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Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

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  • Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

    So, there is this constant talk of how everything is a race to the bottom, how everyone is replaceable etc.

    Well, I would have to disagree completely. Every country has an industry that is dominant compared to the same industry in another country. So, yes Indians are the best darn programmers, and yes Italians make the best clothes, UAE has the best modern architecture... I won't go into why, that is pointless, but they are the best because there is a high concentration of experts there, so aspiring designers, architects and coders flock there in order to become experts themselves.

    But conspiracy theory states that because there are millions of computers in China(or where ever) all of a sudden there will be millions of retouchers and no one would get paid, so in the end everyone will just give up retouching.

    Riiight. There has been millions of computers in US and Germany for a while now, and where are those millions of retouchers?

    Then these conspiracy theorists say that because cost of living in some remote village is lower then the cost of living in a big city, these retouchers will reduce their prices and force the big guys to reduce their. Well, maybe before they become good, but nobody is stupid enough to give you 50% or more discount just because they don't spend their money on real estate.

    You can outsource tasks that require little skill. So, yes putting microchips into phone casings can be outsourced, you can outsource clipping paths, or image blurring. But there is so much communication with the clients in the actual retouching, that no one wants to work with a different person every time they send the files over(have you ever talked to an out sourced call center? not a very good experience is it?).

    Things will get cheaper as retouching becomes a bigger industry, but not nearly at the scale of 10:1. Also, saying that image quality is constantly dropping and that is because clients don't care about their customers. Well, guess what? Ones that do care and invest into proper marketing will get more products sold, so that theory doesn't really stand. Truth is that companies fail and succeed all the time, and retouching has to follow the market.

  • #2
    Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

    Several edge case examples, which might have been the purpose.

    This post is the first I've heard of the phrase "race to the bottom".
    At this point, the Chinese make the best clothes, simply because they make most of the clothes. Italy gets points for style, but most of that is marketing.
    The "modern architecture" in the UAE has no sewer system. All those gorgeous buildings have toilets that pump directly into a rotating fleet of tanker trucks. Kind of tarnishes the sheen a bit, IMO.
    India has many great programmers. Statistically, with that huge population, they should have many great everything, but no monopoly.

    I don't see outsourcing as any sort of threat. Technology is the threat. Outsourcing is simply the logical outcome of a free market.

    Sorry if I missed the point.
    Learn by teaching
    Take responsibility for learning


    • #3
      Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

      I think you've got the point. Point is: do your best because nothing is ever perfect, and thinking about what might happen will get you no where. These kind of things like what if all of a sudden some rural Chinese teenager becomes the biggest digital artist of all time. And if he does, great, power to him, but it's highly unlikely that there will ever be as many great artists as there is demand, so again, do your best.


      • #4
        Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

        Lots of sweeping statements there Skoobey but we'll let that pass. When I started in a retouching studio (25 years ago) 3 to £400 per hour was normal for high end retouching work. This reflected the high start up costs of scanners, plotters etc and speed of turn around. Not sure who is making that these days - cgi studios maybe. Plenty are making just £40 an hour now which suggests rates can and do change at the ratio you dismiss!


        • #5
          Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

          What you said is the same as if you claimed that in 1920s cars were much more expensive.

          That's because back then it was an industry in it's infancy and those that were working were the very best(there weren't enough people to have actual classification). Just like 25 years ago any CGI artist would make a lot more per hour, simply because they were pioneers. And same stands today. Why do commercial cgi/photo retouching cost that much today? Because that is the frontier. Colorists and people that work in Burn make a lot of money? Well, duuuh, that is the frontier, it keeps moving.

          In the 90s you would get paid well to blur an image, that doesn't mean that your value has dropped since then, just that the times move on. Like making out of style clothes, yes you can sell, but at a huge discount.

          People like Benny keep claiming how there will be so many retouchers at one point that no one would pay anything for the service. It is just not going to happen, this job requires a lot of artistic background and a lot of patience. I know of plenty academic painters that can't make ends meet but don't do retouching because they can't take the pressure of schedules, limits in creativity, limits in free time etc.
          Last edited by skoobey; 04-24-2015, 11:57 AM.


          • #6
            Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

            I'll try to make another point here and it is not just about manufacturing computers and much more about economy.

