Real Estate Post-Processing Overnight In India?

October 25th, 2010

Several months ago I did a post on real estate post processing as a business opportunity. As a result of that post I established a list of people doing post processing in the PFRE community. The list is on the right side-bar just below the flickr graphic.

Mike Gardner, a Malibu Realtor and photographer has been telling me about the great results that he’s getting from having his post-processing done in India. I don’t want to promote having your post done overnight in India. I’d rather do everything I can to promote having your post processing done by one of those four folks listed on the right side-bar that are in the PFRE community. However, since in the post-processing business the world is clearly flat I thought a discussion of Mike’s experiences would be useful. That is, the Internet gives everyone on the planet an equal opportunity to compete for your post-processing business. Anyone in the retouching business has to complete with India. So I asked Mike some questions about the post processing he is having done in India so everyone knows what they have to do to compete with the folks in India.

Update 10/26/2010 8:30 AM Pacific: I’ve updated the link for the retouching service that Mike uses below. Also I’ve added the image above which is an example of the results Mike’s retouching people do. It’s a hand window blend from two images.

Here are my questions and Mike’s answers:

  • How many photos per job do they process? I send any where from 50 to 150 depending on how many HDR’s I’ve shot but there’s no limit as to what they’ll take. I’ve sent a little as little as 2 before!
  • What you pay US per job? Most images run  $2.00 but can be more if there is extensive work. A 7 frame HDR is still $2.00
  • What are your processing requirements? They”ll do whatever I ask. I mainly shoot beach houses so a lot on my work can be done in two images. One exposure for the interior with flash, then one exposure for the exterior view. The exteriors are mainly 5 to 7 shot HDR and they wil run it thru the HDR program of your choice. Right now I use  Photomatix, but they  all have Adobe products, Capture One, and do 360′s and panoramic stitching too.
  • What turn around are you getting? They set up an FTP server for me to upload to. I usually get the images to them by 8pm and night and when I wake up I have an email with a link to a download the images at Yousendit.com They even did one low res set at 72 dpi for the MLS and a high res set for print so I dont have to resize when I send them to the agents.
  • What is the name of the company you are using? The company is called Overnight Retouching PVT LMT and the website is www.photosretouchingservices.com. They’ll do a few free ones with your workflow instructions before setting up an FTP account.
  • Are they meeting your expectations 100% or what is your level of
    satisfaction?
    Once you explain your workflow they do a great job.  It took a few times to get it dialed in.

Mike summarizes as follows: I get the whole argument about keeping jobs in the USA but lets face it, most of us drive foreign cars and buy stuff made overseas.  I wouldn’t opt for this service in the US because it would be too expensive. I have a 17 month old son and family time has become very important. I used to come home and play with images for 2 plus hours but now I can just send them out and spend more quality time at home. That’s worth every Rupee!

So my points are:

  1. Anyone doing a post processing service needs to compete with this level of service and cost.
  2. Having someone else do you post-processing may help you do more shoots and still have a life.

40 Responses to “Real Estate Post-Processing Overnight In India?”

  • I don’t think that is the correct website link. Try this one: http://www.thephotoretouchers.com/

  • I find this very disheartening. ~20% effective unemployment in this country and this is the kind of attitude many small business owners have. It’s really a shame how this mentality has seeped down from the conglomerates into main street. People are either too greedy, too lazy or aren’t able to put together a workable business plan, so they resort to this. Sad!

  • Most of us drive foreign cars so it’s perfectly acceptable to off-shore our work? Perhaps you may not realize how many foreign brand cars are actually built right here in the United States. Here’s a nice interactive diagram of where various car brands are made in the USA: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/06/19/automobiles/20090619-auto-plants-4.html You may notice some foreign brands such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Kia, etc. (There are also many of these foreign brand names built in Canada and Mexico.)

    I think the article you presented was informative and interesting, but I disagree with your point #1. Anyone doing any work shouldn’t feel that they always have to compete on specific prices/services offered by competitors, especially those overseas. Differentiate yourself and your services. I think I would agree more if the point was “Anyone doing a post processing service needs to be aware of competition with this level of service and cost.” I think that is true, and you’ve helped to bring awareness to the community with this article.

