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Outsourcing Part 2

October 21st, 2018


A few months ago, I wrote an article about my experience with outsourcing. I could never have anticipated the number of questions, comments, and feedback that I would receive. Since that post, well over a hundred people have reached out to me directly, sharing their challenges with the outsourcing process and asking for help. Given the clear indication that our community is longing for more information and support in this area, I’ve made it a mission of mine to learn everything I could about the world of outsourcing. My goal is to allow those who might be considering outsourcing to learn from my mistakes, save valuable time, and make informed decisions.

Is Outsourcing Right for You?

Outsourcing has been a touchy subject for many people in our industry. For some photographers, they see outsourcing as a way of saving time that would otherwise be spent editing photos and to use it instead, as an opportunity to do more marketing for their business or spend quality time with family and friends. For others, they can’t fathom the idea of relinquishing creative control or sacrificing their artistic integrity. Both are entirely valid opinions.

Based on my own journey with outsourcing, I believe that the first question a photographer must ask themselves is: “What value would outsourcing my editing bring to me and my photography business?”

If you are shooting primarily for architects/interior designers/developers, etc., are typically hired to capture a relatively small number of images at each shoot and have an extended period of time to deliver proofs and final images, then outsourcing probably isn’t necessary for you. Given that you’re working with high-end clients and have more time to devote to an in-depth editing workflow, you’ll want to retain total creative control over your work and take full responsibility for delivering consistently excellent images with your own signature style.

On the other hand, if your photography business is driven more by volume and/or a desire to avoid spending countless late-nights editing, then outsourcing might be a great option to consider. Either way, you’ll need to decide what your long-term goals are for your craft and your business, and then choose where to focus your energy.

Primary Considerations When Thinking about Outsourcing:

After the overwhelming response to my first outsourcing article, I set out on a mission to find the best real estate photo editing company in the world. My goal was to identify all the potential challenges involved in finding, vetting, and selecting the right outsourcing company and then break down the process in a way that could be applied to any real estate photography business.

Not too long into my mission to find “the best real estate photo editing company in the world,” I realized there is no such thing! There are plenty of great companies but what it comes down to is which company is best suited to your own specific needs. At the end of the day, only you know what type of editor is right for your business.

For example, if you are a one-person show or small team with a unique workflow and turnaround time, and price is of utmost importance, then you probably want to go with a smaller company like CEYLON-PICS, who can learn your process and deliver images quickly, at an affordable rate. That said, be aware that this type of operation can come with its own set of challenges, including inconsistent results, editor turnover, rolling internet and power outages, etc. Any one of these issues can affect turnaround times and reliability. However, if you find the right company and are willing to put the time in with them, you might very well find yourself with a great strategic partner.

If you are a medium to large real estate photography company with multiple shooters spread out across one or more markets, you may want to consider a more extensive operation like Phixer that operates on a proprietary software platform with built-in traffic controls and redundancies to manage quality, consistency, and reliability. These companies are often less flexible, less willing to learn your specific workflow, and usually cost more, but if consistency and reliability are your priorities, then these concessions might be acceptable for you.

Sharing Other Lessons Learned:

I’ve spent the better part of two years learning about and experiencing the world of outsourcing. This past September, just when I thought I had a good handle on things, I took a trip to Southeast Asia, where I had the opportunity to meet up with Josh Phoenix, the founder and owner of what is arguably the largest real estate photography editing company in the world, Phixer, located in Cebu, Philippines.

When I first decided to take the trip, I expected to meet some cool people and get a first-hand account of what it’s like to live in a developing nation. What I didn’t expect is how deeply moved I would be by the experience. My time overseas forced me to reflect on how easy it is for us to get caught up in the rat race where our days are often consumed with doing more, getting more, and accomplishing more, with our success sometimes coming at the expense of others.

While in Asia, I got the chance to finally meet the person “on the other end of the line,” who had previously been just a name or avatar. When I met these editing professionals in-person, heard their story, saw the poverty they lived in, and witnessed how thankful they are to have the opportunity to support their family by providing editing services to someone halfway across the world, it was life-changing for me, to say the least! It made me reflect on the daily hustle we often feel and how we tend to get hung up in the minutiae, losing sight of what’s really important. We complain about how cheap our clients are and how they don’t appreciate our value, then turn around and treat our employees, vendors, or outsourcers the same way.

