I am often asked by clients and potential clients whether or not I provide the “digital negatives”. The answer is a simple, “it depends”. 😉 Now, granted, I realize that’s a pretty coy response but it’s not intended to be shady or not forthright. It more appropriately has to do with what you consider a “digital negative”. To help clarify, I’ll break down my definition of a digital negative and also more accurately detail what I provide to both my portrait and wedding clientele.
Digital Negatives / RAW Files
As a photographer whose job it is to take the most beautifully illustrative images I can capture, I shoot in a format known as “RAW”. By definition, RAW files are so named because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited with a bitmap graphics editor. Here’s where my “it depends” comes into play. Now while most photographers would consider the raw file to be the “digital negative”, most of my clients wouldn’t because they would not yet be in a readable or printable format.
Raw image files are sometimes called digital negatives, as they fulfill the same role as negatives in film photography: that is, the negative is not directly usable as an image, but has all of the information needed to create an image. Likewise, the process of converting a raw image file into a viewable format is sometimes called developing a raw image, by analogy with the film development process used to convert photographic film into viewable prints.
So, with that said, if your definition of a “digital negative” is in tune with that above, you’re not going to receive them because I don’t ever distribute my raw files. However, if your definition of a “digital negative” is the standard .jpg file type that you can see on your computer, then my answer is (prepare to want to smack me) “it depends”. 🙂
Here’s my definition of the types of files I work with and to whom I provide them:
Straight-Out-Of-Camera (SOOC) Files
Those raw files previously mentioned need to be converted into a viewable .jpg format. Converting them without any sort of digital manipulation to the exposure, color density, or white balancing would present them in what I call a SOOC .jpg image file. I do not provide these types of files to either my portrait or wedding clientele.
These are the raw files, previously mentioned, converted to a full composite .jpg image file format that has neither been compressed nor cropped in any way. They have been converted with appropriate manipulations to ensure that exposures are correct, white balancing has been applied, color density is consistent, and sharpening has been added. I provide these to clients as part of all of my wedding packages and they are available for viewing and purchase (either in print or digitally) to all of my portrait clientele as well.
These are a select group of the Hi-Resolution Negatives, previously mentioned, that I choose to best tell the story of your day’s photography session. They are creatively enhanced to include such changes as minor skin corrections, selective sharpening of eyes, adding subtle “glows”, giving “vintage” appearances, converting to B&W, etc. My job is to make people look and feel beautiful. And these are my selections, out of your entire portfolio of images, that I feel best do that job…with some added creative flair! I provide these to clients as part of all of my wedding and portrait packages. I typically select from 30-50 images from portrait sessions and up to 200 for wedding clientele.
To visually understand the difference in these file types, please see the animated image below.