    I personally find it awful that we expect and demand a whole lot in terms of clean air, clean water, good health benefits, police/fire/EMS, etc. for ourselves and yet we go shopping for goods and services based on what is cheapest? Therefore, we end up getting products and services from countries where those people creating products and providing services aren’t receiving nearly the same benefits. China has a huge pollution problem that only seemed to get attention in the US when they hosted the Olympics. How much of their pollution is a result of the manufacturing of stuff for Americans? Shouldn’t workers creating things for Americans get somewhat similar benefits as the ones who are enjoying the products/services? It seems like we are taking too much advantage of the people of poorer nations. Sure there are great benefits of globalization. It seems like a great partnership for someone in India to be doing work during normal business hours for them during times when it’s especially inconvenient to get the work done in the US at that hour. But I think we should also be mindful in what we are doing and the bigger picture.

    While I disagree with some points, I’m glad you wrote the article, Larry, and I am looking forward to following the discussion as there should be interesting comments on this one. Although I’m not a real estate photographer, I find PFRE quite interesting and useful, and that includes this article. Thank you. :)

  • I believe the link is wrong and the other provided by seth1066 appears to be another company. Could you please update the link so we can check them out.

    Thank you.

  • Dont worry about the pollution or what the people doing this work get paid, everyone is doing it so you may as well get on board and make more money.Have you been to india and seen the poverty the point is they dony know any different.
    The only thing you may think about is you could create this senario in the US.ah well better get in quick and survive.

  • Wow I have looked at the prices on the website.I will have to put my rates up.We are heaps better than this mob and are cheaper..

  • We use india exclusively and have got our pricing down to .20 per image… that includes stitching pans. One 16 image pan, stitched edited is only .20… regular images are .20 as well. we send 500 plus images a day and always have them by 5am the next morning.
    They remove us from mirrors, remove real estate signs, correct vertical shifts, brighten dark areas. It would take use 30-60 per house to achieve the same detail and we shoot 4-8 houses per day. My photographers can shoot more houses, get to bed earlier, and make 2x the money, now that we use india. A very hard point to argue.
    Sorry can’t share our contact but there are loads out there.

  • JW- Agree. The link I found seems to have far higher prices than those quoted in the article.

  • wow, i pay $20 per image, obviously different quality but still makes you think twice

  • @Seth You’re right, it’s not the right link. However, the one you linked to says for pro photogs to go to http://www.photosretouchingservices.com/ instead, which is what Larry posted except photoS instead of photo in the URL.

  • In a similar vein, those of us who purchase photo gear via the Internet from Adorama and B&H should knock it off and go back to patronizing our local high-margin brick and mortar photo dealers (if there are any left)…

  • A few comments for the upset…
    I drive an American made Dodge that runs on vegetable oil collected from local restaurants(4 years now), shoot with a Japanese camera made in China that I purchased at brick and mortar Samys Camera in LA, use a Mac made in China purchased 2nd hand, process images in India to have more time with my family and because it’s cheap, and may have stopped at a Mexican place for lunch run by Guatemalans or had sushi made by Koreans. When I first read about the idea of sending images off to India (here at PFRE) , there was a part of me that wanted to feel guilty about the idea of working that way. The I realized that there really wasnt a good reason too. Everything I buy is not “Made in America”. I buy and do business globally. Most people that claim you should “buy in America” seem to like the slogan more than live by the words. The idea always seems to revolve around a car because thats the easiest place to put the sticker on the bumper and feel good about your Ford or Chevy purchase as they drive down the road in plain view of the world.
    I do what I can where I in terms of making a difference, being more environmentally aware, try to remain current on issues around the world, and am aware of how my economic choices affect my town or the world. I am a believer that open markets and globalization lift living standards and reduce poverty. I like the idea that some young Indian guy studied how to use computers and is now making a living and supporting a family in a country full of poverty far worse than ours.
    The world is changing and I’m going to adapt with it. Maybe I’m watching to many TED video’s and see the world differently now.
    If an American processor can beat the prices I’m more than happy to give them a try.
    I’d like to see two images that need blending and have 5 other things that need fixing (dust, walls, flash) be sent out to both foreign and domestic retouchers with the same instructions. Let’s see who does the best job and at what price. May the best processor win!

