A photographer turned private photo editor, but I'll always be capturing the moments in between.

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Private Photo Editor Guide

Guide to a Private Photo Editor

Whether you’re doing photo editing outsource research for your wedding photography business or how to become a private photo editor in 2018, you’ll probably start your search by asking what is a Private Photo Editor?

A Private Photo Editor is hired to edit an entire wedding or session for a photographer through Lightroom. Private editors typically use contracts, meaning photographers outsource every session through them. Private Photo Editors offer the following services: culling (narrowing down), cropping, color correcting and retouching.

This niche of a job exists because photo editing is time-consuming, especially if you’re working on a wedding. If you’re a top wedding photographer then culling and color correcting wedding galleries can cut into your time of other important tasks, like building your business.

This position is extremely valuable to the photo industry because editors have dedication towards keeping a brand ALIVE. Sounds intimidating, right? Not so much.

These days, photographers create a unique look for themselves in order to stand out. They create presets (based on their step-by-step routine) or purchase presets to make it easier. Editors will take that preset and import it into their Lightroom, keeping the photographer’s “brand.” See? Not so intimidating after all.

How can you actually use a Private Photo Editor?

Over the years I’ve realized one thing. Most photographers don’t like to edit. They’d rather be out photographing and I certainly don’t blame them. So to someone whose time is being taken away by something they dread – why do it? Hand it to someone who is good at it AND loves it. Winner winner chicken dinner.

Look, editing for photographers is only feasible because of two very convenient modern-day tools: Smart Previews and Dropbox.

Abode Smart Previews and Dropbox

According to Adobe’s website, “Smart Previews in Lightroom Classic CC allows you to edit images that are not physically connected to your computer. Smart Preview files are a lightweight, smaller, file format, based on the lossy DNG file format.”

Why does this matter?

Because of Smart Previews, a Private Photo Editor can work quickly and edit an entire session without having the physical photos. That means editors can be in a different town, city or country than the photographer. That also means you don’t have to worry about transferring enormous RAW files and having an endless supply of memory to store them on. You do have to keep an eye on your Dropbox data, but because these Smart Preview Catalogs are compressed versions of your photos, it takes up less room.

Once a Catalog is complete, it will be imported back into the main Catalog for any last tweaks/processes that the photographers apply to their photos.

I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now, but Dropbox is a modern workspace reducing busywork so you can focus on the things that matter.

Sounds like my cup of tea.

Dropbox is a super convenient tool that most editors use to access Catalogs. It allows the exchange of information to be easy, fast and hassle-free. Depending on your internet speed, Catalogs don’t take a ton of time to sync up either.

Alright… enough with the Catalog talk. What the heck is a Catalog?!?

Lightroom Catalogs

Boutique photo editors (technically every person that uses Lightroom) works primarily through Catalogs. The term “Catalogs” confuse most photographers and don’t worry, I didn’t know exactly what a Catalog was either when I first started.

Catalogs keep track of your activity within Lightroom. For example, when you rate an image or change the color, Lightroom will be remember those changes, leaving the original photo untouched. When you outsource photo editing, you’ll export each session as a Catalog with Smart Previews to easily edit and send back.

Be careful though. If you try to export from this compressed, Smart Preview catalog, the files will be low resolution. Nobody wants that especially when you bought that expensive full-frame DSLR for a reason. If you’re retouching photos, then of course you will need the hard copy of every photo and that is another story.

Catalogs can be found on your computer’s hard drive. When you first purchase Lightroom, it will automatically create a destination for your generic Catalog, but you can also choose your destination. Mine is located under Pictures > Lightroom and there I can see my Catalogs. I’ve also seen photographers fully take advantage of Dropbox and store ALL their catalogs through the app so that they can fully access them – even while traveling (thanks to Smart Previews again).

Here’s a fun fact for you: most weddings/sessions are stored in ONE Catalog. Which is a fine way to work by but this method to due to not being enlightened (unlike this blog post). Some photographers create a Catalog for every year. Other photographers create a Catalog for every session. It really depends on how you want to organize your work, but if you outsource photography editing, you’re exporting a Catalog for your editor to work off of anyway.

Catalogs can also become super slow if you put every session from the time of man into one. Optimizing a Catalog can make it faster by File > Optimize Catalog.

Edit Source

Private Photo Editing is convenient with the introduction of advanced updates (Smart Previews, Dropbox and Catalogs) but it became most popular when the infamous wedding photographer Katelyn James announced she outsourced ALL of her photo editing to Marissa Lynn, the founder of Edit Source. This announcement was eye-opening to a lot of photographers as it was to me and especially to those who wanted in on this newly Boutique Photo Editing business.

