Should you sell your RAW files if a client wants them?

Oct 11, 2021

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Should you sell your RAW files if a client wants them?

Oct 11, 2021

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Do you let your clients have the unedited photos along with the edited ones? Do you think that’s the way to go or it’s a huge no-no? There are different opinions on this topic. In this video from Adorama, David Bergman discusses why you should and shouldn’t sell your RAW files to clients.

First of all, when your clients ask for a “RAW” or “original” file, they may not really mean the uncompressed CR3 or NEF file. Maybe they just want the unedited JPEGs because they think you’re not delivering the photos at the highest resolution or quality. To resolve this, you should have a conversation with them to find out what they’re really asking for. Also, explain to them that the edited JPEGs you provide are high enough in resolution in quality.

Now, if they want the actual RAW files, is there a benefit of selling them? Well, there certainly is the most obvious one: money. If you decide to give your clients the RAW files, you should price them higher, especially if they want to do the prints on their own and not buy them from you.

Even though you could potentially earn more from selling the RAW files along with the processed JPEGs. David still votes “no” on doing it, and there are a few reasons for that.

First, a RAW file “isn’t quite finished yet,” so to say. In the film days, it would be like selling your negative. Sure, you want to get the photo as good as possible in-camera, but creating the final image still at least some amount of touching up.

Then, you as a photographer have a specific look or style in your images. And this particular style is exactly what made your clients choose you. Of course, we all know that every style requires some toning and other edits before converting the image from RAW to JPG. So, your RAW images are most likely far from representing your style.

And last but not least, most non-photographers don’t even have the software they need to open RAW files. And if they do, they’ll be editing your images, which is probably something you don’t want.

I totally agree with David on selling the RAW files. While there may be a financial benefit, I would feel unprofessional if I sold them. For me, it would be exactly like selling unfinished work, and I’ve never done that with anything I made, be it an embroidery artwork, a piece of jewelry, or a photograph.

Now let me know, do you let your clients have the RAW files too, or do you only send the edited JPEGs?

[Should you sell your RAW files? | Ask David Bergman | Adorama]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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10 responses to “Should you sell your RAW files if a client wants them?”

  1. Bill Avatar
    Bill

    When people ask me, I just tell them I never release an unedited photo. Simple enough.

  2. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    I personally wouldn’t have a problem because then it would be easy for them to see how much work has gone in to the editing.

    Everyone’s taste is different. How I edit a photo and how a client may want to edit it could be entirely different. If they want to take my raw files and up the saturation to 11 just to win Instagram for the day, then go ahead, knock yourself out. I won’t do that, but here, take the raw files, do your worst.

    All I would demand is that my name is kept off the end result.

  3. DwrCymru Avatar
    DwrCymru

    When I’m asked I usually give them the JPEG versions of the unedited raw file, they look awful but can show how much work has gone into preparing their final images.

  4. Bjarne Winkler Avatar
    Bjarne Winkler

    C’mon, everything is for sale. The question is for what price would you sell your RAW $5 or $1M?

  5. Robert Hicks Avatar
    Robert Hicks

    I don’t follow the social media “oh my raws” insanity as long as they’re paying proper usage for the images they use I will certainly be doing less work for more money. It’s the people worried about “credit” because they can’t manage a real marketing plan

  6. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
    Arthur_P_Dent

    Hell no. would these people insist on asking a restaurant to give them the raw ingredients for their meals?

  7. Kaouthia Avatar
    Kaouthia

    Everything has its price. Giving out the raw files is pretty common for commercial stuff, especially for brands who have a consistent look and feel throughout all their marketing and have in-house or regular contracted retouchers.

  8. Jay Jay Avatar
    Jay Jay

    You’re giving up the copyright when you do it. At least opening up the potential for copyright violation. Why not license the images? That way there’s no question as to what they are used for, and possible future conflict.

  9. timothyf7 Avatar
    timothyf7

    Would you ask a artist to sell you his paints, canvas, and brushes?

  10. Michael's Photography Company Avatar
    Michael’s Photography Company

    I made the exception once. It was a professional photographer’s wedding. For many years now, about 98% of all of my edits are in Adobe Camera Raw/ Lightroom. Very little PhotoShop required. I agreed to do all of my regular work/editing so that he would receive MY vision, but I sold the raw files with the edit data files on top at a premium cost.