I don’t want to sound preachy in saying this, but having experienced both sides of the equation, I would encourage anyone in our industry who is considering outsourcing to approach the process with a spirit of courtesy, integrity, and fair trade. This should be common sense but it’s not always the case, I believe it’s essential to treat outsourcing companies with the same level of kindness and respect that we use with our clients. I firmly believe that doing so will foster a stable, mutually beneficial relationship with your selected outsourcing company.

So You’ve Decided to Outsource Your Post Processing… Now What?

Outsourcing has done wonders for my business and has given me a big chunk of my life back to devote to my family and other priorities. If you’ve decided to move forward with vetting and selecting an outsourcing company, then make sure that you do so methodically and with purpose. To help you find the right outsourcing partner, I have developed a PDF questionnaire based on all the lessons I’ve learned (some of which were painful!) to walk you through the vetting process. I can share everything I’ve learned about outsourcing but at the end of the day, it’s you who needs to put in the effort, ask the right questions, and seriously commit to making it work.

Download PDF form here. *Note* May require the most recent version of Adobe Reader to open

To get started with a world-class outsourcing company open your Phixer account here and receive 200 free credits (a value of $275USD) with the purchase of your first credit package.

-A list of other outsourcing companies can be found on the PFRE outsourcing page

-For anyone currently experiencing success with outsourcing, please feel free to share a link to the company you use in the comments below.

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18 Responses to “Outsourcing Part 2”

  • Thank you for this. Very relatable article.

  • I’ve been fortunate to find http://www.sculpturecrown.com/home for my outsourcing needs a few of months ago.
    Now with over 15,000 finished images processed, I can not stress how much it has changed my life. No more 4am nights, no more concerns on taking on more work because I don’t want to spend the time on the back end.

    Honestly, I have been coasting and taking short vacations for the last few months, relishing the free time I have invested in. Now, I feel reinvigorated and reading to start expanding my business to double what was done this year, next year.

    Note that to successfully create a good relationship with your editor, it takes a lot of communication, patience, training (on both sides) and RESPECT. Respect the fact that your images are only as good as the finished product you serve to your clients. You only get that by having a great relationship with your editor.

    As to pricing, I would put that last on my list of concerns. Getting along, understanding, training with each other are far more important to create a smooth workflow and consistent product.

    I find working with these pros a great experience, they provide a great service even with the hardships and challenges that most here would give up on.

    I thank them every day and the first thing I do in the morning is grab a cup of coffee and sign on to tell them how many shoots coming that day and just gab about life. Love it.

  • This is interesting. Now I’m not Liberal Progressive touchy feely snowflake that has to have make something political out of everything… the concept of fair treatment of all whom you come into contact with is an admirable trait. Furthermore it is a wonderful long term principle that makes capitalism work for all around the world. I have some experience outsourcing and the way this company works is something that I admire and I can say it will have a better chance of working long term than high turn over lowest price set ups. I try to institute that fair model in every partnership I get involved in.

    Now with the touchy feel stuff out of the way. I have a few questions of anyone who has done business with them.

    1) On a typical photoshoot if I shoot in minimal multi frames to blend (3 per image) I wind up with about 6 GB of data. That’s a lot of data to upload then multiply that by 2 or 3 a day how do you overcome the lengthily upload time on the typical asymmetrical internet connections in the US where maybe you get 20mb per sec. That’s pretty slow. It seems that is a couple of hours uploading time.

    2) They don’t mention price but of course that is important. What is the typical cost per finished image?

    3) What is their turn around time? for a days worth of images?

    4) They mention video but again they don’t mention time or cost? I wonder if they could improve on my editing of Walk Through videos? I have it down to a science for very simple 2-4 minute WT videos.

    This does interest me a lot but it has to fit my current business plan both in cost and mot importantly turn around time. My clients have been enjoying 24 hour turn around time from me.

  • First of all this sounds like a plug/advertising for Phixer.