            Here in Brazil, 1 dollar is about R$3,00. The avarage brazilian worker earns about US$800,00 monthly and avarages about US$10.000 a year, which isn't that much compared to US$ wages. But we don't pay our bills in US$ but on R$. So, for example, I spend about R$300,00 on groceries every month for 3 persons, which is about US$100,00 and I hardly believe that a family can with that in the US.

            Now comes the paying thing. I've seen somewhere here on the foruns that a good retouchers earns about 20 - 40 US$ dollars and hour. IF i earned that, at the end of the month I would be earning as much as R$18k/monthly for a 40hour/week job which is about the same as doctor earns monthly.
            Altought i'd like to earn that, I surely can pay my bills earning about US$5,00/h and if that's the price I would need to set to get me to work, I surely would.

            And that's how it fucks up US retouchers because if I could do a better job, for US$5,00, than a US$20,00 retoucher, that would mean it is alot cheaper to hire me and that could save alot of money for the photographer.

            You talk about chinese. One US$D is about 6,20 Chinese Yuan


            • #7
              Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

              Good in what ara of retouching? "good" path maker will make 5$ an hour, but a "good" cgi artist can make 100$ and hour or even 1000$. There are many levels of good.

              Yes, retouchers earn as much as doctors, that is normal, both jobs require a lot of learning and a lot of patience, and people skills...

              I get what you are saying, and that is exactly what I was pointing out, yes, you can learn to path things out in a mediocre way and be cheaper then the next guy. Sure. Just like Tom can charge less money to assemble iphones than Dick.

              Those are no brain activities. Now, if you are just as good with deadlines, artistry, business and communication, why would you charge less then the next guy? You wont, because retouching requires skill.
              You can start out with low rates and do a great job, but soon you will have too many clients and will raise prices and so on and so on, and in the end you'll be charging just as much as everyone else. Retouching is not for unskilled labor.

              Problem being, top clients want top results, and they will pay to get them. And as you can obviously see by the example of fashion or auto industries, or even computer industry, noone is giivng you a deal. If it's cheaper, that product is not as good(take fake Range Rovers or fake iPhones for example).

              Just like fashion, we are designers, we are not seamstresses. Designer makes 100x as much money as a seamstress because designer has knowledge that the seamstress doesn't. But there aren't many great designers out there, are they? And design has been around for just as long as commercial painting.
              Last edited by skoobey; 04-24-2015, 12:19 PM.


              • #8
                Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                My point was no more trivial than yours. Fees will drop - they used to be universally high across the board and now there is a a thin strata of big hitters with a host of journeymen underneath. Supply and demand like any other business which is fine by me.


                • #9
                  Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                  Originally posted by Repairman View Post
                  My point was no more trivial than yours. Fees will drop - they used to be universally high across the board and now there is a a thin strata of big hitters with a host of journeymen underneath. Supply and demand like any other business which is fine by me.
                  That is for the same old thing. You keep innovating and you'll charge top dollar always. Every industry does it.

                  You're pointing out that if you keep doing in the future what is good enough now, you will get paid far less than what you're currently being paid. Well yes, out of fashion work gets paid less then innovative work.


                  • #10
                    Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                    What I mean basically is you can do a better job than a chinese but doubtfully you could do it cheaper than a chinese retoucher that is as good as you because you just can't afford lowering your prices as much as they can if that's the deal closer.

                    Repairman said above that 25 years ago the wage was 3 to 400£\hour in london. As it happens, people could not send a file to someone as skilled as him half way around the world to makke it cheaper. Now they just simply can.

                    And as i said, if you tried to compete with someine as skilled as you in china, you'd have to lower 6x your income having to pay the same bills and he would just keep his price and living the same. When you say that having to many clients will make you raise your price you're absolutely right. What you're not considering is that i will ALWAYS be able to charge less because, in perspective, I will always be earning more than you do for the same job.
                    Just to make it in examples, wages of 20us$/h is the wage of a full time doctor over here. 100/h is the wage of a banker. Put it this way, how much you'd have to charge hourly to have the same lifestyle of a banker. The difference would be my lavarage on closing the deal.


