Are you using a photo editing service? Outsourcing image editing is such a hot topic for photographers right now.
Whether you already pay for someone else to edit your images, or you struggle to relinquish the task to another, have a read through this post as it may open your eyes to what’s possible with the right photo editing service.
There are plenty of options for us to outsource image editing, and it continues to be the one of the most popular ways for photographers to scale their business.
Choosing a photo editing service can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, but I’ve done my best to save you the head ache with my review below.
(No time to read? Just claim your ShootDotEdit discount code below by sharing this post and start saving time with the photo editing service that I use in my own business.)
What is a Photo Editing Service?
At the most basic level, a photo editing service edits the photos that you take. Post production can be the most time consuming part of a photographer’s workflow, so by outsourcing this step, we can save a lot of time.
As for the actual image editing service itself, this can consist of broad adjustments of colours and exposure across a range of images, all the way down to local adjustments on an image-by-image basis, such as dodging & burning, cropping or spot removal.
In addition to visual edits, the photo editing service can also include things like culling, selecting for blog/portfolio, resizing, exporting and even uploading to client galleries.
You can entrust everything that needs to be done after you click the shutter button on you camera to a photo editing service, and this is why they are so popular right now.
What are the Benefits of Using a Photo Editing Service?
The obvious answer here is that you will save a LOT of time. Even if you’re a whizz at Lightroom, having someone else take care of all your post production will mean you have more time to yourself.
If you’re a wedding photographer like me who works alone, once you start getting lots of wedding inquiries, you need a way to scale your business.
Either you hire an associate photographer to shoot for you, or you outsource the time-consuming elements of your business to someone else.
If you love the energy and excitement of shooting weddings but loathe the time spent behind your desk editing the photos, outsourcing is for you.
By using a photo editing service, we have the option to increase the number of weddings we shoot, safe in the knowledge that we won’t drown under hours of post production.
It’s easy to see how we can scale our business and make more money by paying other people to help with our editing workload.
So aside from saving time and making more money, what are the other benefits of using an image editing service?
Well, having someone who’s arguably a much more experienced image editor than you work on your images can really open your eyes as to what’s possible in post production.
Whilst you may want your image editor to try and replicate your current style as closely as possible, you may on the other hand ask them to try something different.
Having a professional retoucher work on your images with fresh eyes can often lead to changes in your own stylistic preferences, updating your ‘look’ to something you’re more happy with.
Which Photo Editing Service is right for you?
In order to write this post, I’ve spent the last 6 months trialing what I consider to be the best photo editing services in 2017.
I also tried out a handful of ‘bargain-basement’ options too – you’ve probably been spammed by these in the past. I took one for the team and spent some money to see how and why they can offer image editing for such cheap prices!
For the purposes of this post, I contemplated doing a breakdown of all the image editing services I used with their pros and cons so you could choose the one that suited you the best.
In testing and evaluating each service, I soon found it very hard to effectively separate the results produced by each one.
[Related: How to make a photography blog – a 15 minute guide]
You see, with premium level photo editing services, the end result is usually very similar (i.e. you get a style of editing that you’re happy with).
Whether this happens after the first attempt, or after a bit of back-and-forth feedback, you will usually get images you’re happy with in the end.
This is because for the most part, you’re dealing with native photo retouchers with a lot of experience in what they do.
As long as you communicate your needs and remain realistic with what to expect, there’s no real reason why the basic-level edited images out of one premium photo editing service should be any better than another.
Even with the el-cheapo image editing companies I tried, I found that the end result was passable. What was not, however, was the level of service.
The level of customer service is extremely important when choosing a photo editing service.
With el-cheapo, you’re dealing with a non-native’s broken English, and a kind of Chinese-whisper-a-thon to get from RAW image to something you’re happy to deliver to your client. These ‘businesses’ often have zero customer service, since their model is churn-and-burn (not long-term relationship building).
With a premium photo editing service, you can expect to be either talking with a dedicated retoucher, or at least to a single manager who will communicate your feedback to a retoucher.
So, rather than mention all of the photo editing service options I used, I’ve chosen one that I feel is the most all-round solution for the vast majority of photographers out there.
