I heard an interview with Katie Rivera on her boutique photo editing business and her soon-to-launch course: The Photo Editor’s Guide, on the RV Entrepreneur Podcast with Heath and Alissa. I love what Heath and Alyssa are doing and trust their resources.
The Photo Editor’s Guide sounded fun and interesting. But I felt a little guilty, even thinking about taking another course. I am a bit of a course junky, and I have been trying to cut back and review and follow through on all the courses I already own!
But there was something so tempting about the idea of having a visual skill I could market to other creative people. I had started getting gigs as a freelance writer already and needed to concentrate on growing the writing business. Still, I wanted to add a visual skill to my tool belt to get me out of that cerebral place and give myself a break from writing some of the time.
Rivera said wedding and portrait photo editing was the most lucrative and in-demand types of photo editing because of the high volume of photos involved. I liked the idea of seasonal work editing photos and then taking on more writing assignments the rest of the time.
Would anyone hire a photo editor who was not a professional photographer?
I wondered after looking at the course page if it would be realistic for someone who wasn’t a photographer to get started editing photos. How would I show credibility with no background in wedding or portrait photography?
I reread her sales page and her article about her success with photo editing. She has been in the business for five years now. But Katie was a successful wedding photographer with a degree in photography before she began her photo editing business.
Katie specializes in niche editing of film and hybrid photos, and niching down gives her an even more significant advantage. Katie had credibility up the wazoo before she started offering photo editing services.
She has a robust marketing funnel with a video series to learn more about her course. The discounted price for the launch made it even more tempting. She also offered a payment plan, so this was doable for me.
Katie assured us that you did not have to be a professional photographer to take the course and do well as a private boutique photo editor. After watching the video series on the course, I decided to take the dive with the payment plan.
I had been able to build a freelance writing site and started a health blog to showcase my sample writing. I started getting work within a few weeks once I started pitching, so I was hoping this would be a similar journey and another freelance skill under my belt.
I was in the very first batch of students, so the course kept improving as we went along. There were about 70 students in the first round.
What’s in the Photo Editing Guide?
There are three separate modules, and Katie was building the last two sections as we started module one. There is a Facebook group that was not very active when I was in the course. She does Facebook live one every few weeks to answer questions.
The first section of the course is on the mechanics of using Adobe Lightroom to edit and transfer files using Smart Previews. The course covers standard Lightroom photo editing and not the more detailed Photoshop retouching. Katie supplies a lot of practice galleries of her own photos, so you get a feel for how it is to work on wedding shoots.
I found the video lessons clear and easy to follow, and there were plenty of PDF downloads. If you are familiar with Photoshop, Lightroom is a breeze to learn. I also supplemented my learning with other lightroom videos outside of the course that helped me go a bit deeper than her coursework took us in Lightroom. I really enjoyed David Molnar’s retouching module for photo editing with Lightroom.
Client management is as important as editing skills
The second module in The Photo Editor’s Guide was on how to set up your onboarding process using Dubsado, a client management system. Katie went out of her way to supply amazing templates for a lead capture form, canned emails, and a contract. She created detailed videos about how to set up a client onboarding process.
Katie emphasized that having an easy onboarding process was even more important than being an experienced editor. Many of her clients came to her after working with photo editors who had confusing onboarding processes or disorganized workflows.
Rivera explained that a less experienced editor with a positive customer experience was way better than an experienced editor with a disorganized process for getting client files, communication, and feedback.
She supplied a niche workbook so we could define our services and narrow down the type of photographers we wanted to work with.
The third part of the course was about branding yourself, setting up your website and marketing to photographers using social media, and approaching local photographers in your area. Once again, Katie supplied us with templates for emailing and ideas for where to find photographers in our niche.
I was impressed with the quality of the information. I was learning a lot about a whole new market I had never even considered before.
I was able to complete the course and get my website up with all the Dubsado integrations within three months while working my other jobs full time. It was fun to learn about the whole wedding photography industry, and I felt like I had at least a novice understanding of a whole new world.
