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How Do You Decide to Contract Out Your Post Processing?

March 10th, 2015

OutSourcingNick recently ask the following question:

I was wanting your opinion on contracting out all the post processing using websites like Elance and Odesk and if its at all do able in this type of work. I know the urgency agents put on contractors and so I’m curious if employing others off shore would work in the time frames expected. I’ve already made some enquiries and theres plenty of people out there willing to do the work for a fraction of the labour costs charged locally, or mine for that matter. I found a small company from the UK that specialises in real estate photography and they mentioned many of the image changes you’ve written in your books, so with this in mind, is it very common for agents to want additional changes to images as this is one of the only hurdles I can think of when going in this direction.

On the general subject of contracting out your post processing I have to say that I don’t recommend it for someone just getting started. Post processing is an important part of real estate photography and an integral part of your product that you need understand intimately. Once you understand it, you may or many not decide to outsource.

It is possible to develop a shooting technique so there is almost no post processing required. That is, you get it right in the camera. For details on how to do this see Scott Hargis’s book: The Essential Guide to Lighting Interiors.

We’ve discussed outsourcing several times before here on the PFRE blog and there are two general schools of thought on outsourcing and they have to do with the way you wish to approach your business:

  1. Your business focus is on the quality and creative style of your photos: With this approach, post production on a photo is as much a part of the artistic process as taking the photo so you can’t delegate the post processing to anyone else. With this business approach you increase your income by charging more because your work is higher quality than your competitors. With this business model outsourcing makes no sense.
  2. Your business focus is on the number of shoots you can do: With this approach you do everything you can to become more efficient and to do more shoots. The photos you produce are like a commodity, so you can teach someone on the other side of the world to do it for you. With this business model you increase your income by doing more shoots so at some point you’ll need to have dedicated in-house post processing or outsource your post processing to increase your volume.

Both of these business models work. There are successful real estate photography businesses that use some degree of one or the other of these. There’s nothing right or wrong with either. It’s a matter of which approach feels right to you.

Update Mar 11: If you outsource and are satisfied with the results you get please leave a comment indicating what company you use.

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11 Responses to “How Do You Decide to Contract Out Your Post Processing?”

  • I am just getting started in RE photography, and learning the post processing end of this business as well as the actual shooting side. I am enjoying learning the processing abilities and limitations of LightRoom, although I have far to go before I am near as good as many of the folks on here. I am only doing this part time right now (only have 5 years before I have my 30 in with my full time gig), so I am not doing so many shoots that time is a factor, but I would think, at least for me, that I don’t want to have someone else make my images look great, as I will never know what it takes to acheive that if I don’t do it myself first. What happens if your contract guy drops the ball? At least if you know how to do it yourself you will be able to put in a late night and deliver to your client on time.

  • Hi Larry, would it be possible to poll your readers for their feedback on who they use and who they think are the best post processing providers. I have tried several and really haven’t found one that meets my expectations. Thanks! Ron

  • Hello

    It save allot of time that one can find new customer etc. there are good ones in india, they charge 2 dollar for one hdr/enfuse picture. they do a good job. the problem is that I need too wait 24 h,time diffrent allso. and if the agent whant a change, I need too wait 24 h again, the time can be problem

  • @Ron – Sure, I added a note in the post above for people to let us know if they are using someone that they like. I’ve gotten good feedback from people that use Mark Reibman that I talked about back in July. See: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2014/07/13/mark-reibman-wants-to-help-you-with-your-post-processing/ Mark is a real estate photographer that I met Seattle (and may other PFRE readers know) and is now in Cambodia.

  • One thing to keep in mind is that it’s not necessarily an all-or-nothing thing. I have a number of photographers that only send me key images (front shot, view shot, etc.) out of their sets or just those that need special attention or have difficult to retouch scenarios (bad color casts, window pull, object removal, etc.). This helps keep retouching costs down, but allows for help when needed.

  • I found someone finally – there are a lot of people that come out of the blocks hard then do not deliver.