A Review of ShootDotEdit
I’ll be honest with you – I really didn’t think I’d be recommending ShootDotEdit as the best photo editing service in 2017.
From their somewhat gaudy orange branding down to an aggressive marketing style, I thought that ShootDotEdit would be the ‘Jetstar’ of outsourced image editing… how wrong I was.
I soon discovered why ShootDotEdit is the number one choice for so many wedding and portrait photographers around the world.
As I mentioned before, the end result of professional photo editing services is largely down to how well you can communicate your needs. It’s impossible to tell if the end image has been edited by company x or company y.
However, there’s a big difference in the level of service you can expect. Thankfully, ShootDotEdit delivers class-leading customer support which is personal and tailored to each client, making the streamlining of your post production smooth and efficient.
Rather than emailing back and forth to get my initial ‘Style Match’ ready, I enjoyed speaking on the phone to my own personal Style Match Consultant who explained the process and followed up after each step.
Style Match is a new offering from ShootDotEdit which aims to deliver a more personalised level of image-editing. After submitting a selection of images that you feel best represent your style, your consultant breaks each image down to recognise your individual stylistic characteristics, in an attempt to reproduce them during the main edit.
Once the optional Style Match is complete, you can submit your images to be colour corrected as normal, choosing optional extras as appropriate to each job.
I prefer to cull my images myself, then outsource the Lightroom Smart Previews to ShootDotEdit for the Style Match and Colour Edit. After 3 or 4 days, I receive an LR.cat file that I can simply import into my Lightroom catalogue to see the edits appear in front of my eyes.
Incidentally, the turnaround speeds at ShootDotEdit during my review were excellent and one of the other reasons so many other photographers love their service.
Then I review all the images one last time, sometimes spending more time editing my favourites in Lightroom or Photoshop (using these Lightroom & Photoshop shortcuts).
At any step in the process, I was able to pick up the phone and speak to someone at ShootDotEdit. This proved to be invaluable, especially as I found the process a little confusing initially.
It’s also worth noting that Style Match is still a very new service, and it does have some kinks that need ironing out in my opinion. Having said this, it’s an optional, and more importantly, free service, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.
The other element that sets ShootDotEdit ahead of its competitors is pricing.
At this premium level, you’ll find that photo editing services will offer quite similar pricing. This is to be expected if the companies are using local staff rather than outsourcing to India or the Philippines, where labour is far cheaper.
Most photo editing services price per image, which can initially seem very attractive. However in practice, found myself trying to save money by only selecting the images from a job that I deemed difficult (or un-enjoyable) to edit.
I’d start double-guessing the whole outsourcing process, convincing myself I could edit the image quicker, trying to save money due to the ‘per-image’ model.
Conversely (and somewhat controversially), ShootDotEdit offers a subscription-only model.
Subscriptions are unpopular for some since they seem to ‘tie you in’ to contracts and may appear expensive at first sight. On the flip side though, they can usually offer much better cost savings in the long term.
(Keep reading to claim a discount on your first month…)
In the case of ShootDotEdit, there’s an extremely attractive ‘Unlimited’ plan for those of us who shoot at relatively high volume. At $299/month, you can work out just how cost effective it is for you, but let me break it down with a personal example.
I shoot on average 25 weddings a year. Even though the majority of these weddings are during the summer months, this averages out to roughly 2 weddings per month.
If weddings were all I shot, this would mean I’d pay roughly $150 for ShootDotEdit to edit each wedding.
This is actually on par with some other image editing services out there. However, with ShootDotEdit, you can also include other miscellaneous photography ‘events’ as part of the Unlimited plan, making it much more cost effective.
On top of shooting 25 or so weddings, I also average 15 engagement sessions per year, plus 5 or so family sessions as well. You may even shoot maternity, newborn, high school senior and other portrait related work too.
All of these come under the Unlimited Plan’s definition of ‘events’, meaning that they’re included in the $299/month.
Once you’re paying a flat fee no matter how many jobs you submit to ShootDotEdit, I find that it becomes additional motivation to try and book more work!
Knowing that your post production is essentially ‘free’ (or at least, completely paid for) is immensely satisfying, and encourages you to spend more time on the things that you love, safe in the knowledge that the ‘grunt-work’ is taken care of!
