"Do you provide RAW files?"

I have seen this question multiple times on Facebook groups for couples getting married, and I have been asked that question myself. My simple answer, "No. Never. At all." "But other photographers offer theirs at no additional fee." "Great, then by all means, use them. I don't provide them, never have, and here is why.

Everyone wants RAW files, but do you really understand what these files are? How they are used? What you do with them when you have them? Here's a tidbit of info from your photographer's perspective.

RAW is a digital formatted file that is produced from cameras that are minimally processed data. There is no image – it's data that comes from a camera sensor. It's not a file extension. Every camera brand has its own form of RAW format file extension. I personally shoot with Nikon cameras, so mine are NEF files, while companies like Canon use CR2, etc. They cannot be opened on a standard bitmap graphics editor (Photo Viewer for example.) They cannot be printed at your local big box store photo lab. And the biggest thing to keep in mind? These files are not small. Photos shared on social platforms are usually between 500K to 3MB. RAW files can run upwards of 30-50MB. A single wedding day for me can take an average of a full TERABYTE of space on my hard drive (most laptops average around 1TB of hard drive space.)

You can see the image on the left shows blue casts from the sky outside, and how the dresses are very dark because of the shadow created by the window sill. The image on the right has been color-corrected, and specific areas highlighted to bring up the shadows to be brighter.

Any great photographer will tell you – we spend hours (and I do mean HOURS) pouring over your wedding day images. Correcting colors to make sure those yellow incandescent lights in your reception ballroom don't make your face look like you have a serious case of jaundice. We make sure that wedding dress you spent so much money on is white, and not beige or blue or pink. Those group photos out in the grass put a nice lovely tint of green on your dress and your face. We've got calibrated monitors to make sure all of that is corrected and your photos are exactly how they should look.

You hired your photographer, maybe for that dark and moody elegant style. Or maybe you chose that light and airy boho style that you dreamed about. Those don't come straight out of the camera that way. We create presets so that everything looks the same and we have a style. When you get those NEF files, they will not come close to looking that way, I PROMISE you.

So why do some photographers offer "RAW files"? My guess is they aren't the real RAW files. A normal client wouldn't have a clue what to do with them, then get upset because they can't open them or even get them printed. They most likely offer final hi-res JPG images of their wedding day (which I automatically provide for any event). So when selecting your photographer, be sure to clarify if you want all "hi-resolution final images", not RAW files.

Feeling a little like the NBC slogan.... "The more you know...."