That’s where outsourcing comes in. Delegating tasks to others gives you time to focus on more important areas of your business like booking clients or taking on new projects.

What is outsourcing in business?

Outsourcing is when you hire an external business or individual to provide services. These services can be the same, complementary, or supportive to your business’s core offerings.

More businesses—photography included—are catching on to the benefits of outsourcing. In fact, the outsourcing market amounted to $92.5 billion in 2019. And as many as 80% of small businesses planned to outsource some aspect of their business in 2021.

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Professional product photographers regularly outsource work to virtual assistants, accountants, and second shooters, so why should outsourcing photo editing be any different? Hiring photo editing help is one of the smartest things a photographer can do to help their business. Outsourcing means more bandwidth, optimized business processes, reduced costs, and potentially even new specialities or lines of revenue.

So how do you know you’re ready to start outsourcing photo editing? Here are a few indications.

14 signs it’s time to outsource photo edits

  1. You can’t keep up with demand 
  2. You’ve maxed out your photographer’s bandwidth
  3. Your photographer is too expensive but you don’t want to sacrifice the quality
  4. You have to meet a tight deadline
  5. You’re too stressed
  6. You’re stuck creatively
  7. You’re working a lot of overtime
  8. You spend hours doing repetitive edits
  9. You’re expanding to more commerce channels
  10. You have seasonal fluctuations
  11. You want to shorten turnaround time
  12. You’re outside of your expertise
  13. You want to focus on growth
  14. Your competitive landscape is getting tougher 

    You can’t keep up with demand

    Whether you’re working for yourself, in-house, or both, there might come a point in time when you can’t keep up with the workload. Clients and colleagues are pulling you in different directions, all with urgent requests. More than a quarter of small businesses that outsource do so in order to become more efficient and save time.

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    That’s what happened when Jim Palmer, product photographer at Toysmith, was responsible for keeping up with 100 product launches each week. So, he relied on outsourced photo edits to help him get it all done. In these situations, outsourcing work can be a blessing. You can streamline your workflow by offloading post-processing work to an editing professional.

    Simon Woodcock, business owner and photographer of Man With A Camera Photography, also uses outsourcing to increase his freelance bandwidth. “I started outsourcing my retouching and editing work when my event photography work was really busy,” he says. “It freed me up to deal with the event clients who often needed images quickly.”

    You’ve maxed out your photographer’s bandwidth

    If you outsource product photography and editing already, you might find that your photographer has a limit in terms of workload. Alee Mills, director of operations at Ice Cream Castles, can relate. Their talented product photographer had a max of 50 edited photos per batch, so Mills started outsourcing extra edits to Path. Doing so helped them shorten their workflow from one week to just one day.

    how long Ice Cream Castles

    Outsourcing can be a smart move to protect your photographer from burnout. It also helps keep your production schedule on track. A win-win.

    Your photographer expensive but you don’t want to sacrifice the quality

    More than half of those who outsource do so to reduce costs. In fact, 59% of respondents to one survey say their company uses outsourcing services because it's a cost-cutting tool.

    In many cases, outsourcing your photo editing gives you the best of both worlds: savings and quality. All you have to do is find an outsource partner who can maintain your level of quality at the right price. For example, Path's image editing services start at just 39¢ per image.

    You have to meet a tight deadline

    Last-minute product launch? On the way to a trade show? A sudden influx of client work? Concerned about how to outsource photo edits quickly? Whatever your deadline is, it’s usually possible for outsourcing teams to meet it.

    At Path, for example, the rush fee is just 1.25 times extra if you want your images back in 6 hours (compared to the normal 24-hour turnaround time).

    You’re too stressed

    It’s probably no surprise that work is a major source of stress. In fact, worker stress reached a record high in 2020, according to Gallup’s Global Workplace 2021 Report. Workload, financial stress, and economic uncertainty all played a part in increased anxiety.

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    It’s easy to fall into the routine and feel like stress at work is normal. It’s not. Stress can be bad for your physical and mental health, and if work is too stressful for you, it’s time to make a change.

    Outsourcing photo edits is a great way to ease some of the burden and delegate part of your workload to someone else.

    You’re stuck creatively

    Employee burnout not only threatens personal health but also productivity and professional success. And unfortunately, almost half of workers reported feeling burned out, and experts believe that the most burned out people have already quit. Workers are putting more value on flexibility and a better work/life balance (both of which outsourcing can help).

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    If you’re feeling burned out or unmotivated, consider outsourcing the photo edits you dread doing or the ones that take the longest to complete. Then you can use that time to work on projects and tasks that are more inspiring—or, use that extra time to rest.

    You’re working a lot of overtime

    Many people get into photography because they’re chasing work-life balance: a fulfilling career that lets you pursue your creative passions, with plenty of free time to spend with friends and family and on hobbies.

