Even if you already work in e-commerce product image retouching, you might wonder how someone can be able to retouch 200 or 500 images in a day. You might wonder if that's even possible. Well, the numbers I named are not out of the blue, they are average numbers from multiple reports of retouchers that worked under my command. Average numbers mean that some retouchers usually do more than that, and some do less. But sure, there's nothing fishy or crazy with these numbers. If it sounds impossible to you, it only means that your regular workflow is not very efficient. If that's the case, you will have to change a lot in your workflow and even in your mind.
Fast retouching workflow is quite possible, but it depends on what exactly you have to do with each image. Which means that if your work with low-quality images, that are dark, dirty, hard to retouch, you won't be able to retouch hundreds in a working day. There's no magic. But why are you supposed to work with poorly shot images in the first place? It's not just retouchers that are responsible for the final images, it's photographers and assistants as well. You can't achieve a good result if the rest of your team is not able to work properly. So when I say “
Not all the images can be retouched fast. There are many conditions that affect the number of images you can process in a day. I'll name the most important conditions so that you can get a better understanding of why it is so. Basically, we care about the following things:
- Image kind (model, object/flats, mannequin)
- Image size
- Original image quality
- Specific demands
By image kind, I mean a way how to represent products online. You can shoot your items, usually clothes, on a model, or you can use the ghost mannequin technique, or just make them lie flat. With bags, shoes and other objects, you can just shoot them as they are, standing still, or make a model wear them. Mannequins are the hardest of them all, flat lays and models come next, while objects are the easiest to retouch.
Image size is the final size of retouched images. Some online stores use rather small images, like 700 to 1000 pixels, some go for larger pics, up to 1500 pixels high. And once I had a short collaboration with an online store where they produced images 2500 by 2500 pixels with guidelines so sophisticated, I doubt you could ever retouch more than 50 of those in a working day.
Anything less than 1000 pixels high is easy. The bigger the image, the more time you will spend retouching. You might wonder why, as you're going to do the same things no matter the size, but removing dust on an image resized to 1000 by 1000 pixels high is completely different to removing dust on an image 2000 by 2000 pixels. The latter square is actually four times bigger, and because it doesn't get reduced in size so much, all the dust will still be present on the final size image. And with the smaller image, some of the dust gets eliminated after resizing to 1000 by 1000 pixels because it becomes too small to be visible. There are other reasons, but anyway, large images are generally much harder to retouch as they require more work, and you can't use many dirty tricks that save you time with smaller images.
Original image quality is all about goods preparation and photography. A well-cleaned item standing on a piece of spotless background, well exposed, shot with a correct white balance, can be isolated and retouched in no time, like under a minute. If the background was dirty and scratched, the item – dusty and crooked, covered in fingerprints, blending in the background, if there was not enough light at all, things like that – it would take you so much time you'd curse everyone who made you do it. This is where we, retouchers, heavily depend on other people. If they do their job well, we can do ours as well. If they mess up, our lives become miserable. This is the reason why I can never answer anyone who asks me how many images can be retouched in a day and how much it is going to cost straight away. That is – without seeing the original images first. It's because original image quality can be so different. Retouching a mannequin can take a few seconds if it's properly prepared, dressed and shot. But if an item is all crooked, you'll have to spend ages retouching it.
Isolation is the process of background removing. If you have to do it, it takes longer than if you don't have to do it. For example, invisible mannequins are isolated by default, objects are mostly isolated, but models – not so much. Nowadays it's pretty natural to shoot models on a gray background and leave it like that. If you have to remove a background and turn it white, like we have to do in many cases, it's extra work. This work can be done rather fast, or it can be a total pain, all depending on the original image quality.
And finally, there are specific demands that might make the whole process much slower. There are some standard demands, typical for the industry. I doubt you'll be surprised to hear that all the items should be cleaned from dust and dirt, things like that. But there are some online stores that invent new rules because they think it's important. The more rules, the longer it takes to make sure your retouching is up to the standards.
Now let's see what kind of retouching can be done depending on the number of images one retoucher can process in a single working day. Let's say a single working day is 8 hours or 480 minutes.
70-100 images per day
200 images per day are okay if you work in a luxurious online store and you have to make your images look perfect, mannequins included. It might be not such a bad result if you retouch huge images, that are more than 1500 pixels high. Fortunately, average online stores don't really use high-res images, as they take longer to load and they don't fit an average screen anyway.
300 images per day is a normal result if you work with invisible mannequins and models, you don't have to isolate models, and your images are not too big. You can still do some basic color correction, fix major defects, remove all trash and do other things like that.
300-500 images can be done in one day if you don't have to retouch mannequins at all and you don't isolate models, just objects.
500-700 are possible if you have a lot of experience, isolation of models is not needed, isolation of objects is simple, and your images are not large (not more than 1200 pixels high).
More than that means that you'll be processing images in a more or less automated way. You can crop them, you can automatically isolate them, remove the most visible defects, and that's it.
As you see, it really depends on the images you are working with, and it's hard to tell how many images you can make in a day without seeing the original photographs. But that doesn't really matter. Wherever you work at and whatever images you retouch, you will be able to significantly increase your working speed. That is – if you still don't use scripts and actions that do half of the work for you, and if you still don't use shortcuts so efficiently that you can work with Photoshop panels switched off because they obscure the view. But even if you do all that already, the course might still provide interest to you, as I have a ton of different tricks and techniques and actions and scripts – some of those might be life-saving.