  • Thanks, Kerrick. Ok, figured it out, the original post, still on my rss feed, has: http://www.photoretouchingservices.com , it has been corrected on the http://www.photographyforrealestate.net website to http://www.photoSretouchingservices.com. The “s” makes all the difference. Sorry for my added confusion. BTW, I emailed Mike Gardner for the correct url and he replied:

    “prashant@overnightretouching.com tell him Mike Gardner sent ya!”

    The website http://www.overnightretouching.com is under construction, probably to eventually get away from the competing site of almost identical naming which caused the confusion here.

  • My take on this issue has less to do with “Made in the USA” and more to do with “Not Processed by ME”. I’m reluctant to hand over the post-processing labor to someone/anyone else. I do admit the economics/math is intriguing but after thinking about this I really am reluctant to hand over part of what I deliver.

    A question for Mike Gardner. What happens if an image gets delivered that does not measure up to your quality standards? How do they resolve quality issues? How fast do they resolve quality issues?

    A request for for Carl. Please post a link to your website so folks can consider your service.

    A question for Ryan. Why can’t you share your resource? That is rather unfriendly…

  • “What happens if an image gets delivered that does not measure up to your quality standards? How do they resolve quality issues? How fast do they resolve quality issues?”
    I have had a few instances where something was missed, like a dust spot or wall that wasn’t perfectly straight. I sent an email and they fixed it with no problem or charge. They really do aim to please and if they are awake and working, they have fixed things rather fast. The best practice seems to be to give them a list of what your workflow and what your expectations are. I’m not that great with layers and the blending of windows as it takes me too much time on all the beach houses I shoot. This alone, even if I need to finish the photo more, is worth the time and costs.
    Its a fascinating world we live in where a guy I have never meet, in another country, did a ton of great work and said he’d send a bill later after I was satisfied.

  • It’s all fun and games until these Indian processing companies get smart and start hiring their own photographers, putting us all out of business. Think about it – all they’d have to do is hire a bunch of $50/house “run-’em-and-gun-’em” photographers, which there are TONS of, and then they’re already set up to do their own processing. They’d be the Indian Vicaso except cheaper and better than you.

  • @ Mike, Kudo’s… we use the same services from Prashant with excellent results as you have explained, now for the last three years. We did write a manual for them for our exact methods requested, which now seem his normal “Real Estate” photoshop set, as Mike said, layers, blended, flash marks removed, plus a host of other little things we would of done in our office to make the images perfect.

    I too will give them a thumb’s up !! Good service, prices we can live with to offer our end users, the Realtors, a better end product at a lower price. We could never do this without a little overnight help from Prashant’s team.

    Our team here, does one more Photoshop Action to every images returned prior to sending out to Realtors, for lack of a better term I call it adding “Vitamins” to the image, my special action, to perk up the photo a tad, then we re-size in Lightroom, make big high res & a small MLS set’s in our office, for sending to the client.

    We could never complete the photo set as fast or for the low prices demanded by the Realtors, gone are the days of a Grand or two for a estate Dream Home shoot, now they want it all for a few hundred, and complain about that too, as Mike said all the while driving up in a new “foreign car”.

    This is a market factor, driven to compete with the big boys of the $99 Realtor photo business, delivering marginal images, now both Mike & myself have an edge over the drive-by companies with point n shoot spin cameras. This group is all about sharing, Prashant does a good job, if a few more use him all the better to keep them in business, so we can continue to offer great services that Realtors can afford, all done at a fair price.

