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How to Outsource Your Editing

I use to think that I had to do everything myself and it literally took an ambulance to convince me to change. 

It was inside that ambulance that I realized I had to stop trying to do it all myself. I had to stop pretending that no one else could do these tasks and so, no one could help me. And when I took a long hard look at my business, I had to admit that editing was going to be my downfall if I didn’t fix things.   

Do you know what that feels like? Some of you may not, but I worry that others know exactly what I’m talking about. The very words send shudders through your spine, because this is your reality.  

What is your answer to the following questions?

  • What takes you more time than possibly anything else in your photography business? 
  • What get’s you to stay up till all kinds of crazy hours of the night? 
  • What has gotten you to tell your kids (with shame and guilt), ‘just watch another show’?
  • What has gotten you to tell your husband, ‘you don’t understand how much I have to do’?  

If you’re admitting that it’s editing like I did…THERE IS HOPE! 

Editing is not a required roll that you have to fill. In fact, most likely, it’s not even the best use of your time. <– CLICK TO TWEET!

Today I want to show you how I let go of my own excuses, what it took to train and hire a retouch artist and why I’ll never go back!

My hope is that I can inspire you to let go of your editing (or whatever areas are holding you hostage) so that you can take back control of your life. 



  1. Marcus says:


    I agree the editing process can take up much of our precious time! Otherwise spent with family or shooting other projects. Can you expand on how you are finding quality people that can work within the financial constraints?

    Thanks again for sharing the tip.

    • That part has been surprisingly easy! You would not believe how many moms have Photoshop already sitting on their computer and don’t know how to use it. Add options like Adobe Creative Cloud and it’s even easier still. Another great place to look is art students. They’ve got the eye or are actively training to get the eye and it’s a great gig for them because they can work around their schedule so easily! Put out the word and I think you’ll be surprised by how many choices you have!

  2. Erin says:

    Good Lord this is GENIUS! I already have a FB post going out looking for any mama’s I might know who need the extra cash. Thank you!

  3. Tiia Norsym says:

    This is all so true! Where I’m getting caught up is how to get the raw files quickly to someone that may not live close without upload times that take hours. Also do you have any suggestions on how to find moms and do you ever do an exchange of help for photographing their kids?

    • I’ve done exchanges for other things but not my editing. Editing can take longer to find your rhythm together. I want to find the perfect person, who is the perfect fit and who plans to stick around for a while (cause I don’t want to have to train again and again!!) so with editing I’m more interested in the perfect person as appose to the best deal. House cleaning though, I’ve totally bartered on!
      As for Raw… I don’t have an answer on that but I’ll do some digging. I only shoot JPG, it’s a decision I made years and years ago. I wanted to just take the time to get it right in camera to begin with so that I couldn’t use the excuse ‘I’ll fix it later’ (which is sooo me!). I know so many swear by RAW and I totally see why, it’s just not my preference. The happy accident was that it made file exchanges much easier. ;0

  4. Annie says:

    How do you set a fair pay rate for a retouch artist?

    • Great question! Do some research and see what normal fees are. There are different ways to pay, you can pay by image, by session or by hour. Each option has pros and cons. For example, by session will eliminate the concern that they are maybe taking longer than necessary to rack up hours… But it creates an equally alarming concern that they could rush through and not give the attention you require. Ultimately, (and this is great news) I believe that both of these problems will not be solved in how you choose to offer your compensation but rather are solved just by finding the right personality. Back to compensation… Consider investing between $15 and $50+ per hour based on experience, abilities, etc. I would ALWAYS start lower so that you can offer increased rates based on performance and not already be at your max as well as starting with the expectation of a trial period.

  5. Stacy says:

    What a fabulous idea!!!

  6. Cathy says:

    I would love to do this so that I would actually have the time to do photography the way I want. I just don’t know how I would go about finding someone. Do you just put it out there on facebook that you’re looking for someone??

  7. Patricia says:

    This is such a great idea. I am just starting my business and am finding it is taking me much longer to get it off the ground due to time spent choosing and editing photos for my website, etc. I have already started my search. Thanks so much for sharing. My family thanks you too!!!!

