Can I have my RAW files..... an educational moment.


Request for RAW images. Can I have them?  Do I need them? 

For everyone that knows our organization, they certainly know that we didn't follow the rules or the book on creating a wedding photography and video business.  We built our services based on what the  client needs were and not what's already known in the WEDDING photography industry.  We deliberately set our sights on understanding what matters most and delivering exactly what was needed, educating clients on a quality assurance process and finding our niche' that complimented our services.  The result has been hundreds of weddings and events with rave reviews, awards, accolades and development of a professional media core/system that is simply amazing. Our success is due to having great clients that understand our process and are generally a good fit for our services.  Our consultations are pretty detailed and when potential clients come to us, we make sure to let them know that while your event is going to be fun and unforgettable, there will be certain vendors that you absolutely have to ensure have a strong management background, track record and can deliver everything as agreed upon in your contract. 

Folks, as a seasoned military veteran with over 21 years of IT experience coupled with multiple years managing media projects for USO, I will tell you.  It's NOT easy.  The wedding photography business is one of the most unregulated, uncontrolled, mis-managed, undervalued and sometimes disrespected businesses to be in.  There are thousands upon thousands of horror stories told through the eyes of past brides that have made mistakes.  If you want to see the pain, visit, search for photographers and sort reviews by stars.  This will give you a dark view into just how bad an experience you may have with vendors that are not professional and have no idea what they are doing because they saw an opportunity to capitalize on your life event.  My hopes that by sharing little details about what's involved when we receive requests, how it's viewed and to share that it is  NOT something that we simply do to market our services, but is only a good opportunity/measure to ensure that we educate each client we work with during consultations.  It can somewhat help  clients understand the firms direction and helps to bring sense to the imaginary madness involved in wedding media services mostly caused by everyone except the professional Studio.  That said, this brings me to a very popular subject... RAW images.

Occasionally, a couple will meet with us and ask if they are allowed to retain the RAW images or "RAW files" from their wedding.  Many of them have found websites and pulled questions verbatim and have incorporated those inquiries into their vendor interview when trying to build some type of process in to making a selection.  We find that many inquirers do not understand exactly what an actual RAW file is, how to process it and what the purpose of it is.  

Technology is moving at the speed of light and more applications are allowing for importing RAW files, however, Information Technology costs sometime limit the processing power and structure that most couples need to process high volumes of RAW files.  While I could go into detail and present a 10-page article on RAW files and the technology behind the process to manage volumes, I'd like to simply provide the readers digest for visitors reading this passage.

Commonly known, a RAW file is a native format (and now optional) for DSLR cameras that produces the high resolution capabilities within, most times above (18 mega pixels). Here's the things you need to know most:

First, what are RAW files and how does it look in your photographer's system?  Let's dive:

  • Canon, the raw file is named .CR2 (Canon Raw Version 2)

  • Nikon's name is NEF (Nikon Electronic Format).  

  • One Image = 25MB

  • Average Wedding = 800 - 1000 images

  • Average Folder File per Client per Wedding = 24GB

  • DVD Data Disk = 4.6GB

  • Required DVD's = 6 (options are to provide a thumbdrive/harddrive)

  • Tools to Process = Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop, PhotoMechanic and others

Knowing this above, each photography firm should have a policy on what they are to do with RAW files and what options/restrictions are to provide to clients.  When a client requests RAW files, I ask the following questions:

  1. Why do you want RAW format files?  Are you looking to edit a few pictures or reprocess your entire wedding day after we've provided your product?  

  2. Do you mean, you want larger file sizes? (possibly to make additional products on your own in the future i.e. books, large prints etc) 

We find that the majority of clients that ask questions concerning RAW images confuse it with "negatives" and "larger file sizes".  Each client that we work with receives a "product and process" that involves review of every image taken from an event and not every image makes it to the client.  There are various reasons (flash mis-fires, unattractive angles, guest interference, focus/sharpness, etc).  When the editing process begins, it is a VERY detailed service that the client is paying for (i.e. Editing Labor).  This involves providing a carefully reviewed set of a 1000+ images and ensuring that they are 99% accurate and reflect the true atmosphere in which the image was taken.  This is called Quality Assurance and EVERY wedding project must go through it.  

