Stock photography tips: how to shoot and edit stock photos that sell

Stock photography tips: how to shoot and edit stock photos that sell

Tired of your stock photography endeavours going to waste? Start making some money from your photography; use these stock photography tips to start setting up your shoots and editing photos in a more commercially minded way.

Stock photography tips: how to shoot and edit stock photos that sell

Stock photography went through a revolution as the microstock market established itself using the internet as a platform, and today there are a huge number of sites through which you can make a little extra income from your hobby.

However, the bottom line still remains – stock photography needs to contain a strong commercial subject and concept, while being useful to designers. It’s unlikely you’ll make much of a success from pictures of your kids, pets or garden flowers because these areas have been comprehensively covered.

Likewise, applying multi-filtered effects or creative crops will have a negative effect on your sales because buyers will find limited potential when put in context with their specific projects.

Our original shot

Our original shot

The path to success is simple – plan and arrange a strong concept shoot, compose your images with plenty of room for potential titles and/or copy, and edit your Raw files in a sympathetic manner that enhances the photo while minimising any further effects of compression artifacting.

Shooting in a Raw format is generally advisable because this allows some flexibility when running your initial processing.

Bundled along with Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw provides some basic editing tools that can often provide the fundamentals needed to get your images virtually up to standard, assuming your photography skills are reasonably strong. Try to avoid burning out highlights or blacking out the shadows because these can never be salvaged.

Although it’s basic, Camera Raw provides some effective tools that are all too often overlooked because many consider the tool to be a simple Raw conversion tool.

Take some time to understand at least the most basic contrast and colour correction tools because processing at this stage substantially reduces the amount of artifacting introduced in the later Photoshop processing stage.

Once you have your images in Photoshop, keep all of your edits as basic as possible so as to simply enhance the original photograph.

Remember that your image will be an asset within a bigger design, most commonly for online or print use, and designers putting together such material may want to further edit them to match a house style.

If you impose a texture or make generous use of post-processed effects such as cross-processing, then these edits may make your image unusable to many potential buyers.

One of the most important elements to consider is an image’s contrast, so use Levels to set your black and white points. Colour temperature or white balance adjustment is much simplified using a simple slider in Camera Raw.

Some diligent use of the Spot Healing tools is good for removing any sensor spots or unnoticed logos, and finally, some simple straightening or compositional cropping might be beneficial.

Once you’re happy with your edits, save your file first as an uncompressed TIFF, should subsequent work be necessary (following a rejection for an overlooked logo, for example) and finally as a JPEG at the highest setting possible, making sure not to upsample because this only degrades quality unnecessarily.

How to edit stock photos that sell

How to edit stock photos that sell: step 1

01 Camera Raw adjustments
Study and master the controls within Camera Raw and you’ll find the majority of your processing can be done before you fine-tune things in Photoshop.


How to edit stock photos that sell: step 2

02 Photoshop edits
With Camera Raw taking care of the essentials, you can polish things up in Photoshop with the Healing Brush tool and Blend Modes, or you could apply advanced colour retouching.


How to edit stock photos that sell: step 3

03 Saving your file
Always use the highest settings when saving your final image. Set image compression to None for TIFFs and put the slider all the way up to 12 for JPEGs.

Final Tip
Many stock sites import EXIF data, so save time by embedding pertinent keywords in Adobe Bridge.


10 tips for preparing and selling photo prints
How to get your photos published in magazines
Get cash for your pictures: the right way to submit to stock photo agencies
Photography Websites: the secret to making a photo blog everyone wants to read

  • Lowell Montgomery

    Interesting article as a starting point (certainly a bit shallow to be very practical without a lot more research of the topic). That said, I think it generally looks accurate, but I’m wondering:
    You say “Set image compression to None for TIFFs”. Lossless compression can save quite a bit of filesize, so why not use it? Are the LZW/ZIP compression methods in TIFFs not as “lossless” as they are billed? Is there something else I’m missing?