Interview with Leisa & Jarred from RAW Digital Lab

When most of us first hear about outsourcing and post-processing, it’s usually via a terribly written (but hilariously so) email from some Indian service that offers clipping and background removal for about half a cent per image. But then you eventually hear peeps talking about RAW Digital Lab and how they’re actually cool folk who save photographers loads of time with their culling & LR editing and you realise that maybe not all post-processing companies need to get put straight into the spam folder.

RAW, run by Jarred and Leisa (the rad two up above), are a Sydney company (who’ve also recently expanded their office grounds to Melbourne) who bust out a ton of editing for wedding photographers around the world – with clients ranging from the cold and damp reaches of Anchorage, Alaska all the way down to… cold and damp Bruny Island, Tasmania. Starting way back in 2011 (when outsourcing was still very much a dirty word), being both huge introverts who preferred the post-processing part of the wedding photography world (we know, craziness right?!) and knowing lots of their friends were struggling to keep their heads above the water with editing – RAW was born – and hundreds of their clients all across the globe are pretty damn glad it was, judging by their 5000+ shoots the team at RAW edited last year alone.

RAW were epic enough to sponsor Camp Common Folk last year and we wanted to interview these guys and find out a bit more about what makes them so great. And of course we peppered in some of our fave shots they’ve edited and made look dope af. Once you’re done, make sure to check them out properly cos they’re way cheaper than you’d expect for something that saves so. much. time.

 Image by The Evoke Company // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

Image by The Evoke Company // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

You guys kicked off in 2011 – how hard was it starting up in an industry where so many photographers always want full control of their product from start to finish? (we know we can be control freaks, it’s fine)
Things started off really small for us. We have always strived to be really good communicators and personable with our clients right from the start. We were very different to the other editing services out there in that everything that we did was done in house, in Australia. No work has ever left our office to go to another country or company (happens more often than not!). It’s always been really important to us that photographers know who’s doing their editing and where they are in the world. I think coming from a wedding photography background we knew just how fussy photographers are and we were quickly creating a business that catered to each clients individual needs.

RAW’s pretty well known now – what do you think was your ‘big break’ moment that made you guys turn a corner?
We didn’t have a website for about 6 months and we were relying purely on word of mouth (which was keeping us busy enough). It was getting to the point though that potential clients were calling us asking for some examples so it was time we got one. We made it ourselves (obviously…) and were sure to include about 50 different fonts across the whole website (obviously… you know, because we were so cool). We showed it to a friend of ours Jonathan Canlas who ran a workshop called Film Is Not Dead (FIND) and he was like “whoa! This is cool” and just tweeted it (this was back when people used to be able to see tweets). The next day we woke up to 20 enquires from around the world which was completely insane for us at the time working with really just local Sydney photographers at the time. We definitely thought we had “made it” and definitely hardly slept for a few months.

Most challenging thing about running a post-processing business?
The hardest things are all based around style. Every one of our clients has a different look, different version of “correct”, different version of “bright”, “dark”, “contrasty”, “cool”, “warm” – you get the idea. It’s our job to a) work out what they want and b) help them communicate that to us.

 Image by Meredith Lord // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

Image by Meredith Lord // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

What’s a normal day for you in the office?
Our team consists of 3 groups, the culling team, the editing team and the management team. We all have pretty tight schedules (especially in peak season) so while we’re all close friends, you’ll most often find us listening to our favourite musicians or podcasts while knuckling down on our daily workload. We’re all tea and coffee addicts so none of us ever get out the door with out having to bring back a collection of coffees for the rest of the team! We are also (very proudly) dog friendly – so if any of the team feel like bringing their furry pals in for the day, they are encouraged to do so. In the Sydney office we have two furry regulars (Banksie and Lentil – the Boston Terriers) and in Melbourne we have three (Walnut – the Samoyed and Louie and Roman – the Chihuahuas).

What about on your day/s off (assuming they exist)?
Work/life balance has been something that has definitely increased in importance for us over the 7 years we’ve been in business. When we were a bit younger we pulled all nighters as the business still needed us to be investing a ridiculous amount of time. But now, we’ve worked really hard to build the right systems and protocols so that our whole team (including us) can be happy and healthy. Jarred is a total green thumb so really enjoys gardening projects home renovations and you’ll likely find Leisa at a nightclub somewhere chasing drag queens or scouting out a good whiskey cocktail.

Do the Raw editors specialise in certain styles (dark & moody vs light & airy) or are they all just good at adapting?
Everyone is pretty adaptable (they kinda have to be!). Having said that there are a few looks that come along that we go “that photographer just has to be edited by “x”.

Can someone come to you and say “I want my edits to look like <insert any photographer with 50k+ followers>”?
First of all hahaha to 50k+ followers. Kind of. We will often have photographers reference other photographers instagram/blogs but what we’re all about is taking that information and creating something fresh and unique with it. We also have a rock solid confidentiality policy so if a photographer says “hey, can you use xyz’s profile on this job” there’s zero chance of them getting the confidential preferences. Inspiration is fine, copying – not fine. (Mr G.) Fine, not fine.

