by Jason Vinson
Outsourcing is quickly becoming a standard practice. More and more photographers are using outsourcing services full time, while others are using them during the busy part of their season. While outsourcing has become more common in the industry, there are still some questions as to its worth. Photographers not familiar with the service fee ups and downs to incorporating this type of service, and sometimes it can be hard to see which side wins.
In order to help make the decision easier for everyone, I thought it would be a good idea to build a good old fashioned pros and cons list. While not every pro and con is applicable to every person, I’ll try and pick items that are more or less relatable to most shooters.
Cost – There are many different ways to outsource your editing. You can hire a full-time or part-time assistant to do your editing in house or you can even hire a virtual assistant to edit virtually. There are also a host of other companies that specialize in editing and perform this service for many other photographers. These various options vary widely in price and offerings, but no matter what option you go with, it is going to cost you some money. The upside to this though is that some options are way more affordable than others. For example, hiring a full time employee to edit could be a pretty large expense, while sending your images to a place like ProImageEditors is quite affordable.
Loss of control – This one is a little harder to put a finger on, but I hear it all the time and have even said it myself. I just can’t give up the control. What exactly does this mean? I think it mostly has to do with letting something go that you are used to being responsible for. Change can be hard. A lot of people also feel that their editing has a lot to do with their style and identity. They feel that what they are doing is unique and not possible to reproduce. The thing here is that this may be true for some specific edits, but definitely not the case for the majority of images that you deliver. You also still maintain full control because you will always be the last person that checks the images before delivery.
Learning from mistakes – One of the biggest benefits to editing your own work is seeing all the mistakes you made. The more you find yourself straightening images, correcting white balance, or cropping distractions, the more you will learn what you need to do to be a better shooter.
Hidden gems – This one doesn’t always show up for me during the editing process, but sometimes when playing with an image, I stumble upon an interesting edit by just playing around with sliders. These types of edits tend to be happy accidents while trying to make some arbitrary adjustment to a normal image and then being drawn to something interesting that catches my eye. If you are not doing these arbitrary adjustments, then you probably won’t see these interesting characteristics that catch your eye.
Business time – This one is maybe the biggest advantage and I think single handedly outweighs all of the cons. The time you would normally spend editing can now be spent on other tasks. Although sending your images out for outsourcing will cost you money, you need to consider how much your time is worth. You need to take into consideration how many hours it takes you to edit and compare that to how much it would cost you to outsource. If it takes you 10 hours to edit a set of images that would cost you $50 to outsource, that comes to $5 an hour. As a working professional, your time is worth way more than $5 an hour.
Turn around – The more you shoot the more you have to edit. So the busier you get, the longer it takes you to get images back to clients. If you have a wedding every Saturday of the month along with engagement sessions and the various other types of shoots you offer, then your backlog of editing can quickly grow out of hand. But if you outsource the editing, no longer is a wedding being edited in one hour sprints between emails, shoots, marketing tasks, and the latest episode of House of Cards. The faster your client gets their images, the happier they will be and the more likely they will be to purchase items from you and refer you to friends and family. This leads to more clients, more shooting, and more money in your pocket.
Editing Time – Even if you are not super busy with shoots and need to outsource to keep up, you can still take full advantage of the saved time. Instead of spending all your time editing images to a deliverable standard, now you can use the outsourcing to get the images to this level. From here, you can spend more time on these images to make them even better. So in this scenario you may be spending around the same amount of time editing, but your final delivered product is a much better quality. This again leads to more sales and more referrals.
While I currently have more cons listed than pros, I think it’s pretty clear who the winner is. Outsourcing may cost you some money, but the time it saves you to work on more important things can easily justify that expense. My experience with ProImageEditors has also proven to me that my editing style can be taught and reproduced. This makes the ability to delegate my editing something I’m more comfortable to do. That desire to maintain control has vanished and instead I find it freeing that I no longer have such a large and time consuming task to worry about. I also have more time to dedicate to building up my client experience and work on activities that bring in more clients and more sales.