Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

submit your photo


Hall of Fame
View past winners from this year

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Take the 2-minute tour ×
Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

If I paid for photographs on my wedding and the photographer has supplied me only with low res files (200 kb approx for all) and says she is unable to save them edited in high res, am I entitled to ask for the raw images? I have no pictures of my wedding that I can even frame. When I asked for the raw given she can't provide anything but low res, she said she doesn't give raw files, the same as any other photographer. Legally, is this true? I would appreciate any help. Thank you!

share|improve this question
12  
If I read your question verbatim and she is unable to save high-resolution edited images, that sounds to me like gross incompetence. If she is unwilling to, without further payment, then that should be determined by the contract. –  Moriarty Dec 3 '13 at 6:50
3  
Are you concerned about the RAW files, or do you simply want high resolution images? If you simply want higher resolution image files, that is very different (to a digital photographer, at least) from wanting "the raw files", and you should make your desires clear. Even if the photographer didn't shoot in RAW, an unprocessed image out of a DSLR generally takes some processing before it looks good. –  Michael Kjörling Dec 3 '13 at 10:02
4  
Not only do most professional wedding photographers only supply low resolution images in "standard" packages typically, they often have strong watermarks. Either that or they are only available for "proofing" in person so they can sell you products. The last thing they want is the customer running to the nearest convenience store or pharmacy and printing all of the images for a few dollars. Be prepared to pay in the thousands for access to an entire collection of full size digital images - the same $$$ as the opportunity cost of printing all those same images. –  dpollitt Dec 3 '13 at 13:31
4  
Yep, I paid £100 extra to get a DVD of images that I could print myself, generally you don't get this standard –  Fiona Taylor Gorringe Dec 3 '13 at 14:20
1  
@CodingKiwi - I often see single digital images being sold for similar prices to £100/$150 in my area. Typical prices for a DVD with all full res images from a portrait session can run $800 or more. Charging any less, and the photographer is running at a loss. Think of it this way, if prints are $20-30/ea(common in my area) and a DVD of all full size images is only 5x the cost, then very few people would ever order prints! The profit on $150 + session fee is typically very low and likely to run into the negative and thus not sustainable as a business but only as a hobby. –  dpollitt Dec 3 '13 at 15:29
show 2 more comments

7 Answers 7

Legally, and in typical business practices, this is completely true — the photographer has no obligation to give you RAW files, unless the contract says otherwise.

Presumably, the photographer will sell you prints of her work. This is how she makes her living, after all. Kind of harsh to discover after it is too late, but if you wanted something else, you should have arranged it beforehand.

These days, many photographers will sell you high resolution digital copies, although RAW files are more rare. (See for example Copyright Was Released to All Images: Does this include all RAW photos? for a case where copyright license was given but not RAW files.). However, if the deal doesn't include the opportunity for the photographer to make money from prints, one of the following is certainly true: the price will be higher, the work not as good, or the photographer is paying the bills with some other job.

The issue of RAW vs high-quality JPEG is a separate one, but also important. RAW files are just that — unbaked data. You wouldn't go to a bakery and demand that you get the flour, sugar, and eggs with your cake. And, if you did, the baker might be justifiably concerned that you might take those, mix them up and throw them in the oven and then serve something that doesn't represent her brand — but with her name attached. You might say "but I'm the paying customer!", but, consider what you are actually paying for: the expertise and skill of the baker. Same with a photographer. If you wanted the ingredients and a recipe for printing your own photos, especially with all of the latitude RAW gives you, that's beyond the normal deal.

In any case, in the situation you are in, the photographer has all of the cards both legally and technically. And, although I sympathize with you, probably morally as well. Always read contracts and know what you are paying for.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 Great analogy! I am only nitpicking but if you could mention a bit more about contracts - this answer would be very complete. Also I would add "the price for the sitting fee will be higher" or "session" to the third paragraph. –  dpollitt Dec 3 '13 at 13:35
    
I love the analogy! –  John Cavan Dec 3 '13 at 15:24
add comment

The answer to your question isn't yes or no to "legally, is this true?" because the contract you should have signed should spell out very clearly what you're entitled to with respect to the images.

In general, the vast majority of photographers will retain copyright over their images and restrict access to the raw files. Typically, as a result, the contracts will specify the nature of the images that will be provided. These may be JPEG images, printed images, or some combination thereof. It's very rare, and usually much more costly, to get the raw images.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It is entirely up to the decision of the photographer. If you read the contract, you probably paid her to take photographs and not to give you them. By default, the photographer owns the copyrights on the images she takes and you have no rights to them other than what she grants. The details of those grants should be spelled out in your contract. If the contract doesn't explicitly mention getting anything you haven't gotten already, then you are out of luck.

