Why Photographers Won't Give Out Their RAW Photo Files

Today I'm talking about something a lot of photographers get asked from their clients. The dreaded "Can you just give me the RAW (unedited) photos?" question haunts photographers at night. Okay, so maybe that's a little bit dramatic, but too many photographers I know get faced with this question from their clients way too often. Now I personally have never had a client ask me for my RAW photo files (probably because my clients are freaking awesome and trust me to deliver work that will blow them away), but I still wanted to speak on it in order to hopefully bridge the gap of understanding for those that don't get why photographers won't give you their raw unedited files.

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When you ask a photographer to give you their RAW photos, if they are a professional you're most likely going to be met with a firm, hard no. I'm going to use a metaphor to help explain why. Roll with me here. Imagine you go out to eat at a fancy restaurant. One where the cook is established and well known. You look at the menu and decide you'd like to eat there. The waitress comes out to take your order, but when you order one of the Chef's specialty dishes you request the entire thing be brought to you uncooked on a plate. The reason the Chef is unlikely to do that is because he has carefully crafted this specific dish. He's gathered the ingredients, spent hours learning the proper technique of cooking them precisely to his satisfaction in order to give his customers the best dining experience possible. When you ask a Chef to deliver his specialty dish, but not as he designed it to be consumed, you're not going to receive the quality meal he intended for you. Ingredients are only half of a meal. The way you prepare and cook those ingredients is the other half of the art of cooking.

You can probably see where I'm going with this. Now look at any professional photographer you're hiring for your wedding or photography session as if they are the head Chef of a restaurant - the restaurant being their business. The act of taking your photos is like the raw ingredients of a specialty dish. The fine tuned editing, the color correction, the skin retouching, those are all equivalent to preparing and cooking those raw ingredients.

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Simply put, you don't ask a professional photographer to give you their RAW photos because that would be giving you only half of an unfinished work of art. 

Photographers spend so many hours fine tuning their photos to be edited in a way that reflects their style and gives their clients incredible images they'll remember forever. By hiring a photographer and then asking them to deliver their work unfinished, half complete, you aren't receiving the service they intended. More so, by asking your photographer for their RAW unedited photos it means you don't trust them to deliver an edited image you'll love. And honestly? If you don’t trust a photographer to deliver quality edited images you love, you probably don’t like their editing. Which begs the question, why are you hiring them in the first place? 

If you don't like the Chef’s specialty dish… don’t order it. Take your business to a restaurant whose cuisine you absolutely LOVE. Likewise, if you don't dig a photographer's editing style, hire a photographer who's style you DO love! It’s that simple! I promise you, a photographer would much rather be turned away based on their editing style than be hired only to realize later than their client doesn’t actually trust them to deliver their finished product.

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I hope that helps clear some confusion on why us photographers won’t give out our RAW photos. It’s not to be mean. It’s not to be stingy. It’s because we value our art, and we want to give our clients the full experience we know they’ll love, including our editing style.

For my fellow photographers out there, if this resonated with you, please feel free to share this blog post with your followers! Understand that most people ask this question, because we haven’t taken the time to educate them about it. Once you start educating your clients and answering questions before they even ask, I promise you’ll have more raving fans and less requests for RAW photos. ;)


Lindsey Roman is an adventurous, destination wedding and intimate elopement photographer based out of Oahu, Hawaii but travels worldwide. She lives for outdoor adventures, intimate moments, and candid images. Her style is raw, passionate, and authentic. She believes in chasing sunsets, laughing too hard, and most importantly: capturing genuine moments that evoke feeling over perfectly posed photographs.