10 Steps to Editing Your Micro Stock Photography Images


What is Micro Stock Photography? According to Wikipedia:

Microstock photography, also known as micropayment photography, is a part of the stock photography industry. What defines a company as a microstock photography company is that they (1) source their images almost exclusively via the Internet, (2) do so from a wider range of photographers than the traditional stock agencies (including a willingness to accept images from “amateurs” and hobbyists), and (3) sell their images at a very low rate (from US $0.20 to $10 in the US) for a royalty-free (RF) image. A number of microstock sites also sell vector art, and some sell Flash animations and video as well as images.

Maybe you have been thinking about getting your feet wet by selling some of your best work as micro stock photography images. While it is possible, first you will have to do some minor editing before you upload your first batch of images.

Micro stock image editing is different than other types of editing; you want to edit a little as possible. Most micro stock photography image agencies have high image quality standards so once you have culled through your images that you intend to upload, first consider these 10 tips before actually uploading:

1. View your image at least at 100%.

Check for:

  • point of focus
  • chromatic aberration
  • noise
  • artifacting
  • anything else that doesn’t look right

Artifacting in PhotographyArtifacting

These are the same items micro stock inspectors look for when viewing your images prior to approval.  Checking and correcting what you can before uploading will significantly reduce your rejection rate.

2. Focus on Your Subject

The human eye goes to whatever is in focus – it should be your subject. However, if your subject is not tack-sharp, take that image out of your potential upload pile. If you are shooting a subject with eyes, make sure the eyes are in focus.

Person in Focus

3. Check for Chromatic Aberration (CA)

Known as “purple fringing”, chromatic aberration can show up along the edges of an image where there is a lot of contrast. Sometimes, it isn’t purple; it may be cyan or red. You can get rid of chromatic aberration in the editing process by using the tool found in most image-editing software programs. For example, in Photoshop you would go to Filter > Lens Correction and select the “Custom” tab. Look for the chromatic aberration sliders: Fix Red/Cyan Fringe, Fix Green/Magenta Fringe, Fix Blue/Yellow Fringe.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic Aberration

4. Reduce Noise

To have a minimum amount of noise in your digital images, shoot at the lowest ISO that you can and still stop action or get the depth-of-field that you need. However, invariably you will get some images with noise in them. Just use the noise removal tool in your image-editing software to remove it.


5. Don’t Over Process

As with all post-processing editing, you want to spend as little time making as few changes as necessary. You do that by starting with a properly exposed image in the first place. Most images require you spending some time adjusting the levels, and shadows/highlights (watch your histogram), but don’t push it to the point where you lose detail. Adjust your blacks and whites just to the point of making them look natural while avoiding clipping.

6. Sharpen, But Don’t Over-Sharpen

Sharpening to help to bring out detail in your images, but it is better to apply a little sharpening twice than a lot of sharpening once and risk haloing from over sharpening. Use the Unsharp Mask feature as it gives you more control over the amount and how sharpening is applied.


7. Don’t Over Crop

Cropping images for micro-stock use is different than other types of cropping.  Because the users of micro-stock images usually add text to images, you don’t want to crop it so tight that there isn’t any space left for them to use, especially at the top of your images.

8. Keep Editing to a Minimum

While most of the image-editing software can do amazing things, as a micro-stock photographer, you want to edit your images as little as possible. You want to try and make a clean image at the time of capture and then spend the absolute minimum time editing.

9. Logos and Trademarks

From an editing standpoint, eliminate them at the time you shoot the image and you’ll save editing time. For the ones you can’t avoid in your images, clone or rubber-stamp over them. If you are unable to remove them, blur them just to the point where they can’t be recognized.

Logos and Trademarks

10. Saving Your Edited Images

Once you are done editing your images, the last step in the editing process is saving them. Save your edited images as JPEGS and at the highest quality level.

However, with JPEGS, never open an image, make a change, save and then repeat the process with the same image. Every time you click the save button, the save process throws out information. After a few times of doing this, your image will break down into tiny squares known as artifacting.

Always edit a copy of your original image – never the original. That way you always have the original to fall back on if something goes wrong – and trust me, it will.

The tools in the editing software are the science part when editing stock photography images – how you use those tools is the creative art part.


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