Should you sell your RAW files if a client wants them?

Tips & Techniques

Do you let your clients have the unedited photos along with the edited ones? Do you think that’s the way to go or it’s a huge no-no? There are different opinions on this topic. In this video from Adorama, David Bergman discusses why you should and shouldn’t sell your RAW files to clients.

First of all, when your clients ask for a “RAW” or “original” file, they may not really mean the uncompressed CR3 or NEF file. Maybe they just want the unedited JPEGs because they think you’re not delivering the photos at the highest resolution or quality. To resolve this, you should have a conversation with them to find out what they’re really asking for. Also, explain to them that the edited JPEGs you provide are high enough in resolution in quality.

Now, if they want the actual RAW files, is there a benefit of selling them? Well, there certainly is the most obvious one: money. If you decide to give your clients the RAW files, you should price them higher, especially if they want to do the prints on their own and not buy them from you.

Even though you could potentially earn more from selling the RAW files along with the processed JPEGs. David still votes “no” on doing it, and there are a few reasons for that.

First, a RAW file “isn’t quite finished yet,” so to say. In the film days, it would be like selling your negative. Sure, you want to get the photo as good as possible in-camera, but creating the final image still at least some amount of touching up.

Then, you as a photographer have a specific look or style in your images. And this particular style is exactly what made your clients choose you. Of course, we all know that every style requires some toning and other edits before converting the image from RAW to JPG. So, your RAW images are most likely far from representing your style.

And last but not least, most non-photographers don’t even have the software they need to open RAW files. And if they do, they’ll be editing your images, which is probably something you don’t want.

I totally agree with David on selling the RAW files. While there may be a financial benefit, I would feel unprofessional if I sold them. For me, it would be exactly like selling unfinished work, and I’ve never done that with anything I made, be it an embroidery artwork, a piece of jewelry, or a photograph.

Now let me know, do you let your clients have the RAW files too, or do you only send the edited JPEGs?

[Should you sell your RAW files? | Ask David Bergman | Adorama]

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