Post Production and Retouching: In House Or Outsourced?
The glamourous life of a photographer is seldom as glamourous as it may seem. When you say you are a photographer, many people draws in their head images of long sandy beaches with fabulous models and cocktails freshly served to photographers; well I don’t know you, but I had never lived such a life (even if I would love to)!
Reality is that we spend a lot of time behind the screen of the computer, and for those who are just starting the hours spent behind Lightroom or Photoshop doing post production and retouching seems to be the only thing we do. In this article, we will discuss this time, the one spent retouching images and alternatives to it. I will present a list of Pro and Con about working on your images or paying someone to do it.
I will also tell you what Fabiana and I have decided to do, what we tried and what we will try in the future. Don’t worry, though, we won’t talk about unrealistic expectations, we have done a reality check, and what I will tell you is something you can relate to if you are just starting as well as if you have a profitable business already.
I believe that there is no perfect recipe for everyone. Like many things in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what is working for us may not be working for you or vice versa.
In House Post Production and Retouching
Fabiana and I have worked on the post processing and retouching of our image since we started playing around with a camera. In the beginning, we used Apple Aperture, and now we are now using Lightroom and Photoshop, but we learned the art of post production on our own, like many of you. One of the possible backfire of this is that we tend to have a vision, and we see our way of processing the images as the only one which is “good enough”. I am not implying this vision is wrong, however, if you are dealing with a big number of images, sometimes balancing the correction of the finest details with the viability of your business is what counts.
What can be the Pros of managing your post production and retouching in house?
- You have everything under control and what you see is what you get. You can make an image look exactly as you want. For someone who is quite controlling, this is fabulous.
- Once the images are ready and you are proud of them (because you took them and you retouched them) there is that sense of achievement. “I did this!”
What can the Cons of the same?
- Let’s face it if you are not as quick as some professional retouchers are, probability is that you are spending nights in front of the screen of your computer. Is this what “being a professional photographer” means to you?
- My computer is five years old, quite outdated then, and to make the most out of my own post processing I would have to invest a lot of money to upgrade it and install new proper softwares.
- If you haven’t spent time and money in developing your skills as retoucher, one of the possibilities is that your final products look amateurish. I look at the images we created four years ago and I think: “Oh My God…”
Outsourcing The Post Processing and Retouching: Pro and Con
In my opinion, there is no definitive solution in relation to retouching. What works for one may not work for the other, so it is crucial for you to make your own mind evaluating your specific needs. Outsourcing the post production may be entirely fantastic as it will give you time. Time that you can use to write one blog post more, to create a better marketing for your brand, to learn new thing or to shoot more. This time, however, come to a cost that may not always be related to money. Let me dig a little bit deeper on what are the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing your post processing and retouching.
- the most important of all, outsourcing your post processing and retouching will give you the most valuable resource of your life: time
- If your retouching skills are not fabulous, outsourcing your images will enhance them.
- Having someone to do your post processing is expensive. If you have already sold your images or a package with a certain number of images you can easily count it as an investment, otherwise you are spending money you haven’t earned yet which is if feasible, dangerous.
- Let’s face it, the quality is proportionally related to the quality of the company that is doing your retouching; moreover if you are skilled at retouching your images, giving that part away will always require some degree of understanding that the quality will not be the same as you would have created.
Faby and Carlo: the way we handle our post production and retouching
At the moment, we are handling our post processing and retouching entirely in-house. Fabiana is a remarkably good retoucher, and she loves retouching, but we are often running to meet deadlines. The second reason why we work on our images on our own is that we mostly sell images during our live viewing session; therefore we should invest money without having already sold the images. At the moment, we prefer to invest our time to do it.
Faby and I have discussed this issue many times, and we will probably discuss it again many others. Fabiana loves to have more control over the quality of the post processing and retouching while I am more business focussed, and I value our time a lot. Because we show the images to our customers through a TV screen, which does not have a massive resolution, we have decided to adopt a different strategy for the future: instead of post processing and retouching all the images we show, we will apply a quick retouching, just to make sure the images look “right enough” in the low resolution they are presented in. The image that will be then bought will be sent to be retouched from someone else. This is a solution that may work as it would mean investing a limited time to create a “preview” version of the images, giving us the possibility to invest only in the images we will sell for a proper retouching which will be appreciated on the printed products.
Keeping Things Real
Many times we have been told that outsourcing the post processing and retouching of our images are the final solution to all our problems. Unfortunately, it is not like that. Building and growing a business needs thinking over the investment you commit your brand to, and in the first 18 months of your new company you need to be ready to invest an enormous amount of your time. There is no such thing as overnight success or magic wand to drive your business.
My reality check is straightforward: outsourcing your post production and retouching is something you should consider; however, you should invest in it only when you will already have the money for those images. This is a smart way of investing your money, giving you time and allowing your business to grow consistently and without large risks.
What is your take on it? What is your solution to retouching? We would love to hear from you, so, please feel free to comment on this!