Why Photographers Shouldn’t Released Unedited Photos

Reasons to say “No”!

Learn to say “NO” to clients who ask for your images without any editing. I recently had a client ask if I would give her a break on my wedding fees if I would just hand over everything I photographed on her wedding day without editing any of the images.

Clients have found you and fallen in love with your photography. The FINISHED product of photography that you have shown the world. Not the sausage it came from. When photography clients tell you “I love your work”, they really mean they love the work they see. Not the stuff that came out of your camera. Why would you give your clients anything less than your best?

Here are a couple of examples of before and after images. Some subtle (the horribly places “nose hair” and some super obvious.

We Edit In Magic…

Creating images in post production in photoshop is part of any wedding photographer's day.

We Edit Out The Mistakes

Part of a wedding photographer's job is to edit out unwanted hair mistakes which happen all the time.
wedding photos before and after editing them.

Don’t Show Your Mistakes

Keep in mind that I take A LOT of weddings photos each wedding. I usually shoot about 2,500 images and edit it down and deliver around 1,500. Sometimes it’s less, often it’s more. But still, I am tossing out hundreds and hundreds of images. My potential client seemed worried I might be tossing out potential gold. Nah, I get rid of technical and biological errors. That means either the exposure is totally wrong (that doesn’t happen too often) or it’s a bit blurry (that’s pretty routine) or most often at weddings, brides with fake eyelashes appear drunk in 1/3 of their wedding photos since their eyes don’t blink at the same time! I promise to upload one of these photos next time I get one!

I set up a “day of slideshow”. That means during dinner hour when no one wants their photos taken, I sit down and gobble food and put together a quick slideshow of my photos of the day to run passively in the corner on my laptop. If my exposures are way off, I’m going to look RIDICULOUS. So they are pretty spot on. I also started my career shooting film and slides (gasp), so hitting the right exposure isn’t usually an issue. So why would it be an issue to release them to the client that way?

Well, let’s take this example as a perfect reason for photographers to NOT give their unedited photos to clients;

wedding photos before and after editing them.
The photo on the left is edited. The photo on the right is “out of camera”.

Hurting Your Brand And Reputation

As you can see, the unedited image isn’t terrible, but it also doesn’t live up to it’s potential. My style is clean, it pops and it does that consistently. They have as much of an impact as I can give each and every image. That happens in post processing. I cull the images, I photoshop them, I Lightroom them and then I photoshop them again. I usually put double the time I shot into processing and editing the photos. It takes time and it’s my least favorite part of my job. But this is also my brand.

The end product is what has established me as a “Best Detroit Michigan Wedding Photographer“. If I turned over images that were “less than”, or “not quite right”, I know in my heart of hearts my clients would be disappointed. If I gave my clients unedited photos, it would not live up to or exceed their expectations.

Another aspect for photographers that give full downloading and printing rights is that we are already at the mercy of clients who will put strange Instagram filters on our images. I hear photographers all the time bemoaning that their clients “ruined” their photos by editing them themselves. I would be worried that a client would instead release them to all their friends and family in their unedited, RAW version and that would be taken as “look at what the photographer sent me”. As Bill Maher would say, “I don’t know if for a fact, but I know that it’s true” that it would come back to bite me, my brand and my reputation in the behind. And it’s hard to put a price tag on what that would cost me.

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