As a busy professional, you wear many hats. You might be product photographer one moment and project manager the next, not to mention social media marketer, operations manager, accountant, and everything in between.

Small shops and one-person operations, although rewarding, require a lot of work. At some point, you might get so busy that it feels like you’ve lost the spark that made you so excited to pursue this career path in the first place.

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In this article:

Why outsource?

I saw this tweet from Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp, the other day. He explains it perfectly:

Outsourcing isn’t giving up on your work. It’s realizing your capabilities and the value you bring to the business and cutting the things that don’t support that.

Deloitte conducted its 2018 global outsourcing survey to examine “disruptive outsourcing trends, technology, and innovation.” They found that outsourcing gives companies a competitive edge by allowing them to be more agile, efficient, and effective. 84% of survey respondents have either initiated discussions, conducted pilots, or implemented at least some disruptive outsourced solutions.

Outsourcing frees up your time so you can focus on bigger, more impactful business tasks rather than time-consuming, nitty gritty photo edits. Burnout is a real thing.

Burnout is a real thing

Approximately two-thirds of employees experience some form of burnout in their career — and unmanageable workload and unreasonable deadlines are two of the leading causes. Outsourcing some of the tasks that add to the workload and put pressure on deadlines can ease these anxieties and mitigate burnout, letting you get back to the work you love to do.

The founders behind online brand Speak Skincare started out by doing everything themselves. Eventually, they realized they needed professional help to elevate the brand and keep them motivated and focused on their passions. Once they started outsourcing, they were able to refocus on the important business matters.

Getting started

If you’ve decided to outsource product photo edits, the best way to get started is by documenting your workflow, if you haven’t already. This will help you determine when to send the photos for edits, how to send them, and who should manage the process.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example for a retail/ecommerce brand:

  1. Photoshoot happens
  2. Photographer makes selects
  3. Selects approved by internal stakeholder(s)
  4. Photographer makes edits
  5. Business owner provides feedback
  6. Photographer makes additional edits
  7. Business owner uses photos for their purposes

In this example, the outsourced step could happen between steps three and four, or between six and seven. The photographer could manage things like photo retouching, while the business owner might only need images resized and formatted for specific platforms.

You’ll also want to consider deadlines. Are you typically working against the clock, or do you work in advance with plenty of time baked into timelines? This will also help you narrow down your search as you start to look at your options.

And finally, document your photo-editing needs. In some cases, you might just need white background and sizing. In others, you might need more complicated photo retouching or even color changing for product variants. Again, this will help focus your search.

From here, you can create a plan for outsourcing the edits. In Deloitte’s outsourcing survey, when asked what they would do differently next time they outsource, many answers were focused on taking a more strategic approach. And 34% said they would increase the scope of service.

Finding the best photo editing option

How do you find an outsource photo editing service provider? While you might feel rushed to make the decision, Deloitte’s survey also found that provider selection was an area many orgs would do over.

To avoid this, improve your request for proposal (RFP) process. While this may mean more work upfront, it’ll pay off in the long run.

Deloitte reports, “Many clients use a sole source approach to service provider selection, likely with the expectation that it is faster to execute the process with a single service provider; however, they will likely pay the price through higher fees, lower service levels, and less favorable terms. And, counterintuitively, it will usually take longer, since a competitive process creates more sense of urgency than a sole source approach does (though, of course, a poor deal can always be done quite quickly).” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

We’ve already put together a bunch of helpful articles on this very topic, which we’ll list below. But in sum:

  • Ask around: If you see a brand with awesome product photos, ask if they have a recommendation for a photo editor to outsource to.
  • Check reviews: Do a Google search and check reviews on sites like Trustpilot to see what others have to say about their experience working with this company or editor.
  • Review samples: Every editor should have a portfolio. The key is to look for samples in your industry. If there are none, ask.
  • Find out order limits: Make sure you don’t need to hit order minimums or stay under maximums. This can be especially problematic during major product launches, as well as hinder your ongoing ability to post new products to your website. One time we fulfilled an order for 8,915 photos. It could be helpful to find out how many photo editors are on staff. We have more than 300, for example.
  • Remember logistics: Things like payment methods, supported file types, and other nitty gritty details can seem small now but become a major hurdle down the road.
  • Pricing: At the end of the day, you have to be able to fit the photo editing into your budget.

More reading

Working with your outsourced photo-editing partner

Once you’ve chosen a partner, spend a bit of time to onboard them sufficiently. The more work you do upfront, the easier it’ll be in the long run — and the more time you’ll save!

Here are some tips for working with your outsourced photo-editing partner:

  • Overcommunicate: If you think you’re not giving enough detail or direction in your order, you’re probably not. It’s best to overcommunicate than to undercommunicate, otherwise you’ll likely have more back and forth.
  • Show and tell: While communicate via words is important, we’re talking about pictures here. If you have examples that show the look you’re going for, share them as reference. Bonus points if you can explain why you like those examples.
  • Don’t quit until you’re happy: The best clipping path service providers will edit your images until you’re happy with the final look and feel. If you don’t like what you get on the first round, don’t be afraid to send it back with feedback on what you’d like to see done differently.

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Alexandra Sheehan

In her past agency life, Alex has led digital marketing initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. Now, she’s passionate about helping retailers and retail industry leaders harness the power of the written word and fuse it with strategic content, email and social media marketing campaigns.