The real reason you don't want the RAWs

RAW files suck to look at. There. I just came out and said it.

Sure, yes, in actuality photographers usually prefer to shoot in RAW. I shoot in RAW. I love editing RAW files. But looking at them really sucks compared to the possibilities they give.

RAW, unedited file on the left versus the edited version on the right. I think it’s obvious why I would never deliver the RAW file here.

RAW, unedited file on the left versus the edited version on the right. I think it’s obvious why I would never deliver the RAW file here.

As a client, you shouldn’t ever need or want the RAW files for any reason. And I’m here to explain why.

What are RAW files anyway?

RAW files are uncompressed, straight from camera images. They are unmanipulated and unprocessed. Photographers will shoot on RAW because it keeps the most information possible on the file and allows the highest level of possibilities when editing.

So knowing this, “RAW” sounds great, right? It sounds like something that will give you the biggest file to print from and have the best quality. But what you may not know is that a RAW file needs to have a special program to even open it in. You cannot print RAW files from just any program without converting them to another format first. If you don’t own Photoshop or Lightroom, you probably won’t be able to open it at all.

And I’m going to reiterate what I said earlier, to be clear: RAW files look like shit. They are dull, lifeless, and basic. Sure, they are big files. But why would you want a big file that looks like shit?

Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself. These are all before and afters of a RAW file versus an edited file:


Trust me, you don’t want the RAW images. They look like shit compared to the final product. And all that information you think you’re losing? You can’t detect it from looking at it.

Instead ask yourself, “Why do I feel like I need the RAW files?”

  • If it’s because you want to manipulate the files yourself, I want to direct you to my post about copyright.

  • If it’s because you want to see every single image I took at your session or wedding, trust me when I say, you don’t. One thing I promise to my clients is I’ll deliver everything I took as long as it’s flattering and in focus. You don’t want to see the unflattering photos or the photos that didn’t turn out.

  • If it’s because you feel like something is missing, tell your photographer that you think something is missing. Most of the time they either have and it didn’t upload (which sometimes happens, we’re only human), they didn’t capture it at all (we can’t be everywhere at once, unfortunately), or they did capture it but it didn’t come out the way you were expecting.

  • If for some reason you need a bigger file, tell your photographer the size file you need, and they will be able to go back and export it as big as it can possibly go. This always has it’s limits depending on the camera they used, but suffice it to say, it usually can go bigger if need be.

Again, there is no need for the RAW image. Every reason you think you need RAW images for probably has a solution without us needing to show you what was taken straight out of the camera before we put a magic touch on it.

Most photographers won’t want you to see the straight from camera image anyway. It probably sucks.