Tag Archives: Poor Composition

Selling photos that do well as stock – How to correct 22 photography mistakes?

Getting images accepted to stock agencies shouldn’t be an unpleasant experience for contributors or image reviewers. Creating and selling photos that do well as stock takes time and a keen understanding of some of these more basic photography mistakes. Here are reasons why some images might not be a great fit for Cutcaster.

1. Artifacting/Digital noise in Photos

Artifacting and digital noise means that your image has traces of what looks like “snow” on your buddies TV if he hasn’t paid his bills. Sometimes the compression on a camera causes areas of an image to contain artifacting, which is the pixelated areas usually found in darker areas and in skylines of pictures.

example of artifacting digital noise photography

This can be caused by over-processing or by improper exposure. Remember only to manipulate your images, when they are shot at the appropriate exposure. If not this will increase the digital noise and hurts its commercial viability. Try to shoot in RAW mode to avoid artifacting due to your camera compressing the image.

2. Out of focus

Make sure you subject is in focus when you submit images to stock photo agencies. Most likely, the main subject of the image was pretty out of focus and would hurt your overall portfolio more than it helps. Below are some examples of photos that are out of focus.

example out of focus stock photo

3. Missing Model/Property Release

In almost all cases, a photo with recognizable people or private property, that want to be sold to stock photography users, needs a signed model or property release before the image can be accepted. For editorial use, some photos don’t require a release if they are newsworthy as one example. For your convenience we provide photography model releases or photography property releases or you can upload your own and submit your images with the releases attached. Here is an explanation of when you need a signed model or property release.

4. Camera Shake

Sometimes confused with being out of focus, camera shake comes from shooting at a slower shutter speed then is needed. Usually this means that the image was taken at a shutter speed slower than 1/60 of a second. Here is an example of what we mean…

Example of camera shake photography

Example of camera shake photography

Example of camera shake closeup

Example of camera shake closeup

Example no shake camera

Example no shake camera

Example of no camera shake closeup

Example of no camera shake closeup

5. Poor composition

Don’t crop the main subject of an image too much or in such a way that your image is unappealing to the eye. Being creative is one thing but cropping to the point that your photo becomes “pointless” isn’t good either. Using the rule of thirds when composing your next shoot can be very helpful!

example subject not emphasized photography

6. Blown-out highlights

This simply means that the lighter areas of an image were too light which created a loss of detail. This could be caused by your light source being too close to the subject or simply not exposing the right part of the subject.

7. Poor lighting

Great lighting is essential to taking top selling photos that do well as stock. An image that is not well lit will display a dull coloring and a grayish background. Be careful of harsh shadows, which can affect the quality of the lighting in some cases.

example poor lighting photography

8. Sensor spots

Sensor spots are caused by small dust particles gathering on your camera’s sensor when changing your lenses. Typical places on photos where you see sensor spots are witin blue skies. Make sure to go through and clean them off before submitting to make them higher quality and sell more.

sensor spots in photos

9. Under/Over-exposed

a) Under exposure is when you don’t leave the camera’s shutter open long enough. Giving you a very dark, not sharp image.
photo under exposed

b) If you leave the camera’s shutter open too long, letting in too much light, your image will become overexposed. You get a thin, white, almost clear looking image.
over exposed stock photo example

10. Over Processed/Over Filtered

This can be caused by playing with an image too much or maybe by your camera, when using jpg mode. Always shoot in RAW. Keep in mind, when tweaking your images in Photoshop, that it also can damage your images. Make sure that when doing post processing to not overdue it. Here are a few examples of what we mean…

photography explain over-processed

11. Submitting virtually the same image repeatedly

Most stock photo agencies and image libraries don’t really need 20 shots of practically the same thing taken from a few steps back or cropped slightly different. Upload the best pictures in your shoot and put forth the best, most diverse portfolio that if you were an image buyer, you would want to look at.

12. Poor Isolation

This means that the image was not properly cut out from its background and there are still bits and pieces of the background still visible or too much area was cut off the subject. It can also mean the subjects’ edges were too feathered or rough. An example of this is…

example of poor isolation photo

13. Image Subject not emphasized

The subject of the image is not emphasized enough possibly due to the composition of the image or not zooming in enough.


14. Low commercial value

Images like these speak for themselves most times. They aren’t what repeat customers are looking for.

15. Image Copyright/Trademark Issues

This means that your image contains subject matter, which is subject to copyright and if used as commercial stock photography would require a property release from the creator or the owner of that image.

copyright-issues in photography istock

16. Copyright/Trademark issues (Removal Option)

An image that contains copyrighted items can’t be sold as commercial stock unless it had a signed property release from the creator or the owner of that item. However in some cases, copyrighted logos or products can be removed with a program like Photoshop and could then be accepted as commercial stock.

Remove copyright trademarks and sell photos

Remove copyright trademarks and sell photos

17. Chromatic aberration

Sometimes a colored halo (often purple) will creep up behind your subject. This is often cause by a large contrast in lighting and when your subject is back lit.


18. Uneven horizon line

Uneven horizon line means that the tilting of your image was not necessary and has created a horizon line that isn’t straight across.

photo with uneven horizon line

correct example of photo with uneven horizon line

19. Poor Color Balance

This means that the tint of the image is off and usually has to do with the color temperature of the lights you are using.

example of photo with correct color balance

Example of photo with correct color balance

example of photo with incorrect color balance

Example of incorrect photo color balance

20. Upsizing an image

Don’t upsize your pictures just to get them through the door if photo agencies have minimum file size requirements. Keep the image in it’s native size and leave it to the client to upsize or downsize the image afterwards.

Border around image not required

We don’t need borders around any images that you upload. This means that your image has a border (perhaps non apparent) which we will need to be removed in order to put your image up for sale. It is very possible that a small white border was put on accidentally while rotating or cropping your image. Please remove, then resubmit.

image example with border

image example borderless

21. Remove all text from images

Let a buyer decide what words they want to use with your pictures. Text becomes almost unnecessary and makes more work for a picture buyer if they have to remove it. It’s wiser to remove text before uploading. Personal watermarks need to be removed as well.

example image with text

example image without text

22. Poor Title, Description or Keywords – Metadata

Putting in the right metadata when describing your image’s title, description and keywords is the first step to getting your image found. If you don’t put in accurate and relevant keywords then it puts off potential buyers when they search your image portfolio.