Why We Don’t Share Raw Images (& Why You Don't Want Them) | Seattle Wedding Photographer

Happy Sunday, friends! One thing I have a passion for is learning and teaching, so I've decided I'm going to start using my blog more to explain some of the things we do in our business and why, in hopes it might help our brides understand or serve as a resource for aspiring photographers. Today's is a little bit more technical than usual, but we believe it's really important! We shoot in a file format called RAW, and we absolutely believe it's critical that ALL wedding photographers should be shooting in RAW (especially here in Seattle where, let's face it- the light and weather can change four times in an hour!). If you’re familiar with photography at all, you’ve probably heard of it. If you haven’t, don’t worry- we didn’t know at first, either :) Basically, a RAW file is just an extremely large image that carries the full range of data for a given picture. In essence, it allows us to control far more in post-processing than we ever could shooting JPEG. Because the camera stores the full tonal range for lights, darks, highlights, and shadows, as well as the full range of colors and exposure (brightness). 

 

Unfortunately, that means this is also an extraordinarily large file- each photo we take is about 22MB! And we take about 5,000-7,000 images per wedding…. yikes! One common question we get is if we ever deliver the raw images, or if we will. Now, to be honest, I’ve seen this as a question you should ask your photographer on some wedding websites, so I know people often ask without really knowing what it means. So today we wanted to shed some light on that! Before we get into it, though, I want to share our opinion on the matter. First of all, we will never deliver RAW photos. EVER. It’s in our contract. We tell our couples why we don’t, and they understand. In fact, when we tell them why, most of our couples realize they definitely don’t want them anyway! And in case that sounds strict (I know it might right off the bat, but bear with me.... I've actually never met a photographer who WILL deliver raw images! Not one! And of all my friends in the industry- planners and photographers alike- this would be considered the industry standard. Delivering raw images is not something most will do). But we thought this might be useful- either to other brides who aren’t sure what RAW files are or if they want them, or to other photographers wondering if they should deliver their raw images. So here are our main reasons why we won’t deliver RAW files:

 

  1. You couldn’t open them, anyway. You need specialized software to open, process, and edit RAW files. After we cull our images down to the files we’re going to edit, we process them in Adobe Lightroom. Some images may take some additional processing, and in that case we may move them into Adobe Photoshop. Those programs are expensive, so they’re usually not something the general public just has on their computer. You might, but chances are most of our couples wouldn’t even be able to access the files. 
  2. They’re HUGE! At more than 20MB per photo, those babies will fill up your hard drive, and fast. Trust us, they’re more trouble than they’re worth (for you... we need them that way)!
  3. The biggest reason of all: our style. If a couple is hiring us, it should be because they love our work. If they don’t, we’re probably not the best bet for their wedding photographers, right? That means we want our couples to trust that we’ll select the best images and edit them to the best of our ability. No two weddings are ever the same, so no two weddings will be identical. But we edit every wedding and every image the same way, using a basic preset I developed. That means while your images may not LOOK the same as everyone else’s, our style will be as consistent as possible!
  4. This ties in with #3- but ya’ll…. RAW PHOTOS ARE TERRIBLE! Seriously!!! They’re AWFUL! I remember when I first started, everyone told me to shoot in RAW. So I did. But I couldn’t figure out what in the world made my photos look SO awful. They looked nothing like the image I had seen on the back of the camera screen! Well, if you know me, you know I’m an obsessive researcher. So pretty soon, I learned that was because the image on the back of the camera was a JPEG. The cameras will basically compress the raw image and add some basic changes to things like highlights, shadows, contrast, etc. to a jpeg image. That makes it look nicer initially- but you lose the full range of colors and the tonal curve to work with in post processing. Basically, RAW files come out looking completely flat, dull, and often inaccurate colors and extreme highlights or shadows. 

 

Still not sure? Well friends, this is the first time I’ve ever done this, and hopefully the last, because it’s scary! But here below are two images. One is raw (straight out of camera, or SOOC). And one is after I finished editing it. Isn’t that a crazy difference?! And it’s not just me… this is EVERY raw photo! So there you have it, friends. We want to make sure we deliver images you can open, store, and that look crisp and clean and bright and airy- which is our style! 

So at the end of the day, our advice to brides would be this: trust us when we say you DO NOT want the raw images! Photography is an art, and taking the images is only half of our process- the other half of our style comes out in post-processing. And to aspiring photographers, we would advise you against releasing the raw images, too! When you release an image, you're attaching your name and reputation to it.... and we know you probably want to release images that reflect you and your talent in the best possible light! That means making sure you have control over the images and the style of those images that are released- and you can't do that if you release raw images. Our one other piece of advice? Make sure it's in your contract, and that you take the time to explain to your brides WHY! Trust us, it matters :)

Hope that helps! Cheers to Monday!

Can you guess which image is the RAW file? Yep- the one on the left! See how the colors are all off, the tonal curve is not flattering (lights/darks/shadows/highlights), the white balance is not great, and neither are the contrast and exposure? This isn't at all what the JPEG on the back of my screen looked like- but this is what I saw when I pulled it into my culling system. Yikes! This is why you definitely don't want these photos!! I promise :) Part of editing is knowing how to get the RAW file to match the JPEG that showed up on the back of your screen- what it looked like when you took the image. That's one series of commands! It's another series to then go above and beyond- to turn that basic JPEG into YOUR work. So in addition to the basic edits we make to the raw image so it looks alive again, we make a series of edits that are unique to us because they're our style- and every photographer will have them. But that two-step editing process- from RAW, to what the photo actually looked like, to what you WANT it to look like- is an intensive process! I hope this helps! :)

Can you guess which image is the RAW file? Yep- the one on the left! See how the colors are all off, the tonal curve is not flattering (lights/darks/shadows/highlights), the white balance is not great, and neither are the contrast and exposure? This isn't at all what the JPEG on the back of my screen looked like- but this is what I saw when I pulled it into my culling system. Yikes! This is why you definitely don't want these photos!! I promise :) Part of editing is knowing how to get the RAW file to match the JPEG that showed up on the back of your screen- what it looked like when you took the image. That's one series of commands! It's another series to then go above and beyond- to turn that basic JPEG into YOUR work. So in addition to the basic edits we make to the raw image so it looks alive again, we make a series of edits that are unique to us because they're our style- and every photographer will have them. But that two-step editing process- from RAW, to what the photo actually looked like, to what you WANT it to look like- is an intensive process! I hope this helps! :)

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