When a client asks for "RAW images", they are asking for a different product.  We've seen the analogy used when buying a car.  You don't go into the car dealership and say, give me all the parts for the car. I want to put it together myself.  When you buy a car, you expect that all of the parts are assembled and operating functionally.  If the dealership gives you the parts to the car, you have the option to assemble the car yourself and drive around showcasing a car that is not the specific car that the dealership sells you and is a direct misrepresentation of the quality the dealership is known to have. Purchasing the car the way it's supposed to be purchased leaves no guess work in knowing you have a well operational car design and also assures the dealership that their brand is never disrespected or misrepresented.  

The same concept applies in photography.  

We take mostly all of the pieces from your wedding day coverage and provide them to you according to the expectations of what you should expect of the reputable photography brand and firm.  Although some of the capabilities exist in some cameras, a wedding day assignment is simply not the time to alter settings which would include the most basic post-processing edits such as:

  • Vignettes (the dark ring around images to give it a polished look)

  • Coloring and Toning (your day is a combination of different lighting settings that may require editing to reflect the natural atmosphere)

  • Sharpness Adjustments (Not every picture is intended to be sharp)

  • Cropping on the fly (sometimes pictures delivered need to be straightened first)

  • Skin retouching (camera's don't retouch skin themselves)

  • Adding Effects 

  • Clarity/Contrast control (ever wonder what hard and soft editing is?)

All of the above are post-editing functions that are primarily and normally done in a controlled environment which allows for greater flexibility for providing an amazing wedding photograph collection.  When a client wants RAW files, they are asking for all of the unprocessed images that do not represent the photographers final product.  Clients that request RAW files are normally provided with larger file-size images to ensure they can use them on other projects but rarely should a firm provide a Client with raw unprocessed data directly from a camera.  It's a hugh risk to any firm that values a public image for quality and control of a specific wedding product.  

Has ArtsGroup provided Raw files before?  Certainly.  Every organization learns and adjusts to the rising demands and the knowledge of the client is much different than it was 5 - 10 years ago.  We watch these requests closely and ensure the client gets what they want, however educating the client on this request is the first priority for us.  Normally, after discussing, the client normally wants larger files and we process accordingly.  Asking for RAW files is not an indicator that a photographer sees a major issue with the request, but moreso of a question on liability.  When interviewing photographers firm for potential "good fit", firms that freely provide RAW unprocessed images may be a good indicator of someone that isn't concerned about their liability, quality and appearance of their brand...  which should be a far more serious concern than other factors as you begin your selection process.


ArtsGroup Photography and Cinema


Johnny is a Certified Photographer with over 21 years in Project Management of Information Technology and Media Management. For over 3 decades, he has been involved in the Arts, IT and Non-Profits activities worldwide.  ArtsGroup Photography and Cinema (AGPC) manages over 60 wedding projects yearly.  AGPC is a division of ArtsGroup Inc, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization specializing in Arts Education. | | | 202.573.9159




Brides Against Breast Cancer Support - Dallas TX!


Day 2 of supporting Brides Against Breast Cancer! If you are in the Dallas area, consider coming out to OMNI Dallas Hotel at Park West! They are offering AMAZING deals on wedding gowns and dresses! This is where you should be if you recently got engaged or planning a wedding! We've seen a lot of opportunities in the field but this by far is one of the amazing deals we've seen! Come on out!

Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West
1590 LBJ Freeway
Dallas, TX 75234

And of course, stop by our booth! You can't miss us, we're always easy to spot!

Wedding Photography Basics - Unobtrusive Shooting and Proper Planning

By now, I believe the world has seen the above video of the officiant that asked the photographers to leave the vantage point where they were shooting.  In review, I agree with the officiant.  Here's why:


  • As wedding photographers, we MUST respect your event as an event that is serious and precious to you.  


