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Creative offshoring!

It isn’t what you think!

I have not changed my mind about the long-term stupidity of offshoring (1, 2), which continues to prolong the effects of the Great Recession in the United States.

I was surprised and a little bit STUNNED this week (it takes a LOT to stun me, anymore) when Cheshire Cat Photo was contacted by a Business Development VP about offshoring my camera RAW images to New Delhi, India for photoediting!

Maybe I should not have been.

With the development of high-quality, compact cameras that exist today, it has become much easier for many people to press a button, take a jpg image, and send the images off to Costco (a discount warehouse store responsible for the economic survival of many of us Californians, by providing affordable FOOD! :-) ) or somewhere else, for printing. The images are OK to very good, and many people think that that is all there is to photography. :-) (Everything else must be getting that “lucky shot!” :-) )

A lot of us know better. Particularly, “serious” amateurs and professionals who shoot almost exclusively camera RAW images….

The email states what is obvious to professional photographers, that the “professional editing of photos is a tedious process and can be quite time consuming.” Oh yes! It is! I tell anyone who will listen that my work really starts AFTER I “press the button.” (And, as “they” say, “Any idiot can press a button…!” :-) ) Granted, a photographer should use his/her “eye” to create the best possible starting camera RAW image, and bad composition cannot usually be “fixed” by creative cropping of the image. For example, it is HARD to take a bad photo in Yosemite Valley, but I could SHOW you some! :-) The email goes on to state, “We will help you with these labor-intensive jobs so that you can concentrate on more important issues.”

Like WHAT? Collecting my fee…? :-)

The next sentence might be a clue. “We have been successfully working with companies like yours and have helped them maximize profits and expand their market.”

Aha! :-)

Now, I am always open to the consideration of new ideas, but it seems to me that the ART associated with the creation of my images is very much associated with the hours and days spent processing the RAW images that I load to my Macintosh from my camera.

For those of you unfamiliar with camera RAW images, they are essentially a “dump” of everything that hits the sensor of the camera, including, of course, the results of digital signal processing in the camera itself (the quality of your digital signal processor matters). After the RAW image is imported into a computer with image editing software (usually Adobe Photoshop and Bridge somewhere along the way), a variety of formats of images can be created, with the photographer acting as the camera in making choices related to exposure, white balance, etc.

The email goes on:

“Most of the images that are shot using digital SLR cameras require substantial editing before they are ready to be uploaded on the website/for printing purposes. Our expert graphic editors are well trained on various image editing tasks including:

  • Photo Cutout
  • Photo Enhancement
  • Photo Retouching
  • Images Masking
  • Clipping Path
  • Photo Restoration
  • Color correction
  • Creating 360 images
  • Remove or reduce shadows”

Well, regardless of the quality of the images produced and the integrity of this particular business operation in India, are these operations something that I would want others to complete, while still claiming that the final images produced are “my photographs?”

For me, the answer is a resounding, “No!”

Then again, SOMEBODY must be using the services provided, or their company would not exist! :-) Ah, but who…? :-)

The company that contacted me may be ENTIRELY reputable, but if my RAW images were released overseas to a disreputable company or a company in one of the OTHER countries of the world where international copyright law is not honored like it is in India, I would have given away those copyrighted images for free and forever! (Much as a lot of “American” companies have probably lost intellectual property forever while offshoring….)

Also this week, a fellow photographer whom I knew in high tech reminded me, with regard to offshoring of software business, that “You get what you pay for.” Sadly, many managers cannot tell the difference in quality.

So, if you are satisfied with the quality of your snapshots, in which the “destructive compression” (oh yes, pixels are destroyed) used in producing jpg images in your camera (which has a “brain” substantially smaller than our own! :-) ) results in an “OK” image, GOOD FOR YOU! Enjoy those snapshots! (But don’t embarrass yourself by claiming that you could obtain the results obtained by a professional photographer or “serious” amateur…. What you are really telling us is that you cannot tell the difference in image quality.) :-)

If you are a photographer who is content to offshore his/her creative process and call the photos your own, GOOD FOR YOU! Many of your customers will not be able to tell the difference! :-) Heck, maybe the offshore company is BETTER at image processing than YOU are! 😉

And for those of you who wonder why high-quality images by professional photographers aren’t “cheap,” now you know some of the answers to your questions about the labor-intensive creative process…. Some of the other cost is involved with buying cameras, lenses, lighting, computers, expensive software, maintaining a business, driving to locations, paying tax professionals and models and business insurance and phone bills and taxes…. (Note added January 14, 2011: An email discussion with a fellow photographer reminded me that I forgot COMMISSIONS to art galleries and organizations. Some of these can range 50-60% of the selling price before taxes [which are 9.75% in Alameda county]. Actually, one [American] ONLINE organization that sells the work of others thinks that it is perfectly fine to give its vendors only 10% of the selling price and keep a 90% commission for itself! It tries to fool itself by calling the 10% paid to the creators and vendors of the goods it sells, a “commission.”) All these business costs must be covered completely by sales before ANY profit is realized…. :-)

Maybe we photographers could “get it to you cheaper” if we offshored everything…. :-)

-Bill at

Cheshire Cat Photo™ – “Your Guide to California’s Wonderland™”

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. The Cheshire Cat Photo Store on Zazzle contains a wide variety of apparel and gifts decorated with our images of California. Framed prints and prints on canvas can be ordered from our galleries on redbubble®. All locations are accessible from here. Be a “Facebook Fan” of Cheshire Cat Photo here! If you don’t see what you want or would be on our email list for updates, send us an email at

©2011 William F. Hackett. All Rights Reserved.

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