For beginner stock photographers: common mistakes that can be easily corrected

For beginner stock photographers: common mistakes that can be easily corrected

As a beginner stock photographer, you can often make mistakes that you can easily correct, either afterwards, during post-processing, or with conscious re-photography.

In this article, I collect photographic mistakes that many people make, many times, and thus it seems at first glance that their pictures were not made during conscious editing and composition. The following is an ever-expanding list of tips, suggestions, coming from the evergreen forum topics on the Alamy stock photo site and the Fine Art America POD site.

Tilted horizon

Both on Fine Art America, and on stock photo sites I often see otherwise well-done photos with the horizon visibly slanted. A friend of mine said: if it is tilted, it should be so enough to make you look conscious! A seaside landscape may be completely ruined when the sea, i.e. the horizon, is tilted.

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The solution: rotate the image until you see the horizon at the same level on the left and right edges of the image. This isn’t always that simple, because if you’re not photographing on a waterfront, the landscape can be quite uneven. In that case, you have to rely on your eyes. Always keep in mind that the “just a little” slanted horizon suggests inattentive editing.

Oversaturated colors

Stock photos are famous for their strong, vibrant colors. The same goes for images on {POD sites}. To a certain level, this is okay, but I also came across a portfolio that presents great images with great composition, but the oversaturated colors make the photos especially distasteful (there are thousands of them...).

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While images uploaded to {Stockimo} mobile application are expected to have strong, vibrant colors, more widely used stock photos are never advised to be oversaturated.

I have to note that a flat photo taken on a cloudy day can be enhanced with more intense colors, but here’s the rule too: stay within the bounds of good taste as people will be looking at it, downloading your images.

Poor lighting conditions

It’s true that poor lighting conditions can’t be fixed even with post-processing, but it’s also true that you don’t even have to click the camera if you anticipate that it won’t be an “award-winning” photo. A typical beginner photographer’s excuse is that “I can’t make the sun shine”. If you start stock photography, you should only keep and upload images that were taken in enjoyable lights.

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In any case, look around the agencies to see if they already have photos on that topic. If they do, and they happen to be much better than yours, then it’s definitely not worth uploading. Even if it’s made in a place you’ll never get to again. Then someone else will come and be luckier than you.

However, what even the best (traveling) stock photographer can’t circumvent is local photography. Walk the streets and surroundings of your home and observe when the lighting conditions are best for capturing a good subject. This is what only a local photographer can do.

Distracting elements

Previously, I was against any retouching, as the essence of photography is the beauty of the captured moment, the accurate depiction of reality. Then I realized an important aspect. A photograph is a piece of art, and as such, it has to be well-composed and the end result should be an enjoyable, aesthetic experience. It is also true for editorial photos used in newspapers.

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You can photograph the same building with dust bins and tree branches around the edges of your image, but you can also stand in a place where the distraction of these objects are minimal, or remove them during post-processing. Here, of course, I mean only the random objects, not rewriting reality.

So retouch as you like, but don’t overdo it.

People cut in half, missing shoes

Partly related to retouching: missing parts of an object or person. When composing a photo, you need to be aware of the framing. What / Who you cut will greatly affect the value of your image. Of course, there are situations where you can’t assess in a fraction of a second what’s in the picture frame or what’s outside. However, you should make sure that there are no incomplete people or objects at the edge of the image frame, especially if they are relevant to the subject of the image.

If one toe is missing, it can be very disturbing as you can’t add it with post-production. However, you can crop from the edge of the image, or even remove that person completely from the image by retouching.

Always look around in the viewfinder of your camera before pressing the shutter button! It is clearest to compose already at the time of exposure so that as little post-processing as possible is required.

Under- or overexposed images

As a general rule among stock photographers, what comes out of the machine always needs post-processing.

An essential feature of a good photo is perfect exposure, i.e. not too dark, but not too bright.

This is almost impossible to set accurately at the moment of exposure, especially when taking street photos where there is a lot of shade but also a lot of sunny area. You can fine-tune the lights on the {burnt out} parts. Stock photography sites advise to shoot with basically ISO 100 sensitivity to avoid image noise when lifting burnt parts. Sure, it depends a lot on the quality level of your camera, but it usually works.

JPEG vs. RAW

Experienced photographers always recommend taking photos in RAW. That is, set your camera to RAW instead of jpeg. You see far more benefits than harms using this practice.

Most of the post-processing work can only be done with RAW files in good quality, and there are details in your photos that your editing software can only recover from RAW files.

Stock photo and POD sites require the largest size (possible) and best quality jpg files, which you can only convert from RAW files.

It's true that you can't change jpeg files you've already clicked, but you can change your camera's default settings before. Set the image save format to RAW. You will not regret it!

Resolution of a photo uploaded to a stock photo or POD site

Stock photography agencies encourage photographers to upload their images at the maximum pixel size. Not without reason. If you upload your photos at a reduced size, you will sooner or later be faced with the fact that your photos are not large enough for the needs of the age. As technology advances, the size of photos in pixels and the smallest size that can be uploaded to agencies will increase from time to time.

It’s also easy to miss a sale because your image resolution isn’t high enough for the buyer’s purposes. This can be a more common problem on POD sites if you want to buy a larger print, though a stock photo can also be used in magazines or on book covers having the proper resolution.

So always use the highest possible resolution. If you’re afraid of stealing your high-resolution photos, think about whoever legally needs your photo will pay for it, and whoever doesn’t want to pay will still get what they need.

Building photography: vertical walls

A common phenomenon (due to lens distortion) in photos without post-processing is the oblique, cohesive (perspective) deflection of the vertical walls of buildings. With the exception of images taken with a wide-angle lens, you can make a lot of improvements to your building photos if you make the vertical edges really vertical. The Lightroom software offers a simple solution: clicking the Vertical button in the Transform block usually solves the problem (manual adjustment is also possible).

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In the case of images shot with a wide-angle lens or from the bottom up (frog perspective), it is often better to leave the original distortion, simply because it would be more natural or, in the latter case, impossible to "straighten" (see image below).

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Glossary

  • POD (Print on Demand)

    Print on Demand - a service that produces the actual print of a photo of painting only if customer demand arises.

  • Stockimo

    The mobile application made by the British Alamy stock photo company. It receives stock photos taken with iPhone.

  • Burnt out part (white)

    The overexposed part of a photograph, which is typically a white spot without any details.

  • Burnt out part (black)

    The underexposed part of a photograph, which is typically a black spot without any details.

  • Related articles

    Images in the post

    Images in the post
    Horizontal horizon. For photos taken on the waterfront, it is easy to correct the tilted horizon with post-processing. True, the mistake is more visible here than in a mountain landscape.
    The colors dominate, yet the image is a bit faded. A little more saturation may help.
    This version is consciously tinted, vibrant, but not overdone.
    Since the padlock is not one of the essential elements of the image, we can safely get rid of it.
    Same image after retouching.
    Schneeberg in poor lighting conditions. The Austrian mountain can be seen from Sopron in clear weather.
    The lighting conditions in this picture are pretty good, although it could be even better!
    Slightly cohesive vertical lines.
    Fix cohesive verticals in Lightroom with the Vertical option.
    Frog Perspective: Cohesive walls create a natural effect. Do not correct here!
    © every photo on this page belongs to Viktor Wallon-Hars (wahavi)

    Post author

    Viktor Wallon-Hars

    I started my adult life as a kindergarten teacher, but later I turned towards being self-employed. I have been developing websites for several years now, and photography became my side job as a stock photographer. My experience in making websites, and also photography itself were a great help to launch wahaviBlog, the bilingual blog that deals mainly with stock photography, and photography basics.