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Though it doesn’t happen often, I do get the occasional request for all of the photos I take during a shoot.

That’s right, even the unedited ones.

Now I don’t like saying no to clients, but on this one I’m afraid it’s the only answer I can give. And it’s not because I’m stingy or lazy or anything like that. Here are some very valid reasons why many photographers, including myself, refuse to give clients every single photo:

1.    Professional photographers shoot in RAW format. 

RAW format is the purest form to shoot in. It captures way more information in an image. So the file sizes are extremely large compared to the JPEG format most people are used to. Not only that, standard photo programs won’t open RAW format. So unless you have a specific program like Lightroom or Photoshop you won’t even be able to view the files.

Even if you’ve invested in expensive software, converting 400 plus RAW images to JPEG would take an insane amount of time on my end. Imagine opening 400 .doc files and resaving each one as a .docx file. Sounds really boring right? I like to think I have more productive ways of spending my time, like editing my client’s best photos so that they look even better.

2.    I’m doing you a big favor by weeding through the images.

Think of it as part of the reason you hired me.

You might think that having all 400 photos would be great. You want to see each and every one just to make sure I didn’t miss anything good. But let me tell you, sorting through hundreds of photos – many of which are almost exactly the same because the foreground wasn’t completely in focus or because Grandma seems to blink every time I click – is actually tedious and boring.  Trust me, you would be completely over it after the first 50 images.

So to the clients focused on reviewing all the photos themselves I say, “Please, leave this job to me as your photographer.” It is my duty to choose that special one out of the 5 shots I took of you in the same pose that has the best composition, facial expression, light, clarity, etc. I’m a trained professional who knows you don’t want the one with your eyes closed or the one that is out of focus. And personally, I don’t want to attach my name to anything that doesn’t look completely awesome.

Bottom Line: Photographers pinpoint the very best images so that you don’t have to.

3.    It’s our artwork.

To photographers, pictures aren’t just little files we take two minutes to go through and burn to a disc. Boom! Done. Time to watch American Idol.

We actually spend loads of time editing and choosing the best ones to give to our clients. We do this not only because we want you to have the best possible images, but also because our photos are an expression of who we are as artists and individuals. To us, releasing unedited outcast images feels like selling our creative soul. I’ve never done it, but when I’m asked, my heart actually physically hurts.

Imagine you just read Harry Potter for the first time. You really loved it and immediately want to read more. So you go and ask JK Rowling to give you all her drafts of the new books she’s writing so you can read them right away – even though they’re written in some kind of crazy shorthand. You tell her it’s really fine, you don’t care how it reads, you just need more!

She probably wouldn’t hand ‘em over, would she?

Respectable professionals in any career field want to give people the best of their work. We choose not to give you all those other images for a reason: they’re simply not as good!

With all that said, I understand this request. I really do. Before I started doing photography, I thought it was a little unfair that photographers wouldn’t just give me all the photos. It seems easy enough. But the truth is, professionally and emotionally, it’s not an easy thing to do.

I know it can be hard to trust your photographer sometimes, especially if they’re a newbie, but this is a difficult request for us. If you’re really worried about how the photos will look, hire someone whose style you strongly connect with. Only then can you be sure there will be tons of images you’ll love.

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