This is a question that photographers are asked every once in a while. Can I have the RAW images? -- or -- Can I see/have the unedited files?
My answer is always, "No." Well why not? you ask. I once saw a response that summed it up perfectly. If you were to walk into a restaurant and look at their menu, would you ask for the raw ingredients? Probably not. Think of a RAW image as one ingredient in a "dish." That is just the start of a photograph. There are more ingredients that need to be added to an image before it is ready to present to a client. First, and probably most importantly, is sharpening. All digital photographs NEED sharpening right out of the camera. That is just the beginning.
I have also had someone ask me if they can just have a disc with all of the images. I respond, "No." You ask, "Why not?" Not every picture turns out. Some may be blurry, some may be under or over exposed...etc. You don't want those, and you would probably wonder what kind of professional I am if I let you have those.
Another bullet point is this: What are you paying me for? You are paying me for my expertise,which includes my knowledge, and ability to edit an image. If you have contacted me and booked a session with me, it means that you have, most likely, seen my portfolio. You chose me to photograph your session based on my style, and my FINAL images. Not the raw ingredients. You also have to understand that the images that I present to my client are representing my business, and I only want the best of the best showcased.
As an additional, and small reason for not releasing the RAW images, unless you are a photographer and have editing software on your computer, you probably won't be able to open the images. I use Canon, and therefore my RAW images use a .CR2 file type. I do not shoot in Jpeg (which is the final edit file type that is provided to my clients).
Let me show you several examples and let you into my thought process for a little bit.
Let's start with this image. You can see the edge of the background in the picture on the left. This little sweetheart was quite happy to crawl all over, which was fine with me, but sometimes she was a little close to the edge of the background. You'll also notice the image is slightly orange in tint (this is from the tone of the wood). All of this can be fixed. I also chose to darken the wood slightly in post.
Image number 2. I knew I wanted more space above the moon for one shot. Instead of moving everything off the background and raising it up, I decided I would fix it in post, which I knew wouldn't be too much work as the background was solid black. It made for a beautiful final image.
Image number 3. Same baby as pictured above. This little guy had your typical baby acne. This is quite common for newborns. I wanted to smooth out his skin, and brighten it just slightly. I wanted to make sure we could see all the details in his sweet little face.
And just for fun, this is my nephew. He just LOVES his blanket. Can you tell he loves to snuggle up with it? I promise he isn't suffocating himself. =) He just enjoys shoving his face into it. This was one that I didn't edit. This is SOOTC (straight out of the camera). As you can see, it is a little dark. The white balance (tone) of the image is slightly cool, (blueish) and the edge of the background is peeking in the side.
One more outtake. This is also a photo of my nephew SOOTC. He really loved the eggs in the basket. A lot happened in the moment I snapped this. As he tried to dump the basket, (for like the 10th time) his mom jumped in to stop him (because she was the one who kept having to clean them up).
So after reading this blog, maybe now you have more of an understanding about why a photographer will not (and should not) release RAW/unedited images. It isn't that we are holding back on you. We really want to provide the best images possible to each and every person who comes to us. We want you to walk away knowing you received professional service and quality.