Why You Should Show Your Clients Raw Files

Why You Should Show Your Clients Raw Files - PRO EDU-

Are you here because that headline freaked you out? You’re not alone. Suggest the idea that clients should see raw images, and you’ll hear millions of photographers screaming in outrage. Most photographers only let their client see photos that have been perfected, and their motivation is understandable. They want clients to see only the best images, the ones that most represent the photographers artistic vision. The problem with this approach is that photographers end up making some pretty big assumptions that could be costing them thousands of dollars in sales, and leaving their clients with images that may not be perfect for them.

There are a lot of good reasons to keep raw files to yourself, reasons that make so much sense that the idea of doing anything else seems ludicrous. Raw files aren’t processed. They’re dull. They include every mistake, every blink, every less-than-stellar pose and every time you didn’t get the lightjust right. Why on earth would you allow your clients to see that when they could be seeing nothing but perfectly posed, flawlessly edited images you’ve chosen with your highly tuned artistic judgement?

There are 3 powerful reasons you should be showing your clients raw files, and they just might change your entire approach to sales.

  • Clients become more emotionally invested to their photographs
  • Become more productive
  • Increase your Income

Fashion portrait by Jai Mayhew

Client Investment

When a client takes part in the selection process, they become invested in the outcome. They get the chance to choose their favorites for their own reasons. Photographers often discover that the client’s favorite images aren’t the same as theirs, but why should they be? Photographers choose images for their artistic value and how closely those images align with their brand aesthetic. 

But clients choose images that affect them emotionally, and those decisions are made based on impressions and instincts the photographer can’t know about. They may love a photo because the goofy grin makes the little boy look just like his grandfather, or because that angle makes her look like her beloved aunt, or because that candid moment caught a rare, true smile only revealed to family members.

And when clients are emotionally invested, they have less hesitation about purchasing. They often purchase more, and are more satisfied with their purchase. 

Fashion portrait by Jai Mayhew


The average post production workflow for a photographer means culling and editing a selection of images before the client ever sees them. You could be wasting hours editing photos the client will never buy.

But photographers who allow their clients to see and choose their favorite raw images will only ever edit the photographs their client purchases, and will rarely be asked to see additional images or to edit other photos because the client has already seen them all.

This process speeds up production time so there is very little, if any, wasted effort. The smoother your workflow is, the less time you waste, the more money you earn per working hour and the more time you have to spend on other areas of business that bring you more clients.

Increase your income

If you only show your clients 20 photos, 20 photos are the most you’ll ever sell. If you show your clients 50 photographs, you may sell 25, 30, or 40. The more photos you have to share, the more photos you can sell. 

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the time to edit 40 photos.” But if you sell 40 photos for the right price, you’ll have more than enough income to outsource the retouching, or other aspects of your workflow. Remember, time is the most valuable asset you have, and the one thing you cannot get back. But you can get more of it if you let your client help you.

Outsourcing is the key to increasing income and productivity, as well as the quality of your work-life balance.

Fashion portrait by Jai Mayhew


As creatives, photographers often forget that we are in the service industry. We get caught up in our style and our portfolios and forget that our job is to serve real people by creating something they love and can use. The most important part of our job is serving our customers. 

Rather than hoarding raw files as if they’re precious and dangerous, allow your clients to see them and become an integral part of the selection process. It will make them more invested, remove their hesitation, speed up your workflow, and earn you more money.

Remember that, as with any client transaction, education is the key. Allow your clients to see a before/after so they can tell how your edits improve the raw image. That way they won’t struggle with the idea of selecting raw images rather than edited ones. Afterall, clients are used to seeing themselves unedited with every selfie they take.

Some of you might be thinking, “if my clients saw my raw images, they would lose faith in me as a photographer.” If that’s the case, and your raw images aren’t fit to be seen, you may want to consider what areas you need to improve on so your raw files are as clean as possible. That’s not only a benefit to your client, but will help you edit and process images more quickly and effectively.

Photographer Jai Mayhew has perfected this process in her High-End St.Louis portrait business, and she’s bringing that insight to her upcoming PRO EDU tutorial, Luxe Portraiture with Jai Mayhew.

To learn more about Jai, watch her recent interview on The Social Hour.


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