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What's The Most Efficient Way To Share A Set Of Shoot Files When Outsourcing Your Post-Processing?

Published: 06/08/2015
By: larry

filesharingMike asks the question:

I was able to find someone who does a pretty good job at processing my extra work for me. We’re both on Macs and using Lightroom.  Is there a good way to send the files from LR to her, let her process them and send them back to be so I can go over her work, make any changes I need to make? Right now I’m sending them as .dng to her and she send them back to me as .jpg, it works but do you have any suggestions that can make more efficient?

You are probably doing it as efficient as it's possible to outsource your post processing. However, I would make a couple of points:

  1. If I was inclined to outsource post-processing to someone else (which I'm not) I would want RAW files back so I was not limited to trying to adjust JPGs in Lightroom. But the downside of this means you are sending and receiving gigabytes. Probably a shoot folder along with a Lightroom catalogue. I don't know, I've never even tried this. What do others do?
  2. The pressure to outsource is a result of shooting brackets where there is naturally a lot of time required to do post-processing. Further, If you do HDR processing post-processing takes even more time because you not only have to process the brackets, but you have to fix all the unwanted color effects that occur.
  3. It is possible, using 2 or 3 manual flashes, to shoot a 3000 SF home in an hour or under and spend 20 to 30 minutes doing post-processing for the whole shoot and delivering it. How to do this is what Scott Hargis's book, Lighting Interiors is about. This is the most efficient way to work. It's so efficient that it completely removes the pressure to outsource your post-processing. And the myth that if you shoot with flash it takes more time on site, is just that - a myth. When you are learning, using flash takes longer, but as you get practiced it takes no more time than shooting brackets.

So the pressure to outsource post-processing as your shoot volume increases is primarily a result of shooting brackets and HDR processing. If you can get the image right in the camera, you don't have to spend a huge amount time in post-processing. That's the most efficient way to work! Eliminate outsourcing completely.

10 comments on “What's The Most Efficient Way To Share A Set Of Shoot Files When Outsourcing Your Post-Processing?”

  1. Create a new LR catalog for each job that you send to your retoucher and send the catalog file and .dng's as an archive. DNG is a container and will encompass the image RAW data and the edits done by the retoucher. When you get the catalog file back, you will have images back still in raw format and you will still have full editing capability. The retoucher does not/should not export the files into another format. I'm confident that you don't need the retoucher to return the .dng files as you will have them already. While the .dng file format has the edits recorded in it, so does the LR catalog file. You might want to experiment as I haven't tried this before, but it should work. If any of the files are modified in PS, you will want those back as .psd's. For some things the images can be modified non-destructively (smart objects?) in PS and some edits do change the original file and you will need that file back.

  2. I think that if you're shooting such high volume that you can't even make your own RAW adjustments, then the question comes up -- why do your clients even need you at all? They could just drop a camera on a tripod wherever it's convenient, fire off a set of brackets, and send them offshore without having to pay you anything.
    At some point, you've got to bring something of value to the table. Whether that's time on location, carefully considering compositions and light, or time on the back end, being a photoshop jockey, something has to be happening that the real estate agent can't do for themselves.
    At which point, you're not going to be doing 60 finished shots a day (or whatever your total is) and you can keep the work in-house.

    As for files -- the only photographers I know who transport RAW files around do so by shipping hard drives. When I send retouching to my guy, it's in the form of a TIFF file, which we FTP back and forth. I use my website's back end, he uses DropBox.

  3. I suppose this is a good time to ask how much work the busiest people are doing... I'm shooting 1-2 a day - with an average yield of 60-70 finished shots on busy days - So Scott's statement struck a few questions. (Occasionally 3 homes on really busy days). Keeping all of this in-house still, I've found my self working quite late. Often. Is this a common schedule for us and I just need to adapt to the long hours? In real estate the work is feast or famine, but I'm not sure if this is a feast or if this is going to be how busy I am for the rest of my life (exaggerating...). Is it time to outsource something?

  4. Dana, my experience after 3 seasons is feast or famine, particularly in the Michigan market. Come December, I might only see 2-3 shoots the entire month. Same for January. Things don't get moving here again until mid-March.

    My expectation is it varies significantly, not just with time of year, but with the climate folks have. In the north, no one 'wants' to move in January. In Texas, that's better than July. 🙂

  5. Hey Guys

    My opinion is somewhat the complete opposite. Let me state though that im in Australia and it is a different market to the U.S. Agents want you in and out within and hour. When i started i shot just like Scott Hargis did, multiple lights, light stands, umbrellas the lot. However my skills were far from Scotts skills, and i found that alot of my clients wanted the super wide shots so i often had trouble positioning the flashes. For me this just took way to long, not to mention i still found myself on P.S spending a few mins on each image processing them.

