Photography

Would You Hand Over Your RAW Files to a Paying Client?

Unreasonable requests come as part and parcel of wedding photography, whether from the soon-to-be newlyweds, the family or even the guests.

One hopeful client was recently given the cold shoulder from photographers of Traverse City, Michigan thanks to their overly demanding stipulations and less-than-friendly attitude.

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The advert has now been deleted by its creator, but not before causing a stir by demanding that all photographs be taken on the client’s own memory cards and that the RAW files be handed over at the end of the day.

Whilst a relatively common practice with second shooters, the idea of giving unretouched images directly to the client is not.

The author seemed oblivious as to why professionals they had already contacted in their area were all unwilling. Being a photographer, it is understandable that the client is keen to edit the photos themselves, though in this situation one would hope a professional could ask photographers whose work they know, respect and trust enough to cover their special day.

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A wedding—one time when you most certainly want to be using a pro, and will be expected pro results

This seems to be the latest iteration of the photographer vs subject ownership saga/power struggle, following recent news stories covering Taylor Swift and the Foo Fighters’ treatment of professional photographers and chefs and governments banning food photos.

When choosing a wedding photographer, the general consensus is to find someone who creates the style you like then to set them free on your wedding, allowing their creativity and expertise guide the camera. One photography couple shared their vision-clash debacle which ended in them firing a client this week on Reddit, resulting in a thread full of horror stories from wedding photographers.

Is the customer always right? Handing over RAW files at the end of the wedding would remove the chance of clients returning for numerous other services which ‘should be covered in the original price’, as well as give them the piece of mind that for years to come they will have digital copies of their treasured images. In this instance, images would not bear a watermark, therefore any changes in bad taste could not be attributed to the original photographer, but in other situations where clients want RAW files of the completed work, would you agree?

The way to a happy experience for both photographer and couple seems to be ensuring that you share the same vision before the wedding, and forming a contract that informs and reassures both parties.

Photographer David H. Hagen commented on PopPhoto.com,

“The great part of it is the client doesn’t come back for reprints, only to ask for a ‘discount’ in the process. I found many clients who were willing to pay more upfront to have total control of the prints in the end. I usually charged a flat rate for the entire day of a wedding, shot the photos until they called it quits, then handed them the card. I got paid and they could do whatever they wanted after that.”

User aleroe added,

“I trust that a pro can take better pictures than I can. I trust that he can post-process and print them better than I can. I DO NOT trust that he can archive them for decades better than I can, or that I can find him decades later, or that he can find the files decades later. So I want digital copies.”

Let us know your thoughts—how do you cope with irregular and unreasonable requests or rude attitudes from clients? Where do you draw the line?