Retailers’ Guide to Image Retouching: In-House Team, Team Augmentation or Freelancers?

In the dynamic world of retail, where visuals play a pivotal role in the buying decision, the art of retouching has become a secret weapon for many businesses. From small boutiques to large e-commerce giants, the need for high-quality images that grab the customer’s attention has never been more crucial. But what kind of retail business truly benefits from these services? And what are the essential skills required of a good retoucher? Let’s delve into the world of retouching.


Essential Skills of a Good Retoucher:

A good retoucher is more than just someone who can use Photoshop or Lightroom. They have a keen eye for detail, a deep understanding of color theory, and the ability to enhance an image without making it look artificial. A strong understanding of different file formats, resolution, and studio processes are also crucial. Furthermore, a good retoucher should be able to understand the brand’s aesthetic and tailor the images accordingly.


Finding the Right Retoucher:

When it comes to ecommerce & creative retouching services, there are 3 options: inhouse team, team augmentation, or hiring a freelancer.


Team Augmentation:

Team augmentation involves hiring a dedicated team from a 3rd party company. This team becomes an extension of your in-house staff, working closely with your team and following your guidelines. The advantages of team augmentation include consistent quality, scalability, flexibility and access to a range of expertise (e.g., color correction, masking, etc.). 


In-House Team:

An in-house retouching team allows for direct collaboration and consistent, high-quality work, tailored to the company’s vision. This approach offers greater control over project management, comprehensive support, and potentially higher long-term costs. However, establishing and maintaining such a team requires upfront investment and might have limited scalability compared to external options.



A vast majority of retailers today are still relying on freelancers. Freelancers can vary from local professionals or more affordable options on Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, etc. Hiring a freelance retoucher gives you the flexibility to work with different professionals depending on your project’s needs. However, it can be challenging to find a reliable and skilled freelancer, and there might be consistency issues if you switch between different freelancers for your projects.

Here’s a chart comparing the pros and cons of In house, Team Augmentation and Freelancers:

Criteria Team Augmentation In house Freelancers
Dedicated Team Yes Yes No
Ease of collaboration and communication Yes Yes No
Cost $15-$20/hour   $30-40/hour Varies ($10/hour to $50/hour)
Scalability Yes yes May Vary
Less Dependency Less Dependency on Individuals Less Dependency on Individuals Higher Dependency on Individuals
Institutional Knowledge Yes Yes May or May Not Be Transferable
Comprehensive Support Typically Offered No May or May Not  Be Offered Depending on Freelancer
Availability Typically More Consistent Consistent May Vary, Depending on Freelancer’s Schedule

The decision between hiring an In-House team, Team Augmentation, or engaging with Freelancers depends on the retailer’s needs and objectives. An In-House Team offers direct control, consistency, and long-term collaboration but may be costlier and less scalable. On the other hand, Team Augmentation balances control and external support, providing scalability, expertise, and flexibility. Freelancers, although popular, pose challenges in consistency and availability. Ultimately, the choice should align with the retailer’s unique requirements and growth strategy, ensuring that retouching services effectively enhance their brand and products.

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