What do you do when clients ask to see the unedited photos?

Paulo Santos Wedding Photography - Junebug Photo by Paulo Santos Photography

Today I’m talking about ‘those’ images. The images that won’t see the light of day for a multitude of reasons. Guests’ eyes glued firmly shut, “interesting” expressions that no bride would thank you for, and the ones where we forgot to change the camera ISO (*cough*, we all do this, right?). The shots that hold no real value, but were the experimental ones that led us to get the final, perfected images we wanted. We can call these “the duffers.”

And these are also the ones your client has just emailed and asked to see. Yay!

Paulo Santos Wedding Photography - Junebug Photo by Paulo Santos Photography

Don’t forget the unfinished ones either. Myself, like many, shoot wedding photography in a style that often requires post-production to make the finished image sing. I shoot for highlights. I often leave the couple quite literally in the dark on portraits, knowing I can recover the detail later. Showing the untouched image certainly isn’t going to impress anyone, and will more than likely dilute the overall enjoyment of the finished image.

While I’m a firm believer in managing client expectations from the outset to reduce the chance of this situation arising, I also know I’ve been in this position once, and I know many of you will be too. And that’s cool. It’s one of those mildly tricky client situations we can learn from.

Paulo Santos Wedding Photography - Junebug Photo by Paulo Santos Photography

So, should you show them? Well, that’s up to you, but I’m going to go with “nope.” A big, fat nope. While circumstances differ, the outcome remains the same: revealing the duffers brings nothing positive to the client, or the photographer.

Really, not even a just a few? Well, you could, but it’s never just a few, is it? From the moment you say “yes,” you’ve opened the door and moved the enjoyment and emphasis away from the edited set of bright and shiny images, to a set of, well, dull duffers you don’t need the world to see. And I understand while it’s much easier to say yes, instead, try and find out why the bride and groom want to see them. It could be something as simple as wanting to see more of what they love, or it could be a quantity misunderstanding (see: managing client expectations).

Paulo Santos Wedding Photography - Junebug Photo by Paulo Santos Photography

Whatever the reason behind the request, my sole concern is making my client happy. This is all I ever want. And granting access to the duffers won’t do this. It won’t reveal any more magic moments, or missed key images. Your client won’t find what they are looking for, but instead will have their enjoyment interrupted. And that isn’t cool. A good, honest explanation should be enough to gain respect and avoid making the situation trickier.

So, these days, I delete the duffers, and shoot in the confidence a client will only ever see a wonderful final set of polished images that make them happy.


Meet Your Contributor

Paul Santos

Hi, my name is Paulo. I’m a laid back photographer based in the UK. I like to keep things simple. I’m nosy, creative, I’m drawn to subtle detail, quirks, I love to travel and I like variety. Shooting weddings allows many of my needs to be met. I take photographs with an appreciation of the basics. Photography with gorgeous light, heartfelt emotion, and thoughtful unique compositions – this is what it’s all about for me. Throughout the day the changing scenery and light means the challenge is ongoing – being kept on my toes is when I work best.

I’m extremely proud to have had my work featured by Junebug Weddings, Rangefinder Magazine, Wedding Photography Select, Love My Dress, Fly Away Bride, Rock My Wedding. With awards for Junebug – Top 50 Wedding Photographs in the World 2014, Wedding Photography Select 2015 Excellence Awards, Best Wedding Photography Wedisson Award 2016, North East England Wedding Photographer of the Year 2013 & 2014.

Feel free to say hi over on Instagram or Facebook, or Paulo Santos Photography.

(4) comments

  1. I rarely get asked for those duffers but it happens. But since I delete them within 3 days of the wedding and hit “empty trash” that discussion is quite easy…

  2. Sam

    Its always strange to find the reason why some clients want the raw files…
    I am a strong believer of a good finished work that represents me and my craft! Nobody will ever order pizza with only the flour and the chorizo on the side!
    Yes its strange 🙂

  3. WPS

    We were only asked this once. We took full control of the process and nobody questioned it when we were shooting. We didn’t sent clients proofs of images. We chose ALL the images / best images that we thought showed the flow of the day. Not one single couple seemed to mind this, we told them up front and that was that really, they seemed fairly happy.

  4. Jackie lamas

    I get this all the time with family portraits and mostly they ask if there are any more photos of the same moment or person. Even after I explain to them why there aren’t, it’s really frustrating and I suppose a little blow to my ego because it causes me to feel insecurity about the beautiful ones that I did deliver. I begin to question if I even did a good job.

    I also had a wedding client ask me for the raw images because, and I quote “her friend’s photographer gave her all of her photos” and so she wanted the same.

    I say no always but it gets difficult when they insist. Thanks for the info! Makes me feel less alone in the fight! lol.

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