I’m surprised how difficult it is to get the raw image files from a professional photographer you hire. They’ll usually give a reason, like “the finished photo is my art.” And when I refute all the weak reasons, they almost always rely on, “it’s not my policy.” This leads me to the conclusion that the real reason is lock-in. They want you coming back for prints, edits, etc., for which, of course they will charge. I’m a photographer myself, and I find it difficult to justify not getting raw images.
Here’re some of the arguments they give:
“The final deliverable is my work of art.”
Ok, I get that. Post processing is an art in itself. So, I’ll still pay you for your edits, but then I still want the raw files.
“I have to protect my brand.”
There are plenty of ways to still protect your brand without withholding raw files. For example, you could make it conditional that the photographer be credited only for the photos that s/he edited. Or perhaps require approval of an edited photo before using the photographer’s name.
Besides, this argument is really weak. The customer can always edit a jpg file, which will probably look worse than editing a raw file anyway.
“It’s like paying a painter for their canvas.”
Not really. I’m a good post-processor myself. I just can’t take candid photos of my family and include myself. If most of the photographer’s value-add is in post-processing, then they’re probably not the right photographer for me. Instead, I’m looking for that skilled photographer who is great at capturing great images “on the negative.” If a photographer is really good at that, then the incremental value of post-processing should be relatively low.
“It’s not as impressive as giving them post processed photos.”
Fine. Then provide both. If your value is so great in post-processing, then it’ll be even more evident by providing the original and hard to reproduce.
“Clients pay the photographer to pick out the best.”
Sure, some may, but I bet those aren’t the folks asking for raw files. The reality is that these photos will matter way more to me, so I’m more likely to put greater time into selecting and editing photos, and am more likely to find a gem hidden in the rough. Why limit me with jpgs?
Unfortunately, all of this raw pushback, just comes across as red herrings because the photographer wants to lock you into coming back to them for additional business. It’s very photographer-centric. What if the photographer goes out of business or my grandkids want to edit the images with advanced tools of the future? Business has taught me that successful ventures focus on the customer first. There are plenty of ways that I can edit a photographer’s photos without infringing on their brand. It feels to me like all of this debate over raw is a tad overdone.