RAW files. They might be something your camera mad uncle has mentioned and you’ve let it go over your head. You may have read about them in wedding magazines or this might be the first time you’ve ever heard of them and are wondering just what the heck I’m talking about…
Well, here’s the lowdown.
When it comes to RAW files, think of an old-fashioned negative. They’re essentially the digital version of that. It’s all the digital info that comes straight from the camera and lands on the memory card. They are huge. Waaaayyyy bigger than the photos your phone produces and you have to use specific software to open them. They contain a ton of info including all the colours from that scene. We might not need every single bit of information the RAWs contain but it’s all there to help us photographers when it comes to editing.
Why do we need RAWs?
When I say ‘we’ I mean photographers. Sometimes we need all that information, especially if we’re doing a lot of digital manipulation or wanting to produce a HUGE print (think billboard size).
Having all that info there means that, when editing, we can adjust any shadows or highlights to a far greater extent than we can with a JPEG. We also have more control and it allows us to edit that RAW file in our own style.
How do you store RAWs?
As I already mentioned, RAW files are much bigger than JPEGs so require much more storage space.
I have multiple backups of each wedding / session’s RAW files and trust me, I have a whole pile of hard drives and a lot of online storage! Here’s what I do…
- After your wedding / portrait session I will transfer your images to a hard drive.
- I will also keep all your images on the original memory cards until I have delivered your final gallery (I’m all about being safe and not sorry!)
- Once your images are edited I will back up the RAW files to online storage as well as uploading the high-resolution, edited JPEGS to your online gallery.
As you can imagine this can be a pretty costly setup but it works, and knowing I’ve got multiple backups helps me sleep soundly at night!
Do we, the couple, need RAW files?
In the nicest possible way, no. Like most of the photography industry, handing over the RAWs – the unfinished product – is not part of my business model. You booked me because you love my photographs, editing those RAW files into the final image is part of the creation of those images so you’d be getting a half-finished product. That’s not something I want to put out there. It’s not something you need. You want a beautiful gallery to look back on, you won’t get that with a hard drive full of RAWs.
Also, regardless of what you might read from ‘helpful’ online articles, you definitely don’t need to send a RAW file to your average printer. They will most likely roll their eyes and mutter under their breath if you do. For your everyday prints – 8×10, 20×30 etc – a JPEG is just fine.
My final thoughts.
The RAWs are, as they say on the tin, the raw ingredients. It’s like having everything you need to cook dinner in the fridge, but you’ve not yet made it into a tasty meal.
We photographers edit each RAW file to our specific style and vision which is why it is so important that you choose a photographer whose style and images you really connect with.
If, after reading all this, you feel that you still want the RAW files then my best advice is to be upfront with your photographer / videographer. Explain why you would like the files and how you intend to use them. Some photographers may be happy to come to an agreement with you.
I hope you found this blog post helpful, thanks for reading!