  • We must not become a distraction nor attraction.  We must be somewhat of a ghost during your ceremony to not take away from the emotions and traditions of your event.  The reason most photographers wear black at weddings is to attempt to fade into the background (proverbially). 


  • As Wedding Photographers, we must be equipped with the right tools for the job.  Looking at the above video (outdoors wedding), there are probably several other locations the photographer could of been rather than clicking away right behind the head of the officiant.  The officiant also has a job to do and I personally do not like anyone standing over me while I shoot an event.  The same thing applies here.  


  • As Wedding Photographers, we plan.  When you don't plan, you are not prepared.  Discussions should of been discussed with the client on what the "restrictions" were.  There are multiple opportunities before the wedding day to iron out these types of things.


As always, we're here to help and discuss and this was one I didn't want to let go.  Ensure you have the best possible CERTIFIED professionals managing media on your most important days.


Johnny West, CPP

Director of Photography

ArtsGroup Photography and Cinema




Shooting Lanes - What are they?

You've got the perfect dress, your make-up is flawless, the decor is immaculate and all of the elements that you have brought together over the course of planning your wedding is about to pay off! Congratulations, you (and hopefully your husband) has completed one of the first MAJOR projects that you'll perform together throughout your lives together!  That said, you can't wait to enjoy your day and you are depending on your professional photographer to capture the biggest day in all it's splendor and glory!

One often overlooked items (specifically for ceremonies) is the spacing of the shooting lanes that your professional photographer would need in order to capture those magic moments. We've seen a lot of weddings where parts of the ceremony activities are hidden or places in areas where it's restrictive to capture. A skilled photographer can sometimes be considered as a scoring guard (basketball) in which often times, they have to "create their own shot".  Whether it's switching to a different lens or camera at moments notice or hanging sideways from an awkward area in order to get some of the most basic shots. A few examples of items that we consider "primary" during ceremonies and helpful tips to remember when you are looking for amazing shots from your perfect day.  A few tips are below:

1.  Officiant + Bride/Groom spacing. We've seen many ceremonies where this trio is so close together that no one can see the ring exchanges or the moment is close enough for the bride and groom to actually whisper to the officiant with ease. Most officiants will have literature that they will be reading from (sometimes an iPad) that can also eliminate or crowd the shot.  Ask your officiant if it's possible to have space in between to allow for capture.

2. Let your guests see your ceremony. Coordinate the moments during your vows an turn directly toward one another when speaking to each other. Turning halfway takes away an important angle if your halfway facing the officiant and halfway facing your new partner. When the moment comes to take picture of the ring exchange and vows, there is a natural place for the photographer to capture. There is nothing wrong with telling your officiant and/or planner that you would like your guests to see all of the exchanges.

3. Strategically place large flowers arrangements. When there are large flowers arrangements that are at eye level, this sometimes can eliminate a lot of angles that the bride and groom would expect. If there are open spaces, large arrangements are fine, but be careful of smaller spaces and note what else would be in the way as your photographer is shooting your ceremony. Is there an alter AND large arrangements? Is there a restriction whereas your photographer cannot get to such as a closed-in pulpit or is your wedding party so large that it crowds several vantage points for your photographers? Keep in mind that if you can't see past items in your ceremony, it goes the same way from behind the lens.

4. Traditions within ceremonies. If you are doing a candle, sand, trees, or something during your ceremony with significant value, highlight it and place it in an area where it can be seen. Placing a table to the side is a common practice that enables everyone to see and allows your photographers to capture it perfectly. There are some couples that choose to do it right at the nuptial spot with the officiant and adding in wedding party count, large arrangements and small spacing with the bride and groom reduces the photographers shooting lane.

In conclusion, shooting lanes are something that each couple should be aware of as it helps us produce amazing shots for you. Without an open opportunity to capture, it can somewhat be difficult to tell a client that your ceremony was "restricted" and no matter how perfect the full portfolio is, the client will always point to the ceremony as not being as expected.

