Photo retouching services – Are they worth it?

Retouching-the necessary evil

 

It has always amazed me how a photo can go from ordinary to extraordinary with patience and knowledge of the Photoshop healing brush, clone stamp, dodge and burn, and the collection of adjustment tools.

 

About five years ago, I decided to perfect my photo retouching skills. I am very proud of my work. During these years, I realized that retouching an image can change an image’s impact on the viewer. By accentuating eyes, manipulating light, and erasing viewer distractions, there is no telling how far an image can make an impact.

I have devoted many hours of practice to the craft of retouching and I have only scraped the surface.

But let’s face it- retouching is a necessary time-consuming evil for photographers. Therefore, the services of a professional retoucher should make sense for any busy professional out there. Especially if current costs for retouching a portrait or an image are becoming more and more negligible (Between 2$ to 10$ per photo)

My overseas retouching story

 

This blog post talks about my experiences with an overseas photo retouching service I used. It went pretty smoothly, but there are some pros and cons to getting photos retouched by someone halfway around the world.

Before and after photo of a woman.
Photo retouching can change an image's impact on the viewer in very subtle ways.
Photo retouching is often perceived as a way to get rid of blemishes, but it can also be used to manipulate lighting and shadows

My first contact with a retoucher services provider

 

I had just finished a glamour photography photoshoot with a couple of models and was particularly proud of some portrait retouches I had finished. I posted a couple of images on Instagram with hashtags like  #retouching, #portraitediting, #portraits, etc. It didn’t take long before an overseas contract retoucher DM’d me offering their services.

How do photo retoucher services work? 

 

I  decided to try out retoucher services. Here is how the process goes:

 

  • The retoucher asked me to make a choice and listed their pricing ( 3-5$ USD for a “normal” retouch and 7-9$ for a “high-end” retouch)
  • I chose the “high-end” and uploaded the photos in Fujifilm RAW format (.RAF) and a Google doc briefing into a Google drive. I then sent the link to my unedited images to the retoucher.
  • The retoucher put together a quote and sent me an email address so that I could pay via Paypal.
  • Once I sent the money, they did the edits within the day.
Instagram conversation screen capture
Instagram conversation screen capture
before and after photo of a photo retouch
Sometimes retouching can drastically upgrade an image
Before photo of a less refined portrait
This image was the ultimate test. I specified that I wanted the background to take up the whole back, a straight photo, and a sensual look. I needed the retoucher to improve lighting as well.
After photograph of a portrait
The retoucher delivered most of what I wanted. However, It took me a while to get them to understand what I wanted for the background. He/she did OK but, if you look carefully, the backdrop is not a perfect job. The imperfection of the job really pops out on the floor.

The Pros and cons of using a contract photo retoucher

 

My experience with Linda Baza was good. I would even recommend overseas portrait retoucher services because they deliver on their promise of giving you a well-done retouch with super short delays. Many of the before and after photos here are remarkable.

But the problem with these retoucher services is that you are never sure who you are dealing with. I soon got the impression that the edits were getting done by a team and changes were being passed on to different people in a production chain.

 

I was impressed by my first set of edits and later asked to do others and could already see that they were taking me for granted as a client. On my second set of retouches, I found that they had done what I would consider a “standard retouch” but were charging me for a “high-end” retouch. We had a lot of back and forth messaging on the second edits, but I never really got what I had wanted in the end.

woman in a bikini posing sensually
This is my favorite out of the whole bunch. Well worth the eight bucks!

Because of the distances, it is difficult to develop a relationship of trust between you and the supplier. Even when a service is far away, it’s always fun to develop a relationship with one contact and build trust. You cannot get that feeling of security with these types of services.

 

Another factor you should not ignore is time zone differences. Because most photo editing contract services are overseas, there can be long delays between the time you ask for an edit change and when the change gets delivered. You can never forget that the retoucher might be asleep when you send out your edit preferences.

 

But in a nutshell, here are some of the pros and cons of a photo retoucher from overseas.

