Everybody loves a second chance. Although we'd all like to get the shot the first time around, sometimes the wind blows a model's hair into her face; sometimes Sally's eyes are red as she blows out the candles on her birthday cake. Thankfully, technology allows us to press the delete button on the camera and take the picture again. But sometimes you don't notice right away: what then? Two words: retouch it.
As a business owner, time spent away from customers is money lost, and since retailers are often juggling more than they have hands for, outsourcing such services allows businesses to offer quality products, while continuing to maintain their signature rapport with customers. According to Jazz Mandair from JaincoTech, the key to business success in any mature industry is specialization. "GM assembles cars, but the components that make up the cars are outsourced to companies that specialize in various sub-components," says Mandair. "Gap designs clothes but outsources the manufacturing. By focusing on one thing and making it your core competency, you can get significant quality, performance, and pricing advantages."
Outsourcing for Profit
Hollywood FotoFix Inc.'s Austin Long outlines the paradox arrived at when using in-house services. "When you do work in-house, if the customer isn't satisfied, the retailer often has a dilemma: absorb the hours of wages paid to do the work, or lose a customer by charging for work they're unsatisfied with," he explains. "With an outsourced retouching solution, the service provider will often credit the cost of the work, making it easy to offer a 100% satisfaction/money-back guarantee to all customers." Hollywood FotoFix partners with retailers and minilabs, even helping them market themselves with a store locator search for local photo restoration services that's on their website.
Frank Tona of Crown Camera in Redding, CA, profited immensely from outsourcing to Hollywood FotoFix. After spending hours learning Photoshop, he decided that his business couldn't carry the expense of the many hours he dedicated to retouching. Skeptical of outsourcing, Tona hired an in-house staff, but quickly saw the same problem. "They would spend hours on one fix," he says. "You can't afford anyone to do photo restoration in-house and expect to make a decent profit off of it."
Tona looked into outsourcing services. Now he has a new problem, though one that's not quite so disturbing: "When customers see how easy it is, they always want more done-that's something we have to resolve up front. I'll say, ‘This is what we do; if you want us to do more, it's an extra fee.'"
Retailers choosing outsourcing services generally scan the photos and upload to an online account set up by the accommodating service, which use a web-based system to also send finished files back to the store for downloading at their convenience. This is appealing because the photos never leave the store. Most of the time, the store then prints the final output, unless they request finished prints. "Our business is based on image manipulation, not on printing them," explains Carolina Pittinari of Onlinephotofix.com. "That way, the printing business remains with [our customers]."
Quality Is Key
The biggest advantage to outsourcing is the quality of the end product. "People are looking for customized services, [which] take something generic and transform it into something tailored to their unique needs," says Mandair. "For this customization, customers are not only willing to pay more but are also likely to buy additional products. Instead of buying a 4x6 picture of the bride and groom, a retouched version will sell as an 8x10 or larger. A picture of a girl with acne and braces may not [sell], but a fully retouched version would become something that's sent out to the entire family."
OnlinePhotofix.com tries to remain modern in their retouching approach. "OnlinePhotofix.com allocates time for research and development of new procedures, so we are always applying the newest techniques," says Pittinari.
Retailers should provide customers with the knowledge necessary to get the best product for their buck. "Outsource companies have to be experts in their field and offer new services that will continue to drive new business," says Mandair. "This R&D is typically not something the individual retailer can afford to do, but by working with leading vendors, retailers automatically benefit from their ability to support additional services such as mass facial retouching, mass color correction, etc."
So in lieu of the bad lighting, the red eyes, and the tree branch blocking Uncle Harry's peace sign, you can still make a profit off of seemingly hopeless images by offering retouching services. Outsourcing to these labs can streamline the process by providing a high-end service that doesn't take hours away from your customers.