In this article I'll try to point out a few really basic tips for post-processing before submission, which I trust will be helpful to those of you who are newbies to stock photography. Others might also find them helpful, and if you're well experienced in the areas which I'll cover briefly - please, share your tip(s) in a comment! :)
Tip 1 - The camera won't do it all for you
. It's highly recommended to have the optimal setting on your camera before shooting, but I will also challenge you to always post-process
, even if it's to fix just a tiny bit. As a newbie to stock photography it's very easy to think that shooting large amounts will sooner or later get you a large portfolio and significant income. Well, it's not that easy, and I trust many of you have realized that (esp. if you've started out with stock directly before having any extended photography experience).
It's been talked about many times on the forums, and for sure you've come across it at other places - post-processing is essential for stock photography
. Skipping this crucial step because you're in a hurry or find it unnecessary (e.g. thinking that non-edited images have passed the review before) will prevent you from taking your skills and photography to a much higher level.
Tip 2 - At Least Touch Brightness, Contrast, Levels
Nearly any software tool for handling images will offer you an option to edit the contrast, brightness, and perhaps levels of your JPEG file (I'm not even going to mention RAW format because if you're at that level I'm not going to tell you anything new :)). Take advantage of that!
If you're really a beginner - test the automatic options for adjustment - sometimes they can be a very good guide. I can't give you any specific settings or numbers as to how much to play with these because this is very much depending on the image itself. However, as you do so you'll notice some really significant changes in the picture - the dark grayish veil will disappear, colors will become more vivid, your image will have ambiance... power
. In other words - it will catch the buyer's look much easier among the thousands of similar images from the search result. Most likely your camera offers Exposure adjustment
in its image settings menu - use it to correct the lighting when it's not perfect... Meaning - use it almost always. :) If you're lucky to have exposure bracketing
- make sure it's always on. Yes, your memory card will fill up faster, but at least you'll have a higher chance of getting the lighting right. This step is a must for monochrome images
. If you're hoping that your shot will turn out perfect and have a professional look when you just convert it to monochrome and don't do anything else - it won't happen.
Tip 3 - Fix imperfections when possible
. By this I mean - clone out any visible dust, dirt, fingerprints from shiny objects, hairs standing on the way, partially visible letters/areas from logos/trademarks, skin imperfections on people... It's best when you can prepare your subject so that you won't have to do this, but if we lived in a perfect world I wouldn't be writing this. :) Sometimes imperfections have a powerful effect on the image and subject, as well as the concept you're trying to communicate. Most of the time, however, you don't want the imperfections of your subject visible.
As you're cleaning up make sure you're actually not ruining your shot - do it gently and carefully. In nearly all cases you can clone out things in a way that will be really difficult to notice with a bare human eye. Other times you can do even better. :) Take some sample shots, experiment with basic software and let me know what you think!
Tip 4 - Do it all at least at 100% zoom, but preferably more
. Images are reviewed at 100% zoom or more, so you might not notice when you actually "overdo" something during the editing and distort the image. When removing copyright elements - always zoom in and double check what the results are. Don't leave half letters and half lines from the logos - if you managed to remove one half you're capable of removing the other one too. :)
Tip 5 - Always save at maximum quality
- whether you save from a JPEG, RAW, TIFF... Most likely your editing software won't be set to save JPEGs at maximum quality by default. Here's where you come in - make sure this is corrected every time you edit and want to save your final work. Otherwise all your labor might be wasted if you end up with a distorted image due to high compression. Plus, remember that whoever is buying your image might need to cut, crop, edit, and ultimately save again - this is why you're aiming at optimal quality.
I know this is very general, but reviewing images daily shows me that it has to be reminded. After all, it can only help you produce better images, which makes everyone happier. Surely much can be added to the tips - what do you have to offer from your experience?