February 26, 2014

Wedding Photography and RAW Image Files

I was recently asked to write this letter for a friend and fellow wedding photographer who's being sued by a groom in order to get the RAW image files of his wedding. While I have never been sued by a client, I have occasionally been asked to support fellow professional photographers in that situation. In this case, it could have all been avoided if the groom had made it clear that he wanted RAW files before they hired their photographer. At that point the groom could then move on to try and find a different photographer that would meet his needs.

My friend goes to small claims court next week. I will let you know how it goes.

Update: Not only did the photographer win the lawsuit but the judge ordered the groom to pay the photographer $2700 for prints he told the judge he wanted during the trial. Gotta love that.

Wedding photography RAW files vs JPGs

To whom it may concern,
I have owned my own photography business for over 25 years and shooting weddings digitally for almost 10 years. I have never delivered RAW image files to my wedding clients. Every year I attend state and national photography expos and conventions and I have never heard of any other professional wedding photographer delivering RAW image files to their wedding customers. One reason is that RAW files are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed, they must be converted with a camera specific plug-in and edited, adjusted and converted to JPG files in a program such as Photoshop. Delivering RAW files is delivering unfinished work that does not represent the photographer's artistic style or quality. When a wedding client hires me, they do so based on my finished work and the RAW image files would not represent the work that my client is hiring me for.

All photographic prints are made from JPG image files. Photo labs and their equipment do not accept anything else. A properly exposed and processed image file at the right photo lab can make beautiful prints even from relatively small file sizes. It has been my experience that the look of the finished print is the ultimate test of how big an image can be printed. It can be surprising how a relatively small JPG file can make a great looking large print.

Dennis Swanson
Owner Studio 101 West