What type of digital photo files should I ask for if I can't get RAWs?
August 11, 2018 3:30 PM   Subscribe

We're having a photo session with a local professional photographer that lives in my parents' town (all of their kids live out of town/state). The photographer won't give us the RAWs from the session, which is extremely annoying, but I understand it's common. She also doesn't produce prints, just the digital files. So we need the best digital files we can obtain, even if the best we can get are lossy. Given that she has refused to give us RAWs, what type of digital files should I ask for instead?

The reason I ask is that we only received poor quality jpgs from my sister's wedding (these were of such poor quality that we couldn't make any enlarged prints from them). I would very much like to avoid a repeat of this scenario. What type of digital files should I ask for instead and if jpgs are the way to go, what size should I ask for (the absolute minimum I should require and the max that would be optimal)?

Would very much appreciate your thoughts on this file question and also if there are any good arguments I can use to convince her to give me RAWs - I'm more than willing to pay extra (up to 100% extra for the session). Note, I'm an amateur photographer and I understand the "copyright", "it's my brand!", "you're paying the photographer for their artistry in creating the final photos", and the "RAW files are not touched up" arguments, but none of us use social media or intend to post any photos online (and she doesn't make prints, so the digital files are all we're getting). We don't want the original RAW files, just copies. I want the RAWs given that digital image processing is always advancing (i.e., future-proofing) and I'm afraid of excessive touch-ups. Honestly, the only reasons I'm hiring a professional photographer because I want someone who knows how to use a full-frame camera and how to light a portrait session, not for their software skills. If there are other more persuasive arguments I can use for convincing the photographer to give us the RAWs (besides mentioning the fact that I will pay her more money), I'd love to hear your thoughts.
posted by longdaysjourney to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Uncompressed TIFFs, or else high-quality JPEGs. It's really a question of what she will permit you to have. Your contract should specify. You need to describe what use you want to put the photos to (i.e. "I want to be able to print at up to 8"x10" at 300dpi") and she should propose something suitable, and it should be written into the contract. It's all about having something that's suitable for your intended use.

Nobody gives out RAWs. I'm not even a professional and even I don't give out RAWs.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:35 PM on August 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ask for high quality tiffs. I would specify 600 dpi @ 8 x 10.
posted by gudrun at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I knew I shouldn't have asked about how to ask for RAWs, given that this is religious for some people. If people can focus on the "what digital file format should I ask for, given that I can't get RAWs" part of my question, that would be great. Mods, feel free to delete the last paragraph of my question and hopefully that will avoid the "nobody should ask for RAWs" responses.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:08 PM on August 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Request full-resolution, uncompressed tiffs for archival purposes, and max quality, full-resolution JPEGs for your use. Don’t muddy the water with an intended print size, just get the same size files from their camera.
posted by a halcyon day at 4:29 PM on August 11, 2018 [7 favorites]

I would ask for a JPG with a resolution of 4000 x 3000 px or greater, thats a bit smaller than full frame so they still have some room to crop if needed.
Also ask for the files to be saved with an sRGB colour profile.
posted by Lanark at 5:12 PM on August 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I like a halcyon day's advice better than my own. Just ask for full-resolution files. Be aware that they may be cropped down from the originals though for compositional reasons, so "full resolution" may not be the same as what the camera is officially rated for.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:58 PM on August 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

People mentioning specific DPI, print size, or pixel dimensions are going about this wrong. You just want the full resolution TIFF files (and "compressed" vs "uncompressed' in a TIFF has nothing to do with the image quality).

Also, my advice is maybe you should consider hiring someone who's work you actually like, instead of trying to find any random camera operator and going on about "software skills" for your portrait. If you have to ask this question you may not be the master retoucher you think you are btw.
posted by bradbane at 11:37 PM on August 11, 2018

16-bit full resolution TIFFs.
posted by Homer42 at 7:59 AM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not an overly technical person, but I'll give this a shot.

You don't want the images resized at all. You want the RAW files converted to TIFFs without resizing. The TIFFS are lossless, so you can edit and save the same file to your heart's content without damaging the image quality in any way. Be aware, these files will be large.

If it were me, I would just get the high quality jpegs, saved at maximum quality after any post processing. The files will be smaller. If you want to edit them, make a copy before doing so, and edit the copy. I think the ability to open these files will outlast your lifetimes. I would feel comfortable printing a picture about 25 inches wide from a full frame sensor dslr. If you're looking to print larger than that... I think you want a photographer using a larger format camera. Maybe inquire about them renting a larger format camera for that day. Ultimately, the quality of your pics will be directly related to the quality setting used, and the size of the sensor. As an analofy, you can only blow up a 35mm picture so much before it starts looking grainy, but you could probably blow up a 4x5 inch negative room size without seeing any grain. If you're really concerned about quality, the difference there will be tremendous.
posted by xammerboy at 4:47 PM on August 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you very much for your feedback and thanks especially to those who responded without impugning my motives or technical skills - it is appreciated!
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:48 PM on August 16, 2018

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