I have started a series that I hope will help newcomers, and perhaps even give a little different perspective to seasoned vets in avoiding refusals. Due to the volume of submissions, I am sure that you have sat and waited for many days for your images to be reviewed, only to have them bounce back to you because of the following reasons:
1.“The image contains a large amount of noise artifacts. Please fix this issue using noise-removal software and resubmit.”
2.“White balance parameter was not correctly assigned.”
3.“Poor color: this image has a low color profile and needs improvement in order to increase its sales potential. You can process your image with color enhancement software, such as Photoshop, giving it the appeal it needs.”
4. “This image is over-filtered. Its use for the potential designers is limited because of this therefore the image is disqualified as a RF stock-oriented image. Please upload the original instead.”
5.“Poor background removal. There are strange artifacts left on the background / the margins of your subject(s) are distorted or look unnatural against the background.”
6.Distorted pixels due to poor sensor performance, image was interpolated, poorly scanned, un-sampled or JPG was not saved at the highest quality.
I chose 6 reasons that I have seen and categorized them into a section that can be fixed with the right software and/or proper editing.
It is rough dealing with the fact that you waited patiently (or not so much) :) for your images to be reviewed only to receive a short note telling you that you could have done a better job in your digital darkroom. Perhaps a few select dirty words have helped you get through this with little ego damage. However you deal with it is up to you. The key is not letting this suck the wind out of your sails. In the military, attention to detail is continuously stressed and re-enforced until it (hopefully) becomes second nature to us. Use these rejections to push you to do better, to slow down and pay closer attention to each image. Don’t be an image factory, be an image artisan. Look very closely at each image. Think like the reviewer thinks. What parameters do they place on a good quality stock image? Dig deep into your image, and become intimate with every detail. Any little speck will jump out at you like coffee stains on a white shirt.
As I mentioned, these problems can be solved with proper software fixes (assuming the image is good aside from the above mentioned issues).
I am going under the assumption that my readers all have a general understanding of their cameras, so I won’t delve into ISO settings, shutter speeds and the like. What I will do is discuss each issue in a little detail, with some potential solutions that I have found. I invite everyone to give their input as well.
Noise Artifacts: Again camera settings can address this problem up front in some if not most cases, but hindsight is always 20/20 so they say. Once a shot is taken, it is nearly if not totally impossible to replicate the shot again if you discover that it is plagued with noise. It would be a shame to throw away a great shot because of this. Point and shoot cameras on the auto setting have a tendency to produce more noise. Finding noise is simple. View a section of your image that has a consistent area of color, at 100% and look for the little squares of color that don’t look like they belong there. With a little practice you will be able to tell what is considered “excessive noise”. There are a lot of noise removal programs out there. I am not the definitive expert on all that is available but after doing some research, I have run across a few that keep popping up. Photoshop is the most common solution I have seen, and have read many great reviews about its capabilities. Photoshop does however run a pretty high price tag. For those of us not burdened down by the ravages of cash, there are some less expensive alternatives. Another program that has received some good reviews, and seems to focus directly on the problem is “NeatImage”. It can be used independently or as a plug-in for other image editing software, and has a much smaller price tag. I am by no means endorsing any of these products and am by no means an authority in either, but am attempting to convey that with a little research you can find a reasonable product that will address this problem. Keep in mind that most of the programs utilize color manipulation, and can degrade the clarity and crispness of your image, but can and are very useful in removing marginal amounts of noise. Once you have run the correction, re-evaluate your image, to ensure that clarity was not sacrificed. I know it may be painful, but sometimes you may just need to give up on the shot and move on if you can’t fix the issue and maintain quality. There is an old saying where I am from; “sometimes you just have to call an ugly baby – an ugly baby”.
White Balance: Once again, I won’t go into the science, but to say that every different lighting type reads white differently through your equipment. Two different cameras may produce totally different color schemes under the same light. Digital cameras address this through some auto presets, as well as the ability to do a custom balance. You can go as basic as a white sheet of paper, to color cards, to lenses, to software, and the list goes on. Every photographer probably has their own unique way of finding the perfect balance. This takes a lot of practice and fine tuning to develop your own style. Software correction can often times correct the problem, but I have had times where it made the photo worse, or chose some balance from the planet Craptron that made my image worse than ever. I have decided that it is better to correct the white balance through the camera, but it is nice to have software that can help bring out the best image possible.
