I’ve seen a lot of talk over the last couple of weeks about whether or not photographers give their clients the unedited images on a disc and only edit the ones that go into their albums or retouch only a select number of images. I heard about this method a couple of years ago when I used to follow a bigger name photographer. I have to say, for the last couple of years, I’ve never understood this methodology. I do understand that it cuts down on post processing and many times the client looks at their disc once or twice and that’s it, but here is my beef.
When a client hires you, they see all of your edited work on your website. Everything you put on your website, blog, facebook, etc is all edited. That’s one of the biggest reasons a client hires you. They love your style of photos, aka they love your edits.
I also need to let the cat out of the bag here. I have no problem handing over my raw files to other photographers. I’ve second shot enough to where I don’t care whether or not they see my unedited images. Ultimately, they are going to edit those photos in a way that best represents their work and it may be completely different from the way I edit my photos. Yes there are settings in your camera that can make changes to your photos but for the most part, no ones’ photos come out of the back of their camera looking like the photos posted to a photographer’s portfolio. HOWEVER! That does NOT mean that there is much to do in terms of editing. My philosophy has always been to get it right in camera so editing on the back end doesn’t take as long. I certainly have my share of over and under exposed photos, especially during times when the sun is spotty, but in general, if you can get it as close to how you want your photos to look on the back end, it cuts down on your editing time. If your exposures are always the best you can make them, then on the back end, you won’t need to do much adjusting. Some styles are more heavy in editing, which is fine, but my point is that a digital photographer’s final work is typically edited in some fashion.
I do, however, have a problem showing clients the back of my camera. I do it from time to time but I don’t like showing them the back of my camera because many times a client cannot see the end result. Similar to when you buy a house with a not-so-pretty interior, many changes are cosmetic and many people buying homes can’t see past that to what the end result could look like (which is why staging and paint colors are so important to successfully selling a house). Clients aren’t the professionals so what you show them is what they see. But that is another tangent in and of itself.
Here are a few examples with explanations below.
Here’s an example of an image that is mostly exposed correctly and slightly edited to bring in some darker details that were slightly more washed out in their faces.
Here’s an example of one that is exposed correctly (for my style) but needed some brightening and some slight dodging and burning.
Lastly, here is an image exposed for the sunlight around his hair and then brightened with fill light (during the editing process) to make the image better. Add some over all brightness and this is what you get.
My point in all of this is to say yes, your raw files may be almost perfect, mine certainly vary, but what you see online and in portfolios is typically always edited in some fashion. Why would I want to give my client 400-500 images of their wedding and have only some of them edited? Not only is that not reflective of my style of photos, but in my opinion, it feels like they are not getting what they paid for, nor are your photos the best representation of your business. I know there are several arguments on both sides of the issue, but it just seems like a way to do less work for the same amount of pay, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case, it seems cheap and like a cop out.
That’s not to say the images in your portfolio and blog aren’t edited a little bit more, but consistency should be key. When I come home from a shoot, I’ll look at my digital negative reel and exposures from various lighting situations will be different. Some may be darker, some lighter, but mostly they are exposed at about what I would like them to be exposed at, but I couldn’t imagine handing those over as the final product that my client is getting on a disc and only editing a few. It’s like putting the drywall up but not painting the wall itself or making a recipe but only using 75% of the ingredients needed to make it. It’s similar to the 19th century when impressionism came around and critics called the impressionist paintings unfinished sketches.
That’s my take on the issue. Do you give your clients unedited images? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Leave a comment letting me know.