The Cost of running a photo editing business
The cost of running the business is under $70 per month
- Hosting is around 7 to 30 depending on what you chose (I already had Siteground for my other sites)
- Adobe Lightroom is only $9 per month
- Dubsado will cost 30 per month after you use up your 3 trial clients
- Edit Source business listing, $100 for set up and then $9 per month
- A decent laptop that can run Adobe programs and a good external hard drive for backup and storage
Marketing photo editing
The third module of The Photo Editors’ Guide is all about how to market yourself and it is as detailed as the first two modules with cheat sheets and lots of ideas for how to get yourself out there and get work.
I started by looking on Instagram, Facebook, and Google for the type of photographer I wanted to work with. I started a separate Instagram account, a new Facebook page, and a distinct Pinterest profile. I also joined several Facebook groups for photographers and Lightroom presets in the niche and style I wanted to work in.
I was astounded at how many different sub-genres there are within the wedding photography field. After bouncing around a bit, I found the people I really wanted to work with.
Harder to break into than freelance writing
The Instagram and Facebook communities are friendly, but I wasn’t getting a lot of interest or work right away. One reason is that I launched at the end of December when the wedding season is winding down.
Another reason for not getting a lot of traction at first is that I contacted established photographers as well as rookies like myself. I didn’t want to be afraid to reach out to the people I honestly wanted to work with even if they were established photographers while I was a novice.
Some have ignored me, but many have interacted and liked my posts. When I began emailing people I had been following, many did not reply, which is to be expected. Some said they preferred editing their own work.
Some photographers already had an editor, and some responded that they would keep me in mind for when things got too busy. The best responses I have had so far from warm emailing have been from photographers who are new to the field.
So far, I have not landed a single client, but it has only been a month. I am a little discouraged that it isn’t as easy to get clients for photo editing as it has been with writing. But photo editing is a much more specialized field, and it is seasonal.
I’ve noticed on Facebook groups that photographers are requesting photoshop retouching. I may add a retouching page to my services since I have already done a lot of Photoshop editing on my own work, and I think I would enjoy it.
Even though Photoshop retouching isn’t as lucrative as the bulk editing in Lightroom, it would be a way to meet photographers and funnel them into the more lucrative high-volume Lightroom editing service.
So far on photographer has found me on my Edit Source listing, and he turns out to be a local photographer I didn’t know about.
The catch 22 of having no experience
The tricky part of starting anything new is that you don’t have any client testimonials. I’m using stock photos instead of photo editing samples from clients. But everyone starts as a rookie.
With writing, my lack of experience was not an issue because it is fairly easy to get guest posting samples and I had my own blogs and medium posts. Many writing clients are happy with the examples I have self-published on my own blogs and on Medium. Also, writing has a vast and diverse market with numerous job boards.
Boutique photo editing is a much more specialized field to break into with only a few places to list your services.
Katie offers a Facebook page for listing services and finding photographers. She also offers guidance on marketing yourself even after the course is over.
Once the course was finished, Katie listened to people’s concerns about getting clients. She suggested finding a local photographer to trade services with to get branded photos showing the business side rather than wedding photo samples.
I am starting to look for a photographer that shoots in the style I want to work in. Katie is also offering a mastermind group for those who want help with marketing and launching by the spring of 2020.
After completing the course, I felt confident that I would be able to edit photos in Lightroom adequately. I know I can provide a comfortable onboarding experience. At $880 or less if you wait for a possible discount, the Photo Editor’s Guide is a great value.
Is the Photo Editor’s Guide a good fit for you?
If you have a good sense of color and design and any kind of visual art background, this course might make sense for you. You have to be willing to work hard to get your site and customer onboarding set up and even harder to get your first client; especially if you do not have a photography background or any connection in that world.
As with any freelance business, you can’t be afraid of rejection. To learn more, go to Katie’s site and sign up for her video series about the course.
Update: My first 2 clients 5 months into this endeavor
I took the Photo Editors Guide course in October of 2019 and completed my site in late December of 2019. I set up my Instagram account and started pitching to photo editors in the last week of December. I have sent out about 80 pitching emails with some positive interest but no actual clients yet. It is now the middle of February 2020 and I have two clients who came to me through other avenues then my direct emails.
I love doing this work! Building the site, learning the editing software, and learning about the wedding photo industry have all been incredible. Now actually editing for real clients is a dream come true!
