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Why You Don’t Need Your Raw Photo Files

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

What is the RAW photo format anyway and why do photographers use it?

To put it in a nutshell, RAW photo files are essentially digital image files that are stored on your camera, phone, or computer memory card. They are typically uncompressed and very lightly processed and this is where they have their advantages.

When an image is compressed, it becomes a lot less flexible when it comes to editing. That’s because the act of compressing the image file removes some of the image data that can be leveraged in editing, to make the overall file size smaller. On top of that, it also applies some changes to the image such as adjusting the saturation and sharpness of the photo, and undoing those changes is close to impossible!

In contrast, a RAW file, as I already mentioned, is uncompressed and that means the camera takes all the image data and saves it in an unedited, uncompressed, and therefore virtually untouched format on the memory card. This is the major advantage of RAW photo files, you don’t lose any valuable image data and as a result, you have the full scope of post shoot editing at your disposal.

At this point I’d also say it’s worth noting that every camera company has their own RAW file format, and, in my case, my Canon cameras save my RAW images as .CR2 or. CR3 files but don’t be surprised to see other file names if you use a different camera make.

It’s not a question of “why can’t I have the RAW images”, it’s a question of why would you want the RAW images?

So now you know just exactly what a RAW photo file is, let’s get down to why you probably don’t want your wedding photographer to send those files over to you.

First things first, RAW image files are BIG. They take up loads of memory space and with good reason, storing all that image data is no small feat. On top if that, a RAW image file is typically saved at the same size as the number of megapixels of the camera. To put it another way, a RAW image is around 5 times the size of a typical JPG.

As I mentioned in the intro, every camera manufacturer has its own version of a RAW file format. In other words, RAW image files aren’t universal, so it’s not always a simple process of downloading and sharing them. This is another key way in which RAW files differ from other common image file formats like JPG and PNG.

Finally, don’t forget when you book your wedding photographer, part of what you’re paying for is the post photo-shoot production. In other words, editing and make no mistake, this takes a lot of care, time, commitment, and attention to detail and it’s often what makes the difference between a good photo and a great one.

Is editing photos cheating and do professional wedding photographers edit theirs?

It’s a common misconception that editing photos is cheating. Nearly every photographer does it, myself included! Editing isn’t about fixing poor photos, in fact I’d say it’s quite the opposite, it’s about accentuating a good photo and making it the best it can be. It’s also part of what creates my personal photography style alongside things like my photo composition. One big advantage of RAW image files is that you can make what we call white balance adjustments.

White balance basically refers to the colour tone of the image and working with white balance adjustments can ultimately make photos appear warmer or cooler – although just what tone you get does rely heavily on the lighting used too! This doesn’t necessarily make the edited image look different to reality though, in fact it can often make it appear more natural by restoring things to their true colour. Another key area of editing that RAW photos allows, is making sharpness and noise adjustments, this is almost a must when you’re shooting indoors without flash, and as a wedding photographer, I do a lot of that. Especially in darker scenes, I make sharpness and noise adjustments to make my final photos as clean as possible and again, this is part of what contributes to my signature style.

So, there you have it. Now you know why you probably don’t want the RAW image files from your wedding photographer and why editing is a key part of the photography process that’s well worth the investment.

Have a look through some comparisons of RAW vs edited below...

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1 Comment

Mar 03, 2023

I want more raw vs edited shots please! Love the glow up 😃

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