Usually, I like to tell a little story, or make some commentary, and then hit you upside the head with what Im really going on about.
Today we get down to the actual factual, and answer that most controversial of questions:
"Do I need the RAW files"?
The plain and simple of it, is no, you don't need the RAW files.
"But, So and So said we should get the RAW files. And they knows what their talking about".
Actually, no, they don't knows.
To really understand why I say this, you have to understand what a RAW file is.
In the simplest terms, a RAW file is the uncompressed block of data recorded by the camera when it captures an image. This data can only be viewed in camera, or on a computer using RAW conversion software. Otherwise you can't view it at all.
Simple as that.
So then, where did the idea come from that clients must have the RAW?
I think somewhere in the time space continuum, some celebrity had the brilliant idea to propose that photography clients demand all the RAW files. This way, if the client wasn't happy with the images given to them by the photographer, they in turn could edit the images themselves to their own liking.
Celebrity probably also thought that once clients had ownership of the files, that no one, not even the photographer, could ever use them for personal gain, whatever that gain may be.
Well, that's what I think, anyway.
In any case, the primary reason you don't need the RAW files are because they need special attention in order to use them:
1) they don't look as good as JPEG's straight out of camera,
2) you need raw conversion software to view them and edit them,
3) even if you get the raw conversion software to view and edit the raw files you still have to learn how to properly edit them and there is something of a learning curve when it comes to that software,
So for most intents and purposes, there is no need for you as a client to have RAW files.
Well, then, when would there be a need for a client to have the RAWs?
Let's say for example that I'm doing a model shoot for a magazine. And once I'm done, the magazine will want to super-impose the image of the model on to another background. They would need RAW file so that their graphics department can make the needed adjustments to the image so that the image, and the selected background work together and are realistic looking.
Couldn't this be done with a JPEG?
Possibly. But keep in mind that a RAW file, is just that; raw data that can be manipulated through external converters and post production software such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, or Aperture. Once a JPEG comes out of camera, it has had all its processing already done. And, at that point, there is very little that the magazine, or its graphics team can do with it without destroying the file, or being unable to revert back to it's original condition.
Does this mean that a client can have have the RAW files, even if they don't technically need them?
Absolutely they can! But just because one can, doesn't mean one should. All you'll have on your PC is a crap load of big files that you can't even use.
In conclusion, unless you have a real need (not just some celebrity saying you must have), and you have access to software that is compatible, do yourself a big favor, and leave the RAWs in the hands of the the professionals.