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5 Signs You May Not Be Ready (Yet) To Outsource To A Professional Photo Editor

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I’ve been a professional photo editor for almost two years now. And I’ve learned a lot along the way after working with so many clients in different stages of their professional photography journey. The number one lesson I’ve learned? Not all photographers need to (or should) outsource their editing. There are a few signs that say it’s definitely time to outsource your editing…read those here.

BUT there are so many reasons why you shouldn’t use an editor, too. Or perhaps signs that say you aren’t quite ready for one, and it may be time to “take a break” with your photo editor. Not forever though!! Avoid a situation like Ross and Rachel by making sure to let your editor know you’re coming back once you master the skills I mention below.

via GIPHY

Now let’s break down the signs that you may need to wait before outsourcing your photo editing:

1. You Shoot in Auto Mode.

Photographers who charge any amount of money, in my opinion, should know how to shoot in manual. But besides the point, if you shoot in auto it is very difficult for an editor to work on your images. As an editor, I work hard to create consistency in my clients’ work. But auto mode on your camera is applying different camera settings for every click of the shutter. This means your exposure, contrast, and temperature are going to be different in each image, making editing a long process.

Personally, I do not accept clients who shoot in auto mode, because the time it would take to correct every tiny setting is not worth your investment. It’s also not fair to my other clients because time I spend obsessing over every tiny correction is time that my other clients can’t have on their own work who took the time to learn manual and truly need an editor to speed up their turnarounds to their clients. Luckily, I rarely come across this issue. As a general rule, outsourcing your work to a professional photo editor is best for photographers who have mastered their camera! Which brings me to the second sign…

2. You Do Not Shoot in Kelvin.

Auto white balance was almost the death of me in my early editing days. Thank goodness I learned Kelvin when I did, because I can’t imagine editing an entire wedding that was shot in auto white balance! Kelvin is a custom-set temperature setting in camera. It makes your photos warmer or cooler from the outset, and it’s one of those things that you can set it and forget it at each location you shoot! If you’re a wedding photographer, you should reset your Kelvin whenever the light changes (inside or outside).

When my editing clients do not shoot in Kelvin, their project takes so much longer. Much like auto mode, it takes a lot of effort to recorrect temperature in every photo for consistency. Kelvin sounds intimidating, but I promise it isn’t! Even if you don’t reset at every location, at least it will be consistent and I can correct temperature in bulk in the post process. But if you don’t intend to shoot Kelvin, you may have trouble finding an editor who will take on the work. Our game is all about efficiency for you and for ourselves!

3. You Don’t Know How to Use Lightroom / You Edit in a Different Software Program.

I am only an Adobe Lightroom editor! No Photoshop for me. While I do offer light retouching (skin softening, teeth whitening, the occasional cloning out of blemishes or limited removals of distractions in the background), the bulk of my work is in exposure, contrast, and color correction. Occasionally I’m asked to edit in Camera Raw, Photoshop, or worst of all… native photo editor in Apple Photos. WHAT? Not knocking anyone else’s workflow, but you are leaving so much efficiency on the table! Unfortunately, I do not take on clients who don’t use Lightroom.

4. You Don’t Want to Edit At All.

A common misconception is that a professional photo editor takes on 100% of the editing for you. That may occur in rare circumstances where I learn a client’s style so well that I can recreate it from scratch. But 99% of my clients send me anchor images, which means there is still some editing required for you. An anchor image is a photo in the catalog that is perfected to your editing style that I can reference as I complete the rest of your gallery. I usually use these images as a starting point to sync edits across a set of images in similar lighting. Then I tweak each by hand, comparing it back to that anchor image.

For most client galleries, the more anchor images you can provide me, the more accurate your final edits will be. I ask all my clients to edit at least one photo from each image set (meaning a set of images that were taken in the same light with the same camera settings). Every time light or camera settings change, another anchor should be provided. However, as we continue to work together, it’s possible less anchors are necessary than before. Here is a quick guide to follow:

  • New Clients (less than 6 months): 25-30% of your catalog should be edited as anchors
  • Regular Clients (6-18 months): 20-25% of your catalog should be edited as anchors
  • Loyal Clients (18 months or more): 10-15% of your catalog should be edited as anchors… only for clients for whom I’ve indicated being comfortable enough with your work that I don’t need as many anchors. Uncommon, but I have a few!
  • Superstar Clients (time as client varies): >10% of your catalog… this is incredibly rare for me, but it can happen at any stage a client finds themselves in with my services. The key factor is that their style is so close to mine or so easily achieved by me that I feel comfortable handling most of their catalog from scratch. Again, only consider yourself in this category if I’ve notified you!

There are some variables within this range, a few exceptions, but this is the general tiers my clients fall under!

5. You Are A Perfectionist.

I’m a big Shark Tank fan… anyone else? Something I’ve learned from Shark Tank about business is that “perfection is the enemy of profitability” (Mark Cuban). If you are SUPER picky, you may never be able to trust a professional photo editor. And I get it. As creatives, our photos are our babies. We pour so much love and effort into it, and it’s really hard to hand over to someone else.

But let me tell you something. I am not you. I can mimic your editing style. But I cannot perfectly look at every photo the exact same way you do. Your eyes may think something is a sliver too magenta when I think it looks slightly cool in color. Or you might think lower contrast is needed on a photo that I would think you wanted more pop. Editors are a lot of things, but we aren’t mind readers.

If you find yourself nitpicking at all your edits, I recommend taking on your own editing. Or at the very least, work to communicate clearly and often with your professional photo editor. Give them notes, feedback, heads up about editing preferences or tough lighting situations that you encountered. And overall, give them grace and patience. We get better with time and frequency of work on your photos, but we will never be you. Learn to release and embrace the added efficiency, then if you have picky edits to add after, do them quickly after receiving the bulk edit from your editor.

What Are The Signs I DO Need A Professional Photo Editor?

If you don’t fit any of the above warning signs, there is a chance a professional photo editor is the right route for you. There are lots of reasons to outsource your editing, and I dive into those in an earlier post. Ultimately, the important thing to remember is a photo editor serves a few key purposes:

  • Helping you add efficiency to your workflow
  • Assisting you in achieving greater consistency
  • Speeding up your turnaround times
  • Letting you get back to the parts of your business that you love most

Hope this was helpful! Are you a photographer in need of editing services? Contact me for details and to set up a free info session!

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