    But many Americans regularly work overtime. According to a study by ADP Research Institute, one in 10 people say they work at least 20 hours a week for free. Although many people felt they had more flexibility working from home, remote work blurred the lines between work and home life.

    These are not numbers we like to see. But thankfully, outsourcing can address these workplace challenges and improve satisfaction. You can spend less time editing and more time enjoying your life outside of work.

    You spend hours doing repetitive edits

    Detailed photo edits like background removal and drop shadow require a lot of concentration and time, and the work can be tedious.

    We ran a survey to find out how long it takes to edit each product photo, on average. We found that nearly 24% of professionals spend less than 5 minutes on each shot, but 20% spend more than a half hour. That’s 16 images in a single day if you’re not working on anything else.

    Now imagine what else you could fit into your schedule if you outsourced those edits. Another product shoot? A new client?

    how long to edit photos

    Find out the cheapest way to put products on a white background 

    You’re expanding to more commerce channels

    Today’s retailers can’t survive with limited commerce channels. The social commerce industry alone, for example, is expected to grow three times as fast as traditional ecommerce (from $492 billion in 2021 to $1.2 trillion by 2025) according to a recent Accenture report. And third-party marketplaces are starting to outperform traditional ecommerce benchmarks. Website sales, wholesale possibilities, and voice commerce add even more options for customers.

    More touchpoints hopefully means more customers and more sales, but it also means more work. Each channel has its own image requirements. That means you not only need to familiarize yourself with each channel’s guidelines, but also spend extra time sizing and editing each product photo accordingly. But pro photo editors are familiar with all of these requirements and can execute quickly.

    You have seasonal fluctuations

    The holiday season is a busy period for any brand. The winter holiday months are responsible for driving a huge number of sales. 2021 holiday sales increased by 14.1% from the year before. With those numbers, retailers need to prep their collateral well in advance. That means lots of photo editing.

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    Holidays aren’t the only busy seasons. Fashion brands have sales fluctuations based on the winter, spring, summer, and fall. Bathing suits, for example, are popular in the spring, as consumers prepare for summer vacation—while warm clothes are in high demand during autumn.

    Trade show season and regular product launches can also create a surge in demand for photo editing, making it an ideal time to outsource.

    Pro tip: Don’t wait until you’re in the midst of your busy season to start outsourcing. Find a reliable outsourcing partner beforehand, so you can become acquainted with one another and hit the ground running when it’s time.

    You want to shorten turnaround time

    Looking to improve your turnaround time to impress clients and stakeholders? Or are you hoping to streamline your current workflow? Whatever the reason, outsourcing can help with turnaround time.

    For example, a batch of 50 photos that would otherwise take you a full day to complete now takes significantly less when the job is outsourced to a team of editors who can work together to finish the edits.

    With outsourcing comes more time to focus on other things, all while ensuring your edits are handled quickly and efficiently.

    You’re outside of your expertise

    Not everyone excels in Photoshop. While powerful, it takes time and practice to learn.

    It’s okay if Photoshop isn’t in your skillset. Learning Photoshop takes hours upon hours—time you could be spending on more valuable and impactful business tasks.

    Nisa Zulkifli, co-founder of conscious skincare brand Speak, tried learning Photoshop herself at first. She and her co-founder were running a lean operation, so it made sense to keep everything in-house. They even took a photography course in addition to learning Photoshop. Eventually, they realized that outsourcing to a skilled editor made more sense for business growth.

    You want to focus on growth

    Whatever “growth” means to you—more clients, more sales, more customers, a promotion, more money, management or new skills—outsourcing will free you up to focus on it. Deloitte conducted a survey on outsourcing and found that many companies use the practice to give themselves a competitive edge. And as many as 19% of small businesses in another survey say their primary motivation for outsourcing is to grow the business. The key to success is to outsource strategically.

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    Delegating tasks allows you to focus on impactful business functions or projects while keeping overhead costs low. Outsourcing gives you flexibility with staffing, professional access and workload so you have more time to chip away at your larger goals.

    Your competitive landscape is getting tougher

    Depending on the size and stage of your business, outsourcing can be a fantastic strategy to stay competitive in a crowded industry. More than a quarter of small businesses that outsource do so because they want to work with specialized experts.

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    Outsourcing tasks such as photo editing increases the efficiency of your business and can level the playing field, especially for smaller or younger brands. Contracting expert help is much more affordable than hiring another full-time staff member.

    Outsource smartly: choose a proven partner

    There are so many fantastic reasons to outsource your photo edits: more time, more growth, and less stress. If you’re unsure where to start, it’s worth getting to know the Path team.

    Path is well-versed in professional-quality photo editing. Brands all over the world trust the team to provide beautiful images on time.

    Find out more about how photo editing works with Path >

    Laura Bauer is a Texas-based writer and photographer. She focuses on helping brands make meaningful connections with their customers. When she’s not at her computer or behind a camera, you can find her riding her horses, training dogs or hiking.

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