In this post Grazier Photography's Enna and Matt Grazier share how their studio has benefitted from partnering with ShootDotEdit for editing services. I recently mentioned on facebook how happy I was with the customer service provided by Zappos, the big online shoe retailer. They managed a shoe return with complete trust and respect, authentic concern for my family’s needs (our boy needed a replacement asap), and a smooth process with very few steps. When I posted about this on Facebook, of course lots of people hit the “like” button. Who doesn’t appreciate great customer service?!
And one friend commented that he strives for his own company to be able to deliver such great customer service. I promptly wrote back affirming that YES, working with his company is in fact easy and fun and generally dreamy as far as customer service goes. My friend was referring to ShootDotEdit, a company which offers color correction and album design service to professional photographers.
The thing is, Zappos is a big shoe company. I can get whatever I want from them - all that’s required is some window shopping and that I set a budget that allows for my desired product. All they have to do is ship it to me, and of course then be available for fast friendly and helpful customer support through the whole process. However, my friend doesn’t sell shoes. His company offers an editing service for photographers. One size definitely does NOT fit all… in fact, a single customer’s desired results may vary greatly from one order to the next. Photographers usually won’t articulate their desires in such concrete terms as “I want blue suede”, or “this shoe doesn’t fit because it’s too narrow.” So while my friend said that he’d like to be able to deliver customer service just as well as Zappos, I don’t think that’s possible. I think he’s carved out a much more challenging task! Managing the needs of artists is a complex task and most definitely not as easy as managing needs of the shoe-shopping public.
When Matt and I decided to partner with ShootDotEdit a year ago for all of our editing, we did so with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Excitement because for every hour that we spend shooting, we can spend up to two hours editing - and this new partnership promised to free up a TON of time for us to spend on marketing, managing other tasks in our business, and spending quality time with our family during our busiest times of year. And we felt trepidation because we had tried it before. We knew that shifting our workflow to include an outside editor, and finding the right balance of communication to ensure quality and trusting others to get the job done was a long-term commitment. It meant that we were agreeing to see unexpected, not quite right, almost there results, or even sometimes downright disappointing results. And we were committing to finding the right words to convey to the editor exactly what was amiss - too much yellow, not enough contrast, too much brightness in the highlights. We had to work out a new process for before and after the files are sent to the editor. For their part, the editors were committing to teach us the correct lingo when talking with them, and working with us until we were satisfied with their corrections. We also were nervous because we genuinely LIKE the people at ShootDotEdit… yeah yeah, business is business and all, but we DO consider many in our industry friends, and it’s important to us to maintain these friendships. What if we sent too many jobs and changes back for them to redo? What if we were perceived as ‘complainers’? What if they just couldn’t get it right? Were they going to hate us? Would they fire us? Would we fire them?
Editing our work is a very personal job for us, and allowing someone else to do this was a big leap of faith for us. We are trusting them to make aesthetic judgements, snap decisions that are both subjective AND based on data. They have to weigh conflicting instructions from us - “don’t blow out my highlights” AND “boost the contrast” AND “make that color and light look supremely natural" and "that's not warm enough”... If patience and respect and desire to deliver a high quality product are the hallmark of Zappos customer service, ShootDotEdit delivers all that and more. I suspect that no matter how many crazy shoe shoppers there are out there, working with the needs of photographers and artists has to be a bigger challenge. Each job we send out represents our livelihood, so from our perspective it feels as if there's a lot more at stake than if we were just buying a pair of shoes.
We won't say that the transition to outsourcing our editing was easy. While we did not have to do a lot, here is what we did to make the transition a bit smoother with better guaranteed results:
- We committed to a year. All our editing was sent to ShootDotEdit. We knew that we had to collaborate with them on several weddings in order to get to a place where we consistently saw the results we wanted. Making this commitment was easier for us with their Unlimited plan - keep your eyes open for opportunities to sign up for this, as they can only offer this plan to a limited number of studios each year.
- We kept notes on what ShootDotEdit "color profile" worked for certain skin tones and what didn't.
- We listened to their advice. They have edited thousands more weddings than us, and not listening to this kind of experience is a mistake.
- We kept the emails from Shoot Dot Edit separated so we could easily find them - these emails also act as part of our To Do list for editing.
If you've been in business for some time you know the many benefits of outsourcing work: less time editing means more time doing other tasks and more time with your family and friends. Knowing that most folks already understand this, we always share with photographers an unexpected benefit we discovered with outsourcing our editing. We are now culling our work much more concisely before sending it to SDE. Knowing the cost of outsourcing our editing forces us to select only the very best of the best and this has positively impacted our studio. When we were editing it was easy to be a little lazy and include 4 or more images of the same moment, of the same group portrait, and let the client choose which is best when placing their order. But the truth is that is a dis-service to our clients and they often do not place an order because they cannot decide which image is the best. They want our editing expertise as much as our photography expertise. Choosing the best images for them makes their job of purchasing prints easier and faster and we have seen happier clients over the past year because of our tighter culls.
So, as we enter the holiday season, we are happy to report that we are all caught up on our editing (yippee!!). We have plenty of time this month to help our clients with special last minute orders, and to send holiday cards and gifts out to our clients…a task that is often stressful through the holiday season. And, most importantly, we are free to snuggle up with our boys and enjoy our hard-earned evenings and weekends off. Cheers to snowboard season, right around the corner!!