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Professional photographs typically look flawless by the time the clients see them. So flawless, in fact, that most people don’t realize the amount of time that goes into making every image as beautiful as possible.

But the reality is we as photographers spend a lot of time after the shoot doing things like culling, color correcting, editing, and retouching. From the client’s end it looks like with a click of the button the finished product is created- but it isn’t (unless you are talking about the Santa photos you get at the mall- then maybe it is!). 

Behind the Camera: Charging for the  Post-Production Work of Professional Photography

When you are starting your photography business, it is so important to consider all of these things that go on behind the camera during post-production, and be sure to charge for your time and effort when you are setting your prices in  your packages. 

 To do that, we need to figure out how long it takes us to complete these post-production tasks or, if we are outsourcing, how much it costs our business to handle that portion of the shoot. First, let’s carefully define these post-production terms for clarity.

What Does Culling in Photography Mean? 

The process of culling is where photographers select the best images from the shoot to be edited and delivered to the client. This might sound quite simple to do but it can often be extremely time consuming to narrow down 400+ images from an hour-long  photoshoot.

Pro tip - use Lightroom to organize your shoot by location or grouping of subjects - you can use the ratings or the colors or both. It helps to cull the shoot in smaller groups and by doing it this way you can see if you are providing a balanced gallery.  If you don’t love culling, we recommend using Photographers Edit or if you don’t mind using AI then FilterPixel.

Color correction before and after.

What is Color Correction in Photography? 

Color Correction is really important for the final image to look polished. Sometimes no matter how hard you try to get the shot perfect in the camera, there can still be color casting happening in your photos that detract from the true colors of the subjects. Have you ever done a Spring photography session for a family in a park? The greens of the grasses and the trees can cause the skin tones of the subjects to be a little green- even if you try to set the white balance as close as you can!  It happens.  Color Correction also means to balance out the colors in your image. To ensure the best color correction you must have a good calibrated Monitor.

Pro tip - Calibrating your Monitor is extremely important! 

The type of monitor you use to edit is extremely important - NEC and EIZO are recommended. Laptops are not recommended since their screens are engineered to adjust their display when they are at a different angle. 

You must calibrate your monitor to get the best color match. Datacolor Spyder is a fantastic company that can really help you calibrate your monitor and even your camera, lens, and sensor. Their Spyder X Photo Kit has everything you need! You also need to calibrate your monitor to the print lab you or your clients use. Picsello users can learn more about calibrating with WHCC here.

Photographer uploading his images to edit them.

What Is Photo Editing?

Most people know that photo editing involves altering and improving images, but that’s an oversimplification. Editing also can be used to express your own personal style.

While automated software can handle some photo editing techniques, many of them must be completed manually.

Photo editing may include:

  • Straightening
  • Cropping
  • Resizing
  • Sharpening
  • Contrast
  • Exposure
  • White balance
  • Noise reduction (smoothing the image out)
  • Background removal
  • Basic color adjustments
  • Creating and adjusting shadows
  • Layer adjustments
  • Image masking

Again, this is not just a click of the button, most often each photo is individually edited, which takes quite a long time (and doesn’t get quicker with experience - you might find it takes longer as you learn new techniques and get pickier!).  

What Is Retouching in Photography?

Many people use the terms “editing” and “retouching” interchangeably. But the difference is that retouching requires a higher level of manipulation (and more time) than editing. Editing makes a photo look nice and clean, while retouching adds more effects on top of the editing process.

Retouching may include:

  • Blemish removal
  • Teeth whitening
  • Skin smoothening 
  • Slimming
  • Cosmetic/aesthetic enhancements
  • Removing or adding objects in the picture
  • Color changes
  • Applying digital makeup
  • Special effects

Retouching a photo can take a lot of time as it is time- intensive to get right and have the results look natural.  Remember, this time is on top of the time it takes for culling, cropping, and color correcting the photo. 

Clearly, post-production  is no small investment of time for you.

Why Photographers Should Charge for Editing

Hidden tasks like editing can make pricing complicated and challenging for photographers. 

In most industries, costs are more straightforward. For example, hairdressers charge separate fees for each service: cut, highlight, full color, blow-dry, and the list goes on. Videographers, too, charge separately for shooting time and editing time/completing the video. 

Yet despite the fact that editing may be “hidden” to our clients, it isn’t hidden to us. And we should charge for all the time we invest, even when it’s not happening behind the camera.

Editing takes place after the photography session, so it shouldn’t be part of the session fee. It’s an additional service that takes a significant amount of time. While editing can certainly be included in your total fee, it’s essential to calculate it into your costs when you set pricing.

Beyond being a separate service, editing/retouching is an entirely separate skill. Some photographers focus only on photography and outsource their editing and retouching to professional photo editors. Since we charge for our talent and time, we should absolutely charge for the talent and time involved in editing photos.

Picsello Smart Profit Calculator being used to figure out pricing by a photographer.

How Much Should Photographers Charge for Photo Editing?

When setting your prices for profit, you must factor in all of your costs (the money you put into your business). They say time is money, so the time you spend on your business counts as a cost too. So, calculate how much time you spend editing and how much that time is worth.

If you aren’t sure how to calculate it, Picsello’s Smart Profit Calculator™ will factor these editing costs into your pricing,  or you can factor in how much it would cost you to outsource that portion of the job. 

Pro Tip - Check out Photographer’s Edit. They offer personalized photo editing for professional photographers around the world. No memberships, no contracts or minimum orders. Use code ihavealife for 50% off your first order.

What if Clients Ask for Additional Edits?

Sometimes, clients see their photos and then ask for additional edits or retouching. 

If you haven’t mentioned the price of these services, clients may expect you to do the extra work for free. And if you “charge extra,” you may end up with an unhappy client.

Clear pricing guides can help you avoid this issue, or at least easily solve it if it comes up. 

As we mentioned above, you can include basic editing in all packages (e.g., x edited images). Then list more advanced editing and retouching services as separate fees that clients can add to any package. 

It’s also helpful to include photo examples on your website and in your pricing guide. Show clients a photo with the basic editing that’s included in your package, then what it would look like with more advanced editing, then with retouching. 

If you want to break down editing costs even more (e.g., listing “layer adjustments” or “removing objects” as separate items), then include photo examples of each separate service.

This process of detailing your editing services requires time and effort, but it can help you avoid a lot of client issues and stress in the future. 

Any time a client asks for additional edits, you can simply point to your detailed pricing guide and your photo examples. Most importantly, you’ll be paid for all the time you spend perfecting your final images. 

Pro Tip -Use your shoot time to educate on the costs and time it takes and your process. Often on a shoot you will hear,” oh, you can just photoshop that right?”  A quick answer can always be,  “My editor can retouch anything for a fee I can ask her after the shoot” and then joke  “or you simply could wipe Johnny's nose of boogers and save yourself a lot of money!”  

To Charge Your Worth, You Need to Charge for Editing 

Nobody wants to work for free. But if you aren’t including editing in your pricing, then you’re doing exactly that. 

Whether it’s for the time you spend editing your own images or the money you pay to outsource this task, you deserve to be compensated.

So, don’t overlook the hidden work of editing when you set your prices. Be sure to include editing and retouching in your pricing. Educate your clients about what these terms mean, what they look like, and the work that goes into making every photo the best it can be. 

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