One old-school wedding photojournalist
My first client is the old school photojournalistic style wedding photographer. He found me through the paid photo editors listing I posted. I went with my gut instead of being conformist and put up a listing that was radically different from the pastel “light and airy” style of most of the other editors who were listing their services, and it drew exactly the type of photographer I was looking for.
The new client also does sports and commercial shoots for sports cars and I think maybe some fashion shoots. We met and talked and exchanged his first batch of photos in person which was great.
He has been doing this for at least 10 years with a second shooter who still uses JPEG exclusively. He has noticed a trend toward more female photographers in the last few years. He joked that he is the cliche older Asian guy-photographer who used to be the norm for weddings.
He now tries to have a female apprentice available to shoot because so many brides feel more comfortable with a female photographer, especially during the getting ready phase photos. It’s all fascinating to me and I am learning about a whole new world of wedding photography.
One new school dark and moody wedding adventure photojournalist
My second client is one of the young women he sees at photo conferences nowadays who have replaced the older guy photojournalists. She uses the “dark and moody” style and is an amazing artist with the Dirty Boots Messy Hair Presets.
She is the other type of niche photographer I have been targeting with my Instagram posts and blog posts on my photo editing site. She is a bit harder to edit for because her style is quite unique and subtle, and I am just learning her style.
It is an amazing honor to work with these two accomplished artisans and be able to support their work.
Dubsado takes getting used to
I have had a few glitches to work out with my Dubsado client on the boarding system, but I expected to make mistakes at first and my clients have been really patient and taken it in stride.
So far so good.
I am learning so much about using Lightroom and photo editing. I am getting ready to add a detailed retouching service page to draw more photographers into the system. Bulk editing is easy and pays better in the long run. But I don’t mind doing some detailed retouching in Photoshop as well.
Other Photo Editing Courses
I found two really great courses for Lightroom and Photoshop retouching for photo editors:
As mentioned before, David Molnar has a nice course path for Lightroom and photoshop retouching with a free master class and a 2-week trial. Joel Grimes has a course on retouching. He has a free master class and a bunch of affordable modules.
They both have courses for photographers, but they have separate modules that pertain to photo editors and I love niche courses!
Diversifying your services takes the stress off and keeps your interest up
Some people like to just focus on one service. but that isn’t my style right now. I will probably niche down and phase things out in a year or two when I decide what I enjoy most and what is most lucrative. But for now, I am an explorer.
I am still doing freelance writing some of the time and loving it. But I have not landed any steady large clients yet, so it is still sporadic.
I am also working on a nutrition course for my niche health site mindbodyclarity.com and slowly building my art sites on the side. My goal is to eventually have my own sites as my full-time focus.
But right now I love photo editing because I like the break from freelance writing, which is very cerebral and keeps me in the intellect a little too much. Using my visual skills while listening to music uses my brain in a totally different way that I like to nurture.
Update number 2: March 2020
At the beginning of the month I did another trail edit for a wedding photographer in Oregon
I was about to edit a second wedding for my local photographer. It was fun to get to work on photos from a new photographer and I learned a lot looking at the types of edits she does, but she ghosted me after the trial. I know this happens sometimes and a lot of photographers are very picky. But it was discouraging because I really liked her work.
Then Corona Virus hit and I realized the wedding season is going to be postponed for a few months or years, so that means photographers may stay home and edit their own weddings if they have anything left to do from last season or any weddings they shot so far this year. So I am back to working on a course for my health site and revving up to do some white papers, guest posts, and putting audio and video on each of my posts for both of my blogs.
I will start pitching to wedding photographers for photo editing again in a few months. But it is disappointing and scary to have everything come to a halt so suddenly.
At least I have some freelance writing experience already and enough paid writing samples and guest posts to be credible and get hired. I know it is possible to get remote work because I have already done it in the past. Everything is just going to take longer and be even more challenging than it was before the virus hit.
Final update June 20, 2020
I decided to let go of the photo editing and took down my photo editing freelance site.
I am having too much fun with writing and learning to create motion graphics, explainer videos using after effects and adobe illustrator, 3D illustration using Blender, and sculpting product models of the illustrations with Zbrush and other ways.
Read more about what I have been up to on my personal blog.