Sunday, 1 February 2009

Taking good Microstock photos: Part 1

If you'd like to have a go at microstock photography, there are three things you need to consider before you take a shot:

  1. Is the subject likely to be of commercial value?
  2. Is the camera setup to take the shot at a suitable quality?
  3. Is the composition suitably different to stand out from the crowd?

Let's look at each in turn...

1.) Is the subject likely to be of commercial value?

It's obviously in your best interest to only upload photos that have a commercial value. Luckily, the microstock agencies feel the same way, so they provide a load of useful advice to help you work out what's popular*:

You can also search using words which would describe your shot and compare the competition (this search is from Shutterstock*):



Finally, check that you're legally allowed to take the photo - there are an annoyingly large number of buildings, trademarks and such like which you can't use without permission - I recently found this with the London Underground sign, for example.

2.) Is the camera setup to take the shot at a suitable quality?

Some simple setup points can mean your shot will be in with a chance of being accepted and minimise the amount of editing required:

  • Shoot in RAW at the highest quality setting- preserving all of the detail in the image and allowing non-destructive editing of things like exposure and white balance later on
  • The lowest ISO setting you can use, avoiding noise (or grain) in the shot
  • Use the best quality lens you have available
  • Clean the lens and sensor
  • Use a tripod, cable/remote release and mirror lockup in low light conditions (or instead of a remote/cable release, put the camera onto a short self-timer)
  • Check the horizon is straight! (Although you can straighten it in Photoshop, you will then lose part of the photo)

3.) Is the composition suitably different to stand out from the crowd?

Chances are, the shot you're about to take isn't unique - others will have taken shots of a similar subject. So, as in step 1, check to see what others have done, then either build on their ideas, or even try something completely different. I'll cover composition in more detail as another topic in the near future.