What is the process for setting up presets with photographers?
There are so many presets out there now – which is awesome! However it can be a little confusing. At the end of the day presets are a tool to help sculpt a look. They are not a one stop shop, one click turn you into above mentioned 50k+ followers photographers work. We promise, we’ve tried.

During our sampling process when we first take on a client, if they don’t currently have a preset that they use or they are using one but it’s not quite there for them, we’ll often modify it to make it something that gets them closer to what they’re after. These often change year on year as they style develops and grows but we love working with a base preset to keep things consistent through the coverage.

 Image by Brogen Jessup // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

Image by Brogen Jessup // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

What’s some of the best feedback Raw’s gotten that’s made you think “F yes we’ve nailed this”?
Our team always get amazing feedback because they work super hard and are crazy talented (we’d be totally lost with out them) but I think some of the most meaningful feedback we ever receive is when people pass on what they were able to do with the time we saved them. We once received and email from a client who was thanking us for taking on her edits as it enabled her to spend more time with a family member who was sick and eventually passed away. We all teared up reading her email and realised that while our job isn’t exactly saving lives, it is adding important and irreplaceable moments to our clients lives.

Do you find people use you more because they aren’t very good at editing themselves or to mostly save time?
Mostly it’s time. Most of our clients are full time wedding photographers shooting 20-50 weddings a year but we also have quite a lot of wedding photographers who have full time jobs in the corporate world or something completely unrelated while they’re ramping their business up and it’s fun supporting them through their journey into full time photography while it’s still a side hustle. It’s a real variety of needs but it all revolves around time. People are either spending the time doing things to help their business grow, spending time with family and friends etc, you know – living.

What are some common ‘mistakes’ you see editing-wise out in the world?
Trick question – there are no ‘mistakes’. Honestly, we see everything.

Has Leisa got that LR tattoo yet? (ps your guys’ About Page is awesome)
She hasn’t! She was a little stifled because one of the updates was a bit crappy and caused our clients a lot of stress. But it’s come good again – so never say never.

What’s one thing you’d like to see more of in the wedding photography world?
Same sex weddings! (In Australia). It’s been so nice seeing them come through, couples that have been together for years just waiting to make it official.

What would you say to people who are on the fence about trying Raw out?
Honestly, it is a bit of a process but we have so many happy clients that we help and build relationships with every year. Feedback is key – don’t be shy with it. We’re humans just like you, we’re always here via email, phone, LiveChat, Facebook messenger, Insta (please don’t slide into our DM’s with jobs) for any questions or concerns you may have.

Any moments with Raw you wish you could take back?
Nup, we’ve loved every minute of it.

 Image by Tony McKay // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

Image by Tony McKay // Edited by RAW Digital Lab

Fave 90’s song:
Leisa: “I Want You” – Savage Garden
Jarred: “Hand in My Pocket” Alanis Morissette

Movie you were obsessed with as a child:
Leisa: The Land Before Time
Jarred: Kangaroo Jack

Can’t-miss podcast:
Leisa: Sword & Scale (don’t listen to it if you’re squeamish!)
Jarred: How I Built This by NPR

What’s your go-to to perk yourself up if you’re not feeling it:
Leisa: Reality Television – the trashier, the better.
Jarred: Also, reality Television – the trashier, the better.

Language you’d want to learn the most:
Leisa: Japanese
Jarred: Mandarin

Pet Peeves:
Leisa: Cafe’s that include mushrooms in a big breakfast
Jarred: A place selling only Coke No Sugar / Zero instead of Diet Coke.

Fave smell:
Leisa: Vicks Vapor Rub
Jarred: Bushfires – sorry (obviously I prefer when it’s firefighters doing back burning rather than a devastating fire.)

Best thing about where you live:
Leisa: I can walk to work!
Jarred: I can also walk to work, but I prefer the 4 min drive.

What would you be doing if not for Raw?
Leisa: I’d love to be a hairstylist, except I don’t enjoy small talk so people would probably think I was rude.
Jarred: Non-sleazy real estate agent?

Something awkward you do all the time:
Leisa: I hate hugging strangers. So when people I have never met try to hug me it always results in awkward hilarity.
Jarred: I have to repeat our business name every time I say it. “RAW Digital Lab”… sorry what was that? “R-A-W Digital… Lab – LAB. Every. Time.

What song do you know every word to?
Leisa: All Star by Smashmouth… everyone does. Seriously. Start singing it in your head and you won’t be able to stop.
Jarred: Anything by P!NK

First CD/tape/record you ever bought:
Leisa: Mine was CD single – Runaway Train by Soul Asylum.
Jarred: So Fresh: The Hits Of Spring 2000 (from a petrol station I think).