A question we rarely hear but one that we understand is sometimes a source for confusion is relating to copyright and the desire for ‘raw files’ or ‘digital negatives’.
On the subject of copyright retention we, like most professional wedding photographers offer a ‘print license’ with all our packages.
This means that you are completely at liberty to print your images for personal use and in-fact use them exactly as you wish so long as it’s not for commercial gain.
The concern that the photographer retaining the copyright of their work, which is virtually universal for wedding and portraiture in the UK. is sometimes that the bride and groom may be limited as to how they can use their photographs. This is mostly unsubstantiated.
In the world of commercial photography where big companies hire photographers to shoot their expensive products etc. a ‘work for hire’ arrangement is more generally expected. For this the company contracting the work will expect copyright to be signed over to them by the photographer in question, but in these cases, the fees charged, often running into many thousands of pounds will more than compensate the photographer for this.
Sometimes it’s possible that a couple may wish to retain control of their images for privacy reasons but the idea that making sure they own the copyright is the only way they can legally ensure this happens, is a misapprehension.
According to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988, you are well within your rights to request that your images aren’t made publicly available on social media or even on the photographer’s web site.
Of course, being able to show their work on the internet is a highly useful marking tool for wedding photographers, and many bookings they receive are by virtue of the weddings they show on their site.
If you are concerned about matters of privacy, then speaking openly with your photographer about it is generally the best way to tackle the issue. For many of us, it really isn’t a problem, because most of our couples do not request privacy, the majority of the weddings we shoot, we are free to publish, and so we are happy to accommodate those who do as a matter of course.
Finally, on the subject of ‘raw files’ or ‘digital negatives’, most wedding photographers, and certainly the vast majority of those charging in the middle to upper range in the market, are always very keen to control the quality of the work that represents them out there, in the world.
Therefore it’s very unusual for any photographer worth his salt to give away unfinished or raw files as these images are generally uninspiring before polish, and require a level of ‘artistic interpretation’ in post-processing in order to give them the photographer’s ‘signature look’.
Again though, nothing is set in stone, and you may find that some photographers, even those who are at the top of their game, will offer their raw files, albeit under a separate agreement.
Be aware though, this will usually carry with it the understanding of substantial addition costs, often figures as high as £500 per image which most couples are unwilling to entertain as the perceived value, while quite reasonable for a commercial enterprise, is considered relatively low in the light of the finished, polished and retouched version of the images ( in JPEG format ) that they have already received.
But what ARE RAW Files? A hopefully not-too-techy explanation.
Ah yes, good point!
RAW files ( when using that term properly and not just as a catchall for un-edited images per-se ) are computer files which are produced by a digital camera andand thereafter transferred to a computer for conversion into ACTUAL picture data.
A RAW file is different to the standardised ‘View on Anything’ JPEG file in as much as it consists of a bunch of data read directly from the camera’s sensor (rather than just an interpreted collection of coloured dots) and arranged in non-standard way which is designed by the camera’s manufacturer.
Because of this non-standardisation, most consumer-targeted software is unable to make sense of the data in RAW files ( particularly from the latest cameras ) and in the main, only professional software like Adobe Photoshop or other ‘RAW Conversion Software’ is able to perform this magic.
Most wedding photographers I know shoot RAW, because when compared with the largely consumer-oriented JPEG format, the RAW data format is significantly better when it comes to making very dark areas lighter and very light areas darker without the overall picture quality deteriorating too much.
This is a real boon at weddings where the photographer mostly has very little control over the available light which can result in scenes which demonstrate both very bright and very dark regions, both of which require detail to be ‘seen’.
This flexibility allows an experienced professional to shoot deliberately to maximise the picture integrity in the dark areas ( the shadows ) or the bright areas ( the highlights ), knowing that they can balance everything out optimally once the images hit the computer.
The does mean that sometimes, RAW files that are viewed straight out of the camera (SOOC) can represent just a ‘work in progress’, where the post-processing to ‘finish’ the image is required to complete the final intended result.