I’m going to attribute this question to The Knot. It’s a request I’ll receive maybe 2-3 times a year, and I know the request is coming from a good place- a bride thinks she’s supposed to ask this question, and that’s totally fine! I don’t mind answering it one bit. Today I’m going to explain the why behind answering “no” to the question “Can I also have the RAW files from my wedding?”
At any given wedding, I’ll shoot between 2000-2500 frames. Because each RAW file is between 25-30 MB, that means I end up with 75-100 GB total in RAW images Just to give you an idea, my MacBook Pro came with 500 GB of storage on the hard drive, so that’s roughly 20% of my computer’s capacity to store just the RAW, unedited data. (I work off of external hard drives, but I’m just trying to illustrate. Bear with me). *This doesn’t include the file I used to edit (a LightRoom catalogue) or the final collection of high-resolution, edited JPGs.*
Now, once I’ve uploaded those 2000-2500 RAW files, I take on the task of culling, or selecting, all of the images that are worthy of the final crop of images that I’ll deliver to my couple. This means I’m looking through hundreds of images that to an untrained eye, might look the same from one photo to the next. And that’s a HUGE number of photographs to look through if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s easy for me because I’ve come to know right off the bat what constitutes a “keeper,” but if you didn’t have the same kind of eye, can you imagine sitting down to sort through thousands of photographs?
So what kind of images am I NOT flagging/keeping? Images that fall into any of these categories:
See what I mean about duplicates? I overshoot, especially at the beginning of the day when I’m getting warmed up by photographing details!
Basically, I skip the images I know my couple won’t want anyways. “But how do you know they won’t want them?” Because I’ve been photographing weddings professionally for five years now, and I’ve learned the difference between what someone actually and truly WANTS, and what they think they’re supposed to want. And there’s a huge difference!
What is it that my couples want? They want photographs from their wedding that show what a beautiful, fun, joyful celebration they hosted. And they want to know I’m going to take care of them. So to help assuage fears, I assure each and every one of my couples that I do not hold out on them when it comes to the number of images they’ll receive. I never, ever cap the photos my couples receive- I give them a ballpark figure of 500-700, but also promise that they’ll receive as many quality images as I can give them. If that’s 650? Awesome! But if it’s 900? Then I send them 900. This way my couples know I’m going to take care of them. And isn’t that what they wanted in the first place?
As the professional, it’s my job to not only capture gorgeous images, but then deliver them in a professional manner that I know will benefit my client the MOST. And unedited images aren’t a product I’d be all that proud to deliver, because simply clicking the shutter is one of many steps in doing what I do. Editing is a necessary part of my photographic style, and is a crucial step in being able to deliver the kind of images they chose me to capture.
See what I mean? RAW image on the left, edited on the right. The RAW image isn’t bad, but the edited one is FINISHED. Warmer skin tones, livelier colors, brighter whites, etc.
Plus, if you had 2500 images to look through, let’s be honest; you’d probably never get through them all. Which probably means you’d never print your wedding images (it’s true!), which means your children and grandchildren would miss out on having every day, inspiring visual evidence of the day your love story took on forever. Your images weren’t meant to live on a computer hard drive, a DVD or a flash drive! Those photographs were created to be displayed on the walls of your home for decades to come, and I want to remove every obstacle I can that could get in the way of that happening.
So there you have it! A not-so-brief explanation behind the answer “no.” As always, feel free to chime in with thoughts and questions in the comments section!