If you’ve ever submitted a photo to a stock photo site such as iStockphoto, Bigstockphoto, Fotolia, or any of the stock and microstock photo sites, then you may have heard from them that “your photo has artifacts.” But what are these “artifacts” they speak of? And, more importantly, how can you get rid of them?
Some Guidelines (from my experience)
- Look for them (the artifacts) in Lightroom or the image editing program of your choice. You’ll have to look at your photo using 3x magnification (300%). I know, I know, it seems like it is overkill. But not really. You really will need to look at your photo using this high of a magnification to see the artifacts.
- The artifacts that they (the stock photo sites) are talking about are where the colors are not smooth or there are irregular “ghost-like” patterns. It is difficult to describe, but easier to see with an example image (see below).
- The artifacts are produced when converting a photo from a RAW or TIFF file (any lossless format) to a JPEG (a lossy format).
- Lightroom or your image editing program can produce artifacts in JPEG files just because of the internal algorithm used by the software. There may be nothing you can do about it except to use a different program to convert from RAW to JPEG. For example, Adobe Photoshop does not seem to produce as much artifacting as Adobe Lightroom does for some reason.
- The first step to reducing the occurrence of artifacts is to not increase the sharpness of the image too far. How far is too far? I’m not sure except to say that when you see artifacts in the JPEG file, then back off the sharpness and try again. Also try selectively sharpening only areas that absolutely need sharpening. Better yet, don’t sharpen at all. Often the most successful photo submissions are not sharpened.
- Strange as it may seem, having too much or too little noise reduction can also lead to these artifacts. It seems counter-intuitive, but when you see too much artifacting and you’ve already reduced your sharpness, the next thing to do is to reduce the noise reduction.
Example Images – The Saga of a Failed Stock Submission
This image was rejected multiple times by iStockphoto.com. Every time it was due to artifacts. Here are the images that I submitted with some close-up views and commentary on each. You can also click on any of the images to get a better view. I would say you should do this because the artifacts are not easy to see.
I reduced sharpening and submitted again.
I reduced noise reduction and tried once again.
I tried again, this time by exporting the image with Adobe Photoshop instead of Adobe Lightroom. Maybe that would make all the difference and remove this artifact problem once and for all.
All that work and then they said that the image “is not what they are looking for at this time.” But, at least I learned something: I can get rid of artifacts to their satisfaction.
Stock Image Preparation – What I Do Now
Since this experience, I’ve taken an entirely different approach and one that doesn’t involve a lot of re-submissions. Basically, I don’t sharpen my images at all, and that includes changing the contrast of them. They have to be good coming right out of the camera or they are useless for stock imagery and I won’t submit them. They also have to start out as RAW files and I use DxO Optics Pro for noise reduction and lens softness removal to pre-process them ahead of Lightroom.
As for converting to JPEG, I still use Adobe Lightroom and not Photoshop. Lightroom has improved their exporting and it is now comparable to Photoshop, in my opinion. Of the submissions I have made using this process, none have been rejected due to artifacts.
I work exclusively with iStockphoto (Getty Images) at this time, and they have a useful guide on their site that tells what photos they need and what their quality standards require. But, it doesn’t tell everything that is needed and I hope that what I’ve given here from my experience will help!
You can see my stock photo portfolio here (link).
Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it.