    Rusty @ mi6 films dot com

  • Thanks for the post Larry, I appreciate you bringing retouching services to everyone’s attention. I would like to be able to charge only $2 per image and be equal to them on price, so if I could retouch 20+ per hour, that would be feasible for me, but I do not speed process my images, nor have the benefit of the monetary conversion rate, so I cannot compete on price alone. I spend whatever time it takes for each image. My pricing allows for my customers to choose the cost ala carte (per image) so that they only pay for what they need, and most of my retouching is done during the evening, so often the images are ready for them the next morning. Competition is good for me because it keeps me on my toes – always looking for way to offer better service, or ways I can cut down costs and pass that on to my customers.

  • The Indians, SriLankans , Philippinos have been out there for years,Its still 60% very average, you do get a couple of good ones but it is very rare, I know I have spent time out in Sri Lanka and Manila teaching retouching, they are great when I am over their shoulder, but when I am back home they gradually find their own level , which is way below what I need and I end up letting them go.Some people will be able to sell this standard , which will shrink the high end putting pressure on prices.Its the way the world turns, on that note there is still a very high demand for quality, I have been teaching quite a few locally based companies the demand for high quality is very much alive and well, I am already booked out for training in Dec, all local.
    There are many solutions to keep the post production rates normal, team up with a bunch of good photographers,learn the photography yourself,teach other untrained shooters there is money in that too.

  • “I know what the right thing to do is, but it’s not convenient and anyway, I can make more money by outsourcing.” Ugh. Main street, meet Wall Street. You deserve each other.

    Aside from whether it’s better to deal locally or globally, I can’t imagine a serious photographer doing this unless it’s on a limited basis and with someone they have a steady relationship with. One photographer, working with one re-toucher. If your goal is just to produce a commoditized “product”, then I guess it doesn’t matter, but frankly you’d be better off working for someone else. The money is better, fewer headaches, and sometimes a corporate job can feel satisfying in some way.

  • You put that well anonymous,Its all about if you care about quality.If you dont, then you dont care about your product, you clients and the vendors…You may as well work for someone.Larger companies are out there who care little about quality, they are always looking for new people.

  • Those that work with postprocessors can also care about quality. If someone is a better photographer than postprocessor or someone that enjoys taking the photos much more than the PP – when paired with a good postprocessor – can provide better results than if they did it all by themselves. I also wouldn’t say that those that outsource necessarily make more money – but they might trade a little money for enjoyment of work, or time with the family.

  • What will the state of the U.S. be for your 17 month old son at 17 years old?

    I SUPPORT GLOBAL MARKETS, BUT…
    I support a global market WITH balance. China and India are absorbing the heart and soul of the U.S. with little return. They are smart, China especially: learn the American way and use it to gain American wealth by taking the wealth from Americans. It’s a transfer of energy.

    China is looking out for China. The U.S. is looking out for China, India, etc. and is not looking out for the U.S. (itself) at all … and this all in the name of “saving money and time” or profit.

    U.S. decline will continue due to this exact reason. This is lacking ANY balance by trading “products” and “time” for jobs and money. Your “saved” quality time will cost your family and the U.S. far more later. This is proving true as we debate this topic. There are no jobs. There’s no possibility of job growth. NONE!

    What will your 17 year old son do in that case?

    COWS, MILK and PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICES
    The U.S. has given away the cow and now has to pay for the milk and beef. How can you pay for milk and beef with no cow, no dairy farm work, no products, no trade, no earnings?

    While an international economy is here to stay, and there’s a good place for it, the reason the U.S. is in decline is in part to outsourcing almost everything. You all name this or that built elsewhere except the U.S. What do you think will happen by further outsourcing even the smallest tasks without balance?

    It’s taking care of your neighbors yard while neglecting your own. Why can’t both neighbors work together, BALANCE the trade of services and both have fantastic landscapes worth photographing?

    HEALTHY MOM MAKES A HEALTHY CHILD
    You have time with your family, while your neighbors children starve. India needs our help, yes, but you can’t help others without being healthy yourself. Airplane rules: put your mask on before your child. India is the child to the U.S. in terms of help. The U.S., as a citizen, the parent. As a parent, we are very, very unhealthy.

