PostAds Group and Colorhythm weigh the pros and cons in the 'Insource vs. Outsource' debate of photographic retouching
There is a great thirst for videos and photographic content that needs quenching. For marketers, delivering this content while walking the tightrope between managing volume and delivering quality has been one of the most important battles of recent times.
Throughout the world, people are consuming an increasing amount of video and photographic content across a seemingly endless number of devices, and the annual growth rate for marketer content volume is now at 200 percent.
Managing this delicate balance between volume and quality within content image supply chains requires not just oversight – but technology capable of keeping up with the new demands of the marketplace.
To tackle this issue head on, PostAds Group, the leading post production consultancy for global marketers, and their new business partner, Colorhythm, a San Francisco-based digital imaging and service company, recently announced a consulting and executional joint services offering for marketer-direct content services.
In this, the first of a new series of insights, PostAds Group and Colorhythm weigh the pros and cons in the “Insource vs. Outsource” debate of photographic retouching, and explain, with a focus on ecommerce, why their model is helping marketers meet the demand for content in the most effective way possible.
Jeff Nova, CEO of Colorhythm
Managing the time it takes to make products available for sale is critical for successful ecommerce platforms. Delays in posting products negatively impacts margins in several ways, whether by reducing the number of days to sell a product before having to pay the supplier or the number of days available to sell the product at full price.
When it comes to ecommerce, one of the considerations is the quality, speed and cost of creating and perfecting your product imagery. Determining whether or not to retain retouchers within your company or to engage a post production firm involves weighing a number of critical variables, not all of which are obvious initially.
Some firms decide at the start to use internal help with little plan of when to begin outsourcing the effort. The typical consideration is volume: “when we start to be overwhelmed, we’ll seek outside specialists.”
The skills to succeed at high volume are unique and independent from retouching skills. The infrastructure and equipment needed are also not easy to come by and mark a real specialisation. Maintaining speed and quality as volume grows can become an urgent concern. But volume is not the only consideration, and it’s questionable whether it’s even the critical pivot point.
Quality matters. Research supports intuition in showing that professionally photographed and retouched photos lead to higher sales. Showing your products in their best light, along with detail shots, zoom, and visualisation of colour, texture and structural options can triple conversion rates.
A company’s core focus is their product line, whether it’s apparel, furniture, jewellery, auction goods, or any other line where images count. And though the marketing of products is critically linked to this, and requires an intimate familiarity with the line, does it extend to the actual execution of image post production?
Does it make sense for you not only to manufacture the product and plan its marketing, but also to be in the business of perfecting all the imagery involved? Producing sales imagery for the web is a narrowly tailored speciality, tied more to technical proficiency with a variety of software platforms than it is to the vision necessary to craft a marketing and advertising plan.
A post production firm will have a breadth and depth of experience in image preparation. A firm dedicated to refining imagery will have knowledge of trends and techniques across markets and industries, and will have evolved approaches that lead to faster turnaround times, higher quality results, and more resourceful processes. They will also have the equipment, software, network, and workflow tools to produce imagery proficiently.
A top tier post production company provides other added benefits over an in-house department. Many are open extended hours for six or seven days a week and have a labour force depth that permits turnaround times that shorten the time from photo shoot to sales.
Retaining staff to perform image refinement has hidden costs and vulnerabilities. Added expenses like worker’s compensation insurance, disability, social security, health insurance, overtime, and perhaps most costly, training, add to the burden. Maintenance, networking and IT costs, software and furniture, all contribute to the costs of having an internal department that are easy to overlook as well.
Many retouching houses charge a flat rate per image. This permits simple forecasting and budgeting not possible with hourly fees. In some cases, paying a higher perceived fixed cost per image is more efficient than the uncertainty of the unfixed and internal cost. Particularly when the images prove to be more difficult than anticipated.
Also, creating a style guide that clearly communicates your branding and visual standards can go a long way to front-loading these efforts, streamlining the communication overall, instead of engaging in the constant back-and-forth of arm’s length review. If you don’t have one, a seasoned retouching firm will be prepared to support you in developing a style guide that will cost-effectively direct their efforts and better communicate brand standards company-wide. And they will have a training and quality assurance infrastructure in place to insure consistent brand narrative.
Some prefer having retouchers nearby so they can art direct more immediately. This can indeed be a benefit in some scenarios, and the best retouching companies can provide on-site staffing when that makes sense. But modern technologies like audio/video chat, screen sharing, and real-time markup platforms reduce this advantage significantly.
Contracting out this business allows you to focus on the strategic picture and to execute quickly on core efforts rather than attempt to become what amounts to multiple companies inside one, or rather avoid becoming a jack of all trades and master of none.
For more information and an assessment of your current-state digital imaging services, the PostAds Group & Colorhythm teams are ready to assist. Contact John Lipuma of PostAds Group at email@example.com or Jeff Nova of Colorhythm at firstname.lastname@example.org
Look out for the next release in our series: “Pre-Press Post: Sourcing Imaging in Workflows for Print.”