Off-shore processing of wedding (and commercial) images -- discussion invited

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by johncrosley, Jan 21, 2015.

  1. I spend a great deal of time in Ukraine from my US home, and have had numerous occasions to use Ukrainian photoshoppers (but not for my images uploaded to PN as that's against the rules -- I Photoshop all my uploaded images personally).
    I don't have a commercial business, but it occurred to me that Ukraine's economy is not in good shape, salaries are quite low, the education level in general is extremely high, the photographers in Ukraine who do weddings often do stunning work, many now are starved for work and must rely on other income sources and would jump at a chance (I think) to do photoshop work for others for much smaller remuneration than is standard in the USA or Europe, if they had such work to do.
    In times past, I've hired Ukrainian photoshoppers, and after giving them a test run, have found some good ones, and some extremely good ones -- ones that would satisfy the needs of a high quality glossy magazine or even museum exhibition, on just about any subject, and some of these people are so starved for work they're working (some) at other pursuits, but love images and even Photoshopping.
    How many readers of this forum or this question have ever used, I wonder, off-shore photoshoppers or other image editing? I'd like to know if there is a viable market to serve such as with cost-conscious, overworked heavy American shooters who don't want to be involved quite so much with Photoshopping to free them up for shooting more.
    For your information, most of the time where I stay and in more than one place in Ukraine I can get Internet speeds, especially at night on cable (daytime in the USA) at up to 25 mps, upload and download). Most photoshoppers have latest software and high quality computer hardware,and calibrated screens. I've seen their work done for me (not for and some of it's been stunning, and at quite low cost. Many Photoshoppers are photographers who produce stunning wedding images for their countrymen, but that market is pretty dampened right now and of course quite seasonal as usual.
    (By the way, there's conflict only in the far East of Ukraine, and aside of drastically slowing the economy by draining the treasury and inflating the currency, and aside from leaving people feeling pretty much poorer, you'd be hard pressed to know there is hostilities if you visited Ukraine. You'd be quite safe in 80-85% of the country, and a fool if you went to the other 15%-maybe 20%. Ukraine (until loss of Crima) was Europe's largest country -- it's huge -- and the hostilities are hundreds of miles from the bulk of the populace other than those living next to the Russian border.
    Ukrainians in general seem to LOVE photography, too, and place photography and photographers in high esteem. Most also seem to like, envy, and/or love America and/or Americans and Canadians and many hold the same feelings toward Western Europeans.
    Are any of you wedding (or commercial) shooters so overloaded (even during some seasons only) that if the price were right, you'd offshore your work, by fastest Internet if the image editing were trusted, guaranteed, and handled professionally by a native English speaking staff?
    Do you do that now to someplace else or some other business -- and if so where? Do you reliably know of someone who does?
    I repeat, I do not own a company or business in this area, I am NOT a wedding or commercial photographer, and presently do not have a business interest, but wonder if there's a need . . . if done properly.
    I'm open to any suggestions or discussion on the topic of offshoring in general and your experience and/or problems you might have experienced or might foresee.
    (Major companies send their computer software development to Ukraine, and save megabucks -- I meet the programmers who do the work from time to time, and they work for small wages by US standards, but have a most satisfactory standard of living in Ukraine).
    John (Crosley)
  2. Regarding rules, there's nothing that
    requires members to edit their own photos. If you
    took the photo, and you hold the copyright, it's
    your photo. It doesn't matter who edits the
    photo, you can upload it to

    Many of us have uploaded photos from color slide
    or negative film that we didn't process or scan.
    No difference.

    Even if it's heavily manipulated by another
    editor to our specifications or under our
    direction, it's still our photo.

    Regarding contracting out the editing, it's
    probably a good idea to find someone in Ukraine
    you can work with personally, at least until that
    editor understands your style and preferences.

