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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos The Business of Photography 
Thread started 27 Jul 2010 (Tuesday) 09:17
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What's the harm in giving the RAWs (to certain clients)?

 
rajah ­ sulayman
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Jul 27, 2010 09:17 |  #1

Like most (and, hopefully, all) photographers, I'm fiercely protective of my RAWs. They are, after all, the digital negatives. The originals. The source of all my ungodly power. Hand it over to a client and you may as well be letting them behind the curtain to see the meek and not-at-all-terrible Oz.

Recently, however, I was talking to a non-photographer friend about event photography, and he asked why, especially if I wouldn't be selling prints or other photos after the fact, I don't give copies of the RAWs alongside the JPGs.

And the thing is, I couldn't really think of a good answer.

With all other jobs--fashion, editorial, product, etc--guarding your RAWs like a hungry dog guards a steak is pretty much a no-brainer. But event gigs tend to be much more mercenary than other jobs; go in, shoot, do some post, hand over the JPGs, and that's it. In over six years of doing events here and there, I've never once had a client come back for prints or the like. The only times clients have ever come back has been to hire me for other gigs, never to do further image work on a past gig.

So why, other than principle, am I so protective of my RAWs in these cases? If I never plan on ever returning to these photos, where's the harm in giving the client the RAWs?


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Daedalus34r
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Jul 27, 2010 09:37 |  #2

rajah sulayman wrote in post #10610976 (external link)
But event gigs tend to be much more mercenary than other jobs; go in, shoot, do some post, hand over the JPGs, and that's it.

Im not a pro, but here's my opinion:

You're putting in behind the scene effort for the jpeg, big or small, to take the unedited RAW and process it into its final form. This is what your client wants right? I would thinking handing over the RAW allows them to look at the original and possibly come to poorly conceived notions about your photography skills. Something along the lines of, "wow this jpg looks way different from the raw, does this mean his photography skills are lacking? Why can't it look like this out of the camera? yada yada"

I'm thinking it's less about instinctively guarding your digital negative and more about something the client has no need for.

Granted i'm sure there are client-photog relationships where the photog just dumps the raw and let's the client handle the final image. But that doesn't sound like the case for you.


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Jul 27, 2010 09:40 |  #3

If I were a baker, I wouldnt sell a customer a half baked cupcake. Unless your customer is an imaging professional of some sort with a specific need for the raw file, then you arent doing them a service by providing them the unfinished work.




  
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Nightstalker
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Jul 27, 2010 10:33 |  #4

It all depends on what sector you are shooting in.

If I were shooting high volume events (and I do) I would usually only be shooting JPG anyway so the issue would never arise.

I also shoot commercial work and have no problem passing over the RAW files if this is required by the client and if appropriate compensation is agreed.

Many agencies want to pass on the RAW's to their professional retouchers who will be working to create a set brief or look. Often images will be retouched, sliced, diced and composated to create what the client wants.

As a photographer I have no problem with someone else manipulating my images - the thing that concerns me most as a businessman is delivering the client what we have agreed and then getting paid.

Notwithstanding the above, if I were shooting a wedding / portrait session then I would not give the RAW files as I woulod be creating the final product and the client has no need for the RAW's - not that most clients would understand what to do with them anyhow.


  
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usukshooter
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Jul 27, 2010 10:36 |  #5

1. Most clients wouldn't have the ability to read a RAW file anyway so it's a waste of time
2. Quality control. Assuming my clients do have or obtain the ability to read and edit a RAW file, the last thing I want is someone else messing with my images. Even if I'll never use them again, my name may still be associated with those images and so they are a representation of my work - I don't want that in the hands of someone else.
3. As mentioned, the client is paying not only for my shooting but also my post processing - why would I give them a half finished product? Again, that may reflect badly on me as a photographer for clients to be able to see unfinished works.
4. Say theoretically, a client decides to enter one of my images into a contest and I have to take them to court. I may struggle to win when the client has the RAW files.


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rajah ­ sulayman
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Jul 27, 2010 10:54 |  #6

While I can definitely see the "Don't give the client an unfinished product" angle, I also know that many photographers sell the RAWs to their clients for an additional premium, if requested. So I feel that might not be as big an aspect to it.

As for the "I don't want the client retouching my images" part, they can do that with a JPG just as well. Working with a RAW gives them a little more leeway and some more flexibility with their edits, but a client can rejigger the high-res JPG I send them just as easily as they can a RAW.

Also to clarify: For the sake of argument, you'd be handing the RAWs over in addition to any post-processed images. It'd be like handing over negatives with the retouched prints, where the client knows that one is a finished product and one isn't.

In the end, I don't really see myself changing my policy on handing out RAWs (which is to say, I don't do it unless specifically requested and even then I usually charge a premium priced high enough to discourage all but the most ardent clients). I just found it interesting to realize that most of my policy is based more on principle than anything else.