Pros of contract retouchers 

 

  • You get surprisingly good photo retouching with short delays 
  • Retouching services are very affordable
  • Most overseas retouchers adapt to your workflow (They will use Dropbox, WeTransfer, Google drive and even send PSD files if you want to further edit)
  • Photo retouch services could be an excellent way to get batch retouches done in a pinch

Cons of contract retouchers

 

  • Do not use these services for very specific retouch jobs. You should not expect any of these retouchers to be creative.
  • If you are a bit nervous about where your money goes, be vigilant
  • You are one in a big line-up of edit jobs, so there is a cookie-cutter aspect to each photo
  • Once they have reeled you in on the first job, quality edits tend to peter out. Be careful
  • Because of the economies of scale, you never really know who is working on your photo
  • Time zone differences can cause weird delays

Who should use the services of an overseas retoucher?

 

In the end, I think that the results for the price you pay are amazing. So, any photographer who needs to deliver many retouched photos in a short amount of time will love using these services. Therefore, photographers that would benefit from these services are:

  • Wedding photographers with a tight deadline to produce a photo album
  • Corporate photographers that need an extensive collection of upscale images (ex: Members of the board)
  • Those wanting to get the best of their portrait edits (by doing A/B comparisons)

 

Photographers that might not benefit from contract retouchers are:

 

  • Artistic photographers that need specific edits on lighting, contrast, and general artistic mood
  • High-end portrait photographers where there are specific adjustments to be made 
  • Boudoir photographers, since contract retouchers have most of their experience on face edits and might not have the skills for body edits.

Conclusion – How I plan to use these retouchers

 

I guess the only piece of advice I can give you is that you should use these retouch services when you got a lot of boring and monotonous work to do. One of the key elements to getting better at photography is to be inspired. The more I can do away with uninspiring things, the better.

 

For instance, I cannot stand working on backgrounds and backdrops. So, when the need to edit a backdrop comes along, I will fork out the eight bucks, and off to the photo goes to a retoucher abroad. For the rest of my edits, I will just have to roll up my sleeves and do what I do.

Update ( retoucher experience in the week of January 17th)

 

This correspondence better demonstrates some of the pros and cons of working with an overseas retoucher. Comment below if you like

 

  • I contacted the retoucher via Instagram to ask for new edits. This time I had the intention to see if I could ask for more editable layered Photoshop PSD files
  • After getting in touch with the contractor, I specified that I wanted a PSD file and a jpeg file for each photo. He/she agreed and I set up the transfer
  • As mentioned above in this article, they sent me a quote of 40$ for 5 photos, I agreed and sent a Google Drive link with instructions
  • For the goal of the review, I made the instructions quite specific to see if they would be read and respected. They included crop instructions, general vibe, and media file types.

After delivering the files and me giving the OK, they sent the Photoshop files. The first delivery was just the jpeg files inside a Photoshop project file. After asking again for layers, they finally sent me a PSD with one layer of retouching (No healing or dodge and burn layers). It is quite understandable as I would imagine that they want to keep their industry secrets. At 8 bucks, I will not complain.

I later was able to work further on the edits the retoucher had done in the Photoshop files they sent. For me, it was quite a bonus.

Instagram message from a contactor to a client
Instagram message from a contactor to a client
Instagram message from a contactor to a client
Instagram message from a contactor to a client
Before and after portrait retouch of a second photo editing contrat
Very good results straight out of the box.
Black and white portrait re edit of a contract reoucher's work
The portrait editor did tend to brighten a great deal when deoing their job. Having layers allowed me to rework the brightness because I had one skin retouch layer and one brightness layer to lay with

I am a photographer, videographer, and copywriter living in Quebec City, Canada. I also have a YouTube channel and an Instagram account dedicated to creation and creativity via my main loves of photography, music, and writing.

To get in touch with me and discuss your collaboration, service needed, or advice, either go to the contact page and write to me via the contact form at the foot of this page.

Jacques Gaines looking in a camera pointing upward

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