Sunday, 27 October 2013

Should You Supply RAW Files or NOT?

Clients and consumers are becoming more tech savvy with regards to photography. Or at least they think they are.  Learning terms and acronyms have made them aware of the options of files but not the differences, i.e. some may ask a photographer, can you send me the images. others may now be requesting the RAW files, or high resolution TIFF files, all the while not knowing what the differences and subsequent advantages and drawbacks of them are.

Having a client requesting/demanding the Raw files and then complaining that there isn't enough "Punch" to the images will make all photographers bit their hands when trying to reply sensibly.

(one of my favourite quotes is from a client I had asking for higher resolution images - I had sent through edited 4mp files for them to use not their website - I asked, sure, what resolution do they want it in and what is it for?  Their reply was, they want it in about 8megabytes resolution.... so that it fills their 42 inch Hdtv.... not realising that firstly Megabytes is the file size not the resolution and also not realising that no matter how big your tv is, the max resolution was 1080p which is about 2megapixels)
Lots of slapping forehead and biting fists that day.

As Photographers (not just a person with a camera) We should all be shooting in RAW (unless ofcourse we are just taking snapshots)  And with RAW we have a greater ability to edit images in Post.  This naturally means that the original raw files are somewhat flat, dull, low in saturation low in sharpness and will contain lens distortions which we will want to edit out.

The list also gets longer when you are shooting people, as then as a photographer your job is to create the most flattering angle or lighting but almost any person photo can be enhanced with skin softening, selective sharpening, selective hue, saturation and luminance adjustments, and selective Contrast adjustments

Then onto of that you have spot cloning, image cropping and straightening (or creatively adjusting) 

(same photos just edited Above and below)

However I am sure you all know that.  But what should we do if a client asks for the raw files?
The answer to this really depends on the job and the client.

Are you photos being taken for someone who is going to edit them? (i.e.  a retoucher, another photographer, a magazine which adds their own editing to the images?

Are the images being supplied to a client who is expecting a final product? (i.e. bride and groom, client who just uploads to Facebook, client who sends straight to printer...)

If you are asked for the raw files by a client who is not proficient in editing and or uploads/publishes straight converted raw files to a magazine or website and has labels it as your image this could be BAD PUBLICITY.  If a future potential client were to be flicking through a website and comes across a dull, flat, un-corrected/adjusted image with your name on it, they may not be impressed.

Advise clients that as a photographer your job is not just taking photos but is to Deliver a finished product, be that a computer file or print or album. And for it to be a finished product it needs to be edited.

In my experience I have only supplied raw files on 3 occasions. 1 was to a fellow photographer who I shot their wedding, 2) a magazine who requested the raws as their in house editor was going to make sure all the images were edited in a certain style to fit the article. and 3) A beauty magazine who had an editor who was doing beauty re-touching to the images (above and beyond my skill level).

The argument that a bride and groom would want the photos in the raw file to edit to their own taste would be a valid one if the bride and groom are photographers or editors but a couple should be choosing their photographer based on the look and style of their work not just a person to do half the job.

An analogy for this is like asking a painter to do your portrait, and after sitting still and him painting away you ask for the Paint By Numbers outline and his paint box to finish the job yourself....

The main point of this video is that if you have a client who requests the raw files and they are not trained or skilled in editing, then take the time to explain to them why you don't supply the raw files and that as a photographer you want to give them a finished product, similar to the examples you have shown them in your portfolio or example wedding albums.

I came across this post in DPReview regarding a person searching out a wedding photographer and basing his judgement on the photographers response to the question about if they supply the RAW files

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