Why Photographers Never Give Unedited Photos

One of the worst questions a photographer hates to hear is, “Can I have the raw photos?”

Now that’s a LITTLE dramatic but usually, the answer is no.

Unless it was agreed upon prior to the shoot, meaning that the photographer would not be providing professional editing, asking for raws is a great way to offend your photographer.

First off, what is a raw photo?

To be technical, a “raw” photo is a certain file type. It is produced by shooting in “raw” specified in your camera setting. Cameras can either shoot JPEG or RAW.

JPEG stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”, which is the name of the group that created the file format. They are compressed and universal images meaning they can be viewed on basically all devices. Since it is a compressed file type, it does not save most of the image’s data.

A RAW image type is uncompressed meaning it stores all the image data within a memory card. These are huge file types. These are not universal file types meaning you cannot upload a RAW image to Instagram like a JPEG.

When it comes to editing the photo, you will have much more flexibility editing a RAW photo rather than a JPEG because the RAW retained more information and quality.

Think of it as a JPEG being in a final state and a RAW as that simply being raw! With a RAW file, there’s a large amount of image information saved. Meaning, for example, you can recover skies that are too bright or increasing the shadows. With RAW, you can edit the information stored such as white balance and sharpness, and more. With JPEG, all this information is discarded. If you want to learn more about the difference between JPEGs and RAWs, read this article here.

So long story short, “raw” is a photo file type as well as a state of being in the editing process (meaning even if you shot in JPEG – you could refer to your unedited photos as “raw” and for the sake of this post I’m referring to unedited photography)

Now, Why do photographers hate to be asked for raws?

At a restaurant, you wouldn’t ask for just the pizza dough. All the editing and retouching are part of that “cooking” process. Just like a chef’s pizza is best when cooked and finished, so is a photographer’s image. Essentially, asking for the raws is saying you don’t like their work/the way they edit.

“I love a certain photographer’s photos but don’t like the way they are edited”

Don’t work with them.

If any photographer is like me, the editing process is part of what makes the photo come to life! If you don’t love everything about your photographer’s work then you may be disappointed when you receive your final gallery.

I cringe when a client asks to see the back of the camera during a shoot because I know how different it will look in the end. I love seeing photographers before and after images on social media. Not only does it show transparency and honesty but it shows all the time, talent, and skill that goes into their work.

Here’s the deal

I’ve been asked to shoot something before but didn’t need to provide editing. And that’s fine! But I specifically asked not to attach my name to those photos. Why? because they wouldn’t have reflected my work genuinely. I don’t want someone to see those photos I took but didn’t edit in my style and either have people say they are terrible and/or like it and come to me THINKING I’ll provide edits like those when in reality I don’t. It would either provide a bad reputation for my name OR disappoint a good client.

I’m happy to do a shoot and provide the raw photos if that is agreed upon prior to the shoot.

Photographers aren’t being dramatic when it comes to not providing raws. I mean, in reality, not providing raws is laid out in almost every photographer’s contract so take that as you will…

Make sure to discuss all this with your photographer if you will need the raw photos after your shoot for any reason. In this instance, it’s better to ask for permission rather than for forgiveness!

Caitlin Manley


Caitlin and Camera is your fun-loving midwest portrait and love photographer. I have a passion for capturing merriment, movement, and memories. I love working with people who crave adventure and a little creativity with plenty of laughs along the way. 

If you love living joyously, then we might be a good match. Message me today for more info and pricing. 

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