    I can think of some photographers I'd love to
    hire to edit my photos, but they're too busy with
    their own projects and I couldn't afford them
  3. My stock agency recommended I try a retouching firm in India for a very complicated project. The work was great , done
    and delivered quickly, and it was very inexpensive. Better and cheaper (time vs. cost) than I could do it in fact

    As long as I give them very explicit instructions as to what I want done, and prep my images well they do a fantastic job in
  4. Ellis V.
    I'm very interested in learning the name and contacts for this 'retouching firm in India' even if only for my own benefit. I'm not affixed to the idea of having Ukraine photoshoppers do work if it can be done cheaper and of same quality in India.
    My experience so far with Ukraine photoshoppers I worked with, was I gave them general instructions about images, left interpretation to them, and some specific instructions, and asked them for certain things, and if they wanted to deviate, also asked them to send me the deviation in case I liked it better than my own, as an 'alternative solution'. In a few cases I was greatly surprised.
    I suppose a responses generally would be best by messaging system or my e-mail here: if you wish to reply (which I hope you will). I'm very curious. I'm signed with a giant agency but so far have sent them nothing as I have no time to 'image edit' what they want, and if I can do so at small expense it might make a good investment.
    John (Crosley)
  5. Hi Lex, thanks for responding.
    It's been years since I read the PN rules and they may have changed. I recall at one time either reading the rules or an interpretation or reiteration of the rules from a prior administration long ago that you had to image edit your own photo if it were image edited. I get your point about someone else scanning it, and what about that giant Noritsu processor that made computer generated decisions about how to print film that might be scanned -- somewhat akin to the software in cameras nowdays ( think) that tells each camera how to render its information into a jpeg -- e.g., what interpretations and/or compromises to make and assumptions to follow, many of which may be right 'on the money' and others of which may be way far away from your 'artistic vision' which is the reason 'camera raw' is so valuable because it lets you make so many of those decisions or override camera assumptions (Even image editor assumptions about what it thinks is 'right'.), so I get your point. Nevertheless, I have a long memory, and it may have been as long as ten+ years ago that I thought I heard or learned what i thought was the 'no one else image edits for you' supposed rule.
    If I'm wrong, thanks for setting me straight.
    With thanks.
    John (Crosley)
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I recall at one time either reading the rules or an interpretation or reiteration of the rules from a prior administration long ago that you had to image edit your own photo if it were image edited.​

    There's never been a rule like that. I've been on since a few months after it started, and a moderator since 1999 and can say that there has never been a rule like that. I've been here through all four administrations.
  7. Thanks for your authoritative response, Jeff.
    John (Crosley)
  8. I'm west European amateur. - I would like to have the chance to get into contact with an affordable gifted professional photoshopper. - I have little issues with pidgin English and don't see a need for native speaker staff beyond maybe proof reading the order forms. - Sorry I have seen too many clueless translators adding confusion to rather work without them.
    My major concerns would be how to get the billing and payment for moderte sized orders done.
    I don't know if I can afford hiring Ukrainian Pros yet and guess if a bearable website was put up I'd check it out and maybe use the service.
    For my needs and connection a 1CD /day or at a time deal / package would be sufficient. - And I guess there are more small potential customers like me in the western world. - Quick turnaround would be not very important for me. - I'd happily wait for gaps between professional rush jobs. as long as the price is right.
    So the biggest challenge for your plan would be presenting and streamlining the service.
  9. Jochen Schrey,
    I'm very appreciative of your feedback.
    My question is merely exploratory, and is nothing I'm definitely committed to.
    I've used local Ukrainian photoshoppers, usually 'local' in terms of geographic proximity, at times past ten years now off and on, and sudden hyperinflation has made this seem a more viable alternative than before because then it was fairly expensive though not compared to US prices.
    The local currency started out last year at 8 to the $1 and now it's 16, a devaluation of 50%. Prices are not going up nearly to keep pace; at the same time Russia also has hyperinflation (But a huge surplus to keep things 'stable' for the consumer, and Russians are experienced in economic catastrophic happenings and don't faze too easily. Ukrainians just 'make do', and grind along.
    For many Ukrainians at least in bigger cities, dial-up and 'slow broadband' speeds often common in many parts of America in my experience, are becoming a thing of the Ukrainian past. The fastest service I've ever used regularly is in my quarters I stay when I'm in Ukraine/not in the USA.

    I just now ran a analysis of my Ukrainian broadband (now called an Ookla site), and found my speeds just after midnight are Download 35+ mips, and Upload (not able to pause simultaneously uploading 680, 24-in., 16-bit TIFFS roaring down the pipeline) and still have 41+ mips of Upload left. That's pretty fast.

