The Wealthy Photographer’s Best Kept Secret
Outsourcing your wedding photography workflow could be one of the most important business decisions you make. Here’s a topic that might just be as controversial as the shoot-and-sell versus shoot-and-share business models. Opinions on this topic are polarizing to say the least. I’m talking about wedding photography workflow and outsourcing your post production (GASP!). Yes, this is a professional service that exists for photographers, specifically wedding photographers.
And, for my studio, it has actually allowed us to build our wedding photography business. This article has not been written to review the different services. I’ll go ahead and name a few of them and let you decide if this is something for your own business. What I’m going to focus on is outsourcing as a business operations model and why it might just work for you.
[REWIND: Check Out The Best Lightroom Presets for Wedding Photographers Here]
Looking back to third quarter 2012, that’s when our wedding business really took off. On top of that, we were running a busy studio with various photographers shooting portraits, commercial projects, boudoir and whatever other project walked through the door. Now, photographing weddings was definitely a revenue generator and although we were just taking off with weddings, we knew we wanted to have something to stand above our competition. It came down to turn around time.
After shooting a wedding, sitting down at your computer to get working is like the beginning of a very, very long road trip. All of which just eats your time. But with us, our other shoots, work and projects didn’t stop to allow us to dedicate all of our time to culling, processing, color correcting, spot removal, artistic editing, album building, exporting jpgs, blogging, posting, delivering, etc, etc… So, we looked to Lavalu for help.
Let’s Get the Conversation Started
Would you ever outsource your editing to companies like Lavalu or Wedding-Retouching? Why / Why not? We considered a few different providers: ShootDotEdit, , WeEditPhotos and Photographer’s Edit before choosing Lavalu. All companies did basically the same thing, we just found Lavalu’s customer service in line with how we work.
Our Wedding Photography Workflow
- Shoot wedding.
- We do a basic cull, getting rid of obvious misfires, etc. (NO need to pay for that.)
- Overnight FTP upload of raw files to Lavalu.
- Fill out Lavalu’s order form requesting ‘Culling’ to approximate number of images included in the client’s package and ‘Image Correction’ based on the profile they have on file. In the notes section, we ask them to keep a copy of the finished files as an album design order will be coming.
- A few days later later, Lavalu sends us back a Lightroom Catalog. We pair up the LRCAT with the images and make any little adjustments like cropping.
- Reveal images to clients. Upload images to a gallery; we use Zenfolio.
- Clients select their “must have” images for their album.
- We go back to Lavalu and fill out their Album Design Order Form, this time noting about 2 hours of ‘Artistic Editing/Retouching’ time — this allows for dodging, burning, b/w conversion and some skin softening.
- A few days later, Lavalu sends an online album proof where we can work with the client to make notes and changes. There are a total of three rounds of album edits. At this point, we also work with the client to choose the album cover.
- Once the final album is approved, Lavalu sends us .psds, which we convert to .jpgs and send to the album company. We typically use Finao.
- Once the work is completed, Lavalu sends us an online invoice which we can pay with a credit card or PayPal.
So, even with using Lavalu, there are a lot of steps in completing a wedding project. And, if you’re a “one wo/man show” working from home, doing all of this yourself, you know that this is almost more than a full time job. By sending our wedding editing to Lavalu, we literally SAVE up to TEN DAYS of processing and album design time. In 2014, we conservatively expect to shoot 24 weddings. That’s over TWO HUNDRED DAYS SAVED! What are we doing in those two hundred days? Shooting more projects and making more money! What about turn around time? From the wedding to the first reveal and gallery, we’re averaging about a FIVE DAY TURNAROUND TIME. This has had all sorts of positive results, with the most frequent client comment something to the effect of “ Wow! Thank you! My friend waited months just to see her photos!”
So, how much does this cost in real dollars? In 2013, our average invoice from Lavalu was about $675.00 USD for image processing and album design. Seem like a lot? Well, if you break it down to days saved, it actually worked out to an overall savings for our studio. Another, not so obvious benefit was how outsourcing affected our pricing. Because we now have a concrete service that we had to build into our wedding photography prices, it actually allowed us to increase our prices and work with the higher end clients. True, our margins take a bit of a hit, but it’s only about 10% which is easily made up in our other projects.
Only you can answer the question if outsourcing is right for you. But, at the end of the day you’re in business to make money and we all know that time is money.
Let’s Get the Conversation Started
Would you ever outsource your editing to companies like Lavalu or Wedding-Retouching? Why / Why not?
- What are some things you wish you could do, but don’t have the time?
- Can you share a time saving tip?
What a great post. Many many thanks for sharing with us.
Thanks for suggesting Post House. I gave them a try and was impressed. The customer service was amazing! Better than any of the other services I’ve tried…and I’ve tried a lot of them as I’m trying to make my business grow in the right direction. The edits looked good and the turn around was quicker than what I could have done. Great suggestion.
Thank you for the insights on the retouching industry. Most of the orders I receive on my website are for retouching portrait sessions.
Really it’s a very good blog with valuable tips. Photography is very important for all memorable moments. before some months I had contacted with Birta Photography – Wings of Love for my sister’s wedding. Really they provided me best service of that. Thank you. Keep blogging like this.
Great review, thank you, Adam. I tried to use photo editing companies and hire freelance retouchers. It’s was a matter of pricing (too high for me at the most cases) or communication and quality. My recent shooting was outsourced to wedding-retouching.com and so far I am OK with them.
I’m sure someone may have mentioned this, but if not..