It sucks that you fell victim to a contract that you didn't like, but this kind of thing is fairly typical behavior in the industry. Personally, I give high quality JPEGs of my best photos and will give RAWs on request, but I'm also an extremely permissive photographer and am not an example of the industry standard. I also don't do it as my primary source of income, so I don't need creative ways to get more money out of people beyond my initial fee.

So technically, her statement that all photographers do that is incorrect, however for many (a majority perhaps) she is correct. She is also almost certainly well within her rights to deny your request.

share|improve this answer
1  
Is that a legally valid contract? Taking the photographs and giving you nothing is not consideration. I'd be tempted to refuse to pay anything. If your business model is to treat the photos as a product then you shouldn't charge anything to show up. Imagine if a bakery charged once to bake the cake and again to give it to you. –  Random832 Dec 3 '13 at 14:34
3  
@Random832 - it's perfectly legal and quite common. You are paying for a service of them capturing the images and then paying for them to be produced in to photos as a separate step. Playing devils advocate, if you decide you don't like any of the photos, you don't have to pay anything else to the photographer other than the sitting fee (the cost of them capturing the images). This would generally be much cheaper than the cost of paying someone to come and take photos and give them all to you. –  AJ Henderson Dec 3 '13 at 14:42
3  
The sitting fee (the cost of the photographer taking the images) is generally a minimal cost to compensate the photographer for the time and resources that go in to capturing the images. It isn't covering the costs of any production of those images and they are not finished products. As an alternate parallel, it would be a bit like paying a baker hourly to cook for you. If you decided to stop paying them half way through making a cake, they wouldn't have to give you the half baked cake because it wouldn't be their product. It all depends on the contract and is perfectly legal. –  AJ Henderson Dec 3 '13 at 14:44
    
I'd even say it's moral as long as they are up front about what the costs are and make sure that people understand the contract, but some photographers choose to use a low sitting fee to entice people in and try to conceal the true costs. This is unfortunately legal because it is your responsibility to read any contract you sign, but I personally think it is immoral when they don't make sure you know what you are in for. Particularly for something like a wedding. –  AJ Henderson Dec 3 '13 at 14:45
    
@Random832 - another thought on your example, the sitting fee would be a bit like the fee that the baker would charge if he got half way through baking your cake and you decided to cancel. He's already spent money and time working on the cake and someone needs to pay for that. That's the point of a sitting fee. You had the intent to buy photos and if you decide not to, the sitting fee covers their time. –  AJ Henderson Dec 3 '13 at 14:51
add comment

As stated above, you say you paid for "photography" seemingly without defining what photography is explicitly. As such you're entitled to absolutely nothing that isn't explicitly mentioned in the contract signed beforehand. There is no law for RAW images, nor do you own the originals or have any rights to them, unless those rights are covered, agreed and signed in the contract.

share|improve this answer
add comment

In most cases the photographer does not give out the RAW files. That depends on each individual photographer but the contract should definitely have information regarding this. I am not sure why someone would give out low res images maybe because they want you to purchase framed images from them so they can have a much bigger profit from your job.

As a photographer I would not release RAW images to my clients because it is unfinished work and I just want to give them a good final product that they can cherish for years.

share|improve this answer
add comment

If I paid for photography am I entitled to raw images?

No, unless that was agreed upon beforehand.

Am I entitled to ask for the raw images?

You can ask, but unless it was agreed beforehand in contract form she's not obliged to give them. She may choose to sell them for an additional fee.

she said she doesn't give raw files, the same as any other photographer.

This is not true (though it's possible those weren't her exact words). There are some photographers who give raw files, and there are also some that don't give the raw files but do give full resolution edited copies.

But not all photographers do and it's something you'd have to agree upon beforehand, or assume it's not part of the deal. You cannot assume that a photographer will give you raw files.

Photographers who don't give raw files may do that for a range of reasons:

  • They can make more money by selling prints.

  • This in turn may allow them to charge less for the initial photography.

  • To protect their reputation - they don't want potential clients seeing unedited versions of their work.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I do weddings and I provide all photos at 5000px.

Then you get a small set that are 1500px

both on a DVD labelled small for loading quickly and large for prints etc.

If she doesn't do this for you then she has probably had the wrong setting on and recorded all small images. I don't know of any cameras that I would use that would creat a 200kb image.

She should also have a copy of pre edited images. I would go back and find out exactly what steps she performed and why she didn't back up her work as she went along?

share|improve this answer
3  
Many photographers shoot at full resolution but will only provide web sized images in digital form. Because as we all know from experience: once you sell a single copy of a full resolution digital file it is almost certain you will never sell another print of that photo. If your fee to show up is enough to cover the loss of revenue from selling prints, then this is not an issue for you. But if the contract is structured around a lower shooting fee and the photographer is making their living off the prints, then providing hi-res digital files is not a good business model. –  Michael Clark Dec 3 '13 at 17:15
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.