Preparing your photos for submission to a stock library can seem daunting, but fear not! All it takes is a systematic approach to make this process easier.
Here are nine quick ideas to streamline your editing like a pro. For more, read Shotkit’s article here.
1. Get organized before you import
Be efficient with well-organized folders and a logical naming system to save time, and energy, down the line! Not sure where to start? Try using the date (Y/M/D) followed by a brief description — think location or activity. Additionally, Digital Asset Managers (DAM) like Lightroom and ACDSee provide templates that automate renaming during import. Remember, a photo will never get rejected because the filename is too long, so if detail helps, go for it!
2. Not too bright, not too dark — use your histogram
Dark images are common among submissions because we often crank our monitors to their brightest setting, and then edit with them. These images consequently appear too dark on other devices. Prevent this with your histogram, a graph showing the image levels of blacks, shadows, mid-tones, highlights, and whites from left to right. If yours is stacked against the left, the image is probably too dark. When right-skewed, it’s likely to be too bright. A centered graph is not always possible, but understanding how your histogram relates to your image helps avoid mistakes.
3. Even out your exposure
A digital camera captures light well, but it is no human eye. Thus you might need to choose between exposing for dark or bright areas when shooting high contrast. Fortunately, shadow and highlight sliders help make up the difference. If you have exposed for highlights and much of the image is dark, try dragging the shadows slider up to lift darker areas.
Conversely, bringing down the highlights slider brings back blown-out sections. Unfortunately, this tends not to be as effective as using the shadows slider! For this reason, we recommended exposing for highlights when shooting. Note that both sliders can produce extreme results, so avoid pushing either of them too far.
4. Keep colors natural
While it can be tempting to crank up color saturation for impact, natural colors allow buyers to add intensity when and if they want it. Attention to saturation is crucial for skin tone, as models who appear green or orange diminish the potential of a photo. Take regular breaks from looking at the screen to come back with fresh eyes!
Remember that every light source, whether midday sun or candle, has a color temperature that affects all colors. Use your white balance to ensure images have neutral light. Ideally, shoot with a grey card to calculate the perfect white balance, but if that’s not possible, try using the white balance eyedropper tool on a neutral grey or white area when editing.
Scenes with various light sources at different color temperatures can make finding the right balance tricky, as is the case with low light. In these situations, try desaturating your images slightly.
5. Clean up your images
Are strange artifacts appearing when you view an image at 100%? These can result from shooting in low light with a higher ISO level. Use editing software to help control excessive noise, without losing too much detail. Additionally, you should check images for dirt on your sensor. This dirt often shows up as small, dark patches, usually seen against sections of the sky or bright and blank areas of the image.
The heal/clone tool tidies up these spots, and some software provides overlays to help you find them. Have a series of photographs with identical sensor dirt in the same position? Save time by copying the cloning work from one image file onto all of the others.
6. Remove distractions
Stock images do better when conveying a clear idea, so check for elements that take attention away from the main subject. The clone/heal tool can help remove unnecessary components. You can also try desaturating competing colors.
7. Compose with the crop tool
Creating a strong composition through careful use of the crop tool can make a photo stand out. Just stick to the original aspect ratio and avoid making the final file too small! Some photographers deliberately shoot wider for flexibility to find the perfect composition during editing. That said, submitting versions of an image with negative space is often useful for designers to add graphics or create balance in a layout. This can also help emphasize the subject matter.
8. Don’t overedit
Remember that the vast majority of stock images have a natural look and feel to them, giving buyers flexibility for their use. A good rule of thumb for editing is that if the first thing a viewer notices when looking at your photograph is the editing, you went too far. Stock photos should be a long way from this!
9. Manage your metadata
Adding keywords to your images can be one of the most time-consuming steps when uploading to stock libraries, but they are critical for helping prospective buyers find your work. Check the stock library requirements and try to be systematic when adding keywords. It’s much quicker to synchronize a batch of keywords across several similar images, and organizing photos into different collections can help speed up this process. Quality editing directly influences the sales potential of an image. It just takes some planning and practice to ensure your fantastic captures truly stand out.