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SteveB2005 08-26-2008 02:51 PM

Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
Hey retouchers. I'm am seeing more retouching service centers popping up to India lately. Path/silo, jewelry retouching, pre-press are the main services I see offered for outsourcing. I know a jewelry photographer who recently sent work to one of the India retouching houses and he said his average cost is under $1.50 per image! How they can provide acceptable service for that price is unbelievable and a concern on how we can keep competitive in America as imaging arts professionals as years come forth.

Outsourcing workflow services to India and China is nothing new. It has been happening for years now. But because India has a varied infrastructure with lower wages for goods and services, we wonder why eventually if the majority of pre-press clients and photo studios will send all their work overseas to save on costs. A lot of printing is outsourced to Chinese firms.

I am wondering what some of your thoughts are on this ongoing debate about outsourcing work to other countries, just to save on production costs.

If I can get say $10 for example per image for retouching and a client can send the work to India and get basically the same quality of work for $2-5 per unit, how can we compete with that and maintain fair work competition?

Also, there are not "retouching" unions that I know of that have guidelines of fair work practices.

Anyway, this is a subject that I would like to address and get some feedback and ideas about remaining competitive in America when we are seeing more and more work being outsourced. Any thoughts or comments?

pixelzombie 08-26-2008 03:04 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
it's only going to get worse, not that i'll miss making clipping paths but if they can cut diamonds in that part of the world they can certainly be trained to do retouching...

SteveB2005 08-26-2008 03:12 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by pixelzombie (Post 203940)
it's only going to get worse, not that i'll miss making clipping paths but if they can cut diamonds in that part of the world they can certainly be trained to do retouching...

You said it Pixel. It's true, the jewelry business, DeBeers was exclusively handled through generations of families who were the cutters and merchants in NYC/Amsterdam, but now India has gotten in the game and the old generations have gotten concerned on the market share. It's an open market. I saw a documentary about the jewelry biz and DeBeers and India is a player now. In retouching and diamond cutting.

The question is though: how can we stay competitive and make a living wage in the graphic arts/retouching in the USA? What can we offer, outside of upper quality standards, a way to keep work in our hood?

Here is also an example, related but not in a literal sense: Suppose a cattle rancher has 5000 head of stock and he needs a team of "cowboys" to "ride" the herd several hundred miles to the packing house. The Montana team will drive the herd say $10 per cow. But then the rancher gets a bid from overseas and that team puts the bid at $3.00 per head. Who will the rancher choose?

So the question is; what incentive is there to run a business in the USA if we are going to be under bid everytime by an overseas company? As you said, it will get worse, but does it have to? What about sales tax. Money, jobs, standards of ethical practices, taxes, everything is out the window if we continue to outsource the US design/photography overseas because they can do it for pennies on the dollar.

My solution to this to require and maintain a fair standard of competition is to pay the US extra fees as duty for hiring overseas company that sends work and income out of the country. Maybe there are such fees in place, I don't know because I haven't outsourced any work there. But I am concerned about fair business practices as well as fair competition.

Benny Profane 08-27-2008 08:09 AM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SteveB2005 (Post 203943)
But I am concerned about fair business practices as well as fair competition.

Let me be the first to tell you that life is not fair and the world of capitalism is quite cruel.

Go for the high end. That segment of the market will be the last to go, if at all.

SteveB2005 08-27-2008 12:20 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Benny Profane (Post 203999)
Let me be the first to tell you that life is not fair and the world of capitalism is quite cruel.

Go for the high end. That segment of the market will be the last to go, if at all.

Yep, no one should think the work place is fair because it has its concerns. This is one of the reasons that Jimmy Hoffa got involved in forming unions for truckers and warehouseman.To improve working conditions for labor and fairness on wages. But we have no retouching unions per se.

I can't compete in the high end $150-300 per hour retouching world, but there has to be a stream under that where I fit in. I can't compete fairly with clients outsourcing work I do to India. Unfortunately that is just the way it is. There doesn't seem to be anyway to deal with it, other than keep going ahead. Have I personally lost some work going overseas, yes and probably from bids I didn't win.

There is a high end market out there that only the few top talent will be involved in. But there is also a market in between where the majority of us work in.

