Most photographers I know shoot in a mode which produces RAW photos, most of the general public I know with digital camera's shoot Jpg's. The difference between RAW and Jpg's is that with a RAW file the camera does no processing.
What is a raw file?
A raw file isn't really an image yet, it's a bunch of information that comes directly from the cameras sensor. It requires special software to view it. Raw files are large and are lower in contrast, not as sharp and have a higher dynamic range. You can't print directly from the camera and files require editing. However when you edit a raw files it doesn't lose any data each time it is saved, it's lossless.
In comparison a JPEG can be viewed by most programs and is a compressed version of the data on your camera's sensor. It's small in size, is higher in contrast and is sharper, but the dynamic range is lower. You can print and share jpg's directly from the camera. Most of the time a jpg shouldn't need processing. However each time an edit is made there is a loss of data.
So when I talk about a digital negative I am really talking about the raw image that comes out of my camera, unedited and with lots of potential, if you know how to use them. Taking a picture in Raw is the first step in producing an amazing quality image ready for printing. I shoot RAW because I want my clients to get the best. The photos I present have had extensive editing and retouching to make them the best they can be, they are High Resolution Files.
Why would I want High Resolution Files?
Many people want these files because they feel better about having a digital copy of all of their images, or they want to print the photos off themselves, or share their photos online, such as on Facebook or a personal blog.
When I purchase the High Resolution Files, do I own the copyright?
The copyright of the image always remains with the photographer. When you purchase High Resolution Files you will receive a print release which will enable you to print those images as many times as you like, in any size or format you see fit. However that print release does not give you permission to alter, edit or change that photo in anyway.
WHY ARE DIGITAL FILES SO EXPENSIVE
Actually, they're not. Digital files are a luxury item, in the days of film, photographers never parted with their negatives. Thankfully with digital photography you now have the luxury of being able to purchase these files.
When you consider the amount of work that goes into a digital file to make it print-ready for anything a client might want it for, a digital file is a very cost-effective option. Your images will come with a print release, which will enable you to print those images as often as you want. You may also share those digital images with friends and family. I find that often family members will club together to purchase digital files.
I put a lot of time and effort into creating the perfect pictures for you. It has taken me a lot of years to train to be a good photographer, and to be able to edit images to an extremely high standard – all of this goes into the end product, whether you purchase the digital files, an album or prints; the effort and value of the pictures is the same.
DIGITAL FILES ARE A LUXURY ITEM
In the past, photographers rarely sold their negatives, both to preserve their revenue and also to avoid a number of risk factors. The image that I sell isn’t just a load of pixels, it's my creation, vision and art. I edit it, based on years of experience and training, so that it looks it's best. However, when I sell a digital file, I lose control of that image, how it is presented and how it represents my art to others:
Quality Assurance: All my products are processed using high end equipment and materials through a professional laboratory. This ensures a high quality end product that will last for many years. It is checked after processing and personally by me before dispatch to ensure only perfect images are sent to the client. This guaranteed quality assurance just isn't available through high street processing and the results are obvious just by looking at the end product.
Sizing: Digital files are optimized for the size they are printed. I have no control over this once a file is sold and cannot guarantee against stretching and pixelation. If a client wants a particular size to suit their frame, I can deliver.
Composition: When I develop and post process an image, a lot of effort goes into the composition to ensure the picture looks it's best. This is my branding but is based on years of experience and training to ensure every image speaks to the audience. Cropping of images, not only impacts this composition but also risks the quality of the end product. If a client wants a particular crop, I am happy to discuss this during post processing and can most often satisfy their needs.
Image: I have a particular brand, which is why many clients choose me. I don't see my images as just snaps but as my art, which is why the print release specifies that they not be edited or altered in anyway. I would be horrified if I was being represented by an image which had been altered by a ‘photoshop enthusiast/expert’!
Word of mouth is a photographers most powerful marketing tool but this should be backed up by top quality, perfect images bearing their name. Selling digital files puts this at risk and hence must come at a premium and that is why I price my digital files accordingly. I do believe and hope that by doing this, my clients will love each image and value them as much as I do!