The median salary of a photo editor in the US is over $60,000 per annum.
So, unless you need a dedicated resource to edit images all day, it’s more cost-effective to outsource photo retouching services (ranging from 39¢–$10 per photo usually). Even if you have a continuous requirement for photo retouching, reviewing, and posting, hiring a full-time photo editor only makes sense as long as it suits your budget.
But how much will image retouching cost you if you’re outsourcing? Or, if you hire a dedicated photo editor, how will you balance their compensation within your budget? How will you determine a justified cost for professional photo retouching services?
Here are answers to all such questions related to image retouching and its cost to help you understand just how this practice can take your business ahead affordably.
- 1 What Is Photo Retouching?
- 2 How Long Does It Take To Retouch Photos?
- 3 What Is Included In Photo Retouching Services?
- 4 What Goes Into Determining Product Retouching Prices?
- 5 What Are The Pricing Structures For Outsourcing Photo Retouching?
- 6 How To Evaluate Photo Retouchers: Are You being Undercharged Or Overcharged?
- 7 Final Thoughts
What Is Photo Retouching?
Image retouching (also sometimes used interchangeably with image editing and image enhancement) is a process of eliminating imperfections from an image, aligning it to a particular intent, and beautifying it. It includes-
- Face & Body Makeover
- Beauty Touch-up & Makeup Correction
- Eye Enhancement – Change Color & Remove Red-Eye
- Color Correction
- Perspective Correction
- Blemish, Facial Line, & Braces Removal
- Tattoo & Background Removal
- Moles, Acne, Freckles, & Birthmarks Removal
- Laugh Lines & Wrinkles Reduction
- Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, & Tone Changes, etc.
- Sky Change
Other than this, sometimes image retouching also includes airbrushing- a technique that removes unnecessary elements and adds elements that weren’t present in the image.
How Long Does It Take To Retouch Photos?
To get the desired results, manipulating images can take hours of your priceless time. But it depends on your skills and competency.
The more you excel at photo editing tools, techniques, and software, the less time it will take to retouch.
Then again, even if a resource has the required understanding and skills for this task, the final time taken for photo retouching will depend on their speed and the volume of photos they have to process.
The time taken also depends on the intent of the photo (which differs by domain). For instance, eCommerce listing photos look best when edited with a monotonous background, shadows, and other basic touches.
On the other hand, real estate photos need to look stirring and captivating, with retouching requirements like perspective correction, sky change, and so on.
If you are going to retouch photos without making any remarkable changes, then the following time frame would be enough for a single image.
Color Correction – 5 to 6 minutes
Color correction involves white balance, hue, saturation, luminosity balancing, split toning, color blending, etc. It’s that part of the editing process that makes the color of the images pop.
In commercial editing, using this editing technique, you can create many versions of one product. So this editing part takes 5 to 6 minutes.
But precise color grading is required in real estate and event image editing. Thus, it can take up to 10 minutes to retouch entirely.
Sharpness Adjustment – 30 Seconds to 1 Minute
Adjusting sharpness helps the image to look more lively. Sometimes even high-end cameras fail to pick up the image blurriness, so it’s good to add sharpness through editing. Sharpness adjustment takes 30 seconds to 1 minute to complete.
Technical Editing – 1 Minute to 2 Minutes
Technical editing involves fixing chromatic distortion, optical distortion, image resizing, and processing issues. It is a part of the editing process that restores an image’s structure.
To technically edit an image and fix its structure, an expert would need 1 to 2 minutes. Otherwise, attempting such high-end photo retouching can take up to 10-15 minutes per image.
Fixing Brightness – 3 Minutes – 4 Minutes
While fixing the brightness, retouching professionals primarily focus on exposure correcting. In this editing technique, retouchers fix the black and white parts of the image, adjust the global contrast, and tune up the local shadows and highlights.
For commercial photos, brightness fixing will take 3-4 minutes, and for real estate and event retouching, it will go up to 6-7 minutes. Basic image retouching is complete here, but you need to do a couple more steps for advanced retouching. These are
- Beauty Touch Up & Makeup Correction (20 minutes)
- Skin Retouch (15 minutes)
- Texture Correction (10 minutes)
So, although retouching commercial images takes 10-15 minutes to complete, real estate and event photos require a couple more steps and also take more time.
What Is Included In Photo Retouching Services?
Image retouching services are everything you need to amplify your commercial business and be recognizable to clientele across the globe.
Of course, the level of specialty will differ by the photo retouching company you choose. However, the core units of this service remain the same; it includes the following.
⇒ Background Removal/Changing/Modification
Unsuitable backgrounds ruin the emotion an image wants to portray. Thus, background removal and modification come under retouching.
In this, the image background gets modified while preserving the image’s context and appeal.