    A few things I found that helped

    – train the person to person to edit the images the way you would, to ensure consistency. You can even send over LR presets etc
    – good english – or which ever language you speak – is crucial – communication matters immensely.
    – get someone who is close to your local time – someone who sleep s while you work and vice versa can cause loads of problems and easily turn a 24hr turn around into 48hrs plus !
    – don’t haggle too much on price – I offer a set amount of images every week so my person can be assured the work. I even pay 20% above his quoted price – that way I can be certain my work is prioritised and the retoucher feels valued.
    – if you charge $200 for a shoot and pay out $40 per shoot to have your images retouched that is a great investment. considering you get your nights back – also if this means you can do at least one more shoot a week – your costs are covered.

    at $2 an image I am very happy and my business has increased by at least 40% because of it

  • I am working with several photographers that outsourced their work to third world countries via elance and odesk and they where initially excited by the low cost but then soon realised that the quality and service was substandard. I guess the old adage applies – you get what you pay for. Post processing should account for 25% of your shoot rate. For this you will get a professional team player who is dedicated to ensuring top quality and rapid turnaround.

    Half my clients use me regularly as it saves them time. Some use me occasionally when they get busy and some when they have a really difficult job. They all agree that outsourcing is a smart and indispensable part of their business. Here is some feedback I have received…

  • Nice article, great discussion. If you’re really busy, it’s worth it. When I first started my company two years ago, I did everything myself. This model worked at the beginning, but as the business grew, it was very difficult to keep up…not only with day-to-day jobs, but also all of the latest post processing technologies/softwares/techniques/etc. I have found that outsourcing post-processing has helped me improve quality, especially since all photos are now reviewed by two sets of eyes before sending to a client. Also, my turnaround improved since photos can be edited while I am out at the next shoot. If you’re thinking about outsourcing, I would strongly recommend you work with a company that has previous architectural/real estate experience.

  • I do all of my own editing for my standard real estate jobs, but when a client asks for difficult object removal, leaves added to bare trees, lights turned on, etc. it can easily get beyond my photoshop skill level. I’ve been trying to find someone to help with this for a while and have finally found him…Frank Breslin at breslinphotography.com

    I tested Frank out with one of the most difficult photoshop requests that I have ever received. It was leaps and bounds beyond what I was capable of and I was unsatisfied with the attempts that had been made by 3 other professional retouchers. Frank came through big time with great work, a fast turnaround time, and an incredible price! Not only that, instead of just replying to my initial request by email, Frank gave me a phone call and we had a wonderful discussion about what I need, how he can help, and just photography for real estate in general. I honestly feel as though I’ve made a new friend and he has exceeded all of my expectations in both skill and professionalism. I highly recommend him for difficult touch-up jobs and am sure he can handle the simple stuff with ease.

    You can see an example of the dreadful photoshop job I tested him with by going here:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/66179054@N00/16441890416/

    That’s the original photo. To see Frank’s job, just click to the left. He turned on all of the lights and removed the orange construction fence.

  • I’ve been doing RE photography for more than 7 years, initially I did the post-processing part myself and then hired someone to take care of the post-processing but that didn’t work out well. Now time is a big constraint as I do many photo-shoots, another RE photographer recommended me a photo editing company in India to outsource my images. I was a bit skeptical in the beginning but I’m very glad I chose them,
    they know their work! For trial, I sent a few very difficult images to edit and the output met my expectations. They work round the clock and have a dedicated team for my project, the quality and communication is top-grade with these guys.
    Mr. Abdul Gaffar, who runs both http://www.outsourceinfotech.ca and http://www.outsourceimages.com, is a thorough professional and he offered me the best pricing because I was referred by his existing client!
    You guys can drop in my name to get the awesome pricing and let me know your experience too 🙂

  • I do enough volume that outsourcing makes sense – from a time perspective. I spend 50% of time marketing and 50% shooting – which leaves me little time. I did all my own work for a long time, so I fully understand this end of the business and can do the work if i had to… however….

    I started out just giving the outsourcer a few homes and now it’s like a drug – i give them all my work. and it feels good. they work on it over night and i have the files the next day. and they look so much better than what i did myself.

    Now i need someone to handle more of the business side – like contracts and invoicing and even the prep of the final images. The outsoucer quality has absolutely helped me get more and better business.

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