Micro-stock image editing is different than editing for other purposes. With micro-stock, you want to keep the editing down to a minimum and you do that by shooting properly exposed images to begin with.
Most micro-stock agencies have high image quality standards some of which you can control in the editing process. Consider these 10 tips before uploading your best images to a micro-stock site:
1. View your image at least at 100%. You can go even as high as 200% . Once zoomed in, look around your image for artifacting, chromatic aberration, noise, sensor spots, etc. These are the same things micro-stock inspectors look for; identify these items beforehand and reduce your rejection rate.
2. Focus on the focus. The human eye goes to whatever is in focus – make sure that is your subject. If you are shooting anything with eyes, make sure the eyes are in focus. Not having a clearly defined subject in focus is a sure way to get an image rejected.
3. Sharpen, but don’t over-sharpen. It is better to apply a little sharpening twice, than a lot of sharpening once and risk over sharpening. When over sharpening happens, you’ll know it – little squares, know as artifacts, and haloing will show up on your image.
4. Check for chromatic aberration (CA). Also known as “purple fringing”, chromatic aberration will show up along the edges of the areas having a lot of contrast. Sometimes, it isn’t purple; it may also be cyan or red. You can get rid of chromatic aberration in the editing process.
5. Don’t over-process. The whole point of taking a properly exposed image to begin with is to spend as little time as necessary in the editing process. You will most likely need to spend some post processing time, such as adjusting the levels, and shadows/highlights (watch your histogram), but don’t push it to the point where you lose detail. Don’t clip your whites or blacks. When adjusting color, adjust just enough to make it look natural without getting the neon or blocky look.
6. Don’t over-crop. Cropping for micro-stock is different than other types of cropping. Because the users of micro-stock images like to add text to an image, they need some space around it. Because of this, don’t crop so tight that they can’t add copy. If you do, you’ll kill the selling opportunity of that image. The key is finding the right balance between cropping and still having copy space.
7. K.I.S.S. While most of the image-editing software can do amazing things, as a micro-stock photographer, you generally want to avoid using most of the filters and plug-ins. Your goal is to create a neat, clean image. The other thing this does is it keep your edit time per image down to a minimum.
8. Reduce noise. Shoot your images at a low ISO to begin with and you’ll have a minimum amount of noise. However, if you do end up with noise, by all means use the tool in your software to remove it. Just like everything else, don’t push it too far.
9. Logos and trademarks. Get rid of them or better yet, eliminate them at the time you shoot the image and you’ll save a step in the editing process. You can usually clone or rubber-stamp over them, but when that is not possible, try to blur it just to the point where it can’t be distinguished.
10. Saving your JPEGs. Your are done editing and now it is time to save your beauties. Save your finished images as JPEGS at the highest qualify level. Never open an image, make a change, save and then repeat the process with the same image. Every time you save a JPEG image, it throws out information, so after a few times, your images are degraded to the point of no return. Edit and save once and move on to the next image.