⇒ Color Alteration/Balancing
Color balancing is a retouching technique used to fix the color gradient of an image that has been impacted because of any reason, like bad lighting, worn-out background, excessive shading, etc.
⇒ Skin Retouching
Skin retouching is a technique that corrects the skin tone to represent its actual color, removes unwanted spots, blemishes, fine lines, and wrinkles, and sets the lighting necessary to make skin appear best in the pictures.
⇒ Face Shape Adjustment
Face shape adjustment is a retouching technique used to fix camera mistakes (like a poor shooting angle). It is also used for beautification purposes, like the jawline and nose enhancement in an image.
⇒ Sky Changing
Natural light and sky can easily improve the quality of a real estate photo. However, it isn’t always possible to catch the best shot of a property with the preferred weather. Here, photo retouching can alter the image’s sky background and match the planned outcome.
⇒ Old Photo Restoration
The older the image, the more priceless it is. Old photo retouching is a technique that restores the fond memories of images through digitization and photo editing before they further deteriorate.
With this technique, one can even fill colors in old black & white photos to make them colorful, fresh, and new.
What Goes Into Determining Product Retouching Prices?
Before you decide to outsource photo retouching services, it’s imperative to know how image editing companies charge for this service. Let’s look at the factors they consider to determine the cost of photo retouching.
⇒ Labor Costs
You have to pay the people executing the job; their charges will depend mainly on their skills, experience, and knowledge. The more advanced their skills, the higher the fees will be.
⇒ Technology, Tools, & Software
Another essential thing that goes into pricing is the technology, tools, and software used by the retoucher. Professionals using the latest photo editing tools charge more than editors who use basic tools and software.
⇒ Project Complexity
Easier tasks like removing or replacing the background or blemishes cost comparatively less than complicated tasks like merging two images, transforming backgrounds, altering colors, etc.
Likewise, the photo’s subject also factors into the project’s complexity and cost. Images with simple shapes and clear boundaries are easier to retouch than images with complicated and unclear shapes.
⇒ Turnaround Time
Some photo retouching companies charge based on a turnaround time. So if there’s a tight deadline, you have to pay an extra fee. This way, you can get your edits within a few hours or days.
Another critical pricing factor is project volume, i.e., the total number of images that need to be retouched. Some companies give discounts for high-volume retouching projects, so you’ll pay less per image when you place large orders.
What Are The Pricing Structures For Outsourcing Photo Retouching?
The amount you pay for your retouching project also depends on the company’s pricing structure. Some companies charge per image. Others charge per hour, and some agencies use a subscription model for photo retouching services.
⇒ Per Image Rates
This pricing model charges you on a per-photo basis. You brief the retoucher on your specific editing requirements, and they’ll get back to you with the most reasonable rate.
⇒ Hourly Rates
Many professional photo retouching agencies charge on an hourly basis. You’ll agree on a fixed hourly rate, and they will invoice you based on the hours they worked.
⇒ Monthly Subscription
In a monthly subscription, you get charged a fixed rate for image retouching services. The fixed rate will depend on the subscription agreement (the monthly plan you choose).
How To Evaluate Photo Retouchers: Are You being Undercharged Or Overcharged?
The best way to evaluate if a photo retoucher is under or overcharging you is to execute research and do the math. Once you know what different retouchers are charging for the same project, you’ll have a better idea of which retouching company to select for the business.
After selecting the company, here’s what you must consider-
⇒ Work Quality
High prices don’t always reflect high work quality. Some retouchers overcharge for their services, while some retouching experts charge reasonably. If you come across a highly-paid photo retouching company, check their portfolios to see if their prices are worth it.
⇒ Process, Communication, & Working Experience
Beyond the primary service, how easy is it to connect with retouchers? Do they properly communicate? Do they timely provide work reports? Adhere to timelines?
All these points are essential to consider when evaluating retouchers and their fees. Of course, a professional, responsive image retoucher with a strong work ethic may charge a little more. Still, if they make the entire retouching process more manageable and ensure effective results, their prices may be worth it.
⇒ Company Ethics
Results aren’t the only thing to consider when evaluating image editing companies. Company ethics matter a lot as well. For example, is the company paying employees their salaries on time? Do they follow sustainable business practices?
Connecting with companies doing the right things is always good.
Paying a vendor for professional photo retouching is money well-spent if that vendor is right, skilled, and experienced. But it always should be the ‘right fees.’ Thus, entrepreneurs need to learn about current market rates for different photo retouching practices to choose the best option that fits within their budget.
I hope this write-up helps!
Kathy Butters is a content specialist with 10+ years of experience in the niche. Her works include informative articles and blogs on photo retouching and enrichment, eCommerce management, and business growth. She helps retailers, merchants, entrepreneurs, and other online business owners make informed decisions through her write-ups.