You already know the benefits of outsourcing photo editing: More time to focus on growing your business, help meeting aggressive deadlines, and cost savings that beat hiring an in-house photo editor. Even if you were hesitant about the idea in the past, there are several reputable international players available now for post-production tasks.
Whether you’re trying to grow your online business or you’re a prolific commercial photographer with a full schedule, choosing a photo-editing service provider can still be a daunting task.
Separating high-quality companies from the fly-by-night types can be slightly intimidating at first. There are simple steps to ensure companies are reputable and do good work, so you can stay on task, on budget and focused on your business goals.
Determine the photo editing services you need
Not all photo-editing service providers offer the full gamut of photo-editing needs. For instance, some only do white background services for the ecommerce industry. Others offer a wide range of photo-editing services, including everything from clipping path to vector conversion. If you’re not sure which types of photo-editing services you need to accomplish the look you want, it’s a good idea to ask and share examples with potential candidates.
Most growing online retailers know that your needs change as you grow and your business evolves. If you’ve got high growth going on (or a goal to grow your biz!), your photo-editing needs may change, too. For example, you might only sell on your own online store now, but down the road, you might want to venture into Amazon, ebay, wholesale or other channels — each of which with their own photo needs.
Find out if they have experience in your industry
Some photo-editing companies specialize in specific industries, some more broad (like ecommerce), and others more narrowed-down (like high-end fashion apparel). Clothing, textiles and jewelry may require different expertise than items with hard edges or fewer textures, like electronics. Others have worked in a wide range of industries, from the solopreneur selling on Amazon to the wedding photographer with a side hustle.
It’s not essential to find a photo editor that is specific to your niche, but they should at least have demonstrated experience and samples in your industry. If not, you can ask for relevant samples or look elsewhere.
Where to Look for a Photo-Editing Company
There are different types of photo-editing service providers: overseas companies, local agencies, interns and college students, or freelance photo editors.
- An intern will be less expensive and eager for the experience, and less likely to lock you into a long-term contract. But an intern may also be less knowledgeable than a seasoned professional and need more guidance than you’re able to provide.
- An experienced freelance photo editor can range widely in price, depending on a number of factors (where the individual is located, how experienced they are, industry, etc.) Due to other time commitments and limited resources, a single professional may require a longer turnaround time than you’re able to allow, or they may charge a premium. Individual contractors may not be able to handle a high volume either.
- A larger company can tick the boxes of turnaround time, availability, professionalism and skill, but they tend to be a bit more expensive. You also run the risk of giving business to a company that’s not socially responsible.
Trusted peers and colleagues may have vetted several photo-editing providers and be willing to pass along names. You can always turn to a Google search, sites like Elance and LinkedIn, or look to industry forums and Facebook groups. If you’ve noticed a particular ecommerce site’s images or photography you love, find out who handles their photo-editing needs.
What to Look For
Even highly recommended companies should be vetted. Read the customer reviews, both on the potential provider’s own website and third-party channels, such as social media, TrustPilot, Google and others. There should be a significant number — certainly more than ten — and they should be mostly positive.
You might find additional reviews with a Google search: “company name + scam.” If you find forums, blogs, social media or other digital chatter around the scams and poor experiences others have had, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear.
Look for samples on the company’s website. If they’re not easy-to-find, that could be a red flag.. A well-crafted sample page will have before-and-after examples of the work they’ve done for the clients. You can also check out the samples page to make sure they have demonstrated experience in your industry.
Some photo-editing companies are better equipped to handle various order sizes, while others have minimum or maximum orders. Even if this isn’t a consideration now, if you’re planning to scale your business, you’re likely to have great photo-editing needs down the line. You want a company that you can continue to use as your scope and business grow.
If this information isn’t available on a company’s website, it’s still a good idea to ask. Some companies have policies and exceptions that they don’t make public, and you’ll only learn of them if you ask.
Turnaround Time and Support Availability
If aggressive deadlines is a part of your day-to-day, you need a company that can handle it. And for some, that means 24/7 availability.
Be sure to check whether any overseas company you’re looking into offers this. Whether they are accessible around the clock also affects turn times. Many photo-editing services with global client bases are running 24/7, but it pays to double check.
It’s a good idea to ensure any company you’re thinking of hiring has a secure means of downloading and uploading images, either via the cloud or an FTP site. Check their quality certifications — are they ISO 9001 certified? You can ask the company to send documentation for this or other benchmarks, then contact the registrar listed for confirmation.
Decide whether the work you’re submitting requires a non-disclosure agreement. If you’re working with personal information or using sensitive images or pictures of children, you might need protection. This would obligate the company to keep your images, critical information and your clients’ information secure.
Naturally, cost is always a major consideration. Shop around and compare prices at different companies. Remember, it’s not just about the price tag; those other aforementioned considerations are important, too.
If you don’t know your budget, you might want to set one. This of course depends on a number of variables: your current in-house staff and workload, how frequently you need images edited, how many photos you need edited at a time, and the types of services and editing techniques you’ll need, among many others. The better you can quantify your needs, the better you’ll be able to see if the costs are worth it.
Here’s a scenario: Let’s say you need 1,000 images edited every month, and that is approximately the work of one full-time photo editor. The average photo editor in New York City makes an annual salary of just over $62,000 USD. Your total annual expenses, as an employer, will be anywhere from 1.25 to 1.4 times that — totalling close to $87,000 USD, or $7,250 USD/month. You can outsource the image editing with Company A for $0.39/image at $390/month, Company B for $1.00/image at $1,000/month, or Company C for $11.99/image, or $11,990/month. Companies A and B are clearly worth the expense, whereas if you’re looking at Company C, in-house might be the way to go.
Of course, there are other variables at play, but that’s how you can approach the issue of cost.
Accepted Payment Methods
You will also need to check accepted payment methods, especially with overseas companies. Figure out how invoices are submitted and handled, and look into any fees associated with international transfers. You don’t want any financial surprises that may hold up the process.
Also make sure there are no red flags. Never allow anyone to deposit funds into a proxy account for you, for example. A legitimate company won’t ask you to wire money to them in order to set up an account. Look for reputable payment methods, like Venmo and PayPal, with built-in buyer protection.
When you’re vetting an overseas company, ethics may be a concern you hadn’t thought of but should consider. Find out if they’ve been dinged for treating their employees poorly, or for shady environmental practices.
Check out reviews of the companies on Glassdoor and conduct Google searches with the company name and keywords like “human rights,” “ethical” or “working conditions.” Some may have a seal from a reputable organization. For example, we’re a member of the United Nations Global Compact, which is a voluntary initiative where we implement sustainable and responsible practices.
It’s time to start looking. What do you do first? Once you’ve reached out to your contacts and performed searches for photo editors, create a spreadsheet so you can compare what different companies and providers offer and what they don’t. Mapping your prospects this way will help you see the pros and cons of each clearly. Price does not always equal quality, of course, and any money spent on a bad job compounds the final cost.