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

Beginner stock photographers' common mistakes that can be easily corrected
    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, and my own experiences that come from the Alamy stock photo site’s and the Fine Art America POD site’s forums.

    Tilted horizon

    Both on Fine Art America and 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 tilted enough to make you look conscious! A seaside landscape is completely ruined when the sea, i.e. the horizon, is tilted.


    The solution: rotate the image until you see the horizon at the same height on both sides of the image. This isn’t always that simple 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 artworks on POD pages. To a certain level, this is okay, but I also came across a portfolio that presents otherwise great images, but the saturation of the colors makes the photos especially distasteful (there are thousands of photos with the same oversaturated colors...).


    While images uploaded to Stockimo on mobile are expected to be filtered with bold, vibrant colors, more widely used stock photos are not advised to overuse saturation.

    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 real people will be looking at your images.

    Poor lighting conditions

    It’s true that poor lighting conditions can’t be corrected even with post-process, 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 newbie photographer’s excuse is that “I can’t help it, the sun was shining / not shining”. If you start stock photography, you should only keep images and upload them to stock photography sites that were taken with enjoyable lights.


    In any case, look around in the portfolios of the agencies to see if they already have photos on that topic. If they have, and one or two of them happen to be much better than yours, then it’s definitely not worth uploading. Even if it was taken 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 beat is local photography. Walk the streets of your home town and observe when the lighting conditions are best for capturing a good subject. This is what only a local photographer can do.

    Distracting elements

    Some time ago, I was against any subsequent 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 work of art, and as such, it is certainly necessary to compose and make the end result something enjoyable, aesthetic, a real experience. It may be strange, but it is still true (to some extent) for editorial photos.


    You can photograph the same building with rubbish on the street and tree branches here and there around the edges of your image, but you can also stand in a place where the distracting effect of unnecessary objects is minimal, and remove them during post-process. Here, of course, I am thinking only of random objects, not of rewriting reality.

    So retouch your photos if you want, but like anything, don’t overdo it.

    Half-cut people, missing toes

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

    If only one toe is missing, it can be very frustrating as you can’t add it with post-process. However, you can crop the image, or even remove the object or person completely from the image by retouching.

    Always look around 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-process as possible is required.

    Underexposed or overexposed images

    As a general rule among stock photographers, what comes out of the machine always needs some editing.

    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 burned out (white, without details) or fallen (black, without details) parts. Stock photographer sites advise to take photos with basically ISO 100 to avoid image noise when illuminating fallen 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 the RAW file type instead of jpeg. You see far more benefits than harms to this practice.

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

    Stock photographer and POD sites require the largest possible size of jpg files that you can only convert from RAW files.

    It's true that you can't help with jpeg files you've already taken, but all the more so with your camera's default settings. Set the image save format to RAW. You will not regret it!

    Resolution of a photo you upload to a stock photo or POD site

    Stock photography companies encourage photographers to upload their images at the maximum resolution (size in pixels). 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 can also easily happen that you miss a sale because the resolution of your image is not 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, but a stock photo can only be used in high enough resolution for magazines or book covers.

    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 - somehow.

    Read these posts, too
    Tilted horizon is a common mistake. Though easily can be corrected by rotating your photo.
    Original colours
    Vivid, saturated colours
    Distracting objects
    Retouched image
    The subject of the image can hardly be seen
    The subject of the image is well illuminated

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    Post Author

    Viktor Wallon-Hárs (wahavi)

    Photography has always been part of our family life. I have memories of my father dealing with those old glass slides, preparing them for our projector.

    Later I took photos during summer holidays and school trips.

    Now, in the era of stock photography, I dug myself into it to learn the basics and also the secrets how to earn more and more money doing what I love.