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The Economic Advantage of Outsourcing Photo Retouch Services

By Sara Frances | November 07, 2011


Photographers both make money and save money by paying someone else to do a significant part of their image retouching and enhancement needs. Second in a series of conversations with Neale Narang of

You do the math. However you add up the hours in your business week, photographers need to be doing more of two things: working behind the camera and promoting new business.

Raw Report:
I would have put promotion first, and emphasize that this means finding ways to keep old clients coming back in this age of digital do-it-yourselfers as well as generating new prospects. Camera work may be our heart and soul - what we live for - but it's only a small part of how we make money.

That's right. Every photographer has to choose. Do they want to have more business or do they want to spend significant time in computer post, which may not be their expertise.

By nature the artisan - small business owner is "jill of all trades". If you aren't, you have a ways to go. What I mean is this: you don't have to do all your own retouching, optimization and enhancements, but you have to know enough about it to order exactly what you want your outsource facility to do. A friend of ours has never pushed a pixel for himself and invariably allows heavily over-driven postproduction to leave his studio. Because he's never put his hand to an image, his vision is faulty. And his clients don't often become return customers.

I made this mistake just once in '08 (1908 that is. Just kidding but it was way back!) I lost a large job. "Nuf said.

Let me quote a % of time spent survey posted at ISPWP.

  • editing/retouching photos and other computer tasks - 28.4%

  • behind the camera - 12.2%

  • album design & production - 10.5%

  • meeting & communicating with clients - -9.7%

  • bookkeeping, taxes, insurance & banking - 8.9%,?li>
  • social media & blogging - 8.7%

  • prints ordering & lab work - 6.2%

  • advertising & marketing - 5.9%

  • networking - 5.5%

  • camera & computer upkeep - 3.8%

There's a lesson here, and it's right at the top of the list. Editing and retouching are close to 1/3 of the typical survey respondent's schedule. Stated this way it's totally scary. It certainly scared me, because I'm a techno junkie and I know it to be true.

At best this means you can spend less time doing what you love best making images, and at worst it means you're losing money fro three hours out of every typical 10-hour day.

On the practical side, here's an example of some of the most difficult portrait retouching that you probably can't afford to do yourself. And very few photographers of my acquaintance are competent to try it. Braces on teenagers. A gold standard test. Nasty job. Uber time consuming. And most often the results scream digital fake.

A relaxed, casual pose for a high school senior portrait is a classic to start. The smile is so real and warm. Removing the braces in this instance is what is called improving on perfection!

This sweet face is so lovely that the braces tell a story of life and times without diminishing personality. The parents did not originally ask for it. I almost didn't ask ReadyRetouch to do it, but then I though about this senior's peer group perceptions. I also realized that giving my clients beautiful choices is part of the experience that will keep them coming back next time they need photography.

The "after" image won hands down, and ended up selling a more expensive product for me. The client ordered a museum style presentation gicl©e in black and white. A real show piece. In just a few minutes in Photoshop I tweaked the conversion contrast and tone, decided on the crop, border enhancement and sizing and sharpening. A signature niche presentation no one else can do.

ReadyRetouch did the heavy lifting, and I capped off the artistic design with minimal time expended.
The final presentation with wide white margin, logo stamp and signature - just like in the museum

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