Turning A Crappy Photo Into A Usable Stock Photo

By Gary Gray

Here’s a quick take on how to turn a crappy photograph into a usable stock photograph. Literally

I take a ton of photographs with the idea that a lot of them can eventually be turned into decent stock photos.

A good stock photo, meaning one that could make a few dollars over time, doesn’t have to be a work of art or anything sensational. Mostly, you just need a good, clear, sharp, technically sound image of the subject. Stock photo buyers come in all shapes and forms and many times it’s just somebody looking for a good depiction of an animal or subject for an article or web site.

Here’s a photo I took of a small group of Canada Geese on a cold winter morning in 2018. They were all standing together on an ice covered lake at sunrise. The basic ingredients for a decent stock photo have all been met, but some of the ingredients of the photo aren’t really going to wow a customer. Namely the goose poop, specular highlights and partial animal bits hanging around on the edges of the frame.

The trick on a photo like this is to remove all the negative things from the image and tweak the color and contrast in Photoshop. The main tools you’ll be using are the “content aware fill” tool and the “spot removal” tool.  A little bit of cropping and image rotating may also be in order. The entire editing process can be done in less than 5 minutes. The resulting edited photo may end up making you $10-$100 over a few years, so you can do the math and figure out that you’ll be getting paid that much for 5 minutes of your time. The bottom line, if your images aren’t making money, they are worthless.

Take a look at the original photo. It has lots of problems, mostly in the form of doo-doo ploped all over the ice around the birds. Nobody is going to buy photos of bird poop. You have to clean that stuff up. The spot removal tool in Photoshop makes quick work of those droppings.

As for the bits of bird on the sides of the frame, just highlight them with the lasso tool and do a content aware fill. Ta-daa… Gone!

Canada Geese

Here’s the resulting edited image.

Notice anything missing?  Of course you do. There’s no poop, no specular highlights, just a nice group of geese sitting on some ice without a bunch of poop and parts of off frame birds in the scene. Nice and simple, clean, sharp and in good light. Anyone looking for a good depiction of Canada Geese in the winter will give this shot a good look and may even buy it. My guess is that this photo will probably make me $30 or more over the next 5 years. The alternative is that it sits on the computer and it never makes a cent.

Always take a look at your photos to see if they can tolerate a bit of editing in Photoshop to possibly make them suitable stock images. Don’t worry about all the internet blabber about never editing a photo to maintain the original scene. You’re selling artwork, you’re selling an image that the customer needs. Edit your images and make them into something salable. Or don’t. It’s your money.