It’s no secret that often the most consuming aspect of being a photographer is the time and energy you spend in the darkroom. Whether it’s a traditional darkroom or a digital darkroom, the hours you spend laboring to produce the perfect image can be daunting and can lead to burnout. While many of us began in this industry expecting the chance to have more time with family and friends and pursuing freedom and passion, the reality of a photographer’s life can be discouraging. That’s why it’s imperative that you outsource the parts of your job that you find most interruptive to get you back to what you love.
Any task that takes you away from growing your business is a task that should be outsourced. There is a stigma surrounding the term 'outsourcing' that scares people into thinking that it is 'cheating' in some way. Rather than view it as cheating, think of it as delegating a task to someone else so that you can focus on the growth of your business. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense to delegate one of the most time-consuming for any photographer: editing.
1. Global Edits
There are two main kinds of editing services available to photographers. The first type focuses on the image(s) as a whole. We call these 'global' edits. Global edits include minor cropping, color correction, exposure, and contrast adjustments. Jobs like these are often priced per image and based on the number of images being edited in one project. Weddings, engagement sessions, and larger portrait sessions that demand consistency fit into this category of service.
2. Photo Retouching
The second type of editing services is retouching. These types of edits are catered to each individual image, and include everything, from skin retouching to more advanced photo manipulation. Retouching is a great option when you have a single image that needs work, but the time spent editing that one image would take you longer than it would to edit an entire portrait session. Retouching is a unique art form, often compared to digital painting. There are many agencies and boutiques that specialize in retouching services and most offer both editing services. It’s important to understand the differences in services to know what to ask for when you outsource editing.
Once you’ve determined the type of editing service you need, who do you send your images to?
An editing agency is a larger company with multiple employees that are on consistent schedules and who tackle day-to-day editing jobs as they receive them from various photographers. There are many advantages to working with an editing agency including the convenience of a quick and consistent turnaround time. If the e
ditor working on your project is sick or unavailable, there are other editors that will continue the work on your project until it is finished. This helps you stay on track for predictably delivering images to your clients and keeps your business flowing smoothly. Larger agencies tend to have more competitive pricing which is an important element to consider.
At first, your editor might be one of the staff randomly assigned to your editing jobs, so you may have trouble achieving a consistent look from job to job. But once you establish a relationship with a specific editor, you can start to request that editor to be assigned to your projects. This can take some time, but it can ultimately yield great, affordable results.
How to Work With A Boutique Editor
Many photographers prefer a more one-on-one relationship with their photo editor; that is where boutique editors shine. Consider them
to be your personal editor. You can talk to your editor directly and establish a relationship with them up front. Many photographers find that boutique editors deliver greater consistency from job to job, giving the photographer a unified editing style right from the beginning of the relationship. With a boutique editor, you have a direct line to discuss concerns and issues on a personal level and often get better attention to detail. The prices may vary slightly from editor to editor but are still competitive.
It can take time to establish a relationship and rapport with your personal editor, but once the desired style is achieved, consistency and unity in their work can be expected. One drawback to using a boutique editor is that it often requires a longer turnaround time. When you have one person managing multiple edits of multiple clients, it may mean you’ll be given an extended wait time. Additionally, with no one to cover if your editor becomes sick or busy, you may have unexpected delays. The personal service, relationship opportunity, and high attention to detail often outweigh the additional cost and risks associated with having a single boutique editor.
As in any relationship, personal or otherwise, it’s important to practice clear communication.
- Set expectations and understand your role as well as your editor’s role in helping you to achieve your goals.
- It takes time to develop a relationship with an editor to achieve the look and style you want.
- Learn to speak to your editor. Statements like “I don’t like them” don’t help an editor understand the adjustments that need to be made to achieve the outcome you are looking for. Use industry-specific, technical, artistic language to express your needs. Try instead: “They feel a bit on the cold side”, “Let’s add a bit more contrast”, and other similar statements to give your editor direction.
- Understand what you want. Learn the editing language and terminology so that you can communicate clearly to get a quicker turnaround time, and get the editing aesthetic you want, every time.
- Editors are human - they have good days and bad days. They want to do the best job possible to keep you happy and they want to make their business grow just as much as you want your business to grow. So, make sure to set them up for success so that everyone achieves their goals!
Whether you choose to work with an editing agency, or a boutique editor, if you are not absolutely excited by the idea of editing photos, I highly encourage you to consider outsourcing to a professional editor.
It's vital to select aspects of the job that take you away from the things you love, and that can be outsourced to others. By outsourcing to a photo editor, you’ll find that you’re spending fewer hours in front of a screen and more time doing all the things that inspired you to be a photographer in the first place.