If you're interested in making money with your camera, the world of stock photography can be very lucrative. A stock photographer can choose the subjects he shoots and the hours he works, and it's a more flexible option than being a portrait or wedding photographer. Stock photography is very competitive, and you have to be able to produce high quality images with an original and creative approach.
Images look different when viewed online, and there are several steps you must take to make sure they appear as sharp and bright as when you look at them on a camera screen or external monitor. The stock photographer also needs to take precautions to protect his pictures and reduce the risk of copyright theft. The following 4 step process will ensure your images have the greatest chance of selling when listed on a stock photography site.
1) Get it right in the camera
Don't create work for yourself by making basic mistakes when shooting stock images. Ensure every picture is composed and framed for maximum impact, and pay attention to focus and exposure. You can make minor adjustments in Photoshop or other photo editing software later, but it's better to get things right first time. If you work with a modern digital SLR camera you should be able to rely on automatic shooting modes, but don't take things for granted and expect perfect results every time. Difficult lighting conditions can fool a camera's metering functions, and great pictures can be ruined by over or underexposure. Shooting with a tripod can help to ensure maximum sharpness, and can make the difference between an amateur and a professional photograph.
If your camera has the capability, shoot in RAW mode rather than the more popular JPEG. Working in RAW format gives you much greater flexibility to correct exposure, color balance and sharpness of images. If you're serious about making money with your camera, you need to learn how to work in RAW to produce the finest quality images possible.
2) Adjust exposure, contrast and brightness
Even the most experienced photographer doesn't get it right every time, and stock libraries will only accept perfectly exposed images. Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop are great for making the necessary adjustments, and it only takes a minute to use the tools available to adjust and correct exposure. Learn to use the levels readings to understand the best way to adjust an image.
3) Sharpen your images
Picture editing software offers various tools to sharpen images, and this is another important step in preparing them for submission to stock libraries. If you've shot in RAW format it's very easy to improve clarity and sharpness using the filter options.
4) Adjust color and white balance
Color casts are one of the main reasons pictures are rejected by stock libraries. You can rely on your camera to adjust white balance automatically most of the time, but it's necessary to intervene manually in some conditions. If shooting indoors, pay attention to the color of artificial lighting and how this mixes with light from windows. If you can't find a suitable camera setting, remember to process the images in the digital darkroom to correct color casts.
Most stock libraries will apply their own copyright protection to your images, but always check this before submitting. If the policy isn't clear, add a watermark using Water Marquee to ensure your pictures aren't downloaded and used without your consent.