ShootDotEdit also offer a cheaper ‘Roll Over’ plan at $119/month which is more suited to those shooting 12 or fewer weddings per year. Under this plan, one wedding ‘credit’ can be exchanged for 2 portrait sessions per month, allowing for some flexibility.
If you need to order more ‘events’ per month under the Roll Over plan, you can pay additional fees, but at this point the Unlimited Plan starts to make more sense.
I haven’t really delved into the various levels of photo editing service offered by ShootDotEdit, nor the added extras, but you can see them all in more detail when you start submitting your first job.
This being a balanced review of ShootDotEdit, I should mention some of the things I didn’t like about their product and service.
First off, I found their website rather unclear and illogical to navigate. Even for the purposes of this review, trying to get to their pricing and services whilst I was logged in proved very difficult.
The Style Match seems like it could be a great product, but I found it had some teething issues. I was rather confused during the initial stages of the consultation due to the lack of adequate explanation on the website, and even after the service was complete, I wasn’t 100% clear how it would work alongside the subsequent colour edits to my jobs.
However, to their credit, ShootDotEdit did their best to explain the service to me over multiple phone calls, and I imagine the process becoming much smoother as the service gains traction.
In the end, I was happy with my edited photos, which is testament to both the Style Match and the regular colour edit.
It should also be noted that ShootDotEdit offers one manager and point of contact per client, but multiple editors. Even though they strive to provide the same editor per client, you never actually know who is editing your work.
I didn’t have any issues with this, and the 3 full-wedding edits performed by ShootDotEdit during this review all exhibited excellent consistency in style.
In addition, having multiple editors ready to take over the job with a seamless transition ensures that the editing turnaround is as fast as possible
To be honest, as long as the end product is excellent and there’s minimal need to communicate during each job… I really couldn’t care which professional retoucher is editing my images!
As a special offer exclusive to Shotkit readers who share this post, you can claim a 90% discount on your first month on either of the ShootDotEdit photo editing plans.
ShootDotEdit rarely offers any discounts (since from what I understand, they already have more than enough happy clients), so this is a great chance to make their cost effective service even better value.
How to get the most out of your Photo Editing Service
Whether you choose to outsource your image editing with ShootDotEdit or any of the other premium services out there, it’s important to remember 3 things:
1. Be realistic
If you give your image editing service a crappy photo, don’t expect them to turn it into a Picasso. You can’t polish a turd :-) Your image retoucher can’t work miracles, so keep your expectations on par with your current work.
2. Don’t expect perfection
Your image retoucher can’t read your mind. No matter how much you communicate your wishes, there’ll always be instances where an image isn’t edited exactly how you want. Even the most ‘vanilla’ of edits will only take you 90% of the way there.
Even after using a photo editing service, you still need to add the cherry on the top with a bit of final polishing, or you’re doing your clients a disservice.
3. Be patient
No matter what photo editing service I tried, the first few emails were always a pain in the butt. The things you think are obvious, may not be to your retoucher.
Times when you purposely under-expose an image may be the times your retoucher decides to open the shadows. Times when your retoucher crops out an unsightly object may be the times you want to include it.
You need to over-communicate your wishes at the start, and be patient when inevitably there are some bumps in the road. The work you put in early on to communicate well with your retoucher will make things much easier later on.
As one final piece of advice, I’d recommend you sign up to ShootDotEdit using the discount code available above during your least busy time of year.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it allows you the time needed to set up the personalised Style Match service, and experiment a little with the first few edits.
Once you’ve dialed in your preferences with your manager and nailed your Style Match, you can hit the ground running when your busy season starts.
Thanks to ShootDotEdit’s Unlimited Plan, you can even submit your old weddings (removing all your previous editing), as a kind of trial run if you don’t have any new weddings.
So there you have it. Relinquish a bit of your creative control and enjoy the freedom that outsourcing your photo editing can bring. Good luck!
I only recommend products and services that I use in the running of my wedding photography business. I use ShootDotEdit regularly to help manage any photo editing overload that I encounter. By taking advantage of the 90% discount code when signing up for one of their photo editing services, you ae supporting Shotkit and my time spent writing these reviews. Thank you for your support – Mark