We're here to help! And as always, hire a certified professional. Don't take a chance on hobbyists or those that do not understand the high level of detail and characteristics of managing and shooting a wedding project.

Jay "ArtsGroup" West
Director of Photography
ArtsGroup Photography and Cinema




This is not a sales pitch.  It is an educational opportunity for Brides that have been misled for ages.  Read...only if you are looking for real, honest insight.  You might just be surprised!

Let us start by saying that each bride should understand that the wedding business is a billion dollar industry.  That said, there are scores of vendors that will be approaching you for your business.  Navigating through what is legitimate and what isn’t can be a daunting task… but no worries!  We’re here to support you as you make important decisions.  Here are few things that you must know about Wedding Photographers and Bridal Shows as you prepare for your big day.   

So here we go...  

BRIDAL SHOW VALIDATION:  Most bridal shows do not have a credentialing or validation process for ANY of it’s vendors.  This means that ANYONE with a DSLR Camera can obtain a photography booth at a bridal show whether they know what they are doing or not!  This means that if YOU, as the bride, wanted to purchase booth space and sell a service, most bridal shows will gladly take your money and provide you with an exhibitor table and badge.  Keep in mind that the wedding business is a business and show owners don’t necessarily care about credentials.  They are maximizing their profit by selling an advertisement.  This also applies to popular wedding service sites that routinely sell “AD Space”.  There is no business license, insurance, or certification requirements.  You MUST be careful, do your research and ensure that you are getting a professional.


TYPE OF PHOTOGRAPHER:  You probably wouldn’t go to an eye doctor for knee pain or hire a criminal defense attorney when you need a personal injury lawyer.  In Photography, the same concept applies.  Make sure that you are hiring an actual Wedding Photographer and not another type of photographer that woke up and said “hey, I can shoot weddings too…”  Some studio photographers that primarily shoot models or babies mostly indoors under constant lighting conditions are not recommended as Wedding Photographers.  Look for CREDENTIALED or CERTIFIED photographers that ALSO shoot in as many locations/conditions as there isn’t always time to set up lighting for the perfect picture.  Ensuring that you have an EXPERIENCED, CERTIFIED WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER is your best choice.

CREDENTIALS:  Is this photographer experienced, certified, both or neither?  As we know, experience has it’s own definition, but based on a chart (above) provided by a private independent surveyor of a well respected online wedding site surveying two of the nations largest bridal shows, the information illustrates that there is a record-high number of inexperienced or non-credentialed photographers out there, but most photographers specifically at bridal shows (a whopping 90%) are hobbyists that are self-taught photographers or photographers that declined the opportunity to provide a response to the question “What are your credentials?”  The statistics should help brides to be better informed as they select a media professional to manage the photography services on the most important day of their life.


YOUR PRIVACY: Your email address is requested when you plan to attend a bridal show and is normally required prior to entering the bridal show.  This means that at the conclusion of  each bridal show, each bride will most certainly be bombarded with over a 100 emails from vendors through an email marketing campaign.  These vendors use these emails, aka “leads,” to contact the bride and further attempt to sell their services.  This is just part of the business package provided from Bridal Shows and if most photographers could only purchase the leads, they would.


MISREPRESENTATION:  Many times, the images you see at the bridal shows are not REAL wedding day images.  The images that are on display are carefully picked out of tens of thousands and are often placed in image editing software to create an amazing look.  This one image is not representative of what your COMPLETE portfolio will look like.  ANY photographer that you decide to work with should have at least five FULL, UNEDITED portfolios with over 250 images from ONE wedding.  This review will allow you to see what their image quality is prior to going to the editing room.  This is a standard that quality firms should be able to provide for you without question or hesitation.  It shows a benchmark of their quality work, shows a bit of volume/trust and displays to the bride that they can shoot in various lighting conditions without the use of extensive lighting gear.  Ensure that two of the portfolio’s are outdoor weddings as shooting outdoors can present challenges that aren't always discussed up front.


CLEARLY DEFINED RATES:  Justifying a Wedding Photographer's rate can be confusing and not explained clearly, even by the photographer themselves.  Believe it or not, ask a photographer at a bridal show a simple question such as “What is your hourly rate?” and many cannot tell you what their hourly rate is without going into the mechanics of justifying what ALL they have to do to run their business.  Get their rate.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT:  Believe it or not, your wedding day is a project.  It has a beginning and an end.  There is planning, initiation, execution and delivery.  The average client - photographer relationship can average from 9 to 18 months and can be one of the most intimate relationships with a vendor that you’ll have for your wedding day.  The Wedding Photographer is also the only vendor that will work with you BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER your wedding day.  Simply put, many photographers do not have the tools/platform, storage requirements, financial tracking, and not to mention, PATIENCE to successfully manage a wedding project, hence why you see so many "FirstName-LastName Photography" companies come and go.


MEDIA MANAGEMENT:  A Wedding Photographer is working with, on average, anywhere from 500 - 1500 images from each wedding with each image ranging from 18mb - 30mb per image!  Let’s start in the middle and say you have two photographers that take 1800 images combined from your wedding project with the average single image file being 22mb, that is over 38gb for one wedding project!  With many photographers performing multiple weddings throughout the year, it’s very important to ensure that they have the basic IT knowledge on how to back-up and provide safeguard measures for images that CANNOT be replaced.  Many photographers do not provide on-site, off-site and external storage as they should (which simply helps to protect your portfolio and ensure redundancy of your files).  Ask the photographer that you are considering what measures are taken to ensure safety of your files.


Johnny West, Owner - ArtsGroup Photography and Cinema


Johnny West is an experienced and Certified Professional Photographer based out of Dallas TX and Washington DC.  Johnny is a former Navy IT Manager, USO Event Manager, and Navy Photographer for USO events in support of our troops.  He also has 20 years of Project and IT Management experience.  ArtsGroup currently shoots over 60 wedding events a year.


ArtsGroup Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Waiting on Autumn

I normally don't get a few minutes to reflect or even share what "we" photographers think about before we get to a shoot on time (which is early or us). 

As the weather starts to change, the leaves around us are starting to turn into an amazing array of vibrant reds and oranges.  The colors, when sent to the client, should not be muted but instead illuminated to give it an amazing pop. Today's sessions in around northwest DC should provide our clients with spectacular images. 

On the flip side, with fall also comes dropping temperatures, so weathering the chilly atmosphere is something that photographers sign up for.  Posing in cold weather can be hard which is why I understand why models can get paid healthy tariffs for being ready year round for shoots. While we certainly want to make sure we have the poses right, the photographer has to have nerves of steel at times which allows us to control our equipment in all weather conditions.  I've even wondered what it would be like one day to shoot in the rain (as I love rainy days). Anyhoo, a few random thoughts.

With 4 engagement shoots today, I'm expecting a bit of everything and always ready for the challenge.

See you guys on the flip side.



I have an iPhone now.

I'm not sure how long the marriage is going to last with my blackberry given some of the issues the Blackberry company is going through right now. My biggest love has always been the keyboard and I'm now giving the iPhone keyboard a new try. I will say that lots of things are seemingly a bit easier as far as access to certain things.  I've even went into a few apps that I couldn't get on the blackberry 10 an it's scary how we'll integrated and how well it performs on the iPhone. Although I'm not ready to give up on the blackberry just yet, I'm going to see if the iPhone can truly handle the 100 or so emails and messages I send each day. We shall see.


Back to Texas

While we are in the middle of our data storage upgrade, we had to pull the plug as I'm traveling to Dallas today for my oldest son's birthday today.  :).  Ethan is now 15 and has some interesting pictures that we're anxious to put up!  My wife always snaps away at him and catches him doing some of the coolest things one could think of..

We'll right back after these messages.