Outsourcing Post-Production to Enhance the Client Experience with Lora & Isaac Skelton
With 2019 wrapped up, we recently sat down and reflected on how things have changed for us over the past two-and-a-half years from when we started our business. It’s funny—we used to think that the only way to have a successful photography business was to be the best photographers we could be. We thought that as long as my photography skills grew, so would the business. It’s funny to look back and think about that time, because we now realize how much more goes into it. Just like any other business, there is so much more than just the end product in photography. In our profession, it is easy to get caught up with the end product, because that is how we show all our effort. That is what our clients and the public see. When any type of art is involved, most individuals see that end product as the most important aspect. They assume (like we did) that if the end result is something incredible, the money will flow. However, there is so much more that goes into bringing in money and building a business. Don’t get it wrong—the end product is important. You aren’t going to be able to run a successful business, charging top dollar, if your photos look like you just asked some stranger to snap a photo on your phone while on vacation. But that end product is just a small drop in the bucket.
Over the last two-and-a-half years, we have built a luxury brand in a small market. We are by far the most expensive photography option in our area—I am talking three to ten times more expensive than others. To be honest, we don’t think we are five times better than the other photographers in our town, and we don’t think our end product is five times better than their products either. However, we are able to charge ten times what they are, and still fill our calendar, because of the time we have spent making sure from start to finish that our clients are getting an incredible experience.
One of the biggest factors allowing us to provide a better client experience is our post-production workflow. Having a solid post-production workflow is key to providing an experience that your competition can’t match. For us, we focus on two key areas with post production: Time and Quality. We want to make sure our clients are getting their photos in both a timely matter and at the highest quality possible. It doesn’t do you any favors to turn around the photos next day if the editing is sloppy and looks like you didn’t even try. You also aren’t giving your clients a top-quality experience by spending months and months editing photos to “perfection” if it means your clients are waiting so long to see the photos that they forgot they even did the shoot.
I am going to start with timely delivery. This is huge. We live in a time where consumers are not going to wait long for what they’ve purchased. We are spoiled by Amazon Prime deliveries and UberEats. We want it, and we want it now. You may have been told that “they can wait” or “they want quality so they have to wait for it,” but that is not true. They can have their cake and eat it too! They can book a luxury photographer and get photos back fast, all without compromising their experience or the quality of the post-production. Our turnaround time used to be an average of 30 days from the shoot/wedding to the clients preview. We’ve now trimmed that down to an average of 7 days.
The how and why is simple. How? Outsourcing our culling and the entire post-production process. We do not touch a single image anymore. We shoot the session, immediately upload our raw files to Evolve Edits, and wait to get the photos back. Why? Because our clients are excited to get their images back, and there’s not a single reason I can think of to punish that excitement. They just got married, went on a seven-day honeymoon, then landed back in Minnesota to find out they’re already invited into our studio to view all of their photos? That’s insane! They are so thrilled and immediately happy at how quickly we could turn them around. There’s no better way to start a sale than to start it a week or two after the shoot. That’s an incredible experience, if you ask me.
Now for the quality portion. Our business is centered around providing our clients with impactful images that they’ll want to proudly display in their homes as works of art. We are able to book top-paying clients because we provide images that no other photographer in our area does. I’m talking sky swaps, slimming and trimming things that they didn’t know could be slimmed or trimmed, removal of scars, cellulite, imperfections, and fly-always that make them feel flawless. The ability to make your clients feel like they have never felt before directly impacts your sales. Sure, you might be able to do that yourself, but how much time are you spending each week or even each day on retouching? Three hours per day? Six hours per day? What could you do with that time instead? My guess is your time would be much better spent marketing, networking, and more importantly shooting! Plus, let’s be honest, there are very few of us out there who are better at editing than someone whose full-time job is to edit photos, and who is regularly editing images for some of the top photographers in the world.
Sure, some of you love to edit, but that’s just not me. I used to edit for hours per day and was fine with it. But once you look at your queue and you are sitting on six weddings, ten engagement sessions and five family sessions, then you start to feel like it’s a daunting chore that has to be done. Plus, while you have all those to edit, you are still shooting, adding more to your plate. For us, it got to a point where our business couldn’t grow because we were so backlogged on editing that we couldn’t take on more shoots. At this point, burnout is inevitable. You are going to kill yourself up late at the computer trying to wrap editing up just so you can start again tomorrow trying to get your head above water before the next wave of a busy week comes.
Before we outsourced editing, we told our clients it would be four to six weeks for their photos. Guess what? At four weeks, we would get an email asking if photos were done. If we didn’t reply within twelve hours, they would call, text or email, asking if we got their first email about their photos. Multiply that by how many clients you have a year, and it gets exhausting. Now we can tell them to expect two weeks for their photos to be done. Then, seven days later, we blow their minds when they get an email saying their images are ready. We are no longer pushing back deadlines, but instead cutting every single timeline in half. Do you have any idea how clients react to that? They are waiting until that two-week mark to follow up, and before they can even think, Wonder if my photos are almost done?, we have exceeded their expectations, and they never complain.
Outsourcing your editing can be a scary task. But trust us, your clients will thank you, your family will thank you, and your business will grow. Get excited! This is revolutionary for your business. Just remember—your business will grow if and only if you use that time wisely. Don’t think that just because you started outsourcing editing means you can now take two or three hours per day to nap and watch TV. There are so many important things you should be doing for your business now that you have freed up some time, but that is for a different article.