FAQ | RAW vs. Edited Images

Occasionally I will have a client ask me to for their unedited, “SOOC” (straight out of camera) or RAW images.  Of course I want to oblige my clients, but the question makes me sweat a little bit. It’s sort of like showing up to a date without make-up on. It’s still you, but really “unrefined” version of you.  And my grandma taught me to never leave the house without my lipstick.  The same applies for unedited or RAW images.  Today, I want to answer a few frequently asked questions regarding the differences between RAW and edited images.


Q: What are RAW Images, and can I have them?

A: Think about what film negatives are – do you remember film? Small, brown, plastic, un-retouched, easy to store, etc. Very different than an actual printed photograph.  RAW images are similar.  They are the digital version of a film negative. These files are what come straight out of my camera with no editing or resizing. They have lots of potential, if you know how to use them. RAW files or digital negatives are NOT the images you see on my website, in my albums, or on social media. The photos I present have been edited to represent my brand. With all of that said, I DO NOT release my RAW files under any circumstances.  I repeat, I DO NOT release my RAW files under any circumstances.


I will not release RAW/unedited images for a few reasons:  

  1. RAW files are different than JPEG, .GIF, .PNG or other common digital photo formats. The file type is typically a .CR2.  It takes specific software to even be able to see these files on your computer, and the average person does not possess this software.  Also, said software costs around $800+, so please, save yourself some money.  The image above is as close to a before/after image as I can post online.  The left image has been processed from a CR2 file to a JPEG file, so that you can see it – but it is still NOT the RAW file.  Again, you cannot see a RAW file without special software.

  2. The RAW files are my “insurance.”  Let’s pretend I shot with film, and gave you the brown, plastic negatives.  If your house were to burn down, and you lost all of your photos and the negatives, I would have no way to replace them for you.  The same goes for the RAW files.  I know you want to keep your images safe, but trust me on this one. I will not give up my insurance.

  3. I own the copyright to these images (as stated in our contract).  Most of the time, clients want these images so that they or someone else can edit them in a style different than my own.  However, it would be illegal for someone else to edit or alter my images in anyway without my express permission.  Plus, my clients hired me because they like my style, so why have someone else edit them? 

Q:  What are digital images and why would I want them?

A: The digital images I offer to my clients are just that, digital versions of your images that you download from your client gallery.  I provide the option to download images for Print or for Web. While I retain the copyright to the images, you will receive a print release with your gallery. This means you can plaster them all over your social media channels, print them or create your own album without doing so through me. However, if you would like an album or prints, I’d be happy to order those for you.   


Q:  Do you edit all of my images?

A: This question can be answered as, yes and no.  Once I upload the RAW files to my computer I use a program to “cull” the RAW files.  During the culling process, I automatically delete any photos where the subject is blinking, or blurry, or photos that I’m not happy with.  I then edit the rest.  You will never see these deleted photos, and I will not give them to you.  I’m sorry, but trust me, it’s for the best.  


Q: What exactly does “editing” a RAW file entail?

A:  I am a photographer, not an editor.  As such, I have spent years learning to take great images “in-camera.”  I don’t want to spend hours behind a computer correcting lighting or exposure mistakes, so I try to get the best image possible in-camera, and do as little “editing” as possible. Typically my editing process includes, uploading all images to the computer, backing-up, twice, lightening & brightening, adjusting the temperature of the photo (is it too warm/orange, or too cool/blue?), and straightening the image, and then saving the images to three different places (again, insurance).  


I do not use Photoshop.  I will not make my clients look 20+ lbs thinner, change the color of objects, add in missing family members, “iron” out wrinkles in clothing, etc. It just takes too long, would cost too much, and I’d rather be shooting. Think of it this way.  If it takes me even 10+ minutes to edit one image, and I’m giving you 50+ images (1000+ for weddings), how long will it take for me to edit your session?  Are you going to pay me for all of those hours if I only shoot you for an hour?  I didn’t think so. 


This question can also be answered visually in the images in this post.  On the left is the file “SOOC” or straight out of camera… sort of.  It’s technically a RAW file that has been converted to a JPEG, but the lighting is different and colors different because again, you can’t view RAW files unless in special software.  The image on the right  is what I give the client.


  • The first image of Kim and her daughter, was taken at roughly an hour and a half before sunset, with a 50mm 1.2L, f/2.8, 1/190 ISO 100.  In post processing, I bumped up the shadows, reduced the temperature and slightly increased the contrast.  BOOM, done!

  • The second photo of Jackson was taken in the middle of the afternoon on an overcast day.  24-70mm 2.8L, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO 200.  I straightened it a bit, bumped up the exposure, increased the shadows and highlights. Tada!

  • The  final image of Irene, was again taken in the late afternoon on a very, VERY overcast day.  24-70mm 2.8L, f/2.0, 1/250, ISO 400.  I increased the shadows and highlights, and the temperature (increased the orange).  I also played with the tone curve just a bit to add that “pop” of brightness.  

As you can see with each image, I am not spending more than a minute or so in the editing process.  I try to capture the image in camera as true to life as I can, with proper exposure and white  balance.


Q: When I get the digital images, does that mean I own the copyright?

A: As stated above, no. By law, I retain the copyright to every image I take. When you purchase the digital images, you receive the digital files as well as a print release that gives you permission to use the images for certain purposes, such as making prints or other photo products, posting on a website, or for personal use. The release is specific to the client.  You may not use the images for advertising purposes, resell them, edit or add filters to them.  I also ask that you do not send your images to wedding blogs, magazines, or your other vendors without speaking to me first. I am more than happy to share the images with other vendors (and usually do), but I prefer to do it personally so that I may discuss our usage and credit policies with them.


I hope this offers a little bit of insight into what my workflow entails, and sets your mind at ease when I tell you, “No, you may not have your RAW files.”


Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go re-apply my lipstick.

May 17, 2017

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