Should you share RAW files with your clients? There’s no universal answer to this question, but photographer Jamie Windsor believes that the answer is no. In this video, he gives you five reasons why you shouldn’t let your clients own the RAW images you shoot. So, let’s dive in and see if you agree.
1. People don’t know what RAW files are
The first reason not to give RAW files to your clients is that many people don’t actually know what they are. An average client expects that they’ll get unedited JPEG images and be able to view them. When they try to open a RAW file, expect a message or a call where they ask you why they can’t open it.
2. RAW files are huge
As you know, RAW files take up a lot of space. You don’t want to burden the client with gigabytes of unedited photos. And frankly, I wouldn’t burden myself with uploading/copying them either.
3. RAW files don’t look right
RAW, straight-out-of-camera photos look unfinished. While editing, you can retrieve the details, crop the photos, edit something out, emphasize something else…You have a vision, and the client doesn’t know what this vision is. They don’t necessarily know what your editing software and your editing skills are capable of. To an average client, the unedited photo simply looks like a bad photo, and it makes you look like a bad photographer.
4. It damages your reputation
Your photography is your brand, and it includes everything you put into making your final images. The editing process is a big part of creating the final product. It adds to your personal style. This is why you don’t want someone else to edit your RAW file badly, publish it online and credit you. It’s not something you’d put your name on.
I have to add something here. Sometimes, not sharing RAW files will still not save you from this. Many people like to take even a perfectly edited photo, add a horrible Instagram filter to it and credit you. I know photographers who are really annoyed by it, so I suggest you talk to your clients about it before you deliver the images. It’s not a guarantee they won’t do it, though, at least judging from Jamie’s experience described in the next remark.
5. People are selfish
While there are many nice people in this world who make great clients, I guess you already know that not everyone’s like that. People can promise not to do something (even sign a contract), and then still do it behind your back. Jamie shares his experience: he delivered RAW files to a client and they agreed that the client won’t share them online. Despite the agreement, they shared it. The client took the unedited photos down when Jamie asked them, but uploaded them again after a while. So, judging from Jamie’s experience, it’s best to prevent the situations like this by not sharing the RAW files in the first place.
As I’ve mentioned a million times earlier, I mainly take photos as a hobby. But when I do have a client or take photos for an interview, I still don’t send the RAW images. Fortunately, I’ve never had the situation that someone specifically asked for them. But if it happens, I’ll make sure to do my best and explain why they can’t have them.
What’s your policy on sharing RAW files? Do you share them with your clients, or you’re strict about keeping them to yourself? And how do you tell your clients they can’t have the RAW files?