“Why can't I have the unedited RAW images?”

Photographers, this is one of the most common, and most difficult to answer, questions I get from clients!


Of all the objections photographers must overcome, this is the one that instantly pulls up our emotions! They don’t want our edited work? Well, why not?! They must not understand how much work I put into editing. What an insult!


See how that spiral starts?


Before you attack your client for asking this question, let’s dive into why they are asking.



INTENTIONS

This question could come from many different places.


First, this could be totally innocent. The client might not understand the process of editing or understand why it is so necessary. Although it feels like an insult to your work, they might just not understand that you only deliver edited images. Maybe they are just trying to get an idea of what they will be paying for.


Second, it could be that they don’t trust you to edit in a way they like. Our worst fear, that they would give the RAW images to their brother who “knows some editing”, could be the case. You definitely don’t want your photos edited by someone outside of your brand, but remember, the client might not be trying to offend you...they might just not be confident that you will deliver photos they will like. If that’s the case, think about why they might not have confidence. Is your editing consistent? Has your portfolio proved that you will deliver consistent and quality content?


ASK

The most important thing to do is ASK your client why they are interested in the RAW images. Then LISTEN. They will tell you exactly what is important to them.


Your job is to listen and overcome their objections with something valuable.


For example, if the client says, “My sister got her wedding photos back and they weren’t very good. The photographer wouldn’t give us the original photos and my sister was stuck with pictures she didn’t like.” Please...resist the urge to jump in and defend that photographer. You have nothing to do with that situation and you are on the client’s side. “We just want to make sure we will like the photos we get back.”


FIRST: validate. “Wow, that must have been frustrating. I’m sorry to hear that that photographer didn’t deliver good images.”


SECOND: Explain quickly why you don’t share the RAW images. Here are a few points I usually hit:

  • Most professional photographers don’t give out their unedited photos. I expect it’s because, like me, they consider photos straight out of camera to be like half painted paintings. This is our art...you are our muse...we want it to be perfect!!

  • My camera is set to photograph images in a super high resolution format which is unusable outside of my editing system. After I edit the images (including getting rid of zits, straightening lines, adding consistent coloring) I format the images to high resolution JPEGs so that they are usable and printable. The unedited photos are quite useless before they go through my process.

  • I work very hard to keep all of my professional “products” visually consistent. Every photo shoot that comes through my editing lab gets the same quality treatment. I spend waaaaay more time than I need to making sure the details of each photo look incredible. The consistent coloring in my portfolio is something I’ve worked hard on, and I take pride in it. Many brides have commented that they trust my work because it is so consistent. It gives them confidence that they know what to expect from me.


**NOTE: the delivery of each of those points is presented in a way that seems valuable to the client. It’s not about the photographer, it’s about the bride. You are there to serve her. Use the points that are relevant, but DON’T LECTURE. You don’t have to apologize for this, though. It’s not a fact that is up for debate. You simply don’t share the unedited photos. They are hiring you to deliver industry standard images, and editing is part of that.

THIRD: address the concern. “I know you are worried about not being happy with the photos. I promise I’ll do everything I can to make sure we are on the same page before we take the photos. We will have a consultation in advance to make sure I know exactly what you want from me, and what editing style you prefer. And, if I deliver the images and you want to tweak the coloring, we can always re-edit the images until you like them! Would that make you feel better?”



The most important thing to express:

You are the expert. You deliver high quality photos. You are there to serve the client and will do everything you can to give them exactly what they are looking for.


To emphasize the point you can show an example of a before + after photo that you have posted to social media. Visually showing the difference between an edited image versus a non-edited image is a powerful way to re-enforce that editing is needed...and that your editing is expert.


Some clients might decide not to book you unless you share the RAW images (that has happened to me a few times), but these are not your ideal clients. You want to work with clients who trust you every step of the way and are obsessed with the work you deliver to them.

Through all of this, remember that you are there to serve the client.