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post #1 of (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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Default Selling Outdoor Photography Online

Most people that like both outdoors and photography have probably thought at some point about trying to sell their best shots. For awhile my interest was the process; where can you do it, what does it take to get your image online and can you actually sell it? Having some extra time during this last cold spell I finally thought I'd take a closer look. So I am creating this thread as on-going discussion where Club Treaders can share their experiences and tips on this subject.

There are many different stock photography sites one can try; nice list can be found here. I tried with following 3: Alamy, Shutterstock, and iStock. These 3 are in direct descending order. While Alamy is high-end in both image requirement, sale cost and eventual payout, iStock is --at least nowdays-- "anything goes". I got accepted in all 3 and do have now some images online.

In initial post I am going to offer tips on technical requirements image has to satisfy in order to get accepted, as well as QA differences between Shutterstock and Alamy. I am leaving iStock out as their QA, although I passed initial acceptance, still has not processed my upload in ~20 days & I will probably close the account.

Alamy has written an excellent blog on "10 most common QA Failure Reasons". I highly recommend to study this; if your image can check against the above, it will most likely get accepted anywhere online (at least from technical quality perspective). The biggest commandment is to inspect your image at 100% -- lots of things will look perfect when sized in image viewing programs, but only when you zoom to pixel level you can see if there are problems!

Here are samples from my own experience:

Shutterstock wants just 1 image for initial acceptance; I sent this & had no problems. Alamy wants 4 & they all have to pass. 3 of mine passed, but this one failed:



Reason given for failure was "Soft or Lacking Definition". I still don't know if I agree with it -- this is the softest spot I could find with 100% zoom:



I replaced it with this & passed on 2nd try. It is worth noting the rejected pic made it to Shutterstock without a hitch; this is why I label Alamy as technically the most strict.

I also want to touch at most common problem with outdoor/landscape photography: chromatic aberration. It is lens imperfection that most commonly manifests itself as redish/purple fringing at mountain ridge lines - borders between highlights and shadows. Consider this image:



Looks perfect when viewed like this. But when zoomed, problem is evident:



Note the purple line on the ridge! How do you address the problem? Lots of image editing programs have this feature. I use Camera Raw:



In most cases just checking "Resolve Chromatic Aberration" will solve the problem; if not, then you play with sliders below as I did in my image. This is the result:




Some other problems worth noting:

Camera shake (specially in low light conditions). Consider this image of Scripps Pier in La Jolla, San Diego:



I love this pic & really wanted to send it. It was taken on tripod, but sand was not stable, there was wind, and being long exposure it got some shake. This is the problem on pixel level:



I don't think this can be fixed, or at least I don't know how to do it & am really bummed about it. Think you can understand now why they all say how solid, sturdy tripod is a must for serious photography -- even if good light conditions!


Some other aspects worth noting: Consider this image of taken in Hobart, Tasmania:


Alamy happily accepted it, but now Shutterstock rejected! Why? "Visible logo or brand name" ('Drunken Admiral'). This now has to deal with property release rights and is different from site to site; when you chose where to submit your images, you have to check their rules and various documents that have to be provided if image is going to contain people, property, etc. Similar issue was with this photo of Granville Island in Vancouver:



(Again "Visible logo or brand name"; Actually I am not sure I which logo they were talking about!)


Hope you can find this post interesting, and helpful if you decide to try this path. I will make another post dealing with actual picture sales (assuming I can actually sell anything, lol) - but for now, as CT has some excellent photographers, can someone comment and share similar experiences?
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Last edited by zeljkok; 12-22-2016 at 03:51 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 07:14 PM
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I don't sell my photos nor do I have any great lenses for my camera but I've read a lot to know a few things.
“Soft or Lacking Definition” ...the cabin photo can be sharpened a bit. I use Focus Magic to sharpen and most of my shots are about a couple of pixels out of focus. Also 'Lack of Definition” is affected by the resolving power of the lens, the f stop and the type of camera sensor. If you have a high MP camera, the lens should be able to resolve all that detail. In other words, don't stick a cheap lens on an expensive high megapixel camera if you're planning on selling photos are making large prints. Some lenses like Zeiss do a great job in resolving all that detail from high MP cameras but those lenses are expensive. Smaller f-stops (16 & greater) causes lens diffraction and blurring of image detail. While f11 may be a good compromise for a 12 MP camera, for 36 MP you'd have to shoot f5.6 to 8 to avoid serious diffraction problems. Also DX cameras will show more diffraction than FX. Since depth of field is compromised at smaller f stops, you can use a method called focusing stacking if there is no movement in the photo but you need certain software to blend the shots together.
Purple fringing is a common problem with most lenses but it's easily taken care of post-processing.
In regards to the blurred photo of the pier, while a sturdy tripod is good to avoid camera shake, you can try boosting ISO for faster shutter speed, using mirror lockup and some lenses have vibration reduction or image stabilization feature built into the lens and can give up to 3 to 4 stops of stabilization. Since the photo is already blurred, there are refocusing software designed to bring blurred images into focus. I have no experience with any of them so I can't recommend a particular one. BTW, there is slight purple fringing in that pier photo. With the Granville Island photo, I'm wondering if they are referring to the green image bordered by red on the building as a logo.
BTW, you have some nice photos. Also, an advantage of living close to the Rockies; mountains are always photogenic.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, good points & exactly why I brought the discussion

Re "Soft or lacking definition" -- without going into my gear details I will just say that shot was definitely made with adequate lens. Big part of problem is overall setup -- that is canoe rental @ Lake Louise. It was dark, it was cold, it was windy, I was coming back from the hike & could not wait to get back to the car. So I just leaned camera on the wall and shot with whatever Aperture setting it was on. I thought it would be a throwaway anyways but it turned out really nice. At least if you don't blow it up 100%.

I shot most everything with F8, except telephoto (open up couple steps) or when I shot sunset (F16 - F22, to get star-like effect of sinking sun). But yes, aperture setting is important for several reasons. Once again in image viewing programs most everything will look good; but when you zoom to pixel level such things show up.

Here is one more "soft or lacking definition". It passed Shutterstock QA, but not Alamy.This one I definitely disagree & think image is good -- check 100% zoom in "soft" area
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 12-23-2016, 08:02 AM
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Have you looked into what types of photos really sell well? Years ago when I looked into stock photography I read up a many articles. Here's a good example :http://microstockinsider.com/guides/...ages-sell-best
Landscapes are perhaps the most difficult to sell unless you include a human element for some action shots.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 12-23-2016, 01:36 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solo75 View Post
Have you looked into what types of photos really sell well?
Landscapes are perhaps the most difficult to sell unless you include a human element for some action shots.
Oh yes. As I mentioned on top, my primary reason is curiosity about the whole industry, not the actual sale/financial aspect. It starts with acceptance/QA & this part I understand fairly well now. Still hoping someone else could share as I find technical discussion very interesting.

As for what "sells", this is 2nd aspect I am interested in. For instance Alamy publishes monthly blog about photos in demand. Check it out -- only "Bald Eagle in Rocky Mountains" relates to the outdoors. I will make second post in this thread after couple of months about that.
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