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Can We Have The RAW Files For Our Wedding Photos?

Black and white photo of SD cards and Olympus EM1 Mark 2 camera

It’s one of those things I regularly get asked as a wedding photographer by couples: “Can we have the RAW files for our wedding photos, please?”

Of course, it’s a reasonable request and I fully understand why couples would ask for the RAW files.  However, there are good reasons why I don’t provide my RAW files.

But first of all, you may be wondering what a RAW file is?  Let me explain…

What Is A RAW File?

Colour wedding photography of a guest kissing one of the mother's of the groom in Battersea Park, London. The father of the groom stands in the foreground holding flowers for buttonholes.

In a basic sense, as described on Wikipedia:

Raw image files are sometimes called digital negatives, as they fulfill the same role as negatives in film photography: that is, the negative is not directly usable as an image, but has all of the information needed to create an image.

In technical speak a RAW file is an uncompressed file that contains the raw image data. It provides the image data exactly as it was captured by the camera, without loss of quality and without compression.  It then needs to be converted to an image file, such as a JPEG, via software.  This gives much more flexibility and control in editing he final image, as no information has been stripped out the image – as would happen if the image was shot as a JPEG in camera.

Why Couples Often Ask for the RAW Files from their Wedding Photography

Black and white wedding photography of the bride about to embrace a guest, after the wedding ceremony at All Saints Church, Hampreston, in Wimborne, Dorset.

OK, you say, but why would a wedding couple ask for the RAW files of their wedding photography?  After all, it sounds like a lot of effort having to convert it to a JPEG before it canbe shared online or printed off.

In my experience, there’s usually 3 reasons why a couple may ask for the RAW files:

  1. They want to re-edit the images themselves.
  2. By offering to edit the images themselves, instead of the wedding photographer, it may mean a discount in the price.
  3. They simply think they have “purchased” the RAW files in the price of their wedding photography collection and it belongs to them.

Why I Don’t Offer My RAW Files

Colour wedding photography of the bride and groom enjoying a tender and loving moment, during the wedding reception in Nether Heyford, Northants.

All of these reasons are understandable, but let me address them and explain why a professional wedding photographer wouldn’t (or shouldn’t!) give their RAW files to a couple.

  1. The way I edit my images and their final “look” is all part of my brand identity.  That identity is part of why a couple will book me in the first place.  I edit the images in a distinct style. In many ways, my edited images are my “shop window” to the world.  So I don’t want images out there that are edited in a different way.  That risks damaging the brand identity I have built. In other words, it’s potentially damaging to my business.
  2. Aside from the point above, how they are edited is important to my business reputation, a RAW file would be – if I even did contemplate selling it – infinitely much more expensive than the JPEG files. Why? Especially if it takes away my editing time?  That’s kind of wrapped up in the following third point.
  3. In effect, when a couple books a wedding photographer they are not buying ownership of the images.  Instead they are being granted certain reproduction rights for those images.  But the copyright of the images remains with the photographer.  By not giving up the RAW files it ensures the photographer maintains control over what happens with those files and ultimately their brand identity.  To give that up would require a fee that would likely be far too expensive to make it worthwhile for the couple.  Ultimately photos are my business and to give up the RAW files is akin away part of my business.

It’s Not That I’m Depeche Mode, But…

Raw Files Depeche Mode

It might be easier to compare RAW files with the original sound recordings a music band or artist make.  When you buy their music  on CD, Vinyl or as an MP3 you don’t get rights to the original sound files, so you can remix the music as you want or even sell them on.  No you get certain rights to playing and enjoying that music.  It’s exactly the same with RAW files and your wedding photography.

So I’m not being difficult or precious when I say I don’t give away or sell the RAW files.  It’s for very sound business reasons.

However, you do of course get beautifully edited high resolution JPEG images from which I’m more than happy for you to print and share freely.  The only restriction is that I request you seek my permission if you are going to sell those images commercially – which I’ve never encountered from wedding photos!

Let’s Have a Chat About Your Wedding Plans

Black and white natural wedding photography of the flower girls and their mother, holding their bouquets, during the bridal preparations in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

I hope you found that informative and understand the reasons why I don’t provide RAW files.  If you are getting married and are interested in my documentary wedding photography approach, then I’d love to have a informal and non-obligatory chat with you about your wedding plans.

You can send me a message via my contact page (I will usually get back to you very quickly) or you can call/text/WhatsApp me on 07920 422144.  I’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Still Have Questions?

If you have any more questions about my wedding photography, you can find answers in my Frequently Asked Questions.  If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, then please feel free to send me your question and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.

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