  • “$50/house “run-’em-and-gun-’em” photographers”

    What do you think OBEO is…. we are already farming out jobs for less money. India will only get cheaper and better. You are forgetting about democracy and the freedom to compete… this is a global economy and until we stop paying laborer’s to push buttons for $25-40 per hour someone is going to do it cheaper… and yes everyone is going to be out of business!

    Digital photography has killed the “PRO Photographer” market because anyone can buy a decent digital slr and take shots…. but you can’t buy an artistic eye, that is learned… I used to shoot sports them moms started to show up with a better camera a lens than mine and give the photos away to their team for free. Then I went to real estate.

    Agents will always go for the fast turn around and quality that either gets them by… or if they’re are a Higher Profile agent – they will go with a photographer that sets them apart… either way prices for jobs will decrease. Our Company has decided to go for quality and not quantity – but that does mean using india to edit the middle of the road jobs while we edit the big jobs ourselves. This gives us more time for family and in turn a better quality of life… if it means out sourcing… you do what you have to in order to take care of your family.

    you can compare editors to auto workers… Paying line workers $30+ per hour does not let car companies remain competitive. Paying an editor $2 per image doesn’t leave me money to feed my family. It’s just too much. Period.

  • I think the “run-and-gun” photography & overseas “commodity re-touch” market will continue to co-exist with the higher quality professional photography market. They’re servicing two very different kinds of clients. Some RE agents are happy with a fast-food approach and fast-food quality; others want something more. Different geographic areas have very different ideas of what is appropriate, as well.

    Ryan, the “Pro photographer” market is doing pretty good, actually! But you’re right; photographers who aren’t able to produce something that consumers can’t do themselves are hurting. The point is to differentiate yourself from amateur imagery.

    Anyway, back to PFRE: I think outsourcing the retouching makes sense in some cases, but I would only consider it if I knew that the same person was working on my images every time. It would have to be a very close relationship. The thought of turning my images over to whoever happened to be working that night at the PhotoChop Mill makes me very nervous! But I would work (and have worked) with an INDIVIDUAL, who I can communicate with consistently, and who knows my style and my needs.

    For a photographer who wants to take on a fourth, or fifth, or whatever shoot in a day, or is nervous about saying “no” to a good client, outsourcing the Post makes sense. And if you’re doing blending or HDR, then frankly the Post is more than 50% of the job, more than 50% of the skill. That person should be getting more than 50% of the fee.

  • One thing to keep in mind is that a global econemy benifits everyone. If you’re specialty is photography, then maybe paying someone else to process your pictures is a good idea. Specialize at one thing and excel at that. Your hourly rate is hard to justify when sitting in front of a computer. I’m not saying that india is the place to do the work, but it makes sense, business wise to pay a less skilled person to do this work. I am considering hiring out my postprocessing and will probably try a local college student first, but they have their own issues.

  • I see where the motivation comes from to outsource this part of the job, but I agree with an earlier statement about pride of workmanship – I just couldn’t fathom outsourcing this vital piece of the process. I find it enjoyable and a good learning experience, and it seems to me like building a frame for a house, and doing the insulation, and then contracting out everything else. You can’t really say you built the house – the final product is no longer based on your efforts. It depends on whether the pursuit is money or pride of ownership I suppose, but I don’t have children etc. to divide my time with yet, and I imagine that if I did, perhaps I too would be willing to share my focus a little between work and family.

  • I agree with you to some extent Daniel. At this point I do have time to process all my own work, but I foresee in the near future that may not be the case. So I will have to decide, shoot fewer homes or hire out some work. I expect it will be difficult to hire another photographer and have our work similar enough for my existing clients, so I think hiring out processing is an option. If I can do it locally, and competitively then I will. But if it costs much more, then I will have to try these other companies.

  • If you can’t continuously learn to add value you will seize to be successful. I’m not promoting or rejecting this idea, all I am saying is that you need to stay on top of the newest technologies and strategies that meet client demands otherwise you will go under or be replaced. The world is flat. You must remain competitive. This will require you to be effective, efficient and cutting edge. If you cant be efficient you might be putting in a significant amount of hours to keep up. Ryan

  • Interesting point….Recently a Real Estate Photography company in Australia lost one of their best shooters, The company offered him 57k to stay on.This week the same company have offered a retoucher 70kplus to join them.
    Ill let you make of this what you will.It is very interesting though my thoughts are shooters are becoming 10 a penny retouchers not so.