    Next, the employees are probably paid peanuts. With all due respect to the employees, how can I be reassured images are not sold behind my back on the black market to make a little more money. Once again, with due respect I have been on this planet for 74 years, during which I have a wealth of knowledge both technical and managerial, I know how people tick.

    I am not only a creative photographer but a photojournalist as well. Furthermore I carry out management consultancy. With 50 years business experience, I can read people like a book!

    One final point, the video wasn’t very professional with washed out images, flare etc.

    Sorry to be so outspoken but this comes with being in business so long. I will never make a diplomat or politician, I am too honest.

  • I had a terrible experience with Phixer after our entire team switched over to them. They are great in the front end. And yes they DO pay their people well. Do your research before judging.

    But, i would really really streer clear from phixer. They are not very transparent about their payment process and if you want them to edit based on your style, that will be around $2-3 per photo.

    Thank God, we found PhotoUp! They are amazing. Their customer service is incredible. I want to marry them.

  • If I use an outside editor do they obtain rights in and to the images? For instance, the Phixer Agreement states:

    Services performed pursuant to this Agreement………… and material produced pursuant to the Services……are the property of PHIXER™ and protected or may be protected by copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and other intellectual property and proprietary rights (“Intellectual Property Rights”)

    Aren’t they saying they own the additions they make to the images?

  • I starting outsourcing my real estate editing over a year ago. I started with one person doing this out of their home. For over six months I sent him 2-3 listings a day. As his business (editing) began to grow, he became harder and harder to nail down on a time frame for my edits to be done. As most of you might know, agents don’t want to hear that the photos will take days to get back. I was left to find a larger company for my editing. I found Phixer to be a great fit. It did take 4-6 weeks for my style of edits to get done on the first pass. But now, I rarely have to send something back for revision. In the beginning, the exterior shots were over saturated and had to much vibrance for my liking.

    I did have to increase my pricing to my customers to cover the higher cost in editing that I now have. But my product that I deliver is infinitely better than what I was delivering before. I love Phixer and plan on staying with them for the long run.

  • If you get everything in camera you don’t have to outsource…

  • I’ve been working with Phixer for 6 months and I’ve been able to take much more time for myself (joined the gym), family… and sleep. My primary clients are real estate agents and vacation rental companies. Before Phixer I was up every night until 2AM.

    One of the best ways they’ve helped is in processing the HDR’s and sky replacement. In Hawaii, it can be grey on any given day, for weeks at a time (Kauai) and when you have a small window between vacation renters, it’s nice to know you can get the job done and not worry about clouds for the most part. As far as HDR’s, if the coloring doesn’t come back exactly the way it looked that day, I can ask for revisions which are completed within minutes. For more detailed clients, I can take a few minutes and fix up whatever they ask for and in most cases they are just small tweaks.

    I still edit most exteriors myself, and overall my edit times have decreased exponentially.

  • Very awesome article! — I can definitely attest to how outsourcing can just blow your business wide open! I did a lot of shopping for the right outsourcing company/website and I found Phixer. I’ve probably been working with them for about a year now and since I’ve been working with them, not only has my end product seen a better quality; but I have noticed that I have massively increased the volume of business I am able to get now! I probably shoot anywhere from 6-10 houses a week.

    I typically shoot two properties a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. When I get home at around 5pm instead of editing until 9 or 10pm I get to spend a little bit of time at the gym, maybe tending to other business matters, or spending time with my family.

    Things that Phixer has done to set me apart from other real estate photographer’s work, I will brag that I think I have some of the best work in my area working with Phixer.

