Should You Outsource Editing or Hire In-House?

One of the questions I see asked in photography groups all the time is whether or not they should outsource their editing to a company or hire someone in-house to help them.

Since my job is primarily as an outsourcer, you’d think my answer would always be to outsource to an editing company.

…but you’d actually be wrong.

Many times, that’s a great solution for a good majority of photographers. But not always.

If you’re pressed for time, I sum up some of the biggest differentiating factors in a short video here.



Even so, there are more things you should consider than just this.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider when you’re trying to answer this for you and your business.

Taxes and Payroll

For a lot of photographers, this is the determining factor right here lol.

If you hire in-house, you’re responsible for paying taxes for your employee. You’re also responsible for figuring out their tax withholdings and managing payroll.

Yes, you can hire an accounting firm to do this for you. Absolutely. And what you have to withhold will vary state to state.

If you outsource to an established business, they function as a subcontractor to your business. In other words, they bill you for the work that gets done.

You don’t have to pay taxes on them, and you don’t have to figure out payroll. You just figure out the bill when it shows up in your mailbox (or more than likely, your email inbox).

With employees you have more say over when they work, how they work, and how much they make, but with that comes the responsibility to figure out the appropriate tax and payroll bullshit.

For a subcontractor, you don’t get to tell them when they work (you just give them deadlines), and you have less of a say on what they charge.

If you don’t like their rates, they may negotiate with you – but more than likely you’ll have to move on to another company.

Employees are generally cheaper per hour; however, with how much you have to pay for taxes (and any worker’s compensation or insurance you may have to pay, which I discuss below), this can really offset any savings.

A subcontractor’s fees are generally higher because they have to pay all of the taxes on the money they receive from you.

Insurance and Worker’s Compensation

If you’re having someone come to your business property and perform work that you’re paying them for, you may need certain coverage on your insurance.

If you have a remote employee or an in-house one, you will also most likely need to pay worker’s compensation.

If you have a home studio, there may be laws dictating the legalities of someone coming to your personal property to perform work they’re being paid for.

Can I say for sure? Nope, I sure can’t. The laws are different everywhere – from country to country and state to state. But it will absolutely be something you want to look into ahead of time.

With a subcontractor, you might have to worry about insurance if they’re coming to your facility to perform the work, but more than likely they’ll be performing the work virtually so it will be a non-issue.

You also don’t have to pay worker’s compensation for virtual workers.

Providing Equipment

You may be required to provide equipment for your employees, or provide funds with which your employee can use to buy equipment if the equipment is necessary for them to do the job you’re paying them to do.

So even if they have the equipment necessary to do the job, you may still need to provide them with equipment of their own (or money they can use to buy it).

For subcontractors, they’re expected to have their own equipment and you’re not responsible for providing it or paying for it.

Training Your Editor

I’ve already talked about ways to train a remote editor in a blog post, but it’s important to note how that compares to training someone in-house.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

It is a little bit tricky to train an editor that works remotely. However, when using editing examples (before’s and after’s), comparisons, and video tutorials, it’s actually not as bad as you’d think.

Additionally, editors at editing companies are professionals. This is all that they do.

It is literally their job to learn how to pick up on subtle style differences and stylistic choices and learn how that applies to you and your style.

They have a lot of practice at this. They’re really good at it. And generally speaking, after some back and forth, they’ll probably pick it up relatively easily.

The downside is you can’t sit down with them and go over critiques and finer details; you have to do it via video recording (or video chat). Which is different than looking at the same monitor and physically pointing things out.

This is where training someone in-house does come in handy. It is super convenient to be able to sit down with someone in real time and go over editing critiques and details.


The downside to this is probably just a result of geography.

What are the chances you have someone local to you that has an eye that’s as trained as a professional editor that does this for a living?

In other words, what are the chances of there being a professional photo editor in your city that is willing to work as an employee for you?

Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not.

This means you’re going to have to teach them how to pick up on subtle differences in exposure, white balance, etc., and you’re going to have to create the training materials they’ll need to train their eye to be able to see that stuff.

Additionally, unless you have someone who’s very adept at working with the software, you’ll also have to teach them the software tools they’ll be using as well.

With remote editors at a lab, they’ll already be knowledgeable about the editing software and you won’t have to worry about teaching them how to use it.

So more simplistically, if you hire someone local, it is very convenient; however, there will be a giant learning curve involved with teaching them how to do the job. You’ll have to patiently work with them and hand-hold until they get it.

With remote editors, critiquing edits can be a bit trickier (though not really, as video chatting and tutorial videos make it easy), but there’s usually a smaller learning curve.

It’s much easier to just throw an experienced editor into the deep end in the middle of your busy season and expect them to be able to hack it.

So if you need help Right The Fuck Now (TM), you’ll probably want to consider a professional lab.

When It’s Good To Hire In-House

There’s lots of advantages to hiring seasoned editors at a lab. But there are also reasons you’d consider hiring in-house.

Firstly, if you do large volumes of work. If you are a high-volume studio (shooting 2 or more weddings a week on average, or 5-6 portrait sessions a week), it can be way more convenient to have someone do the editing in-house.

That way you don’t have to wait to upload and download so much data to the editing lab. You can just tell the editor to transfer the content from the cards onto your computer for you and take it from there.

Secondly, if you need other tasks performed in your studio. This could be things like packaging, cleaning, sales, customer service, prepping the studio for sessions, etc.

When they’re not editing they can take care of some other tasks for you and free up more of your time to shoot (or just, you know, have a life).

So if you’re turning over a high volume of portraits and/or weddings and need someone to manage your studio, hiring someone in-house and working through the learning curve has the potential to really pay off.


Do you shoot super high volume and need some help around the studio? You may want to consider hiring in-house.

This will come with a lot of hand-holding while you teach them how to edit and how to use the software, but it will be worth it once things are running smoothly.

Do you shoot average volume and don’t want to deal with things like taxes, payroll, possibly changing your insurance needs, or training someone on how to use the software? You’ll probably want to outsource to a lab.

The learning curve will be shorter (generally speaking), and they’ll just bill you for their work. No payroll, no worrying about taxes.

If you’re ready to outsource and you think a lab would be a good fit, shoot me an email and let’s start the onboarding process.

Chat soon, k?

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