Selling your pictures: photo editing steps you need to know to crack the stock libraries
As one improves as a photographer, you might find yourself asking less about photography tips and techniques and instead how to make money from photography. One popular method is to sell photos online via one of the numerous microstock libraries.
In our post below we’ll show you how to prepare and edit your pictures so that when you go to sell photos online through a microstock library you stand the best chance of making money.
You may have printed and framed a few of your favourite shots or shared them via online galleries such as Flickr, but the majority of your images are probably just occupying space on your hard drive. Why not shake the digital dust off of your collection and sell photos online with a microstock library?
In these financially tight times, art editors can’t always afford to commission a photographer to shoot specific images to illustrate a book cover or magazine feature. Instead, they’re likely to turn to one of the many online stock photography sites, such as iStockphoto or Shutterstock, where they can download cheaper images.
The microstock library will take the biggest share of the money, but if your images aren’t already making you cash, then you have nothing to lose trying to sell photos online. You can spend any money you earn on accessories for your kit bag!
Having a large collection of photos to sell online isn’t an immediate licence to print money. Although stock photos are relatively cheap, the client will want images that have a sharp focus point,a healthy range of tones and vibrant, correctly balanced colours.
For this reason, stock photography sites will subject every photo you submit to extreme scrutiny, and will reject any shots that don’t come up to scratch.
Here we’ll show you how to edit a photo in Adobe Camera Raw and the Photoshop Elements editor so that it stands a better chance of getting a thumbs-up from quality-control inspectors at the major microstock libraries.
01 Open image
Open your image in Adobe Camera Raw. At first glance this image looks like a decent shot,but the eagle-eyes of a microstock photography inspector could find reasons for rejecting it. For starters, the colour temperature is a little cold. To warm up the scene, drag the Temperature slider to 5600.
02 Improve exposure
To give the shot more impact, we can brighten it up a little, but we need to make sure that we don’t clip (or over-expose) the highlights. Press O to turn on the highlight clipping warning. Drag the Exposure up to +0.35. To remove any red clipping warning patches, drag the Recovery up to 18.
03 Darken shadows
The contrast is a little flat due to the scene’s high-key lighting. Drag Blacks to 10 to darken the shadows. By pressing U you can see any clipped shadows as patches of blue. Clipped pixels will print with no detail, which is a common reason for rejection by a stock agency.
04 Bring out shadow detail
The high-key lighting has filled in most of the shadows on the child’s face. You can bring out more detail in the remaining shadows by dragging the Clarity slider up to +16. This subtle and gentle change in mid-tone contrast helps emphasise the shape and contours of the child’s face.
05 Crop in
To remove the edge of the studio backdrop, hold down the mouse button over the Crop tool and tick Show Overlay. Drag the mouse to select the entire image, then hold Shift and drag a corner handle to tighten the crop. The Overlay helps keep the child’s face at the centre of the image.
06 Discover artifacts
Click Open Image to continue editing the shot in the standard Photoshop Elements editor. Select the Zoom tool and click 1:1. Hold down the space bar to activate the Hand tool and drag the mouse to view all of the background at 100% magnification. There’s a subtle spot above the child’s foot.
07 Remove blemishes
Select the Spot Healing Brush tool from the Tools palette. Set Size to 150 pixels. Spray the brush tip over the sensor spot to remove it. Reduce Size to 25 pixels and spray over the shiny snot on the subject’s nose (and the drool from his mouth) to make him look a little more presentable.
08 Reduce noise
Stock inspectors will reject shots featuring picture noise. Noise is most noticeable in this image in the mid-tones at the base of the backdrop. You could try using Filter>Noise>Reduce Noise to remove it, but this runs the risk of blurring sharp details. Use the Blur tool to target and soften the problem areas.
09 Darken highlights
The skin’s brightest highlights could have a little more detail. A quick way to tweak a shot’s tones is to choose Enhance>Adjust Color>Color Curves. In the Select a Style section click Darken Highlights. This causes the highlight area of the curve to dip down a little. Click OK to proceed.
10 Improve skin tone
To improve the skin tones, go to Enhance>Adjust Color>Adjust Color for Skin Tone. Click the Eyedropper tool on the baby’s forehead. The tool will warm up the sampled area to create a colourful and healthy-looking skin tone, which is used throughout the image.
11 Enhance selective colours
Choose Layer>New Adjustment layer >Hue>Saturation. Set the drop-down menu to Yellows and set Saturation to +27 to enhance the yellows in the woolly hat. Pop Greens up to +43. This selective adjustment avoids over-saturating the healthy skin tones.
12 Resize as appropriate
Stock sites offer different sized images at different prices. Go to File>Save As. Call the image ‘Large’, and save it as a JPEG. Go to Image>Resize>Image Size. In Document Size set the Width drop-down menu to Percent. Reduce the Value to 50% to create a smaller image. Save it as ‘Medium’.
13 Sharpen each version
Open the Large version and zoom in to 100%. Go to Enhance>Adjust Sharpness. Set Amount to 44% and Radius to 1.7 to gently enhance fine details such as the eyelashes. Open the Medium version. As the shot is smaller, set the Adjust Sharpness Amount to 22% to avoid over-sharpening it.
14 Edit the EXIF data
No matter how well-processed your photo is, it won’t sell if customers can’t find it. Stock photography sites enable you to caption the image when you upload it and assign keywords to it that will help potential buyers narrow down and locate the image. Select File>File Info.
15 Title the image
Kick off by clicking the Description tab and adding a suitable Document Title. Make sure the title describes the contents of the image. Search engines such as Google can explore a stock site’s database, so ‘Baby wearing woolly hat’ is a more useful title than a vague ‘Cute baby’.
16 Create keywords
Keywords are vital for making your photo rise to the top of the search results and giving you that sale. For this image you would start with the obvious – ‘baby’, ‘hat’ – then go for specific details such as ‘looking at camera’. You can paste keywords into the site’s online form when you upload the image.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.