    –Clouds? They always make it a perfectly cloudy day with their sky replacements.
    –Fire places? Automatically there will always be fire in the fireplace. A nice touch.
    –TVs? Always a nice image to be put on the TVs. They can even put whatever image you want to put on the TV (I did this request once for a REMAX office photoshoot I did and put the remax logo on all of the TVs.)
    –Color Correction? I actually, guiltily, don’t roll around with an extra light like I used to. Just make sure you make sure there is as much light as possible in the room and be sure to bracket really well and the Phixer team will do a marvelous job blending and replacing windows.
    –Pools? They color correct those also and make them even prettier than when you shot them.
    –Cost? I on average use about 30-40 credits per photoshoot. If you buy a large credit package with them it comes out to about $1 a credit. If I’m making $225 on a property photoshoot, that is a small price to pay for expert graphic designers to have a go at your project while all you have to do is worry about delivering the final product to your client.
    –Turn Around? Automatic 24 hour turn around is expected! Absolutely fantastic, they have never let me down on this turn around.. Ever. If you need it sooner in 18 hours, or 12 hours there are options for that also for an additional cost. (It’s minimal, and you should be able to charge your client a minimal fee for the expedited services.)

    –The Employees? Anyone that thinks that there’s some sort of poverty or sweatshop or taking advantage of employees are severely wrong and it is an ignorant claim with little knowledge of certain countries and regions. The staff at Phixer are well taken care of, speak great english; they are literally the heart and the FACE of the company. They are happy to communicate with you and complete any task or minor request you may have with a full and whole heart. // Do you really think if there was something unethical going on that Phixer would have them on the cover of their website? Also I found out that many of their employees that they are provided their computers also come from a graphic design college background. That is not something I can say for most of us photographers.

    I am a college educated photographer, experienced and well rounded and still growing my business and taking the leap into outsourcing to a talented real estate graphic design team was the best thing I could have done for my Real Estate photography section of my career so I may focus on other avenues of photography and keep making great money. I whole heartedly endorse outsourcing, and I definitely recommend giving Phixer a try. When you do try them, do know you will have to meet your editors half ways with your shooting style so that they can better serve you and together as a team you guys will create amazing work. They even made videos on how you should proceed in shooting for properties. The process is incredibly simple. (they have a really good turn around on real estate video too, my clients are very happy with the videos that Phixer has provided to me with the footage I shoot.)

    You are still responsible to have great composition and shoot straight, the Phixer team does the rest.

    Cheers guys, and happy outsourcing!

  • “I want to marry them.” LOL

  • @Tim, well said. There are certainly workflows that yield great images that take very little post processing to be deliverable. Getting them finished in camera is one. Flambient can be very fast once you have some experience both shooting for it and the post processing side.

    Upload and download times are huge. I have a pretty good connection, but many jobs I can have done before I’d have the files uploaded somewhere.

    I don’t always want a fire in the fireplace. It’s looks so odd in a vacant home and during the summer, it isn’t as appealing either. I can pop in a sky replacement pretty darn fast these days or I’ll use one of my cloud brushes if I’m faced with a plain blue sky that just needs a little breakup. I only like images on TVs when the TV is very large in the frame, otherwise, I’ll just drag a gradient across to keep if from being a black hole. I could drop in a logo, but the MLS prohibits that and I’d have to have two versions of the gallery. Not a problem, but I charge enough so I’m very happy doing it.

    I’d rather be out shooting, but I like to do a little editing. I learn new stuff all of the time and it keeps my skills up. I’m also a bit scared about relying on somebody else in another country. Some places have holidays every few days (or it seems so) and it’s tough to track them so I could tell clients that it will be an extra day to deliver their images. If I’m not very busy, I can often have images ready the same day (I send the notification the next day as I charge a premium for same day delivery and I don’t want to water that down).

    Cost can be an issue, but control can be just as important. Time is also a factor, both ways. If you think that outsourcing is something that will help your business, don’t experiment on your customers. Take notes on how long you are spending on particular jobs and then send those out as test articles to see how it works. As Brandon points out, a small company or individual editor may take a little time to come up to speed on what you expect so they won’t be perfect right out of the gate but a larger firm is more likely to stay the same from the first job onward if they stick to the process they find works for them.

  • “Everything in Camera”…..right, that is an falsify that has been touted for a long time, yet I have never seen anyone in this industry prove that a practical practice. Even the very best out there (Scott Hargis as one) do post production. So Can it with the “you just have to Get it right in the camera”

    Real Estate Photography is not done in a controlled environment, it changes from room to room and location to location. Add to the fact that you have a business model that will only pay so much and you have to crank out so many to make a profit that POST PRODUCTION is not an option if this is to be a full time successful business.

