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Once you understand the camera settings that most stock agencies require, you can jump into shooting images specifically created for those agencies. Hopefully by now you’ve practiced shooting the topics suggested in my “Shooting Stock Photography” series and are ready to take the plunge toward getting your pictures ready to submit to various stock photo agencies. So let’s jump in!
If you now have a selection of images, you’ll need some type of software to edit them. As I stated in “Sell Your Photos” section, I will assume that you are shooting with a DSLR camera, not a camera phone or a point-n-shoot camera that only captures JPG files. If you are not familiar with these terms, you may not be ready to read on. If that is the case, I would suggest watching a video or two at Lynda.com to learn more about the basics of your camera and how it saves files. If you are shooting with something other than a DSLR camera, you can certainly submit photos, but your preparation of them in editing software might be just a bit different.
I use the industry standard when it comes to photo editing software – Adobe Photoshop – so I will be instructing you within the parameters of Photoshop. The preparation of images isn’t all that involved, it can be translated into other editing software packages you might be using instead, and I’m sure that the following will be of help to you. But I might again suggest you go to Lynda.com and take a video class or two on your own software or on Photoshop if some of the terminology seems unfamiliar to you.
Image Repair and Tweeking
We will assume that you have:
- taken the images in RAW mode
- you have downloaded them to your computer
- you are familiar with Adobe Photoshop tools – remember, this is not a course on how to use Photoshop, but on how to prepare your images for submission. There are much more talented teachers than I to instruct you in the ways of Photoshop!
Here are the steps I use on virtually any image I open:
- Open one image in “Camera Raw”
- Look at your image at 100% – is it sharply in focus where it needs to be? If not, don’t proceed any further. Close that image, chalk it up to “Lessons Learned,” and open another sharper image to work on. Don’t pass on quality just to build your portfolio – your goal is to be proud of the work you produce.
- On the “Basic” tab (icon with a shutter diaphragm) move “Contrast” from 25 to 39 – this gives any image just a little pop
- Also on the “Basic” tab move the “Saturation” slider from 0 to 13 – this gives the color just a hint of pop without oversaturating the image at all
- On the “Tone Curve” tab (icon with a curve) move the “Lights” slider to +6 and the “Darks” slider to -6
These moves will give your images just a little boost without any radical changes. You’ll notice that your pictures stand out a bit more, and reviewers will be drawn to them.
Obviously, if your images need more work, like lightening a certain area of the shot, or desaturating a picture to create a black and white one, you can tweek further, but the above list will help your shots get noticed. Do all of those things in Camera Raw, as they are much less noticeable in the final histogram than if you were to wait and do them within Photoshop.
Once done with Camera Raw, open your image into Photoshop.
Working In Photoshop
Now we should address issues that will affect how buyers can utilize your images. To inspect your shots like a pro, zoom in to 100% and look at every inch of the image on your computer monitor. Then:
- Make a duplicate layer of the background. In Photoshop click the small “down arrow” on the layers window and hit “Duplicate Layer”
- Go to “Levels” in “Adjustments” – move the black slider on the left of the black and white histogram slider to the right. You will see your image get darker. Go as far as needed to see if you have any spots of dust from your sensor showing up in your image. They will look like little round dark circles and tend to be much more noticeable in skies and water within images.
- If you have sensor spots, click on the “Duplicate Layer” within your Layers window (Levels Layer will show up above it) and select your “Healing Tool” to clean up the spots. Then delete the “Levels” layer, as it was just a tool to see the sensor spots.
- Do you see “noise?” If so, go to “Filter” in the menu across the top of Photoshop, hit “Noise” and “Reduce Noise.” Remember, any large action will be noticeable in your final image – don’t try to salvage a bad image, but improve a good one. So don’t make 100% adjustments…this is just a “tweeking” exercise…not an overhaul! If your image needs overhauling, it shouldn’t be submitted to a stock photo agency.
- Are there trademarked labels, signs, or products in your image? If so, you have a couple of different options. (1) You can submit the image as an “Editorial” shot, which does not require a property or model release, but can only be used by buyers in “news” stories. (2) You can get a property release signed by the company or persons responsible. (3) You can delete the label or sign from your image. For instance, you have a picture of a gymnasium floor with a single Spalding basketball on it. You can use the healing tool and/or the clone tool to take the word “Spalding” out of the picture, but you must do a good job covering your tracks. The finished product should look like “Spalding” was never there…no interrupted patterns on the background of the ball, or fuzzy lines, etc. With practice, you can become quite good at this technique!
- Take a final look at your image. Does it need to be straightened or cropped to create better composition?
If everything looks good, you are ready to proceed to the next step: Add Metadata to Images!
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