Poor image color: This problem can be dealt with most times in a strong photo editing software. It takes a little better than basic knowledge of the software that you choose. You need to learn how to adjust the hue, saturation, values, and so forth. With a little practice, you can learn to effectively manipulate the colors in your image to produce a much richer presentation. Photo editing software, just like your camera has auto settings that can be used, but I have seldom gotten a better result this way. I have almost always needed to tweak several features to get the color and brightness that I wanted. Pick a practice image and play with the tools to find out what they are capable of doing. It is worth the time invested to learn your tools to an intimate level.
Over-filtered: I am not proud to say that I have received this one a few times as well. As we previously discussed, you can use image software to do just about anything to your image. There is a point however in which you can go too far. It becomes obvious in an image when you have needed to use all of the tools in your software to try and salvage it. Processing an image over and over will inherently degrade the quality over multiple filters. Don’t come to rely too heavily on your editing software to “save” your image. It is much better to improve your skills with the camera. The filters are great and sometimes do wonders to your image, but should be used to enhance, and not recover. A designer is not left with too many options when it comes to manipulating your image into something they can use. It is best to leave the fancy stuff up to them. We get paid to capture images; they get paid to manipulate them. The ray of hope is that they offered to review your un-edited image to see if it is useful. Give it a try.
Poor background removal: This one is covered in the tutorials to an adequate degree, so I will just go over the tools that are most useful in photo editing software. The most common ones are the rectangle select, circle select, lasso select, magic wand, path select, scissor select, and color select. I am sure yours have much the same, and you have used them all with varying degrees of success. Each one has its usefulness in different situations, and when used properly will give very clean cuts. Practice is the key. Keep in mind also when you are setting up the shot that you will need to use one of these tools, so try and set the shot to be favorable to one of these tools (i.e. Knock out shadows, solid backgrounds that contrast to the subject, and so on.) This will make life a lot easier later. The most important thing to practice is patience. Take your time, go slow and remember “attention to detail”. If it isn’t perfect, it will show. Do it right the first time. Do not sacrifice quality. This is your work, take pride in it and it will show in your product.
Last but not least: Distorted pixels: Part of this problem may lie in the quality of your camera or lenses, and I won’t cover that here. The other part rests in your software editor. All photo editors have their own file extension that is designed specifically for editing, and works to combat degradation. When working in JPEG format, every time you save, (and you should save often when editing) your image quality will degrade. I don’t know why; suffice it to say it happens. If your camera saves in JPEG, create a new copy in the editing file extension to do your work, and then save it back to JPEG when you are completely finished. This will avoid degrading your image due to saving. The software when saving will offer you the option of saving at different percentages for the purposes of file size, image quality and so on. Always save your file at the highest quality available. If you need different qualities for your own purposes (i.e. e-mail, thumbnails, and so forth) save a copy at a lower percentage.
In conclusion, all of the problems mentioned can be solved with a little attention to detail, and continued practice. Although I am by no means an expert in any of these fields, I do know when to take advice, and how to apply it. My hope is that I can generate a dialog, and cause people to dig a little deeper than the surface to truly understand what the short explanations for a rejection actually mean. I am sure that an entire blog could be devoted to each of the above reasons, but I felt as though I could get the wheels in the minds of readers rolling. Photography as with any art form must have critics to keep it fresh and new. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder; don’t let technical issues stand in the way. Whether a pro or hobbyist, always try and perfect your craft. It will be worth it in the long run.
*Photoshop is a copyright of Adobe Systems Incorporated All rights reserved
*NeatImage is a copyright of ABSoft All rights reserved
Photo credits: Ajn, Anthony Bolan, Ivan Cholakov, Phil Date, Rahultiwari3190, Redbaron, Sparkia, Vadim Ponomarenko, Stockphotonyc, Travis Manley.