    Upload times can be a headache if you don’t invest in high speed data, but if you are at a point where you are looking for outsourcing, then you should be making enough to cover the added costs of High Speed Internet. It doesn’t have to be ultra, just your premium offered by 90% of the cable providers. That may be just another $50 a month (that you right off). So our average time for 60 gigs is around an hour. That is an hour you can be doing billing, scheduling, etc…..not post processing

    Communication is paramount to great outsourcing, to just send off your daily work with no instructions that you may want IS ON YOU. Yes, most of the time you can just send it off, but if you want this or that, doesn’t just make common sense to let your editing team know? If you don’t want fire in the fireplace or images in the TV’s, then it is on YOU to let them know or just don’t have anything done unless you ask for it. It really is folly that some will send in images to be processed without instructions and then bitch about issues that could have been avoided if they had just spent a couple of minutes giving instructions.

    Should you relinquish all your editing talent to the editors….NO, Keep up with the new updates and tweak the work that comes in. We found that shooting day and night images, it made sense to forward the day images to our editing team while the night shots where processed in house, thus giving us the ability to deliver all images in the am.

    The investment that you spend on outsourcing is not too much different form hiring an employee to do the same work, yet you do not have to worry about the tax situations that entails. While an individual editor may take a little time to come up to speed, they tend to be more reliable than large firms that you are nothing but another name to take care of. There is no right or wrong to this…you just have to do your homework, test and try. If they work out, great, keep them close, treat them fairly and let them know you appreciate their work. If they don’t, learn from it and move on to the next…believe it or not, they are no different than the “Pro Photographers” out there claiming to be the “Best”

    One thing that no one has brought up, is the amount of photographers that are stiffing (Stealing) from these editors. Yes, face it, there are a lot of thieves out there that have taken advantage of these editors that are desperate to get business. I for one would like to out all that ask for “Test images” and then use them for profit without compensation to those that processed them. Then there are the others that will demand images in a rush and will pay after they receive them….and DO NOT! Personally, anyone in a rush that needs help….PAYS UP FRONT!

    I could go on, but the bottom line is that deciding to go to outsourcing is not like flipping a light switch. You need to investigate, get recommendations, and do some tests and then work with the editors to understand what it is you want. Most of the time, they will do a better job than you do if you spend the time to understand each other

  • @Jerry Miller. Sorry that getting the image done in camera eludes you, but I always come back with images that are done in camera. I’m not saying that I don’t punch them up a bit with some presets in Lightroom, but I’m not always juggling several layers in Photoshop. My first goal is to always get the image composed and lit in one go. My worst scenario is when I have 5 or more frames to composite. That happens, but I don’t resign myself to having that happen for nearly every delivered image. A typical job for me only has 5-6 images that take much time in post and I’m thinking about what I plan to do while I’m making the images so I come back with only the frames I need to get the job done with maybe a stop over and one under as a buffer. I’m just not going to spend much time on small bedrooms and bathrooms though I have to provide those images to keep my customers happy.

    There is no speed option on internet where I am other than dead slow DSL from Frontier or overpriced access from the cable company. One size fits none. I guess I can pay even more for the same speed as the cable company with a high speed wireless setup from a guy I know or huge costs for a satellite system. If you are bang in the middle of a big city, you may have options. In most other places the options narrow down to just one. Take it or leave it.

    It IS a good idea to make notes to the editor about what you want done, but you have to remember that it’s adding more time to the job that isn’t editing.

    I agree that it has to be researched to see if it makes sense for somebody. If you only wind up saving an hour and it costs you $40, that might not be such a good deal. If it means that you can book another job, providing you are that busy, it may pay off depending on what you charge and what the editor charges. I’m not that busy and when I am booked well, I’m not having a problem scheduling somebody 2 or 3 days later when I do have an open slot. Outsourcing my editing wouldn’t help me make more money and I always have time every week to do other things. I’ve looked at the time it takes me to edit a job, how much outsourced editing costs and, for now, it doesn’t make much sense. I’d really need to be booking 18+ jobs each week before the math worked out.