There are plenty of art students across the US that would take on processing projects. Definitely good insight! Shooting 1 day of motor-sports, 1 corporate event and 1 wedding, one photographer can easily find themselves with several thousand images to process, and it easily can become a “Time-Suck” if you’re a high-percentage shooter..
I can see how using a “parallel method” of finding separate talented students to process an event set that would suit their interests can eliminate more than 98% of your post processing work so you can focus on generating more clients and sales.
Thanks for the insight and tip!
Roman Rama III
If I ever got to a point where I was as busy, I would def consider this. Hopefully one day.
I’ve been using Right-Filter to color correct most of my wedding shoots lately. I used to use this service based out of Bangledesh but the quality was pretty hit or miss. These guys are quality though and the turnaround is pretty quick. Plus they will copy my style. So if I want to a B&W, contrasty type look they mimic it pretty well. For me it’s worth it because I’ve always preferred to shoot than edit.
I’ve been wanting a service like this for years without knowing it existed! I did a quick Google to see how many services do this, and there’s a bunch. The question I have though: if I’m a photography professional with some extra time in my hands, are there any services that will pay me to fix up their outsourced photos?
I outsource all of our post production. It is just a smart business decision. When I get the catalog back, we edit about 100 photos for the slideshow and blog. This allows us to give our client a complete product without spending 10-16 hours per wedding correcting white balance
Bad experience here. They edit every photo the same way – thats the reason every wedding photographer has the same style it seems. Even though they ask you to do the work according to your linking its almost impossible to get what you want. At least from my experience with them!
Dave Kai Piper
will have to check them out !!
As a busy photographer since 2000 it has only recently occurred to me to outsource my images. I’m glad that I finally made the adjustment in my workflow. I have more time for work I want to accomplish and I’m spending more time with my family which is a big plus.
I use a company called Post House because they offer a flat rate. I don’t have to do a bunch of calculations to figure out how much I’m paying and I don’t get invoiced after the fact. I can budget for it in my packages. Just makes sense to me. Oh, and their turn around times are fast too.
For a wedding photographer, outsourcing your post prodcution is SUCH a smart decision. This article is great in that it highlights how it saves you SO much time, which more than makes up for itself in money (which is usually the photographer’s concern about outsourcing).
Lavalu is great, but also check out Editouch sometime: completely custom photo editing, for some of the best prices in the industry!
This is an amazing post. Thank you
I am a photographic retoucher in New York City. I have dealt several times with out sourcing processing work. It is a great thing if you have work that is time consuming and repeatable. For the most part its pretty inexpensive.
However it is in many ways comparable to what you can find locally. We have this notion that because someone in a poorer country has put together a low cost work force we will save lots of money. What we forget is the transfer times, turnaround times, and training the people on the other end to do it the way you want. In New York there are always students or young photographers and artists who can do this work and who will do it for about what you will pay overseas.
In business its important to produce your work quickly and for as little input costs as possible so that you can make the maximum gains on your product. What you need to balance as a photographer is the artistic quality of your work with this input costs. If you’re tossing your work into the same pool as everyone else to have processed you miss part of the creative process.
Finally if you outsource to much you can end up missing out on the self training on software and processes that you use to create the final image. Its a strange trade off because you get more time to shoot but you lose the ability over time to perform that part of your job.
I would recommend using outsourcing but trying to outsource locally first then try out an overseas operation. Most of the time you will find a person just starting out who can do the work for the same amount as what your paying. Then I would recommend making a selection of 10 to 20 of the top shots you have taken to process yourself. This way you’re concentrating on the portfolio work and letting the other work go to the assembly line.
You know, Jerry Ghionis is using Lavalu. If it’s good enough for him, it’s a pretty good guess that it’s more than good enough for anybody else. ;-) So much for the quality part.
As far as “train yourself” – I’ve reached the point in my business where I don’t want to teach myself. I simply don’t want to edit. The time saved is so incredibly precious [without sacrificing quality of work] because that’s actual time off. Time to live. Not to chase from project to project barely being able to keep up.
Mel in oz
Oh no! Now my fave editing company will be swamped. I too made the choice to outsource. And gave loved this years work so much more!
I’d never use a third party to process my images because for a landscape photographer, the processing is part of the artistic vision and very specific to a photographers style. For wedding photography however, I can totally see the value of outsourcing once you’ve become too busy to handle it yourself. Weddings result in hundreds, possibly thousands of images so this would be an ideal solution.
I agree with you on this Adam, once you get to a point to where you need to turn jobs away because of too much editing work then these sorts of services become very valuable options. I have done this occasionally, but usually do final edits and crops myself. Cull/Color Correction and its surprisingly cheap, I use ShootDotEdit though.
I’m looking for the right color correction service. Are you still using ShootDotEdit?
Travis - Wedding Photographer
The concept of outsourcing and what it can bring to your business in terms of focus and spending your time on things that really matter to your clients is great. The fact you get a Lightroom catalog back for final edits / cropping / tweaks is a cool feature but this post seemed to be almost a paid ad for Lavalu. Just the word “Lavalu” alone was in the short post 19 times.
Thanks for your comment, Travis! In no way was I paid by Lavalu for writing this article. I did however work with them on the photos. We do appreciate that their name is highlighted due to the hyperlink, however that would have been any company’s name. Many people are unfamiliar with the techie stuff like LRCAT’s and FTP’s so I felt I needed to be explicit, especially in describing the workflow. I also encourage people to take a look at the other great services out there. Glad you liked the article!
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I am growing my photography knowledge day to day. I git helped from this blog. Thank you