Why I wouldn’t give clients RAW/Unedited images

Last month, I posted on dPS about whether photogs should sell raw/unedited images to clients. There was quite a fiery discussion started in the comments section and apparently, opinions on this topic are fierce!

I’ve gotten a few reader emails this week asking this very question. So here is why I see a danger in sharing these files with clients.

In the dPS post, I likened handing over SOOC (straight out of camera) images to a chef who plops a plate of raw meat on your table. There are two elements that go into cooking a beautiful work of visual art: the capturing of the image and the dark room/post production work. The SOOC image isn’t a complete product, only an ingredient.

Now, this is where the dPS readers had a field day with their comparisons to the film photography days and saying that the light and the colours and the subjects are the ingredients and the camera captures the finished product. But I really don’t feel that this is true these days. And in our line of business, where we get paid to produce something that our clients can’t produce on their own, we have to give them something other than SOOC images. Afterall, any client who owns a camera probably believes that they can do that on their own.

Another reason I feel this is a danger: Clients will show these to their friends and you’ll look second rate. I never ever hand over images that I’m not proud for the world to see with my name on them. I would rather handle every last detail down to the very displaying of my work because this is all part of portraying my business in the best possible light.

With the images I do sell on disk, full-res or web-ready, my image release letter stipulates that clients not remove the watermark or edit/alter the images for public display. Exe: “Please don’t take your painstakingly colour corrected portrait and turn it into a selective colour horror and then tell your friends that this is my work.”

And so these are the reasons I don’t hand over raw chicken to my clients who paid for a roast dinner.

  • I never saw your original post that cause all the commotion, but…THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

  • The last comment about “selective colour horror” made me laugh.

  • bex


    I came across your blog yesterday and LOVE it! Subscribed immediately! I couldn’t agree with you more on this subject. I love your comparison to raw chicken! Great blog – keep it up!

  • I saw that post and commented on it at the time. It did draw quite a few comments over all.

    There are a some occasions where it’s normal to pass over unedited images in the commercial world. It’s not so bad if you know the end image will end up in a high profile magazine or somewhere as you are sure an expert will be working on it and make it looks its best.

    But as far as the “hoi polloi” go, I agree with you. You have no control over quality and any mistake (or shortcuts like using cheap inks and paper) the client makes will be blamed on you. I can only see it ruining the photographer’s reputation.

  • It drives me potty that people talk about film photography as if the film isn’t processed. I distinctly remember spending hours in the darkroom using filters, dodging, burning etc and different times in the chemicals to get the look I wanted. Old school Photoshopping. Which we now tend to let pro labs handle. Thank goodness. 

  • mcastello

    is there a like button on here? just kidding- but I 120% agree