When you receive a gallery full of your edited photos, there is SO much more that goes on behind the scenes than you realize. I've had people ask if they can have their RAW photos and I had to politely decline them.
LEFT: finished product. RIGHT: RAW photo.
What you will see on the edited photo are a few things:
The horizon has been straightened.
It's had the colours and shadows adjusted.
The collar of the dress has been fixed.
Opening RAW Files
I'd imagine that the majority of the population does not have the programs necessary to open RAW files. Not only are they huge files, but aren't compatible with programs such as iPhoto, Windows Image Viewer, etc. Yes, you could purchase the programs necessary to open RAW photos, but they are often expensive and complicated, and I generally would not recommend downloading them for a one-time project.
Quality > Quantity
The first step in the editing process is culling photos. Culling photos means sorting which photos do and don't make the cut: removing blurry photos, removing duplicates, photos where someone accidentally has their eyes are closed, etc. It also means selecting the best images, which a photographer has quite literally, made it their job to do. It's tedious and through years of experience, we have trained our eyes to know what makes a good photo besides a smiling face. It's easier said than done when you have hundreds of photos to go through.
"But Jasmine, I want to see all my photos!" I get it. You know when you go to a restaurant, and it has SO many options that you feel overwhelmed and you just can't decide? Well, that's why a good restaurant will actually limit you more, and pick quality over quantity. This way no matter what you choose, you won't be regretting your decision.
For a family shoot, I can take 200+ photos and deliver 20 beautiful images. If you want more, I'd be more than happy to provide you a proofing gallery in which you can select more photos; but that does not mean all 200+ will be a part of that.
It's Not the Finished Product
I've heard this analogy a few times by different photographers which goes something like this: "You wouldn't go to a bakery to buy the raw dough. You go to buy the cake." I wish I could give credit to where it is due, but I've heard this so many times that I'm not sure where it originated from.
Regardless, it's a great comparison because it's true. When you pay me for newborn photos, you're not only paying for me to handle and photograph your baby - but for the time it takes to go in and edit out and baby acne, scratches, rashes, etc. There's been times I've swapped a toddler's head from one photo to another, because they were smiling in one picture where the baby is crying, or mom is blinking, the list goes on. If you're a parent, you know that sometimes toddlers can be straight up RUTHLESS, so sometimes getting a good family photo means stitching multiple images together.
Most photographers have spent time and money developing their brand; which includes their logo, their website, their editing style, etc. As I've mentioned before, mine can be described as "dark & moody". Maybe you look at the before and after above, and prefer the before. That's okay - it just means when you get your photos taken, I might not be the best choice for you because it does not cater to YOUR taste.
That being said, when you chose your photographer you're buying into their brand. You like how they style their photos, how they pose, how they crop, and how they edit. Photography is very word-of-mouth business, and a majority of my clients have come from seeing the photo I did for Jane Doe or John Smith, and wanted their photos done the same way. This allows a photographer to manage client expectations and deliver exactly what it is that they're looking for.
Which leads me to my next point...on the reverse side of things.
Protecting Their Business
I cannot express what a huge no-no it is to add edits, to a photographers work. I repeat, DO NOT add filters to a photographers image!
Maybe you're a photographer yourself, and you actually know what you're doing; but should a client come to me with a photo I've taken, and you've edited...they're going to be severely disappointed when I don't edit the same as you do.
Or worse case scenario...below is an example of my edited photo, versus adding a filter to my edited photo. I've gone ahead and created this example myself - but I have ACTUALLY had clients do this to their photos. Not only does it look bad in the picture, but it looks bad on me. When associated with my name, somebody could think that is the final product I delivered, and that is not the standard I set for myself & my clients.
This is why many photographers have it stated in their contracts that you are not allowed to apply filters or make changes to your delivered photos.
In summary, the reason why photographers won't give you their RAW photos is to protect their clients, and themselves. They have set certain standards for their business, and their only intention is to deliver to absolute best quality, which you deserve. Should you wish to see more photos from your session, it never hurts to ask. Just know that asking to see more, and accessing your RAW photos are not the same thing.