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Should we ever sell raw, unedited images?

Should we ever sell raw, unedited images?Over on my post 6 Tips for Setting Your Photography Prices, there has been some discussion about whether a photographer should ever sell original, unedited files. There’s also some questioning whether photographers should sell any digital files at all, edited or not. But then, that’s a common dialogue always going on amongst photographers.

I just thought I’d pick up on this idea that we would ever sell raw, unedited images. One reader commented that since she’s a photographer, her wedding photog sold her the complete package of raw files for her own editing pleasure. Honestly, as a photographer myself, I can understand why she would want more creative control over her wedding photos. But as with any facet of the photography biz, if you compare photographer practices to any other service, they don’t always make sense.

For example. You’re a chef. You’re hungry. You go to a restaurant and order your food. Then you knock on the kitchen door and ask the chef to please just prep the ingredients. You’ll cook it yourself thankyouverymuch.

An unedited image is a raw ingredient. If you were the chef of a restaurant, you wouldn’t let a customer order a plate of raw chicken no matter how much they begged. Because this would not only be bad for them, it would reflect badly on you when they get food poisoning and then tell your friends they ate at your place.

For me, the option of buying unedited images should never be available and never be entertained. As with any form of out-of-the-ordinary client request, this may be down to expectation management. Did they see your website beforehand? Are they familiar with your style? Did they clearly know that you lean toward soft and ethereal and then ask you to re-edit all the images in bold colours? Or take a disliking to the finished product and request the photos SOOC?

I fully understand that non-photographer clients might not know the ins and outs of photography the way we do. I understand that brides might claim that they “heard the shutter click a thousand times” so why don’t they have a thousand pictures in their book? And I understand that clients won’t be likely to know that the images straight out of your camera are just raw ingredients. Kindly and gently (without being condescending) explain this to them.

Bottom line? Don’t sell plates of raw chicken. It’s not good for them and it won’t be good for you.

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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