Since my recent introduction of the 'All Digital Images' package add-on, one of the most common questions my clients ask is: What is the difference between 'raw', 'edited', and 'retouched' images.
The short answer is:
Any photograph that you love, that you think you will print and treasure for a lifetime, you should purchase as a 'retouched' image.
All the other images that you like and would like to keep them on your phone to look at or use for scrapbooking, you may never print them and even if you do, you don't intend to print them larger than a 6"x4", these can be purchased as the 'All Digital Images' add-on.
Ok, now for the long answer:
'RAW' files are what the camera captures.
They are irrelevant in our disscussion because no one will see them but me.
I often intentionally underexpose the image slightly to avoid blowing out the highlights during processing.
I also intentionally shoot wider to allow canvas wrap edges.
My raw files produced by Nikon D4 is in NEF format, which means your computer can't read it unless it has the correct camera raw programs installed.
In another word, raw files are like raw fish: much nicer after it has been cooked by a chef.
After our photo session together, I will spend a significant amount of time going through the hundreds of photos we captured to select the best 30-50 and EDIT them.
During the editing process, I will adjust brightness & contrast, colour balance, slight sharpening, and cropping.
Editing takes the photographs to 80% 'cooked' stage.
These are the photographs I will show you in your gallery. (that's why this takes a week or two before I show them to you.)
Once you have chosen your favourites, I will RETOUCH them.
Each image takes me at least 30 minutes to retouch, some may take a couple of hours or more.
Subtle changes take the photos from 'good' to 'wow'.
At the retouching stage, I will go through the photo and remove fine hair across faces, remove boogers and nostril crusties, remove rashes & scratches, bruises and bumps, reduce red-eyes, balance family's skin tones, remove distracting objects, slight skin smoothing, and many subtle fine-tuning to bring the photo up to 'printable' standards.