From time to time, a client asks me for the RAW files from their wedding or session. Many people are familiar with hearing the term “RAW” and are under the impression that RAW files are a good thing to have. They are… to the photographer, but do you even know or understand what they are? Most people will not be able to open the files because they (or you) likely don’t have the proper editing programs that Professional Photographers use anyway. No offense, it’s just the truth.
|“35mm-undevel” by Jay Holben – CC|
No, its actually not like having the negatives. And for that matter, pre-digital age professional photographers would never sell you their negatives either, you would receive “proofs” usually 4×6 prints with their watermark or “PROOF” printed across them.
Think of it this way, RAW files are more like undeveloped negatives that have not even been taken into the darkroom yet. Unless you had the chemicals and a darkroom, they are no good to you. RAW files are basically useless to you in its current state. You need a professional to take the RAW files into the now digital darkroom. So if its the feeling of wanting the “negatives” you want, then purchase the jpeg digital files from your photographer with a Print Release.
Paintings and sculptures do not come with the artist’s initial sketches.
In another analogy, when you buy a book or see a movie or play, does the author or director also give you the large stack of all their rough drafts, notes or unedited scripts? Of course not. Why would you want them? And if for some crazy reason you did, it would likely be something from J.K. Rowling, Steven King or maybe Steven Spielberg or George Lucas. And those notes would sell in auction for 6 or 7 figures.
So when I am asked for the RAW files from a recent shoot, beware. I might sarcastically say, “Sure! For a price…” and I’m sorry, but I am 99.9% sure that you won’t want to pay it since it would likely have 4 or more zeros at the end.