A couple of weeks ago, we sat down with one of our long-time Picsera clients. This client is a top 250 Internet retailer that is making waves in the eCommerce world. As the friendly banter ensued, our client said something that stood out, “The decision to outsource photo editing is a complete no-brainer for brands and retailers. I have no idea why anyone would try to do it in-house.” This didn’t stand because we had never heard it before. To the contrary, it stood out because we hear the same sentiment expressed over and over again.
But, while our client — and many others — are certainly convinced that it’s a no-brainer to outsource photo editing, maybe you’re still a little skeptical. You might feel that having full-time employees will enable you to achieve a higher level of quality, result in faster turnaround times, give you more control over the process, or even reduce your costs. In this article we discuss why the exact opposite is true and present the top 5 reasons that make it a no-brainer for brands and retailers to outsource photo editing.
When you edit millions of images across virtually every eCommerce product category, you tend to get good at it. Actually, you get really, really good at it. And, the differences between editing lifestyle, apparel, furniture, jewelry and packaged goods images are like night and day. Perfecting the ghost mannequin technique for apparel, retouching a piece of fine jewelry, clipping stray hairs from a model, knocking out the background, and compositing images all require different levels of expertise and specialization. If you plan to hire one or two in-house resources, it’s rare to find an individual who is proficient in all of these areas.
At Picsera, we build centers of excellence and certify staff for different types of eCommerce product categories and photo editing techniques. We take best practices and ensure they are applied across clients so that everyone benefits from the collective years of experience. We’re not suggesting that an experienced photo editor couldn’t get the job done. But consider whether your objective is to just “get the job done” or if your quality standards are higher than that. The difference can have a significant impact on user engagement and sell-through rates on your website.
Speed is everything these days. Unedited images certainly can’t stand in the way of a new product launch. If you’re thinking about building an internal photo editing team, think about whether you would be able to staff it 24 x 7 and what you would do when a key resource calls in sick, resigns or goes on extended leave. How would this impact your ability to quickly turn out images without sacrificing quality? Would you be “stuck” with no time to recruit, hire and train a new resource?
Picsera operates a photo editing assembly line that runs 24 x 7, turning out thousands of images each day. Editing specifications are documented so that in the event of unexpected absences the assembly line can continue to operate at the same level of quality without missing a beat. Unexpected absences don’t happen every day, but they are a fact of life and they do happen. The key is being prepared so there is zero impact to your photo editing capabilities when these situations do arise.
One of the most compelling reasons to outsource photo editing is the ability to increase throughput on-demand. Say for example that you typically need 1,000 images edited per month, but ahead of peak sales seasons this might increase to 3,000 images. Or, for special projects like a website overhaul, you might need 20,000 images edited as a one-time event. When you outsource photo editing, there is no need to hire or interview. At Picsera, our clients simply give us a courtesy call or send us an email to give us a heads up.
Because we have hundreds of photo editors and retouchers working 24 x 7, we can flex capacity up and down. This helps if you have seasonality to your business as well as for addressing special projects when they arise. The convenience of being able to scale on-demand is the aspect brands and retailers tend to appreciate the most when it comes to their decision to outsource photo editing. No business is completely even throughout the year. There are natural ebbs and flows and special projects, but you don’t need to worry about staffing levels or turnaround times when you outsource photo editing. You’re completely insulated from those headaches and can put your focus on other areas of your business.
4. Consistent Quality
Consistency across images is extremely important — colors, margin, alignment, and editing techniques all need to remain consistent. The good news is that photo editing companies like Picsera are accustomed to creating specifications and checklists and automating quality control steps. This enables us to offer our clients the aforementioned benefits of expertise, speed and scale, but also the guarantee of consistent quality. At Picsera, we go to great lengths to keep consistent resources assigned to each of our clients, but even when resources change, the systems and processes that are in place enable us to achieve consistent levels of quality.
Naturally, when deciding whether or not to outsource photo editing, cost is going to be a key consideration. The top 3 things to keep in mind are that (a) salary is just part of the cost of a hire (b) you need a team, not just a single editor and (c) delays can result in significant hidden costs.
A. Salary is just part of the cost of a hire
There is a long list of costs that you’ll incur, but these are the 5 main categories to keep in mind:
- Salary — According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a photo editor is $36,811 and a senior photo editor is $44,795.
- Equipment — A computer, monitor and accessories will likely run around $2,000, but of course it depends on a variety of factors.
- Software Licenses — Budget $300 or so for Adobe Creative Cloud and other software applications that might be needed.
- Office Space — If you intend for the person to work in an office, factor about $2,000 per year for office space, although this could be much higher in certain cities.
- Benefits — If your company provides comprehensive benefits (e.g. Medical, Dental, Disability, 401(k), etc.), this typically comes out to about 30% of total compensation.
Overall, you’re looking at a total annual spend of $40,000 – $75,000 per photo editor depending on the seniority of the resource, the location, whether or not the person will telecommute or work from an office, and whether your company provides comprehensive benefits or not. There are soft costs that you could factor in like on boarding time, down time when the resource doesn’t have a full workload, etc. These are all worthwhile things to consider, but become harder to quantify in dollars and cents.
B. You Need a Team, Not a Photo Editor
This is where it starts to get really expensive. You need at least 2 photo editors to have a legitimate operation. It’s just too risky to rely on a single resource. But wait, you need someone to manage these resources as well. Maybe not full-time, but at least a portion of their time needs to be allocated to the cost of in-house photo editing. And just like that, you’re already well over $150,000 a year with a part-time manager, a senior photo editor and a junior photo editor. Never mind whether the breadth of expertise, quality, speed, scale or consistency are there. From a cost perspective alone it simply doesn’t make sense.
C. Delays Can Result in Significant Hidden Costs
If you’re not getting your inventory online fast enough, you are missing out on sales. Take for example a product that you sell 1,000 units of per month at a $40 margin. A delay of just 1 week in getting the images online will hurt your bottom line by more than $8,000. If you sell seasonal items like apparel, then your items need to be online early enough in the season in order for you to increase your chances of getting the most sales.
The Punchline on Deciding to Outsource Photo Editing
Making the decision to outsource photo editing offers eCommerce brands and retailers a number of advantages. Expertise, Speed, Scale, Quality and Cost are the most significant benefits. And, since the bulk of eCommerce image editing work is repetitive and objective, it’s a perfect fit for the outsourcing model.
Click here to learn more about how easy it is to outsource photo editing with Picsera.
This answer was originally written in response to a Quora question
If you’re asking this question, I’m guessing you’re a pro photographer or e-commerce business. I’m going to answer this question from a business perspective since it applies for photographers and e-commerce businesses. (more…)