I'm currently looking for an event photographer for my upcoming wedding. It seems that most photographers do not want to release any images that they haven't touched up or edited. On the other hand, this seems to be standard practice for videographers: they deliver an edited movie as well as all of the raw footage that they shot. I'd rather not just let the photographer pick the X images that he/she thinks are best to edit and deliver because he/she won't have the same opinion as me as to which images are the best.

Why don't photographers want to give up any images that they haven't edited?

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    The job of a photographer is to deliver a reproduction of what he saw with his artistic eye.
    – PlasmaHH
    Feb 1, 2016 at 21:34
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    I'd also not bother with "risky" shots that could look great but probably won't if I get the timing wrong. A photgrapher will take hundreds if not thousands of shots to produce an album of 50, and most of the rest will be crap... cameras are too "instantaneous" to get reliable results without taking numerous exposures.
    – Jon Story
    Feb 2, 2016 at 13:30
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    See also: "Why doesn't my wife leave the house without make-up?"
    – JPhi1618
    Feb 2, 2016 at 17:03
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    @KevinFegan because they have a brand to protect and releasing all the photos (including a lot of crap ones) risks damaging their reputation... Apple don't release all their early iPhone designs, Ford don't release the test versions of their engines, artists don't sell the paintings they cock up, musicians don't release every take of every song they record
    – Jon Story
    Feb 2, 2016 at 22:38

10 Answers 10


Event photographers are generally in the business of selling prints, not just snapping photos. They want to sell you the best images they can make, not the raw material for making those images. There may also be some concern that their name will be attached to images that they didn't entirely control: they don't want to be associated with your questionable edits.

This is nothing new. In the days when photographers were still using film, getting the negatives from your event usually involved a hefty extra charge, and some photographers wouldn't sell the negatives at all, or would only sell them after some time had passed.

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    +1 for my #1 reason they don't want to be associated with your questionable edits Feb 1, 2016 at 23:01

I'd rather not just let the photographer pick the X images that he/she thinks are best to edit and deliver because he/she won't have the same opinion as me as to which images are the best.

But you let him pick what equipment he uses, the settings of the camera, the lens, where he points the camera, when he takes an image, etc. It's odd pay somebody to do his/her job, but demand part of it to be excluded.

Why don't photographers want to give up any images that they haven't edited?

Because the end product is an edited image. It would be odd to ask a car manufacturer for a car without a chassis, because you might have a different opinion on how to make the chassis the best way.

I think your best bet is to communicate your requirement clearly and up front. Explain the photographer that the job is to deliver all unedited images to you instead of the edited ones he picked.

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    I don't think the first point is really valid - as long as the equipment is "good enough", the skill of the photographer is more important than the equipment. Yes, a faster prime will give better depth of field control, BUT it doens't mean you cannot shoot good images with a slower lens either.
    – DetlevCM
    Feb 2, 2016 at 6:52
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    That's not the point being made - the point is that the OP is happy to let the photography makes ALL those other choices, just not the one as to which photos are worth processing. If the photographer wants to use a P&S on full-auto, so be it.
    – Steve Ives
    Feb 2, 2016 at 12:05
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    Also worth noting that a photographer will take a lot of pictures, and a huge number of them will be crap (people blinking, missed focus, movement, wrong exposure setting). They take the pictures and then fix the problem in the next shot: but if they gave you each exposure and you started showing them because "Oh look at Auntie Maud's hat in this one" then it damages their reputation and "brand". Video is a little different, as it's not as specific to settings in one "instant". Even so, they'll tend to edit out the initial "focus and set the exposure" which takes a few seconds
    – Jon Story
    Feb 2, 2016 at 13:29

Because unedited / unretouched images do not represent the photographers' best efforts. A wedding photographer is not somebody hired to use an expensive point-and-shoot. The shots they take require editing because there is more information in the RAW file (digital negative) than can be represented in any JPEG image. It's part of the creative process to push/pull, expose, or otherwise optimize the selected portion the RAW file's range to produce the final result. That creative process is every bit a part of a photographer's style, signature if you will, as composition.


Because some dumbass lawyer sued a wedding photographer who gave him "everything".

Gary Fong helped out the original photographer and he's financially OK, but I bet the photographer is going to have second thoughts from now on.

  • But that's not really why the photographer was sued. I'm sure the lawyer would have tried to sue no matter what photographs were supplied.
    – vclaw
    Feb 2, 2016 at 17:57
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    Could you summarize the story? I looked it over, and I did not find anything about the photographer providing un-edited images to the client. Feb 2, 2016 at 18:12
  • The details to the contract are in this article. "Sometime later, Tang delivered the images to the newlyweds. Not several hundred edited images that are typical for wedding photography agreements, but ALL OF THE RAW IMAGES."
    – Nelson
    Feb 3, 2016 at 0:36

Your premise is incorrect. They most certainly do want to release the originals as it is likely far and away the most lucrative package they offer.

I would personally fly to your location and shoot your wedding, but it will cost you $15k. The fact is that they won't release the images for the relatively small monetary cost they book the shooting session for. I won't get into the details of a studio budget, but a wedding photographer likely won't turn a profit with only a "shoot and burn" or session only fee on weddings. They rely on sales of products beyond the session.


Even the best photographers will take some photos that aren't good. Poorly composed, poorly lit, subjects eyes closed etc. You can't get a lot of good photos without also getting some duds. If they give you these photos as well, it reflects poorly on the quality of their work overall.

You may want to have all of the photos, regardless of the quality. However the photographer has a reputation to protect, and having poor quality work out there in the wild is not a good way to do this.


The images also sell better after they are fixed. :)


Depends where you go: my wife and I got married in Vegas (we live in Australia) and hired two photographers over two days. Both gave us copies of the full set of photos on DVD with minimal retouching, for no extra charge over the hourly rate, within 5 days of the shoots.

In the UK and AU you've got a smaller labour pool of photographers. The labour market and supply-demand balance works against the consumer.

You can also understand that the photographer doesn't want to release a photo that doesn't show their photographic skills in a good light, so removing any bad photos and touching up imperfections in the good photos makes sense for advertising their business; it also makes sure that you aren't upset by a single bad photo in an otherwise good shoot.

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    I have absolutely no data on this, but I'd be willing to bet the per-capita distribution of wedding photogs in UK and AU is very similar to US. This assumes the "importance" of the whole wedding industry is the same for UK and AU as it is in US. The availability of photogs to give "negatives" in Vegas is probably very local to Vegas. There's a big market there for short-term services (for any/everything), as opposed to long-term reputational return business for those services. Not saying reputation doesn't matter there, but that place supports many markets that can't exist most elsewhere.
    – scottbb
    Feb 2, 2016 at 6:39

Because IME they will at best ask you to edit more or worse....distribute the un-edited ones because "MOAR pics = better!".

If you ask them nicely, they may be willing....at the very least a few weeks after the edited ones have been delivered.


I think that the reason is that some customers may consider "editing" as "cheating", and because some photographers does not want them to see the "bad" raw photos.

Costumers also don't take into account possibilities in future image editing technologies which may take advantage of re-processing the original RAW file (rather than being applied on an 8-bit compressed JPEG).

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