    Patricia T.

  8. Roxanne says:

    I am a stay at home Mom that enjoys retouching my own images on PSE. How would I go about getting my name out there to photographers that are interested in outsourcing this?

    • I think this is a GREAT start! 🙂 If anyone is interested in connecting with Roxanne, leave a comment under hers (with your website so she can contact you) and Roxanne will get in contact with you!

  9. Sheila says:

    I would also love to hear from anyone looking for a retouch artist. I am experienced with photoshop but would love to build my skills and work with someone. I think a second set of eyes can really make decisions easier too!

  10. Hi Leah, I have a question about outsourcing your editing. How do you verify that the person you hire has a calibrated monitor? Last year, I hired a college girl, who did a great job… but my pictures were always too dark and a tad off in color. I had her use my calibrator, but still the pictures were off. When we put our monitors, side by side, that was indeed the difference. She used a macbook air, so I think perhaps the fact that she edited on a laptop was the problem.

    Anyways, any suggestions you have for overcoming that obstacle would be great.

    Thank you.
    Penny Grissma

    • Hi Penny,

      It sounds like you did exactly what I would have done. If you were able to put them side by side, did you try calibrating her’s yourself (this could also be done together walking her through the process via Skype if you were not local). Most important is that she is calibrated to your lab. I know that lap tops can be harder to calibrate but there are plenty of people who edit on Mac laptops so we at least know it’s possible. 🙂

      I think (and this is with any hiring), the key is just open communication… There is always a solution to every problem! I find that it’s usually just a matter of tackling it creatively.

  11. Hey Sheila, I would love to touch base with you. I am so much more in love with the photography side than the editing side!! Would you email me?
    Leah, you’re a genius!!!!

  12. robyn martin says:

    Do you give your retouch aritist raw images?

  13. Sarah says:

    Thank you for ALL of your videos. Every single one has made me sob…..
    I’m in that place of spinning my wheels, not having time for ME, not having time for family….Always staring at the computer but *afraid* to take those next steps. Thank you for showing me that I can face my fears, that there are options and that I’m not alone. xoxo.

    • Hi Sarah! You are not alone!! I have been where you are and thousands of thousands of photographers share your same worries and heartaches and the wonderful news is that lots us have been able to climb out! You are not alone!!
      You have two dreams… Raising, loving and having a truly happy family and being an amazing and successful photographer, these dreams DO NOT Have to compete, they need to join together! That’s the only way you find peace and balance! You can do this! I’d love to help you on your journey! If you ever want to learn more about how I could help, shoot me an email!

  14. Carol Strawn says:

    Thank you, Leah, for this encouragement! I have tried some individuals and companies and have not found anyone yet. Do you ever wonder about someone taking your editing process and using it for themselves to start a business? or possibly telling others what your editing process is? This is why I haven’t thought about using someone local…anyone who seems interested is always a photographer themselves and that seems self defeating to me. Just wondered how you would address this issue? Thanks, cj

    • Hey Carol! If that’s a concern for you, I would suggest not going local. Most of my team does not love in the same state as me… And while yes those are absolutely valid concerns, what’s more important is that you have time to live your life and not be glued to your computer. For me, the risks were worth the reward!

  15. I have been heavily thinking on outsourcing my editing and training someone like you mentioned. I’m interested in how you structure payment. Do you pay them by the hour or by the project?

    • You can structure it either way! I pay by the hour but with an clear range of how long I believe the project should take. The key is to find someone you can trust so that you know that if they spent that many hours (whatever it is) they needed to. 😀

  16. Danie says:

    Wow! I’ve never considered hiring a stay-at-home mom. What a good idea. I often feel stuck to my computer during the precious time I have with my family. I love spending time editing my images, but my little children are so much more precious and they are growing older by the moment. I definitely don’t want to miss out on any more of that.

    Do you go back and put any finishing touches on your photos once your retouch artist is finished or do you leave it all to the person whom you’ve hired?

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post Danie!! In the beginning, you may need to go back and add those finishing touches but the end goal for me was to train them well enough that they could anticipate the finishing touches that I would want so that I could be truly free of that task.

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