One aspect of our job description as photographers is educating our clients. A question that comes up often with smaller business and individual clients is: “Can I have all of the RAW files from the shoot?”
This is a question that many photographers dread because it requires a bit of finesse when responding. To understand how to answer this question best, first, consider the reasons why they are asking it in the first place:
- The client is new to hiring a professional photographer and is, therefore, unfamiliar with proper practices within the industry.
- The client is somewhat of a photography enthusiast and wishes to have the ability to edit the photographs on their own, use their in-house retoucher or outsource to a retoucher of their choice.
- The client simply wants to have all of the RAW assets from the shoot.
In my experience, the first and third are the most common situations, and typically the easiest to explain amicably. The second motivation, however, is the trickiest, as these clients may pose more questions and require more convincing, which is why it is important to sign a photography agreement that will outline the post-production stage beforehand.
If there was no agreement signed before the shoot and the client did pop the question, here are a few possible ways to respond, considering what the client’s motivations are. If you’re not sure, ask your client what they need the RAW files for.
If they are in fact merely unaware of the industry practices, this may be a good response:
“While I will happily provide a proof gallery to you for selecting images for retouching, I am afraid that I cannot provide RAW files. I will be delivering the retouched images for your use, as these are the final product and properly reflect the quality of my work that you are familiar with.”
When a client would like to take care of retouching of your images on their own, this shouldn’t come as a surprise after the shoot and your photography agreement should have the post-production arrangement clearly outlined. If you retouch your own photography, then it should be stated in your agreement which is signed before the shoot, and if that’s done your response can be:
“That is great that you’re familiar with photography and photo-editing software! In my workflow, what I do after the shutter clicks is just as vital to the final product as when I first capture the photograph. Because of that, I will only be providing the retouched and properly edited images for your use as previously agreed.”
If you, however, don’t mind the client taking care of the post-production, you can re-negotiate your rates. Don’t forget, however, to sign an amendment to your agreement and mention that regardless of who handles post-production, you retain the copyright to your images. And in this situation, your response can be:
“For the pricing that we discussed, I will be providing ### of retouched images. If you would like to use more shots, however, we can absolutely discuss what that rate would be.”
While this isn’t an issue for retouchers, who often receive RAW files from clients (creators of the images, or those for whom the images were created), it is a common issue that photographers face with small business clients and those unfamiliar with the industry.
For further thoughts and insight on why photographers do not share their RAW files, watch this video by Jessica Kobeissi: