On The Importance of Retouching & Sale of Digital Files

As a portrait photographer, I’m often asked…

Why do photographers charge for digital files?

Can I have all unedited images from my session?.


First, it’s important to understand that digital files have now replaced the sale of prints, which used to be the main income generator for portrait photographers for many, many years, before the digital era came along. .

Today, in order to have a thriving business, which is of course the aim of all photographers (in other words, not to make enough just to get by but to live comfortably), photographers must charge for digital files accordingly, in order to compensate for the lack of print sales.

There are 3 main ways in which portrait photographer charge for their work these days:

Some charge a session fee to cover their time shooting and editing the photos, and then sell digital files individually; some charge a flat rate which already includes their session fee and all digital files (me!), while some focus on selling mainly boutique work like frames and prints and put a premium price on digital files. 

Regardless of how they offer their work, the reality is that all photographers in one way or another need to make money from the sale of digital files, again, if they want to have a thriving business.

Now, sometimes I receive emails from people asking for all of the unedited photos of their session, because they believe they can save money by doing so or because they believe that retouching is not necessary, or sometimes because they wish to edit them themselves.

First, if you think retouching is not important, you should understand that it’s actually pretty hard to get the perfect image right out of the camera during an on-location portrait session, with so many variables going on. You can see the examples of the unedited and edited photos above for a clear demonstration. 

As professional portraiture photographers, we learn how to envision an image before it is finished. When we are photographing a session, we’re taking into account all the elements - the light, the location, the mood & feelings of the subjects - and we go along with all of these as best as we can. But with every shot we take, we already imagine how it will look after it has been edited, as we’re always aware of the need to retouch things on the background, correct the colouring and exposure, etc. 

In other words, truthfully….


…perfecting an image in post-processing is an art in itself, one that requires time and skill. It’s a very important way in which we portrait photographers get to express our talent, style, and creativity.


When you look at a photographer’s website and are impressed by the cohesiveness of their body of work, you must remember that their unique style is based on two factors: how they capture and frame moments as they happen AND how they edit their images in post-processing. Both of these together is what makes up a photographer’s style. The editing step is just as essential.

That’s why we never give clients united, RAW images. They’re not finished work, they don’t look their best, and as with all other types of artists, we only want our very best photos to represent our work.

We also don’t want you, the client, to edit our work, because, well - it’s our work! :) If you edit the photos we took in your own style, they’re no longer our work. And when you hire a professional portraiture photographer, you’re paying for their work - their vision and expertise.

Personally, I always want my style to reflect clean, polished, film-inspired images. This means that all the photos I put out in the world should always be consistent with these goals, which have taken me years of learning and practice to develop.

So if you’ve hired me after looking at my work online, you should understand and expect that you will be receiving similar work, edited in the same style.

Aside from consistency being super important for any photographer’s body of work, brand and reputation, first and foremost, clients should remember that we’re artists.

As artists, we’re passionate about what we do and the photos we take are personal creative endeavours that are very dear to us… so more than anything, we only want to show the world our very best. Makes sense right?

I hope you now understand a bit better why I (along with many professional photographers who provide quality work) charge for digital files, spend considerable time retouching photos, and are not willing to give out united images.

Any questions or comments? Let me know!

Warmly, Cami Mendes


Cami Mendes from Bellatrix Photography is a Toronto-based professional photographer specialized in candid family photography and weddings. Cami works in Oakville, Mississauga, Burlington, Milton, Vaughn, Richmond Hill, Collingwood, Muskoka, and Niagara Falls including Niagara-on-the-Lake. Outside of Canada, Cami shoots weddings & portraits in Brazil, in & around São Paulo, Ilhabela and Rio de Janeiro, as well as in & around Oslo in Norway. Cami has photographed in Norway, USA, Mexico, Indonesia, Ireland, Dominican Republic, Holland and Brazil. For more information, visit bellatrixphotography.com.

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