By Scott Linscott, Maine Wedding Photographer
Why won’t any of the really good wedding photographers just give me the files?
As a Maine Wedding Photographer, I hear this question at least 2-3 times a week. People think all they need is to get the original files and it will be cheaper and easier. They’re wrong. Why?
- You probably can’t do much with RAW files
Most brides think that RAW simply means unedited, like a raw piece of meat is uncooked. That is only partially true in photography. RAW files contain multiple layers of data which pro photographers know how to adjust in expensive software programs that most consumers do not own or know how to use. RAW files are like digital negatives.
2. Your unedited wedding files will not be very impressive
Digital photography has revolutionized the industry. Back when photographers shot film they spent hours in darkrooms printing and reprinting from the negatives to get exactly the print results desired. Today they spend those hours in front of a color-calibrated, high resolution monitor. They bring out pictures that were a bit too dark, clone out fly away hairs, remove background distractions, darken highlights and lighten shadows. For example, compare the edited and unedited images below. Most brides simply cannot produce the same results as a professional photographer who processes thousands of exposures.
Unedited: Father-daughter dance
Edited: father-daughter dance
Unedited bride & groom
Edited and cropped bride & groom
3. You don’t have the equipment to get the same result
If a photographer delivers 100+ gigabytes of RAW digital files to a bride on twenty DVDs or several USB sticks what happens next? Some will immediately be angry because they don’t have the software to even view RAW images. Some will download image conversion software that tosses out the majority of exposure information to compress RAW to JPG format. Next they will make adjustments to the JPG files on a screen that is not color calibrated. When everything looks good to their eye, on their screen, they will take the files to a consumer-level printer. That printer will apply its own color corrections and print out images on poor quality papers with discount inks that tend to fade quickly. Finally, the bride will put the images on social media and throw up a photo credit giving their wedding shooter the credit for what the image has become. That is a pro’s nightmare!
4. If you do have the equipment and skills, you don’t have the time
For every hour a pro spends shooting at a wedding, most spend 3-5 hours processing and editing. With a second shooter on the team, they can get back to their office with 2,000-2,500 captures. After a weekend wedding it is not uncommon to spend the bulk of the next week editing them. The bride who has the skills and equipment to consider editing usually cannot afford to spend the time required. Most professional wedding photographers can recount stories of brides who have approached them years after their wedding asking them if they can do something with their wedding photos they have only on USB sticks.
5. You will ultimately be disappointed
When choosing your photographer you view edited images either online or printed in albums. Their work will look strong and impressive. When you ask them for their RAW files it is like telling a great painter that you will finish the painting they started and walk out with their canvas. Your unedited image files will not compare to the images you saw when you decided to hire them and you will be disappointed. Your final images, even after your attempts at editing, will still fall well short.
6. You will eventually lose your images
If you go with a wedding photographer who only delivers edited, high resolution JPG files, it will be up to you to do something with them. The reality is that most brides who go this route never do anything with their images beyond posting some on Facebook. Despite the best intentions, money and time keep them from having wall art printed or even the most basic books made, not the custom-designed albums of professionals, made. USB sticks get thrown into boxes and lost, computers crash and get replaced and today’s computer equipment grows obsolete. The bride who hires a professional wedding photographer who provides color-balanced, quality wall art prints or canvases and custom-designed albums, gives herself and future generations easy access to her wedding memories.
Top photographers care too much about their art and the families they work with to give cut-rate services. They can’t bring themselves to offer shoot, dump and run services of delivering only digital files even though that’s the trend for others. Their images are their babies and they care what happens to them.
Before you use your wedding photography budget to be the area where you try to make the biggest cuts, consider the long-term results of your decision and what you are sacrificing. Your love for one another and the printed photos will be the only things that remain years later.
Scott Linscott is the owner and main photographer at Linscott Photography and Maine Pro Photo. He and his wife Robin work as a team as Maine Wedding Photographers and also serve as destination wedding photographers.
Linscott Photography provides custom-designed, Signature albums featuring layflat spreads.