    Other, major urban parts of Ukraine offer similar speeds, and don't charge (most of them - or at least the 'right' companies) for excess use, so this $7 a month 'basic Internet' offers something that would sell for a big price in the USA, and allows for stunning speeds. Movies download in minutes many times and simultaneous, multiple Internet tasks at these speeds (on a laptop no less) are no problem, depending on time of day, as it's cable.
    It seems that transmitting files by CD might be a major problem, given that Ukraine uses the Cryllic alphabet and the Ukrainian language (and also in some ways/parts, the Russian language) so addressing letters could be a problem, if one relied on the postal system. Parcel service is outrageously expensive through FedEx, UPS, etc., over $100 to the US for just a single letter.

    Also the method of placing addresses on letters and packages is different (one puts the country first, then the city, then the addressee). Not all postal carriers speak/and/or understand well the Western system or they can't read the writing (Roman alphabet) well, and mistakes are sure to happen.
    Also vandalism of mail boxes or simple lack of them is a major problem; large apartment buildings have banks of mail boxes, and their reliability is uncertain -- also boxes are small -maybe wrong dimensions for cds with packing.

    Mail is not 'air mail' like it generally is in the US (admittedly some is trucked even long distances, but lots of it goes air mail, even though the designation as a separate service has lost its once premier meaning).
    Also, Ukrainians are suspicious/secretive people when it comes to their personal addresses, and for good reason. A large percentage of them are 'registered' as living at addresses they haven't seen for years, such as their parents' address, and get benefits for that residence (maybe for mom who hasn't any money except a small pension) as a discount on heating and/or electricity/water.

    They are very conscious that postal workers are government workers and in some future time might be 'helpful' to the government, if the government gets serious about tracking down the 'real' residency of each and every Ukrainian. That might have a reason if the government tried to 'rationalize its electricity/gas/water and heating billing, which often depends on the number of people 'registered' as living at a certain residence. (it's complex, and I won't try to explain, and no one in Ukraine wants to talk about it)
    However, passports, even of foreigners, are not required every day to be carried like in neighboring Russia. The 'registration' system is a sorry leftover inherited from Soviet days and little attention is paid to it, normally, but suspicions engendered by living for decades under Soviet rule taught Ukrainians to be very cautious -- who knows what the future may bring.
    Use of mails is a difficult thing to consider in a business context where there is mail (which may very well be inspected, too), going regularly back and forth from one country to another.
    The Internet, however, is just to great too great to police, not meaning however, that anything illicit is intended or would be going on, but the law(s) of entropy suggest, that at least while the country gets a new government together, fights to keep its monetary house in shape, fights a 'shadow war' in the East (far from most Ukrainians other than those who live on the Russian border), there probably is little interest in policing the Internet. Also, the present government is more interested in keeping internal security from so-called 'fifth columnists' than from keeping photographers from their photoshoppers. However, who knows what the future will bring? The country's collective memory is rich with tales of misuse of government power. The Internet is seen as being pretty free of seriously organized snooping other than for state security.
    For reasons of the residence registration laws alone, I think many Ukrainian photoshoppers would be reluctant to reveal their real residence addresses to unknown foreigners with physical CDs containing gigabytes of info that might be inspected, albeit randomly.
    Some would not mind of course, but some (I know this as a fact) would refuse to disclose their addresses to all but best friends.
    Right now, there's no good reason, or presently foreseeable consequence about such disclosure.

