A very common question from clients to photographers is “Can I have the RAW Images from a shoot”. The answer will mostly be “no” and here’s why in simple terms.
A RAW file is a format that most professional photographers shoot in as it gives more editing capability. Basically it is the unprocessed data of the image information from camera, without processing and compressing. It allows the Photographer to be able to correct slight flaws in the image such as exposure, texture, contrast, colour etc without diminishing the quality of the image. Usually when a photographer shoots an image, they already have in their mind the editing that will take place in Photoshop post shoot. For this reason, to an inexperienced eye, a Raw image may look less attractive. Raw format images need to be converted to JPEG and other image formats prior to printing and sharing as these formats are more convenient and user friendly, plus the fact that many devices to not have the capability to read a RAW file without specific software. The quality of a JPEG file generated from RAW format is much better than the one directly shot in JPEG. Generally Photographers do not share their RAW images. It would be like asking an artist to give away an unfinished piece of work.
In any case, you can edit the JPEG files, but just be aware it is not going to be as good as an edit on the RAW so I suggest if there is something specific, you are better off going back to the photographer and asking them to complete the edit for you. I would’t recommend converting the Jpeg images back to photoshop images as they have already been compressed, so you cannot “uncompress”.
Following are some examples of the RAW image straight out of the camera on the left, with the edited image on the right. Obviously, a photographer will try and get as much “right” in camera, but there are always slight tweaks that you can make to further improve an image to your liking post shoot in Photoshop or Lightroom
The first image is an indoor studio shoot.
The following image was shot about 30 minutes prior to sunset at the beach with soft, low light.
Finally, a much faster edit is landscape photography, but as you will see in the following example, the differences are a lot more dramatic. I have overdone the edit on the colour balance in the sky just to demonstrate the difference that it can make. At the end of the day, it is the personal preference of the photographer as to what temperature to set the colour and how far to push the edit. This is also another reason that a Photographer will not share their RAW images. The edit styles on an image can be quite varying and dramatic, depending on the Photographer’s personal style. Therefore, if a Photographer shares their RAW image and it is edited in a way that does not reflect the Photographers brand, it can be damaging to the Photographer as the image is still technically theirs.