  • As you say Ken, you are not doing any kind of volume that outsourcing would benefit you. You are the first to say that you deliver images without post …. oh, my bad, you did say you did post to punch…., I guess that means “getting the image done in camera eludes you”….eludes you too.

    Bottom line Ken, if it is not for you, fine, but there is a huge market out there and no one that does this full time can deny that it is a option to grow.

  • Interesting the praise that is on here for phixer?

    In order to get first hand info, I wrote the following to them (edited);

    Hello Keér Beavers,

    Thanks for getting back to me.

    I was first aware of Phixer via the platform, “photography for real estate!.

    As a photojournalist I am a very curious person. Due to this I have been researching.

    My questions are as follows;

    How are you customers sure their uploaded images are not going to find their way to third parties to be used, sold, sub licensed, etc. a la “facebook”, as well as others?

    Are the images destroyed after editing? After all, you are not sending the original back, only a copy.

    What measures are implemented to assure your staff are not culprits of such an infringement of copyright. It is well known, Asian companies as a rule do not observe copyright laws.

    How good are your staff really? I have a few images that would challenge the best of editors.

    During my research I found many negative comments from customers, both criticizing support* as well as the quality of your work.
    I even found negative comments from some of your employees!

    *Support, I myself can confirm this. I opened a chat yesterday in order to receive some information. A message in the chat box advised me they will be there at 6. I looked at the chat box in the evening to find, “No answer, communication closed”
    During the interviews with the photography real estate’s representative your staff bragged about 24/7 service. After my experience I can only answer with ???????

    Out of curiosity, how much would Phixer charge to edit, say a batch of 10 images? Exposure, contrast, colour, making sure each image taken at the same location displays the same colour tones. No need for fire to be place in the fireplace (a misrepresentation of the property) nor images in the TV.

    I would like to receive an unfiltered answer from the CEO of Phixer. Based on the answers I receive I can then write an unbiased report on the Phixer operation. As an international journalist my work appears worldwide.

    Regards

  • I have been working with Phixer since its beginning. This company is simply incredible! I believe in giving my clients the best quality as well as having a life outside of my business. I will admit, it is difficult to give your photos and videos to another business to edit. I would love to do my own editing, but it is simply not worth it to me. After shooting all day I want to relax with my family in the evening. Using Phixer has allowed me to offer a superior product compared to my competitors and still have a life. Their photo and video editing has given me a competitive edge and leave me amazed time and again. A 24 hour turn around is crucial in this industry and they always deliver. The people who criticize this company are the same ones that write negative reviews on 5 star hotels in paradise. For the record, fire in the fireplace and images on the TV are what all of my clients LOVE! Last time I checked, those are the basic functions of the TV and fireplace. There is no one even close to Phixer in this industry, period.
    Ron Alwine

  • In my quest to focus more on architectural projects and high end real estate projects, there is an expectation for a higher level of quality. We all strive to offer a premium price, quick service and of course quality that sets a brand awareness of dependability and excellence.
    This forum has a wealth of resources and there are plenty of resources on YouTube with tutorials on bracketing, flash, hand blending, photoshop and much more from masters such as Scott Hargis, Rich Baum, Nathan Cool and Mike Kelley among others.
    One of the challenges I have is a consistent workflow process on the time I spend shooting, processing and delivery. While learning Photoshop, I enjoy knowing how to edit and remove items, but after a busy time, I began to question as many have voiced on this thread, is it really a wise use of time?
    The more challenging edits for me personally is sky replacements, window bloom, removal of hard shadows not to mention the easier edits such as removing wires and cleaning up parking lot debris all which consume time and energy.
    Phixer reached to me, and after a trial period, I was impressed. 24 hour turns, complex edits, fast turns on edits and consistent results with excellent communication on job status has been everything I wanted in a trusted partner. Even their website has a fast file transfer.
    I’m not reliant on a single editor, but rather a team – and Phixer has been extremely consistent from editor to editor. The pleasant surprise is their quality – it’s seldom that I have revisions, and if so, they are usually client driven with complex edits.
    Phixer has set the standard high and using them has been one of the best business decisions I have made.
    Kerry Woo

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