THE RAW QUESTION
This has been an age old question since RAW files were invented – Should photographers give RAW files to their clients or friends? I believe a small group of people have absolutely no issues in doing so, but why are some people making such a big fuss over this?
For those who are new to digital photography, RAW files are the pure, unedited versions of your photos. It is something like the film negatives of the days past. If anyone has a hold of the RAW files, he/she can literally process and edit as they please.
Some may argue that RAW files are nothing like that, and there is no harm in giving them away. But this is what we are about to find out. Let us look into both sides of the coin on giving and not giving.
NO TO GIVING
I stand on the side of not giving away RAW photos. Not until I personally know the person I am giving the RAW to, and I I know that fella will not create a huge drama over unedited photos. Let me go deeper into the points of why I think not giving is a better idea.
A1) YOU NEED DEDICATED SOFTWARE TO EDIT RAW FILES
You need Photoshop, Lightroom or alternative editing software to work on it. That is something which the “regular Jane and Joe” will not have. So why do people even need the RAW files? If they need to print it or include in a commercial work, just give them an edited high resolution JPG. They have absolutely no use for the RAW.
A2) NOT THE COMPLETE PICTURE
RAW files are the work-in-progress. Giving it away is just like giving away a half finished painting or a half cooked dish. Does not sound very good. They are not the final product, and they should not be released for no reason.
A3) THEY ARE HUGE!
RAW files contain a lot of information, and a single RAW file can easily be over 10 times the size of a JPG. They are not easy to upload, download nor can you attach many of these in an email.
A4) CANNOT BE EASILY SHARED
Even if it is for the purpose of fun, RAW files cannot be easily shared on social media. You will still need to convert them into JPG, GIF, or PNG. So why?
A5) NOT ALL SHOTS ARE GOOD IN RAW
Yes, even the professional photographers have their fair share of failed shots. We fix the small mistakes in Photoshop so people don’t have to. Is my editing skills so bad that people have to edit themselves? 😥
A6) YOU MAY LOSE THE RIGHTS AND CONTROL
RAW files are something like the digital version of film negatives. Releasing it will also somehow mean giving people the silent consent to edit as they please. Whatever goes after the release of the RAW file, is probably going to be beyond your control.
A7) BE JUDGED IN THE WRONG WAY
Remember what happened to a wedding photographer when he released all his photos, edited and unedited? Here is what happened – horrible wedding photos go viral. Learn from the mistakes of other people. Never release everything RAW into the wild, you will never know what is going to happen next in this digital age.
A8) YOU LOSE CREDIBILITY
People tend to remember bad things more than the good. Once your bad photo is noticed, people will start remembering you as a bad photographer. It does not matter if you have taken thousands of decent photos, nor if you have 10 years of experience.
YES TO GIVING
On a few rare occasions, I do give the RAW files away under very specific conditions. Sorry to those who advocate “an open world”, but I really don’t see much good in giving away unedited photos. But still, I shall list a few good reasons on why I gave them away.
B1) GETTING A DIFFERENT VIEW FROM FRIENDS
When I run low on the creative juice, I sometimes pass the editing to friends that I trust. Yep, get a different angle, a different view. Nope, it’s not that I am lazy and do not want to do editing. 😛
B2) PEOPLE MIGHT NEED THE RAW FOR LEGIT REASONS
For some years, I have worked in a design company. They do not give away RAW photos, vectors nor designs too. But once in a while, they have to do so. For example, a new company needs their logo in RAW to make stamps, envelops, shirts, and anything else.
There are times where people need that RAW for legit purposes. In the case of photography, I believe it is in design and editing. If I am working with another designer, editor or photographer, I will most probably give up the RAW without much fuss.
B3) FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Yep, I screwed up the photo. But I fixed it in editing later. I then share the steps on how to fix a bad photo in a tutorial, and give the RAW away so people can learn from my mistakes.
B4) THE RAW IS GREAT
When the master purist in me suddenly awakens, and the RAW photo is as great as it is. When editing is for the weak, the RAW goes out strong and proud.
B5) I DISOWNED IT
What? Who took that crappy photo? Not me.
YES OR NO?
So after writing an entire article, here comes my final decision and recommendation on giving away RAW files.
There you have it. I stand by my argument that RAW files are incomplete works, and they should not be released. Since I am the photographer, I am also the best person to edit the photo. I already know what I want from the start, and letting other people edit may not have the effect that I want.
Well, feel free to disagree with me. It’s on open world. While I have seen a lot other photographers agree that RAW files should not be given away freely, there are also people with a different train of thought. So please feel free to share your thoughts. I love to hear the reasons from those who share their RAW files.