Most of you have Photoshop, don't you? If not Photoshop, at least GIMP? Both have capabilities that you cannot imagine. Many of us use Photoshop for retouching and post processing our photos, which is the most simplistic use of Photoshop. Brightness, contrast, hue-saturation.....and the "little" things. Have you ever thought of creating imagery that you can capture with your camera but never capture with your camera at the same time? Confusing? I'll tell you what I mean around the end of the article.
For those who have only done basic post processing so far, how long do you take to process a technically "unsatisfactory" 16 bit TIFF to a ready JPEG? 5 to 10 minutes? I take 15 seconds. My 15 second workflow works on all images ranging from compact camera photos to DSLR photos. The workflow includes dealing with uneven lighting, chromatic aberrations, dull colors, appropriate sharpening, distorted pixels and noise. The workflow is sort of a trade secret and I'm not going to discuss in detail, but I'll share some useful information that would speed you up. I particularly don't like using the mouse to drag it all round the screen, so I have shortcut keys (some personally set) and some as in the default settings.
Here are the basic shortcuts:
ctrl + z =Toggle between last state and current state. Pressing it repeatedly acts like "undo" then "redo" then "undo". Use it to check effects of minor tweaks.
ctrl + shift + Z =Undo (like in Word or MS Paint, every press takes you a step back)
ctrl + A (select all), ctrl + C (copy selected), ctrl + V (paste) = The common stuff you already know
ctrl + D = deselect all (deselects anything that has been selected)
ctrl + shift + C = adjust canvas size
ctrl + alt + I = opens the image dimensions control dialogue where you can upscale/downscale image or set DPI value.
ctrl + T = If a layer is selected, it takes you to "transform" mode where you can rotate, flip, resize the selected part of image. Press enter to exit transform mode and save changes. Press esc to undo all changes done after you pressed ctrl + T.
ctrl + left-click-drag =This moves the selected part of image or current layer around. Better than using the move tool.
ctrl + alt + left-click-drag = Creates a copy of selected area in the same layer and moves it around. VERY useful in many cases without hassle and annoyance.
When using tools like magic wand or any other selection tools like rectangular marquee tool:
Pressing shift and selecting an area adds it to the current selection.
Pressing alt and selecting an area subtracts or removes it from the currently selected region.
When it comes to time, I honestly don't have time for doing much. Photography is way down the list of my hobbies. The piano comes first with all the extreme classical pieces of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, then comes writing. I love writing when I am free and when I am lonely. Then comes drawing and sketching. Then comes photography and digital arts. I have barely 30 minutes a day. The following photos have all been made within 15 minutes from scratch in Photoshop CS5 (extended). The same is possible with CS2 too. The only major difference being the puppet warp tool, which you won't need anyway because it ruins stock images and would most probably give you rejections if you're not highly skilled.
I believe that my specialty is that I can combine photos-photos and photos-illustrations to make what you can never capture and never make. This is something that takes you out the main competition. You no longer compete with pure photographers and pure illustrators. Your stock suddenly starts to look unique. I'm too new at the moment, but the statistics have gone up significantly.
Anyway, here are some examples:
The moon photo has been made from 3 shots (HDR imaging techniques) and the city shot has been shot long back using 15 s exposure. I cut the moon and put it on the photo. Duplicated the layer and blurred it. Pressed shift+ctrl+E (merge layers). Job done. Total time spent 2 minutes maximum. Only use of mouse - to position the moon correctly. This image got accepted just today. It would sell.
Everyone has a smartphone, so everyone can upload a smartphone photo. I didn't even make the progressbar and window. I just took the phone photo, took a screenshot of a window of my Windows 7, upscaled and downscaled it by around 700% many times along with blur. Applied hue-saturation and changed colors. Added my own type of buttons. Used text tool to type the "X" and "-" etc. Used some random brush to spray the pieces around. Pulled the progressbar out using ctrl+T tool. Done. About 5 minutes (including isolating phone photo, which had white backdrop anyway)
This photo had a gray ocean and gray sky and black mountains and boat. No color, I'd used auto mode to shoot the photo and it was underexposed really, hopelessly bad. This is the worst stock photo I have ever shot after joining Dreamstime from a rocking boat that swayed a mile up and down every second. Now look closely at the sunset photo and the previous one.
The sun in that photo has been put into the dull photo to make it worth something. I cut the eagle out. No, I hate the clone tool. I didn't use it. I just selected the area and applied gaussian blur of 250 px for 5 times and the eagle disappeared anyway. Total time spent - 7 minutes (including later touching up)
The cup has some coffee pouring in, right? Well it was not pouring in there anyway. The splash is from last year when my sister threw a stone into the water puddle. The stream of coffee is from the water tap in the bathroom. The cup photo was shot a year before. I put them together, positioned them, pressed a button, and they turned into coffee. Total time spent, 3 or 4 minutes.
I had this cracked earth photo. The cracks aren't big. The photo has been shot at 840mm focal length from a distance of about 1m. Which means the cracked region is as small as a matchbox. I had a butterfly to spare. So I cut it out from somewhere else and put it in, added shadow. Done. Life and death concept, or whatever the buyers think it means to them. Time, 3 minutes, more than fair.
Another sunset edit. Same sunset scene, yet again. The sun must be tired of being put everywhere in the world.
The rose here and in the photo frame are the same. It had fallen off a bouquet my mom got from some party or some event, I don't recall. I made a bunch of it and a frame out of it. A piano too, I don't know what else. Forgotten.
Wrapping circuit board round my hand. Took quite long. About 20 minutes.
Most complicated one. Took around 30 minutes, which is shameful at the moment. Because I was new then, 6 months back. Now this would take 10 minutes maximum, starting from an earth image. The other one is not moon, it is a black and white earth flipped and rotated beyond obvious recognition. Earth colliding with earth, but who notices?
If you are even slightly surprised by the speed, you are missing on a feature of Photoshop called "actions". Professionals employ it to do simple repititive stuff, I employ it to do everything. I just watch and keep sitting while Photoshop processes 50 similar shots at a time. If you have anything to ask about any of these things, please do. I'm learning myself and would love to hear from you.
A long article but I hope it did help you see what all you can do with Photoshop and a little skills and time. The market is competitive. Everyone says people photos sell. So everyone goes to shoot people photos. I'm better off shooting nature photos in the meanwhile because one day everyone would be shooting people photos.
Find what doesn't exist and CREATE it if you cannot find it and shoot it. That way you will definitely have an edge over others sooner or later. Not everyone can fix a moon over a city scape.If they could, there would be a million of those, like flowers and doctors. I even found martian babies here. OMG!