    In all probability these 'residency' laws will be liberalized greatly or just done away with, but their presence is acknowledged by most smart Ukrainians, as a potential tool of anybody in government who in the future might want to make trouble for them. (Think of how J. Edgar Hoover in the US as leader of the FBI misused his office continually to smear certain individuals and groups, kept illicit files, snooped wrongly on certain people and groups (e.g., Martin Luther King, etc.), and so forth, and that in the USA -- land of the free and a country that follows the 'rule of law'.
    Except we read in the NY Times or even the newly arch conservative Wall Street Journal, how things we thought were sacrosanct parts of a 'free' nation, aren't really. The Snowden disclosures didn't help.
    Ukrainians are fighting for those freedoms; they NEVER had them before, but they know the consequences of not having them, and the same with photoshoppers you might want to write and send CDs to. Also, Ukraine has an ill-defined anti-pornography law, a consequence of its once being the porno capital of Eastern Europe. Now the law is so ill-defined that serious artists pre-Revolution at least, had doubts about creating nudes and trying to exhibit them . . . . and that law is still extant. Why send your images through customs inspection, where it might be chosen by some religious officer to test that law or maybe just someone opportunistic who might create a little trouble. There's presently no word of that law's enforcement, but who knows? Also, the police (militia) in general, so far as one can observe only and publicly seem quite well behaved since the revolution of last year, so things are looking up quite nicely, but again, why ask for trouble.
    (Sorry for the long essay, but what seemed like such a simple solution (mail CDs) actually is not a very good one, in general, for sending any images into and out of Ukraine, especially in the age of the often extremely high-speed Internet, which every photoshopper has access to. I felt that had to be explained.)
    Ten years ago, there were Internet cafes everywhere; nowadays, they're somewhere, but you'd have to look hard to find just one, and many restaurants (and every McDonalds) has wi-fi, while a good percentage of homes are wired for cable and Internet -- and that's basically required for photoshoppers doing any pro work, and especially those living remotely in such a huge country.
    Ukrainian customs has a history of even not being thought of favorably.
    I've not had dealings under the new administration/government (or even the old), but the idea of sending something with data on it past 'inspectors' who often drove high-priced vehicles on small salaries was a little galling - I knew one at one time, and he seemed incredibly well off for a lowly government employee. He 'inspected' freight trains. Nice guy, but he just seemed very wealthy for a lowly government worker.
    Serious reforms are under way, and they are serious; Ukraine's future (financially and otherwise) is not only what the Maidan fighters fought for, but once allied with Europe, Europe won't help or even pay attention to Ukraine unless Ukraine undertakes serious anti-corruption reforms, which I understand it is doing. (I have no personal knowledge of such things, as I have not done business in Ukraine and never paid a bribe to anybody anywhere in the world, despite entreaties from time to time -- some implying danger if I didn't.)
    But old ways die hard; I'd hate to be in a business receiving tens or hundreds of CDs every week, or routing them to photoshoppers even if not physically handling them.
    Under the 'old regime', I (or whatever business did that) might have expected to become an economic target of some official with hand out and power to cause trouble.
    But things are changing, and the Internet basically avoids most of such problems; Internet businesses don't have to have a 'base of operations' other than ability to 'sign on', 'transmit', and, and maybe -- for certain purposes -- a place to collect mail plus a banking account or payment system, which can be done on-line.
    All voice communications can be carried out over the Internet now (as many major companies do, say, for reservations, customer service, etc., when they 'offshore), even from 'mobile phones'. My photo agency says on its letterhead 'Paris' (among many of the world's major cities, but I find the 'editor' often is in a city on the Mediterranean in that person's home.
    The rules of business have changed.
    Even now in Ukraine.
    Thanks Jochen.
    I try to think things through in depth.
    John (Crosley)
  10. Jochem,
    A quick followup. Although English is taught in many Ukrainian schools, functional English is relatively rare in Ukraine, except for a percentage of University students and more recent graduates and those in business.
    Such a business need not even have a presence in Ukraine at all; it could be based wherever or in as many places as individuals can be found who would do the necessary work of finding, scheduling, remitting, and as important as anything, either translating and interpreting and or finding capable and reliable translators and interpreters.
    Theoretically, such a business could be started and run from Iceland, Brazil, Australia, Japan, or any state in the United States, (e.g,, almost worldwide) so long as the necessary connections were in place and local law and customs were not violated.
    It would be best to form and maybe run such a company from a business-friendly locale, of course, just as most of 'big business' has taught us and continually teaches us.
    John (Crosley)
  11. No offense but I try to keep jobs here in the US where I'm based. I know it would probably be cheaper to have it done in an emerging country but that's what got this country into the mess we're in to begin with - outsourcing. I'm all for creating jobs in the country I live in and that's where my money and my business goes.

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