedding photography industry.  No one releases their RAW files because they are not processed or finished yet.  It’s just RAW data in a file.  Photographers are hired to deliver a final product, which is your edited digital files… not the RAW files.  So that is what you should expect to receive at the end of your session or wedding!

And for comparison, here is a RAW file (left) versus the edited digital file (right) that was delivered to my client:

Trust me… you want the EDITED digital files.  Not the RAW files.


I knew you would make our day look magical,

from our past clients

Haley + Will - bride & groom

They capture us so well and tell the story of our feelings that day- pure joy! The day was absolutely perfect, and it wouldn’t have been without you.

but these are just beyond!


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