A friend of mine recently got married, a beautiful marriage I might add. As an usher, I automatically became the, ‘photography consultant’. Whenever there was a question or concern with the photographer, (there wasn’t many to be fair) I would automatically get the, “Is this right?” question. One post wedding question that stood in particular was,
“My photographer refuses to hand over all unedited images, can he do that?”
Not wanting to be the unpopular person of the season, I instead posed this question.
“When you were in the process of ordering your wedding cake, did you automatically assume the supplier would provide you with left over bits of flour, sugar and marzipan? Maybe a little egg white and cinnamon too?”
OK, admittedly, maybe I wasn’t that blunt, I paraphrase, but from a photographers perspective, it is exactly the same. When you hire a photographer, you are entrusting him/her to deliver a service that he he/she has been trained to do. If you have done your pre wedding research correctly, you should be able to trust them!
During a wedding shoot, providing I have the time, I like to capture two or so exposures per set. Some photographers may not work like that but it’s how I do things. If you like, me taking these extra shots can be me preparing to mix my egg and sugar. If I am to hand these unedited experimentally exposed images to any customer who asks, there are two things dangerously at risk here. 1. My credibility. 2. My reputation. Two things that can go hand in hand to help make or break any perspective photographer.
A Photographers Credibility
Say a photographer does give all his/her photos and sundry to a client. There happens to be this one photo that was slightly over exposed and had a little blur because the shutter speed was a little on the slow side. Say this happens to be the one photo the bride decides to use as her cover photo on Facebook for the next 4 months. In her eyes, it could be the world’s most perfect photo for whatever reason. (Hell, I’ve seen people upload upside down, dark and blurry photos of the top half of peoples faces!..I really don’t know) But to someone that knows 1/4 of what to look for in a decent photo, you have just lost all credibility. The hundreds of knowledgeable people seeing that photo won’t know that it was never meant to see the light of day. They will never know that you grudgingly handed it over in desperate fear that one day driving through town, you will see it plastered on some billboard with your name beneath it.
A Photographers Reputation
Some may think that credibility is synonymous with reputation. But I beg to differ. Reputation, I would argue is something much more powerful yet, is a subtle product of credibility. Imagine this time next year, Bob, (one of the people who saw the terrible cover photo) has a daughter who is getting married and looking for a wedding photographer. Do you think he is going to recommend you based upon your performance on that photo last year? Absolutely not. With that one photo, you have lost your credibility with Bob, and as a result, when him and his
family sit down to discuss wedding photographers you will find that you have now gained a reputation as someone who doesn’t know how to take a standard wedding photo. Reputation spreads. It’s up to the photographer to make that a positive or negative reputation.
So what now? Never give unedited RAW files to the client?
This is a matter for debate among many photographers I have met. I know some photographers who would swear by their rule to never give unedited images to clients. Then on the other hand, I know some photographers who go the complete opposite way and actually give every single photo to a client on a disk as a matter of standard practice. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far. HOWEVER, if a client is insistent that they want the unedited photos, there are two extra steps I have in place for my business.
- They first must pay an extra fee for the images.
- Second, agree to the clause in the contract that states that if they do choose to use any of the said images in a public or social arena, I am to be disassociated with them in every way.
Bearing in mind that I would never release any blurry or overly over exposed photographs regardless, I think conducting business this way is an effective compromise for all parties.
Every photographer works differently to his or her methods so there is no black or white answer. But I would love to hear YOUR thoughts!