Can I have the RAW files?
I will tell you now that every photographer has heard this question at least once! Almost all photographers shoot in a RAW format. I say almost, because I'm sure there is someone out there that refuses to shoot in RAW. We all have our way of doing things. I shoot in RAW because I like having control over what I can create my image into. A JPEG image can still be edited but not to the extent that a RAW file can. The RAW files are flat, boring, and are meant to be edited. If you are NOT the photographer taking your pictures or editing them there is no reason to have the RAW files. Most of the time, I don't think that the person asking actually knows what they are asking for. We haven't taken the time to educate them about it.
Lets clarify...a RAW file is a collection of unprocessed data. This means the file has not been altered, compressed, or manipulated in any way by the computer. A popular type of raw file is "CameraRAW," which is generated by a digital camera. This is the definition straight from techterms.com.
In photographer terms this "unprocessed data" is our blank canvas. It is completely unedited. We create your final image from a RAW image.
We may not have a paint brush and a palette of colors in hand but we do have an amazing eye for what we envision our images to look like. Our brains are moving a hundred miles an hour trying to capture exactly what we want to create in camera. We then take that image home and put our minds to work editing that unprocessed image.
The final image is what you receive in JPEG format. This is your copy. You receive the copy because you were not the artist.
The purpose of hiring a photographer is because you as the client didn't think that you could capture your family as well as someone else could. You saw the photographers work somewhere and you thought "Wow, I love her work!" That is why you hired them. You hired them to capture your family with the same style you saw on their website.
Do you still think that you need the RAW file? Let me assure you that you don't want it. For starters, the files are huge and take up tons of space while also taking a painfully long time to send through the internet. The RAW images also don't look right. There are images that need cropping, images that have background distractions that need to be edited out, images that are too dark or too bright, and images that just plain suck. They are meant to be edited! Editing is part of every photographers process, because of that, it only makes sense that their edits reflect what you saw on their website. This has to happen in order to create an image that is truly indicative of that photographers brand. In all honesty, if you don't trust your photographer to give you a high quality final image, you probably don't actually like the way they edit. So, why are you hiring them in the first place?
Still want the RAW file? Hang tight for a little longer and I will get off my soap box. Think of a RAW image like this; would you go to your favorite restaurant, order your favorite dish, and ask for all the ingredients to be brought out on a plate? No? Why not? If you said yes to this question we have much bigger problems than understanding why we don't ask for a RAW image! If you did say yes, do you really think the chef would bring the ingredients out to you? It's a signature dish....of course they wouldn't! You went there for a service. That service was to be served dinner at a restaurant. That service did not include you cooking your own meal. You most likely said no to the question above because you are trusting that the chef knows what he/she is doing in the kitchen and knows how to cook the signature dish on the menu. If you tried to cook the chefs meal with only the ingredients given to you I can promise you that it would not taste the same. There is more to the meal than just ingredients. Do you understand where I'm going with this? If you don't like the food you're ordering, go somewhere else. Same goes for photography. If you don't trust your photographer to provide you with the best service possible. Go. Somewhere. Else. Go with a photographer whose style you are in love with. It would completely destroy my soul to find out later that you never hired me again because you couldn't trust me to deliver the images you were looking for. Please, for the love of all things photography related, stop asking for the RAW images. Your photographer will give you a firm no. If they said no once I can assure you they will not change their minds.