To Have Or Have Not – RAW Files

Raw. Original. Unprocessed. All of these can be used to describe a file format that is straight out of camera (or SOOC). This is the file that comes straight from the camera, properly exposed or not. In focus or not. Many couples ask their wedding photographer to provide the RAW files straight from their camera. However, most photographers do not offer their files. There are several reasons for this.

The files are difficult to work with and require specialized software in order to do almost anything with them. Files will also come in different formats depending on the camera they were shot with. The best way to think about a RAW file is to imagine that it is a digital negative. In order to shape that negative into a beautiful portrait of the bride or groom, your photographer must nudge shadows and highlights up or down, look at the focal point, and determine whether it is worthy of making the final cut – the one that you get to see. Many photographers can cut anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of their images out of the mountain of photos already given to a bride and groom. But this doesn’t mean they’re cutting quality shots – those images are over or underexposed, out of focus, and generally not considered good photography. This also doesn’t mean that your photographer isn’t an excellent photographer – with the advent of digital photography, it is easier than ever to shot 20+ images of just one pose and only choose 2 or 3 finals.

On that same note, photographers want to put their best foot forward. They won’t show you the images where your ring bearer had a temper tantrum while he was walking down the aisle, or the unflattering dance poses of your guests. These are the shots that you will never print or look at again. The ones you’ll keep on a DVD in a shoebox at the back of your closet.

Another point to note is that when you hire a photographer, you are not only paying someone to press a shutter button – you are paying for their specific style, whether that be in lighting or post production. You’re also paying for their services, and their time. All of these things contribute to the final, edited product that you receive. Each image we provide to clients is edited, colour corrected, and sharpened so that you get the best image we have. Here’s an example: on the left is the original, raw file, while on the right is the colour and exposure corrected final version.

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Some of your friends or family may suggest that you request the RAW files, but many photographers will offer full or almost full resolution jpg files which can be printed as big as 8×10 in. Most brides and grooms don’t want files bigger than that, but if they do, they may order a print from their photographer. Unless you have the right software, knowledge, and a large amount of time, editing the RAW files yourself is not ideal.

This is a tricky subject, so if you’ve got some comments that you’d like to share, please feel free to comment below!

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