I’m a photographer based in Houston, TX that specializes in sophisticated wedding and high school senior photography.
Outsourcing your editing can be one of the smartest decisions you ever make for growing your photography business.
And as with any major decision, having the right information often determines whether you have what you need to make the best decision for your business. But— before you make the leap, there are a few things that are really important to consider.
So if you are beginning to consider outsourcing your editing, below are the four important questions we recommend all photographers ask themselves before thinking seriously about hiring a private editor.
Want to know a secret? No one is a perfect photographer. No. One.
Think of the best photographer you know. If you were to have the opportunity to view an unedited catalog of their work, guaranteed… you’d find flaws. And that is normal.
We all have off days. We all run into unforeseen obstacles. We are all constantly growing as creatives.
Being a “perfect photographer” is not a requirement when it comes to deciding if you are ready to outsource your edits, but knowing your camera and having proper shooting technique is.
No matter how skilled an editor may be, they can’t perform miracles if the image was not captured correctly in camera to begin with.
Before you hire a private editor, it’s important to understand their role on your team and to be aware of the expectations you should have when working with them.
That being said, we find one of the biggest fears photographers face with outsourcing is allowing someone else to see their unedited, straight-out-of-camera work.
We get it. That is such a vulnerable place, and it feels really scary.
We promise, you aren’t alone—every photographer that outsources their edits has at some point faced that same fear.
Think back to the first time you ever shared your work publicly. Chances are you put a lot of time into editing those images, you probably even found yourself second guessing your work over and over. That too felt risky, but with that risk came great reward.
As editors, we are not looking for perfection— we are looking for skill.
An editor’s job is to match your editing style, not create it. Which means you need to have a good idea of what your style is.
How do we match style? Let us introduce you to the world of “anchor” images.
Anchor images are reference images that instruct editors how you want the images in a specific section to look.
Basically, it’s the blueprint an editor follows to deliver catalogs that consistently match your editing style. When you receive a catalog back from your editor, it should look as if you edited it yourself.
So before you start outsourcing your editing, you need to answer this question honestly, “am I confident in my editing style?” Our inbox is filled with emails from photographers who are frustrated because they can’t seem to master the editing style they want. Many times, they think hiring a private editor is the answer to their problem, when in fact that is NOT the role of an editor.
There are a few private editors who work with photographers to create a personalized editing formula that will help them achieve the style they are trying to create, however that is typically a completely different type of service and not something that most private editors offer.
Not feeling confident in your editing style can make outsourcing your editing frustrating for everyone. That’s why it is so important to have this part figured out ahead of time. Your editing style can evolve over time, but you should have a firm grasp on how to achieve the look you’re going for before trying to find someone who can replicate it.
Hands down, the question we are asked most frequently is, “How much does a private editor charge?” The answer to that question is “It varies.” The typical industry standard for private editing is .39 per image.
But just as you see in the photography industry, pricing varies. And it’s important to understand where you are in your business growth, so you know what, if any, support services you are ready to invest in.
There are 2 ways we commonly suggest you work additional cost into your budget:
For most photographers these are easy and achievable ways to pay for their outsourcing. However, for new photographers it may prove to be a little more difficult. It really comes down to what season you are in in your business as to how easily you can work the cost of private editing into your budget.
If you’re a newer photographer who doesn’t feel ready to increase your pricing just yet, or you’re not booking enough to offset the cost… remember, it’s not a race.
Use these early days to set wise goals as you grow (such as honing your camera skills, and defining your editing style), so, when you are ready to outsource, you have a healthy business foundation to build on.
Most private editors are not looking to take on as many clients as they possibly can. Instead they are looking for photographers who can supply the number of catalogs they need to fill up their schedules.
Private editors are not the same as the bigger box editing companies you may know of. With the larger editing companies, you are one of hundreds, or maybe even thousands of photographers who use their services.
However, with a private editor you can expect a much more personalized experience.
Because of the custom nature of this service, many private editors have a minimum yearly catalog count they require from their photographers. So before you hire a private editor, you need to know how many catalogs you plan to outsource each year. Do you plan to send all your catalogs to your editor? Maybe you only plan to send half?
There is no right or wrong answer as every editor has their own requirements. However it’s important to have this number figured out ahead of time, so you know if you are a good fit for them.
After taking the time to answer these questions honestly, you should have a good general idea if private editing is the right fit for where you are currently at in your business.
Outsourcing your editing can be an amazing way to take your photography business to the next level of growth. But it is only a great solution if it is the right solution that serves you as you serve your clients.
Reed Gallagher is a Houston photographer for the elegant bride + chic senior, an educator for the driven photographer, and queso obsessed biz owner.