Brides: Do you want RAW photo files?

Recently, I’ve heard of couples asking for their photographer’s RAW photo files as part of wedding packages. Now if you know all about the RAW files, JPG files, TIFF files, etc…then now is a good time to tune out. If not, read on.

Do you suppose these couples know what a RAW file is? If they had a RAW file in their hand, would they know how cook it? Or would they simply do what most people do with their wedding files (RAW, JPG, or whatever)…put them in the closet to be lost sometime between their next two moves?

I suspect that many asking for these files don’t actually know what they are asking for. So, to get past that, I’ll give you a bit of a definition:

RAW files are unprocessed data from an image sensor of a digital camera. They are called RAW because they haven’t been transformed by post processing software and can’t be printed. For that matter, in many cases they can’t even be viewed on most computers without special software.

So why do couples ask for RAW files? My guess is they were told to. Typically by one of those guys who knows just enough to be dangerous. RAW files are often called DIGITAL NEGATIVES (they really aren’t), so the guys who “know just enough”…etc. think, “ah, DIGITAL NEGATIVES, this is a good idea”. It isn’t.

You see, photography these days is not just about the camera. Actually, it never was.

Today’s photography is a process by which an original image is transformed into something beautiful and moving by the photographer. That post processing is part and parcel of the ‘photographer’s eye’, his or her artistic ability. When you purchase his/her photography talents, you are paying for the after the shot photographers skills. Granted there are some photographers who do everything ‘in camera’. However, more often than not, post processing plays a key role in the final photograph. Someone asking for the RAW files is asking the photographer to NOT FINISH his/her artistic process. Sounds like a bad idea to me.

There’s a great debate going on in the photographic community about digital files, whether they should be released and under what circumstances. I’m not going there but I have observed that many of the most talented photographers – the gifted ones that we all admire, strive to emulate, and probably can’t afford – do not give their files away. Not because they are stingy. Not because they are trying to maintain snobbish exclusivity. I believe they are so committed to the high quality of their final photograph – that amazing, stunning imagery – that they refuse to allow someone else to alter it.

You see, fine photographers don’t just create a product, they create something they love and one does not let the things one loves be tampered with.


About the Author:

Dan Derby, Wedding Photographer

The spirit of a wedding day lives in fleeting events, unfolding without direction. Wedding photojournalism is how the story of a wedding day can be captured artfully. Trained as a designer (BA & MFA) and skilled in visual story telling, Dan Derby works quietly throughout your wedding day making sure this happens. He is based in New England but travels where ever he’s needed.

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