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raw files versus copyright

Photographers, I’m sure you’ve had a client or two ask if they can have the RAW files from their session.

I’ve even had a photographer tell me how much he loved my work and asked me to photograph his wedding! I was totally honored until he asked if I could do it at a HUGE discount because I could give him the RAW files to edit himself since he’s a photographer. He wanted to just pay me his associate photographer rate of $100 per hour since “No editing will be necessary on your part”.

The thing is, as wedding photographers, we try to do our best to educate our clients upfront. That’s why we have asked you if you’ve seen our portfolio. It’s why we send a FULL GALLERY – not a preview or an instagram link. We want you to see, start to finish, what you could expect from us as your wedding photography team. So when you say you love our work, we know and trust that you’ve done your part in making sure that the work we put out there is exactly what you’re looking for.

what to say when clients ask for raw files

Clients, you’ve probably read something online that talks about what you should expect from a photographer when you book a session.

I know I’ve seen articles that tell you that you should ask for the RAW files because you’re paying for them. I mean, it makes sense right? We totally understand the “I paid for it, so it’s rightfully mine” thought process. But the RAW files are an unnecessary ask. When you book a session with MHP, you’re not paying for the RAW files. You’re paying for our expertise, experience, time, and ultimately, the finished product.

The finished product doesn’t include “all the photos” because that would be overwhelming. You’ve hired us as the professionals to cull through your images. Culling is basically the selection process; it’s when we choose which images we will be editing for delivery. We take a few thousand images on wedding days because things happen, and we want duplicate files just in case. Those just in case moments are because someone will inevitably blink or walk in front of the camera. Not every dancing photo is from a flattering angle, and we want it to look like fun not like a spin class at the gym. The point is, we’re the professionals and our job is to make those decisions so you don’t have to.

Asking for the RAW files from your session would be like asking a professional baker to give you all the ingredients for their best cake so you can…what? Bake it yourself? The reason you go to this amazing baker is for their fabulous cake and their brand! Baking it yourself isn’t the same, and I seriously doubt they’d just hand out their recipe – that’s their secret sauce.

It’s like that for us here at MHP. Our editing process is the secret sauce. It’s a part of what makes MHP’s photos unique and special. The images we capture in camera are like the main ingredients to the cake. The editing process is all the frosting and decorating work that goes in after the cake is made that really make the cake look the best!

But you’re not a baker, so why don’t you give out RAW files?

Simply put, it’s our policy.

But you deserve more explanation than that, so here it is. First, RAW files require specific software to open. Unless you have that software, the files will be unusable for you anyways.

Second, like I said, our editing is the secret sauce. It’s what makes our images special. By giving out RAW files, we would be giving you the ingredients and the recipe to make the cake so to speak. We hope that our clients are choosing MHP because they trust us and they love our work!

should you ask your photographer for copyright

And lastly, copyright. The law essentially says, whoever clicks the shutter owns the image. There’s a lot more to it than that and if you want specifics, hire a lawyer to explain it because that is not the point of this article. The point is, if we give away the copyright, or sell it, that means that we no longer have a right to those images. We would need your permission to post the images online, use it for marketing, even to edit the images, and upload them to your online gallery that we host for all of our clients.

So clients…what do you really need?

What you really want a print release! This means you can print your images per the terms of the print release. Every photographer probably has their own set of terms, but ours is pretty straightforward. Print wherever, whenever you please, just don’t alter the photos with filters, watermarks, editing softwares, etc.

Why can’t I edit my professional photos?

Well first, it’s probably illegal; read your photography contract.

It’s become such a normal thing to slap an Instagram filter on an image before you post it, so it may not seem like a big deal because “everyone does it”

But it is.

adding filters to professional photos

We have spent so much time, effort and money perfecting our editing to get to where we are today. So when a client comes to us raving about our beautiful photos and then they do this (see below) we get a little sad. We did not use a real client post…we did this filter ourselves as an example.

newly married couple sunset photos at wolf lakes park in fresno ca
Original Image taken & edited by MHP.
what to do when clients add instagram filters to their professional images
Instagram filters added to the original MHP image.

It’s in all of our agreements that our clients can’t apply filters, but many clients will forget or just not think it’s a big deal.

So let me (Megan) draw another metaphor for you. Y’all know I LOOOOOOVE pizza! Me-N-Ed’s Hot Hawaiian (without the jalapenos because I’m a wimp) is my FAV! Instagram filters is like taking Little Caesars pizza and putting it in a Me-N-Ed’s box and then tagging Me-N-Eds in the photo. I’m not saying Little C’s hasn’t come in clutch for me before (drunk college nights -hey!) but it is no Hot Hawaiian. I would know, because I know that pizza. But your best friend might not have ever had that pizza and think the Little C’s is such a beautiful pizza.

So here’s the thing; first off, we are so THRILLED you love your photos and that you want to share them. And yes, we know it may not seem like a huge deal, but here’s why it is.

So your friend loves your photo so much, they’ll ask who did them. You’ll send them our way, but when they see our work it doesn’t look like your photos and that is where the problem lies. They liked the filtered image and they’ll come to us expecting photos that look like the filtered images, and not like what we actually delivered. And this question ALWAYS pops into my mind; why would you spend $3000, $4000 or even $5000 on photos to then just add an instagram filter? It just hurts our creative soul…so please…we are asking from the bottom of our hearts, just don’t do it.

what to do when a client adds a filter to your images

So photographers, what do you do if a client does add a filter?

We’ve personally handled it two ways. We used to either email, text or DM the client (whichever way we usually communicate with them) and gently remind them not to add a filter. Sometimes though we noticed that this hurts their feelings because they felt they had done something wrong. We have totally made this mistake, and our aim is never to make anyone feel bad.

So now, we just put this reminder right in our gallery delivery e-mails. And during the photo process, we try to just educate our clients. We don’t call them out anymore or make a fuss because at the end of the day, we want our clients to be happy, so we post a nice comment on their photo if we see it and move on.

We also make a point to get to know our clients and help them understand our policies. Explaining how and why we edit the way we do if needed, and ultimately reassuring them that we have their best interests at heart.

We hope this article was helpful for photographers and clients!

Please join us in our FREE facebook group for photographers!

And we welcome any feedback or questions in the comments below. Or feel free to shoot us an e-mail at hello@meganhelmphotography.com

See you next time!


Raw files, copyright, print releases and IG Filters.

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