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24 September 2012 Stock Photography

Image technical requirements

Requirements concerning image size, dimensions or file type vary from agency to agency. Detailed information on what is required by individual stock photography agencies can be found here.
HINT: Some stock photo agencies ask you to pass a simple quiz before you can become a contributor, in order to learn what you need to know before submitting your photos. Make sure your photo camera meets these requirements as most agencies do not accept image upsizing: keep in mind that upsizing an image changes its size, but does not improve (and most likely reduce) its quality!

Quality is more than important - there is no point in uploading images that are out of focus, noisy, have bad composition, poor lighting, contrast, colour, etc... To be sure your photos meet basic quality requirements, check your stock photos for the following common problems:

focus: any lens blur, camera shake or focus not where the main object of the photograph is - in some cases it can be corrected afterwords with use of image editing software, but if affected, more likely your image will never be accepted for sale.

lighting: flat light, bad shadows and poor exposure are all serious flaws in an image. Stock images must be well lit and properly exposed to be useful in the most possible situations.

noise: if you end up with visible noise (for example due to high ISO in poor lighting conditions), carefully use noise reduction software. Remember that incorrect use can lead to making your image worse than before you started.

compression: so called artifacts are an effect of in-camera compression to create JPG file or more likely over-processing your photo (using too excessive editing). To avoid this problem shoot with DSLR instead of "point and shoot" camera, shoot RAW (it will give you more advanced image processing without loosing too much quality).
HINT: Do not sharpen too much as it may also significantly affect your image quality.

chromatic aberration: recognized as purple (or blue/cyan/red/yellow) colored fringe or halo around the edges of your subject outlines. It is caused by the light passing through your lens not being focused on the camera sensor properly. You should remove it or at least reduce it (due to lens nature not all lens aberrations can be removed completely) with an image editing software.

sensor spots and/or dead pixels: we all have spots on our cameras sensors - these are dirt or particles that got into your camera body and ended up on the sensor. They, along with dead pixels should be removed with editing software, as reviewers check each image at 100% and will reject it if any spots are visible.
HINT: to check if there are any spots on your camera sensor, take a picture of an uniform background (grey or blue color preferably) with your lens closed down - the more you close down your lens, the more visible any dust on your sensor will be.

lens flare: can make our shot amazing or destroy it completely - most likely it will be the latter so avoid them if you can, unless you want to achieve specific effects.

series and/or similar photos of the same subject: to avoid it, shots should vary in composition, idea, lightning setup, camera angle, etc.
HINT: Avoid different software edits (such as, for example, different colour versions) of the same image, as it will be more likely rejected.

over-filtering: it is a common mistake because we would like our images to look like masterpieces but we forget that excessive filtering and manipulation can only do more harm.
HINT: Be very selective what filters you apply and how far you move the sliders. Remember - designers look for something simple yet professional, so you have to learn how to balance it.

isolation: proper isolation of main object from background is one of the most difficult skills you should learn - well isolated images are very useful for designers, who often do not want to spend their valuable time isolating it themselves.
HINT: If you use Photoshop, learn how to use pen tool to draw paths - powerful tool used by professionals to isolate objects from background.

Model and property release  

All images containing recognizable people require a model release (some agencies call it talent release). The only exception is if an image is to be used with Editorial License but check the terms and conditions of your stock photo agency first. In general, for all images containing people's faces you need to have model release signed by your model. Blank model release forms are usually available for download from every stock photo site.
For your convenience, we have combined the list of model and property release download links here.
HINT: You may find general model release forms on the Internet, but if possible, you should download and fill out a form from particular site you want to upload to. Most stock photo agencies will accept a general model release form as long as it is not specific to any other agency. Make sure it contains all relevant information as required by the agency, because even if one detail is missing (for example model's email address or phone number), it will be rejected and you will have to waste your time filling out another one.

Property release is more complex issue and there are many different requirements by stock photo agencies so you should check their FAQs and terms and conditions before uploading. There is a rule that any private property needs a release, no matter if it is a privately owned house, restaurant, hotel, its interior, exterior, element of design, etc.
HINT: We all take shots of castles, but remember that most operating castles should have property release included. Same may apply to private parks, even if they are made available to public free of charge.

Stock photography agencies and websites

Reviews and details of our recommended and most popular stock photography sites can be found here.

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