  • Everybody loves cheap imported goods thanks to global ‘free trade’ until it affects your own paycheck. Then suddenly those ‘foreigners’ are seen as nothing more than the bastards who put you out of work because he’d do it for 10 cents on the dollar.

    I’ve never been put out of work by a foreign competitor BTW.

  • Isn’t this the thread ironic, and hypoctritical?

    RE shooters complain how agents don’t see the value in what they do (meaning ‘don’t want to pay what its worth) and then it turn RE shooters want to outsource a critical part of their job to a foreigner working for $1.00 an hour, hence devaluing it further.

    I don’t know…just seems that you are perpetuating the cycle with such actions.

  • I think it’s important to identify the two components here: outsourcing work vs outsourcing work to India. I have no problem with outsourcing your post processing. Hell, I’m making a side business out of post processing for photographers. It’s the issue of outsourcing to India that sort of bothers me.

    And to clarify my point from above – sure, there are two types of photographers. The cheap run-’em-gun-’em photographers and the full service photographers. The target markets for these two are oceans apart. The problem with outsourcing your post processing (for the run-’em-gun-’em shooters) is that you’ve just commoditized yourself. Anyone can pick up a camera and take a good enough photo and then hand the processing off. Technically that’s what Vicaso is doing. The difference is that these Indian companies are going to be waaaay cheaper than you (and Vicaso). And, as I keep hearing, their quality is just as good, if not better. And on top of that you’re TELLING THEM step by step how to do the job.

    It just kills me…

  • My 10 cents worth is that I have no qualms in sending work overseas – after all our economies are all interrelated anyway . It seems ironic that some USA photographers on this point have a firm moral stance against sending work overseas – I wish you guys had the same fiscal moral stance before you instigated the Global Financial Crisis and sent that overseas !!!!! – keep the money at home but send the debt abroad ??

    Do what works for you best – spread the work load – spend more time at home – make more money – and give someone else an income and livelihood – where is the problem in that ?

  • $0.20 an image…? Seriously? How is that even possible? So for $5.00 US I can have TWENTY FIVE images “retouched” HDR, window pulls, whatever… and delivered the next morning? What am I missing here?

  • I guess if you have no talent for editing images and don’t really care about the results being perfect its a great deal. They don’t look too bad.

    If its like the programming world, lots of these companies are American owned (usually by one entrepreneur) and they outsource all the work directly to the facility in India. The client pays the entrepreneur and he then pays the crazy cheap fees to the (for lack of a better term and enhanced dramatic impact haha…) sweat shop. just read the 4 hour work week, everything can be outsourced. some clever American entrepreneur makes money and some nice Indian folks get a little money to support a family.

  • After trying several Indian retouching companies, I have been very happy using an Australian based company. I think they still might send them to India however they look after everything for me so I have none of the frustrating time spent trying to explain my requirements. They charged me $2.90 a photo which is still good. http://www.theretouchers.com.au

  • I hope that one can find a way to keep USA workers busy and get away from free trade. I support US workers as best I can. I love photography and I suppose I need to learn post processing or find someone local to do this.

  • If anyone feels like supporting your neighbors in Canada every once and a while I provide Retouching services for Real Estate Photography @ $5/image. Stitching, blending, and custom Retouching is an average day for me.
    Some of my work is here (please excuse the flickr): http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrensutherland/sets/72157623906513220/
    I can be reached here: darren@retouchcanada.com

  • India is very expensive now days because of salaries, etc. so $2 per image may not be possible with quality. We do photo retouching for $3 to $4 per hr. (http://www.krishnadasan.com) depending on the work involved. Taking away jobs from US is not correct. People can outsourcing boring, non -productive work to India so they can concentrate more on marketing and business development. Everyone cannot do everything you know – Krish Nair