    I then took into account what i was charging per shoot and the time i was spending. It looked something like this,

    Shoot cost $150, 10 photos

    Travel time - Average 30 mins
    Time on site - Average 70 mins
    Post production - Average 60 mins.

    Total mins - 160, 160 mins divided by $150 = 93 cents per min.

    I then worked out a lighting formula which would speed up the lighting process quite quickly and started sending my images over seas for post processing for $3 each, the new arrangement looked something like this.

    Shoot cost $150, 10 photos

    Travel time - Average 30 mins
    Time on site - Average 40 mins
    Post production - Average 10 mins.

    Total mins - 80, 80 mins divided by $120 = $1.5 per min.

    By shooting to a formula and sending off shore for post processing i cut down my time per job and increased my earnings vs time ratio by more then 50%.

    I really believe this is the most efficient way. As for sending overseas, Convert them to Adobe DNG, it cuts the size down by 80% while still holding most of the data.

    I understand for some photographers it can be hard to let go of some control but eventually you need to ask yourself the question. Is it about having complete control of your finished product or making money?

    I heard this quote a while back that really gave me a different outlook.

    "Create some sort of tangible item that people want. Produce that item as inexpensively as possible while maintaining an acceptable level of quality. Sell as many units as possible for as high a price as the market will bear."

  6. @Paul Gal

    In the US it would be hard to get away with only suppling 10 finished images. My clients want to see between 15 and 30 depending on the size and features of the home and I had to work hard to train them into only wanting that many. I still have to deal with trying to sell my services to agents that insist on 35+ images for half of my normal billing and often twilights on top thrown in. The practice make me remember a joke from my roadie days, "If you can't be good, be loud". The revised version would be "If your pictures are bad, just post lots of them".

    I try to make sure that I will have plenty of time on-site. It takes me between 2 and 5 hours to photograph a house to deliver 20-25 images. It takes the most time for large homes with dark shiny finishes. I have been heading the advice from Scott Hargis and other photographers whose work I like to slow down and get it right. It works. I am bringing back fewer frames and spending less time in post. Well, ok, not really. I'm spending about the same time in post, but now I use the time for more advanced tweaks to get images that pop more. I want the commissions for those $2million estates up the hill and fewer of the boring beige middle-class cookie cutter homes.

    I wonder if the agents in Oz require their mechanic to have their brakes serviced in 20 minutes or allow them to take as much time as necessary to do the job properly.

  7. I have been shooting for 45 years, I have never been so focused on photography as I have become focused on Real Estate Photography, I have done weddings, portraits, commercial and food, nothing is more of a challenge than real estate. Different light, different conditions, different layout, different goals! What I love about Scott Hargis and his approach is once it is done it is done! Nothing in post can correct for a crap image to begin with. I have tried the HDR, and more successfully the Fusion approach but it is still not what a good, High Quality image is! The better the capture the better the product. You just can't bracket a shot and hope for the best, you will not only produce an inferior product, you have also lost the creative side which is where we enjoy our work.

  8. The most efficient way of getting files to someone is via point to point. I have Verizon FIOS with a very fast upload speed. I work with two retouchers who I personally trained over many many hours. Both are local to me, not overseas. I pay on a per project basis based on the size of the home.

    Their are a few things you need to setup. First a dynamic DNS. I use which updates anytime my dynamic ip changes with my ISP. This will let your retouchers connect to you without needing to remember an IP address.
    Second you need to setup a SFTP server on your machine. Google free sftp server, their are many free apps for Mac and pc. Setup the server, usernames and passwords, port it will run on etc.
    Third you need to setup port forwarding on your router so any connection wanting access to the port you assign in your sftp server is forwarded to your internal IP on your machine.

    Your end user should download Bitkinex for windows or filezilla for Mac. Both are free.

    That should get you going. Contact me if you have further questions.

    This is the fastest and most efficient way of getting files between you and your retouchers. Sftp has error checking built in and is secure, unlike the standard FTP protocol.

  9. I create folders in LR then export those to the directory I share on my sftp server per user. I have my retouchers store the raws and edits on a external drive I supply. If I ever need adjustments or tweaks, I just ask for them. I don't need to have the files sent back to me after they edit them. This is also a backup solution for me as well. I have a local copy of the selected images and my retouchers have a second copy off site incase my system goes down.

    This system has been working for me for the last few years. It's fast and it works.

    If you use LR, make sure you have your retouchers after all edits are done, save the catalogue and metadata in LR manually. Select all images, CTRL-S. This will save all the slider settings and such. LR does not do this automatically. Will save your retouchers time when you need tweaks done if the edits are not to your liking.

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