                    • #11
                      Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                      In 2013, Rhythm & Hues Studios won the Academy Award in visual effects for “Life of Pi”... eleven days after declaring bankruptcy:

                      Change starts now. Stay connected.www.hollywoodendingmovie.com

                      Could be parallels.


                      • #12
                        Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                        Fascinating video. Thanks.


                        • #13
                          Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                          @ Renato

                          It's a global world. You can always find a cheaper alternative, but than it's that cheaper thing, and not what you wanted.
                          You want a BMW, well, you'll have to buy a BMW because buying a Chinese car of similar design really isn't nearly as good as that BMW you wanted, so in turn you still desire that BMW.
                          You want a brownstone in NY? But, you buy a house in Slovakia. Yeah, you pay 1/10 the price, but it is not in NY, and that defeats the point.
                          Sometimes alternatives are good enough, but most of the time there is no alternative.

                          Salary of a full time doctor where I live is 500USD a month, but think of this way. If that doctor was actually an expert, he would probably work at a better place and receive more money. Simple as that. And sure, traveling to receive therapy is common these days, but those clients that want a particular LA surgeon will still go to that surgeon. It's those that couldn't afford the LA doctor in the first place that will go to Hong Kong.

                          And so is with retouching. Top retouchers cost the same as always, but now there are many mid-level retouchers that are cheaper and can be hired online. Sometimes medium quality is sufficient, sometimes it isn't but the trouble becomes apparent when your competition hires an expert, because all of a sudden your campaign looks bad in comparison.

                          If you have 10 clients constantly offering you jobs at full price, you are going to decline them and take those that pay less? I wouldn't and I didn't. You move up the ladder, if you're lagging behind the industry, you move down, it's quite simple really.

                          @Flash tones
                          They must have paid someone if they went bankrupt, no? So some people earned money off of them. Of course companies fail and succeed all the time. But they didn't fail because some kinder garden children decided they can do it cheaper. They failed because they overspent, same thing that happens with every business that goes down. It's good to remember that all companies are people, so just because venture failed, doesn't mean that those artists won't find jobs somewhere else.

                          EDIT: OMG They even say that only people that make money are project investors. And all of you combined didn't think of investing into the film you're working on when you know it's going to be huge? You've got to laugh. OK, it's pretty clear why they've failed. They wouldn't relocate to Canada, they wouldn't drop salaries, they wouldn't work overtime for free, they wouldn't lay off people that they don't need. Well, yes, you failed. I can't believe what they are complaining about. Things like moving every year? Bidding for every job? This is not communism, people.
                          EDIT no2.: I can't believe how ignorant these people were. Like they completely didn't care about what's going on in the world as long as they are okay, and then when a simple thing like having to change workplaces happened all of a sudden it's the end of the world. I know they meant best, and they did great work, but they truly were living in a bubble.

                          Time when many are cutting corners is when global recession hits, which happens every 15-20 years.

                          In order to be a decent digital artist, like any successful artist, you need to be well educated. Foxcon pays it's workers 2$ a day, but those workers aren't skilled labor, they don't engineer the products, they just put part a into part b and tighten 4 screws, it's an assembly line. You can outsource paths, but you can't outsource creative director(you can, but you're not going to pay him pennies).
                          Last edited by skoobey; 04-25-2015, 12:16 AM.


                          • #14
                            Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                            skoobey, your points are not without merit, but correct me if I'm wrong, you're fairly new to this profession. Lets revisit this conversation in 20 years and see what you think then.


                            • #15
                              Re: Race to the bottom and other misconceptions

                              I probably won't be doing this in 20 years, that is the whole point, you go with the times. You innovate, do something in the general area, but not the same thing, unless you want to complain how the prices went down, and the only truth being that you didn't want to learn anything new. I'm glad many people were lucky enough that they've been doing the same job all their lives and have never had to go the extra mile, but it's just not the reality for most.

                              Doctors didn't do laparoscopic procedures 20 years ago, it wasn't possible, now it's common. Cars didn't have airbags 20 years ago, now it's common. Phones didn't have cameras 20 years ago, now it's common. But people innovate, learn and grow, and I don't think everyone became poor all of a sudden, quite the opposite, world is getting wealthier all the time.
                              Last edited by skoobey; 04-25-2015, 01:49 AM.


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