And didn't the US government plan to outsource a bids to oversea firms to build a tanker and plan security protection for the import docks in Los Angeles. Is that fair to America? No it is not!! Keep the jobs and money/taxes in the USA.

Anyway, my $2

Benny Profane 08-27-2008 12:37 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
Read Thomas Friedman - "The World is Flat", and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree". He'll explain it better than me.

I used to work in probably the best dye transfer house back in NYC in the early eighties. The place employed about 50 highly skilled people churning out beautiful dye transfers for the ad agencies. There is nothing more stunning than a well done DT - it's like a Kodachrome on paper. When I saw the first computer system that enabled a lot of the tasks performed by hand in that shop but done by one operator much quicker and easier (and no chemicals!), I knew that little industry was doomed. I was surprised at the speed of it's demise, though. Within about 5 years, you couldn't find a DT shop in Manhattan. Fair? Nope, but, since then, I've never looked back, and never ignored the tidal wave of the future. That'll make you poor and bitter pretty fast.

SteveB2005 08-27-2008 12:47 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Benny Profane (Post 204042)
Read Thomas Friedman - "The World is Flat", and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree". He'll explain it better than me.

I used to work in probably the best dye transfer house back in NYC in the early eighties. The place employed about 50 highly skilled people churning out beautiful dye transfers for the ad agencies. There is nothing more stunning than a well done DT - it's like a Kodachrome on paper. When I saw the first computer system that enabled a lot of the tasks performed by hand in that shop but done by one operator much quicker and easier (and no chemicals!), I knew that little industry was doomed. I was surprised at the speed of it's demise, though. Within about 5 years, you couldn't find a DT shop in Manhattan. Fair? Nope, but, since then, I've never looked back, and never ignored the tidal wave of the future. That'll make you poor and bitter pretty fast.

And another example is in the 80's when table strippers, who used to make a very good living were being replaced by computers and the Creo/Scitex system. Old journeyman strippers were called on the floor one by one and told they can get trained on the new equipment or take an early retirement. Many chose the latter and went fishing or played golf.

Yes the times are a changing. We try to keep up the best we can and try to compete the best we can. That's about all we can do.

Sinisa 08-27-2008 12:50 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
no need to fear if you are skilled, visually sophisticated and in tune with the market. the whole point of retouching is that it should make an image stand out, have that 'extra something'. (i don't mean to be disrespectful, but) this can not be delivered in a third world factory. what they offer in majority of cases is simply labour.

SteveB2005 08-27-2008 01:30 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
That's all true, but what if an overseas retouching firm can match the quality of Pascal's box studios and do the work for pennies on the dollar? That could happen as a possibilty.

And we do know that Microsoft has programmers overseas for pennies on the dollar.

See what I am trying to look at is: no matter what quality there is, whether goods or services, there has to be a standard of fair practices. We have to find the point of fairness, if we still can present one, or eventually everything could be outsourced and then the game is over. Where is the line drawn? NAFTA?

And I see retouchers here applying to jobs that require higher skills being offered extremely lower wages lately, or it gets outsourced if it can't be filled. What would prevent all the high end retouching studios in NYC from sending their work overseas in the near future if the quality was comparable and they could save $$$$ per year? Does anyone see what I'm saying? The high end market could disappear as we know it. I know many out there couldn't accept or believe that could happen, but.....

pixelzombie 08-27-2008 03:15 PM

Re: Outsourcing Retouching Services To India?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Benny Profane (Post 204042)
Read Thomas Friedman - "The World is Flat", and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree". He'll explain it better than me.

I used to work in probably the best dye transfer house back in NYC in the early eighties. The place employed about 50 highly skilled people churning out beautiful dye transfers for the ad agencies. There is nothing more stunning than a well done DT - it's like a Kodachrome on paper. When I saw the first computer system that enabled a lot of the tasks performed by hand in that shop but done by one operator much quicker and easier (and no chemicals!), I knew that little industry was doomed. I was surprised at the speed of it's demise, though. Within about 5 years, you couldn't find a DT shop in Manhattan. Fair? Nope, but, since then, I've never looked back, and never ignored the tidal wave of the future. That'll make you poor and bitter pretty fast.

does anyone still make dye transfer prints?


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