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Atl-Fotos
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Jul 27, 2010 11:06 |  #7

If they want to pay for the raw images let'em. Why denie someone the joy of giving you money for untouched work??? Just make sure they know what they are asking for (most people don't).... Just my two cents.....


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Jul 27, 2010 12:31 as a reply to  @ Atl-Fotos's post |  #8

Unless the client specifically NEEDS the RAW files for some sort of specialized processing they have in their workflow (advertising agency, maybe?), I can't see a good argument in favor of giving them up.

If a client expects a finished, final image product, give them JPEG (or maybe PSD or TIFF if they work that way). If they expect unprocessed images that they intend to work on themselves, RAW is the best deliverable, obviously.

It seems that a lot of people associate IP rights with RAW files. They think "handing over" those files will somehow equate to surrendering all rights to the images. If your contract is properly set up, the file type you deliver will in no way abrogate your rights as spec'd in the document.

But there's no upside to giving a client RAW files if they don't need them, so why do it?


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tkbslc
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Jul 27, 2010 13:12 |  #9

If someone wants to pay you a price you demand, sell them whatever they want. I mean honestly, once a photo shoot is done, it is done, right? Do people really come back in 2 years and say, "give me another $500 worth of prints from that one gig.." Might as well get all the money you can from them now. Heck, sell them the rights if they will pay for it.


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Jul 27, 2010 13:20 as a reply to  @ culturejam's post |  #10

Not agreeing or disagreeing but let me give you a view from the other side of the spectrum. Working in an ad agency we had this pro photographer do some photography for us for a sailing school catalog. I've seen his work and as a photographer, he is a great photographer. But when hiring him I had them ask him to supply the raw files only. He had no problem with that seeing that the files were being used by us exclusively. It was great to process them myself and bring them into photoshop and process them further for our purposes. We have gotten jpgs from him before and photographically they were great but for commercial printing purposes we had problems with them. This is why we asked for raw files. There are areas that as a photographer you might be less experienced in, as in commercial printing. Not to say you can't pp good but to know what the image needs to look like to get an expected outcome from the printing presses is another thing. Most case it's not until you start on the project and start deciding what paper stock you're going to use and what company you're going to use to print that you know how you need to process the photo. For that reason, it's best to have the raw file.


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Jul 27, 2010 13:27 |  #11

If you feel that your RAW image is the completed work, and you do not have any problem with giving access to limitless copies,. then go for it!

My issue would be I would not offer the RAW file as that would be like as a carpenter offering to sell the "cabinets' while it is still in pieces. I would not want my name on the finished product if someone else was going to hack it together.

.. but that would be for my artwork,.
If I was hired specifically for a task,. then it would be no issue.


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tkbslc
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Jul 27, 2010 13:35 |  #12

CyberDyneSystems wrote in post #10612484 (external link)
My issue would be I would not offer the RAW file as that would be like as a carpenter offering to sell the "cabinets' while it is still in pieces. I would not want my name on the finished product if someone else was going to hack it together.
.

That is a good point. If you had finished the RAW file in say DPP, then someone pulling it into an Adobe product would start back at the unfinished file.

The same logic could apply for JPEGs though. I could take your JPEG and turn it into an "awesome" fake HDR with Topaz adjust and leave your signature on the bottom.


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Jimconnerphoto
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Jul 27, 2010 17:44 |  #13

Clients are hiring you for your style and creativity. I believe that style and creativity is evident in not only the composition and exposure of the initial shot, but how that shot is cropped, edited, corrected and presented.
Delivering RAW images cuts your interpretation of the images in half.
When I take a shot, I have in mind what I want the shot to be. It may be a B&W, sepia, an over saturated, cross process, over edited, noisy ..... you get the point.
As a raw file you deliver none of that.
I ask what benefit do you get by delivering RAW files?


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mikekelley
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Jul 27, 2010 18:00 |  #14

dugcross wrote in post #10612446 (external link)
Not agreeing or disagreeing but let me give you a view from the other side of the spectrum. Working in an ad agency we had this pro photographer do some photography for us for a sailing school catalog. I've seen his work and as a photographer, he is a great photographer. But when hiring him I had them ask him to supply the raw files only. He had no problem with that seeing that the files were being used by us exclusively. It was great to process them myself and bring them into photoshop and process them further for our purposes. We have gotten jpgs from him before and photographically they were great but for commercial printing purposes we had problems with them. This is why we asked for raw files. There are areas that as a photographer you might be less experienced in, as in commercial printing. Not to say you can't pp good but to know what the image needs to look like to get an expected outcome from the printing presses is another thing. Most case it's not until you start on the project and start deciding what paper stock you're going to use and what company you're going to use to print that you know how you need to process the photo. For that reason, it's best to have the raw file.

Exactly.


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Jimconnerphoto
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Jul 27, 2010 18:02 |  #15

mikekelley wrote in post #10614089 (external link)
Exactly.

it was a very good point.


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What's the harm in giving the RAWs (to certain clients)?
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