Image Processing for Stock

I get lots of great questions sent to me through the blog and Twitter and Facebook. Many times they are the inspiration for my blog posts. Recently I received one from a friend on Facebook about preparing images for iStock. Since more and more people are starting to send their images to micro-stock agencies I thought I would share some of the advice with you that I gave to my Facebook friend. The main concern was with image quality. They are shooting in the JPEG format and then using Lightroom, Photoshop, and OnOne products for post-processing but…

“It seems that some of my photos are over processed and I loose quality when they try to blow them up.”

iStock and other stock agencies love to sell photos at different resolutions to satisfy a wide range of customer needs so it’s always best to send them the largest photo possible. Of course you will need to send them JPEGs but don’t reduce the physical image size. The full-size images that come from your digital SLR should be more than sufficient to satisfy most size requests. Just make sure that when you export your images in Lightroom that the Resize to Fit check-box does not have a check-mark in it.

Another thing that I would avoid is shooting in JPEG. If you are going to be selling your images, you need to move up to RAW. I have given a lot of arguments in my books and previous blog articles as to why you should shoot RAW and since the person who asked the question is using Lightroom, they should definitely be using it.

One last piece of advice is to watch how much you are sharpening your images. Depending on how they will be used, they could look too sharp. Images that are viewed on a computer screen don’t require nearly as much sharpening as printed images. If you are shooting RAW images and processing them in Lightroom or Camera Raw, you will be able to control how much sharpening is applied.

When I am working in the Details panel, I typically typically start with settings of: Amount – 85, Radius – 1.0, Detail – 25, and Masking – 50. These are just starting points and each one needs to be tweaked for the individual image.


The second place for sharpening is in the Export dialog box. Under the Output Sharpening section there is a drop-down allowing you to choose different levels of sharpening. You should choose the setting for Screen with the Amount set to Standard. If I was going to be using the images myself I might choose a different setting but since the images are for stock use, you never know just where they will end up. By using a low setting you are giving the end-user the ability to add more sharpening if they choose, but if it’s too sharp, there’s no way to undo it.

If anyone else out there shoots for stock, I would love to have you share some of your tips and tricks on post processing. Please feel free to add a comment.


  1. Thanks for a great tip! I have a lot of images rejected from stock due to over processing, and certainly knowing how much to sharpen will help. I have the feeling that a lot of other things we do to our images to make them look better, like Vibrance, Clarity or Tone Curve adjustments are not helping the noise level either. It is important to observe the image quality at 100% when you work on it, to see how your post-processing effects the output.

  2. My stock work-flow for food is 350 res tiff files, color corrected, NO sharpening, min 32 meg files so there is NO cropping

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