Aside from taking the actual pictures many of us photographers enjoy the post processing part of the workflow. This could be simple exposure adjustments to cropping and straightening to running a Lightroom preset or some spot/blemish removal. It is not unusual to perform any of these during post processing after a photo shoot.
However, what if the need to post process is more advanced than our current skills? Or if the volume and the type of work is more hours than we billed? Is it even possible to outsource this work? Should we even consider outsourcing such an important part of what defines our “style” of photography? The simple answer is yes you can and you would be a bit surprised on the cost and results.
Whether you are part time or full time there will come a point where you hit a post-process wall. You have too many projects or the customer requests something beyond your current skills. Rather than saying no to a paying client plan to outsource a piece of the project and build that into the costs when you quote.
Many of us when we first start out do not have a color calibrated monitor. In fact, we often learn the hard way when we get the first prints back from the lab and the color is not the same as when it is on our monitors. When you have a paying client and the images you got back are wrong you just lost money because of the reprinting process.
Almost all outsourcing places offer simple color correction for anywhere from $0.22ea to $0.25 ea image. Upload 10 images and for $2.20 you get back fully color corrected images typically less than 24 hours later.
While you are building up your business and saving for the color calibration tool simply build in the cost and time into your quotes for color correcting. This will save you money in the long run and more importantly allow delivery of a good print to the client.
There are many great tools for automated image extraction on green screen. There are also many methods for shooting people or objects to make extraction easier. What if you can’t afford the green screen extraction tools yet? Or the volume is too much to handle right now? Or the image was not shot on a clean background and you still need to extract a person with a chain link fence for a background?
One of the main reasons I outsource is for image extraction. I typically shoot sports teams with a plan to create a composite of some kind. When I do I shoot on a white background if it is less than 50 people or green screen when it is more than 50. It just depends on the final product. Even setting up the shoot for the easiest extraction still takes time.
Here again is where outsourcing makes sense. Most of the outsourcing places are pretty competitive in pricing so if the images where taken with extraction in mind then the cost is around $1.50 per person. If the shot was not taken with extraction in mind (such as the chain link fence for a background) then the costs around $2.50 per person.
If I have 10, 20 or more images that need extraction rather than taking 10 min or so per image I will send them out for extraction. If it takes me 10 min per image to extract and I have 10 or more that need extraction than the amount of labor it saves me at $1.50 per image than that is worth every penny to me.
Major Portrait Retouching
We sometimes get that client that wants or needs a little extra work on the image. This could be major blemish removal, slimming, light flare on glasses or wrinkle smoothing. Many of these can be done in Photoshop and for some people they are easy but again as you are starting out and have a paying client there is no time learn. Plus, when you are learning it is really easy to make a person look very fake and obviously “photoshopped” which is not what we want to deliver.
Most outsourcing providers will actually spend the most time advertising this very service. After all this is what most of us think of when it comes to outsourcing. These services are also very reasonably priced from $4.00 to $10.00 per image depending on how extensive the work is you are requesting. It typically works where there is a list of popular retouching processes and as you check off each specific service it adds a $1.00 or so to the base cost. This gives you the flexibility to specify the exact needs you have and control how much you want to pay.
When the image is completed the company will typically send you a link to the retouched version for your approval. This allows you to validate that all the work was completed to your satisfaction before getting the final image.
Ever try to remove a light pole or garbage can from an image? It’s not as easy as it sounds and can sometimes take hours of your time especially while you are learning the 100 different ways this can be accomplished in Photoshop.
Much like image extraction, object removal is another great and low cost reason to outsource some post process work. Prices typically start around $2.50.
In my previous article I talk about creating custom composites and how some are more advanced than others depending on whether or not you include feet. Some of the outsourcing places offer a full turnkey solution. They have a number of stock digital backgrounds to choose from and you simply send them the image of the person and for $10 they extract and place the person on the background sending you a print ready final image. Or if it is for a group of people you send them all the images of each person and for approx. $2.50 per person they will extract and place them all on a stock background and deliver to you a final print ready image.
Who to use for Outsourcing
Outsourcing sounds like it might work so how do you go about finding a good and reliable company? The best way is to ask your fellow photographer through Facebook groups or in person at your local photography group. However, I will give you a few that I have used or have been highly recommended to me by multiple photographers.
www.rebooku.com – this is my go-to company. They are good, fast, competitively priced and they also have a sports specific service for making team banners and other custom composites
www.retouchup.com – I have used them in the past and they are good and competitively priced.
www.fixthephoto.com – I have not used them yet but they have been highly recommended for that extra special needs image requiring extensive Photoshop work.
If you ask around I think you may be surprised at how many of the more popular professional photographers out there actually outsource a lot of their work. Not necessarily the work that makes them stand out but the mundane stuff that takes time away from other aspects of running a successful business. For me and my business, I don’t know when I will feel confident enough in my Photoshop skills so outsourcing will be a part of my business model. In the end you have to make the decision on whether or not outsourcing works for your business model.