If you're a photographer, you know how much work happens after the shoot is over. People have this idea that we simply take some photos and that’s it. Wrong. A good portion of my life as a wedding photographer is spent sitting at a computer editing photos. I would go as far to say that for every hour I shoot, I spend two to three hours working on the computer in some form. That’s a lot of time. Imagine what your life would be like if you could get all of those hours back. What could you accomplish with another 8 hours a week? How much better would you feel not having to sit in front of a computer all day? This dream world is a possibility by outsourcing your photo editing to someone else, but like all magical situations, things aren’t always what they may seem. Outsourcing your photo editing is a pretty hot topic these days, so we’re going to look at all angles of it, and in the end, you can decide if it’s something for you.
Just like almost everything these days, there are a ton of options to choose from for photo editing. A simple Google search for “photo editing company” will bring up at least 10 different options. I have personally only used Shootdotedit, Evolve Edits, and Retouchup, but the majority of the companies will be offering something similar to these three.
I'd start by Googling and then looking at people's reviews. From there, create a spreadsheet and find several different companies and list out all the info you can find. Having all of the information laid out side by side will make comparing the companies much easier.
Here is where things get really interesting. The idea behind outsourcing is that you are saving time and therefore saving money. If it takes you 7 hours to edit a wedding and you estimate your time is worth $30 an hour, that means you spent about $210 editing that wedding. If you have someone else edit the photos, then you aren’t paying yourself to edit, and you can also do something more productive like finding more clients.
With each company, the cost varies. There are different tasks the editors can do for you, the most common being culling, basic editing, and creative/corrective editing. The culling costs somewhere between .05 to .08 per image. If you sent them 1000 images from a wedding, it would then cost you $50 to $80. The creative and corrective prices vary as well. Retouchup has options starting at $2.50 per image for basic corrections up to $10 to fix some crazy things like removing buildings or making people thinner. Evolve Edits simply has a $70 per hour fee, so one image might be $20 and another might be $140. With the creative edits, Evolve Edit has three tiers for creative edits, but the range is pretty crazy. The low end is $2 per image and the high end is $150 per image.
The basic color correction and exposure is what most photographers look for in outsourcing. From what I’ve seen, most companies allow you to pay for individual events or you can buy a yearly subscription for a set price. If you pay for each event individually, you will pay around .30 an image. Let’s go back to our earlier example. If they narrowed our 1000 images down to 500 and then did color correction on the 500, that would be another $150. For this example then, the total cost to cull and color correct would be about $200. But there are cheaper services Weedit.photos company which sets the color correction up to 700 images per wedding and just for $99. Now, if you go for a subscription, the prices change quite a bit. Shootdotedit has a yearly program that is $299 and month and allows for unlimited weddings plus engagements and some other shoots with a maximum of 700 images for shoot. Evolve Edits is $199 a month with 800 images per shoot, so it’s a bit cheaper. Also you can find monthly packages. For this example FixThePhoto service provides Wedding Pro package for $159 per wedding with 700 photos with color correction, 20 images with basic adjustments and 5 pictures with High End photo retouch.
What is really comes down to is how much you are photographing. Looking back at all this information, if you are shooting one wedding a month, the subscriptions are not worth it, but if you are shooting multiple weddings a month, you end up saving money. If you shot 3 weddings a month, with Shootdotedit, it would average out to $100 per wedding versus paying $150 per wedding. If you throw any engagements and seniors and newborns, then you really would be saving money.
Does saving money really matter, though, if your images don’t look good? Who cares about saving time and money if you end up with unusable images. The end results are what really matter.
For me, it was very difficult to let someone else have control of my images. I’m a bit of a control freak, and I want everything to turn out just so. This is where my major issue came about with outsourcing. I just wasn’t happy with the images that were being returned to me. Some photos would turn out great, but for a good portion, the color balance just seemed a little off, and some images looked better before they even touched them. It really made me think that sometimes they were just hitting the auto button or running some kind of preset on the images. I found myself going back on a lot of images and having to tweak them, which completely ruins the point of outsourcing. Evolve Edits and Shootdotedit have steps in place to match what you want, but even after a year, neither one got the editing to my taste. They also would often misinterpret what I was trying to do. I would take a low key photo of the groom, and they would try to brighten everything up and open up all the shadows. Maybe they're just told to get everything to a normal exposure no matter what. Either way, I had to go back and fix this.
Now maybe I’m just a little too picky. There are plenty of people out there that feel fine with the results they are getting. My colleague Marie James always use Wedding-retouching service for the outsourcing purposes. She says it’s easy and done professionally. Tastes differ. Also, are the couples honestly going to notice that something isn’t perfect? Probably not. I think a lot of my dissatisfaction in the results just came from my high expectations
Whether or not you should outsource your photo editing is really a decision you can only make. I’d suggest thinking about these things:
1. Do you hate editing photos and want more time away from the computer?
2. Do you photograph enough weddings, high school seniors, and newborns to make it worth your money?
3. Are you ok with letting go of your images and not getting perfect results on every image?
For me, I’ve decided to back away from outsourcing. My main complaint with both companies was that the final product just wasn’t good enough. This then created a price issue. In some cases I wouldn’t even send my images to them because I didn’t think it was worth it. That left me spending a large monthly fee for maybe 1 or 2 weddings a month. This is my personal experience, but I’d love to hear about yours and what companies you currently use in the comments below.