After Katelyn’s announcement, Marissa’s business grew rapidly. Marissa realized how important her editing services were to photographers and built a one-on-one editing relationship with each client. She gave time back to each photographer, who was then using it to build their photography business more. Editing every wedding gallery was ensuring that photographers had more time to network, blog, build vendor relationships, focus on social media and work on submitting work for publication. All very important things to check off your list as a photographer in 2018.

Questions also flooded Marissa’s inbox, asking how to become a freelance photo editor. In order to answer all the questions efficiently, she created Edit Source, a platform for personal photo editors.

Bottom line?

This platform connects clients with contractors. Edit Source works quickly so that photographers don’t have to search endlessly to find THE editor. You can simply view all the editor’s profiles and choose the one that fits your style. Plus, freelance editors no longer have to wonder where they can find their ideal client.

So smart on Marissa’s end!

Okay, enough with the history lessons. Are you reading this article because you want to jump into this business? Then the steps below are written just for you.

How to Become a Private Photo Editor

In order to become a Private Photo Editor, you’ll need to ask yourself a couple questions. These will clarify what actions are necessary to get your business off the ground and your first clients in the door.

  1. What does success look like for you?
    Starting your own business is exciting, but can also be confusing. To not start off on the wrong foot, figure out what you need to make in order to be comfortable financially. Crunch some numbers and set some goals.
  2. Determine what your services will be.
    There are actually a few options on what you can actually do as a freelance photo editor. Do you want to just focus on color correction or do you want to cull and select the finalized number of images? Are you a Photoshop genius? Include retouching as one of your services. You can offer all these options if you’d like or just select one or two while you’re just starting your business.
  3. What will your rates be?
    This is pretty important. Rates mean everything. Again, ask yourself what success looks like to you so that you can determine your rates and not undersell yourself out of the gate. You can also charge in a couple different ways. Do you want to charge per image or do you want to charge a flat rate to your clients? There is no right or wrong answer – just what you prefer to do. Per image sounds cheaper but flat rates are simple.
  4. Market to your ideal client.
    Marketing is a whole different topic. In fact, it’s a whole other job. But marketing will help you get in front of your ideal client. Make sure you do all the research you can to get in front of photographers who need your services. Instagram, Facebook, SEO and videos are just some examples.

Ready to Outsource Photography Editing?

There are also a few steps to find the right person to hire.

  1. Admit you’re ready to outsource. Check! 
  2. Find someone that can replicate your look. 
    Just like you’ve created a unique look for yourself, find an editor that’s right for you. Are your photos moody? Find an editor that doesn’t over expose their photos. Do you use filters? Find an editor that has experience with filters and is familiar with that “film look.”
  3. Have multiple conversations. 
    I know this sounds silly, but you and your private photo editor need to be on the same page. Photographers aren’t used to personal photo editor’s workflows so make sure you have a solid conversation of their step-by-step process. You also need to know if they have room to take you on as a client. I know some editors edit up to 300 weddings in a wedding season.
  4. Ask for test edits. 
    I get it. It’s intimidating just handing over your work for someone else to edit. Don’t be shy to ask for a few test edits. This way you can see if you’re a good fit or not. Judging the editor’s work with someone else’s photography won’t be accurate.
  5. Read the testimonies.
    I’ve seen it all over the internet. Testimonies from photographers about how thankful they are to not be spending hours in Lightroom. Thankful that they can have more time with family instead of their computer. Thankful that they can take vacations and know that their clients are still in good hands. This is a perfect way to tell just what clients have to say and if this particular contractor is for you.

So now you know pretty much everything about a Private Photo Editor. This niche job was created so that one-on-one editing relationships exist unlike the big box editing companies. As a Private Photo Editor, I love what I do and that I give photographers more freedom and time to focus on their own photography business. In 2018 and the constant changes/additions photographers have to make, time is GOLD people.

If this blog post makes you want to shout “I’m ready to hire you!” please email me at info@halleylutz.com, hop on over to the contact portion of my website to say hi. Old fashioned? Give me a call at (209)769-3281 to discuss making your workflow smoother today.

My work hours are 9-5 Pacific Standard Time. Although I live in Los Angeles, I professionally edit photos from all over the world! Angelenos, I’d love to chat about your professional photography over a cup of coffee (or two). I look forward to creating a one-on-one editing relationship with you and working on your photos to reclaim your time for yourself, family and your business!

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