Providing Stock+Resources - A Beginners Guide Pt02

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kuschelirmel-stock's avatar

This is Part 2 of Providing Stock+Resources - A Beginners Guide. It is aimed at resource providers new and old - I'm trying to give some tips and pointers based on my experience both as a stocker and a photomanipulator. If you have anything to add (maybe you have an example from your own gallery I could insert - pretty please?), feel free to comment, I still feel like I forgot soooo much ^^; Any other comments are of course welcome as well. I hope this helps at least some :heart:

>>What you will find in this guide:

  • Part 01: Introduction incl. Note on Copyright
  • Part 02: What should I put online? incl. Subject Choice | Dealing with Abuse | Technical Basics for Stock Images | Lighting setup | Tips and tricks on getting the most out of your camera | Post-processing images [you are reading it]
  • Part 03: Stock Rules incl. Where to keep the Stock Rules? | What to put in your Rules | Refining as you go along
  • Part 04: Uploading your stock to dA incl. Packs or Singles | Making sure people remember it's your stock | Upload choices | The right category | Keywords | Artist's Comment | Organizing your Gallery
  • Part 05: Premium Content incl. How to sell Stock | What information not to forget to give

What kind of images should I put online?

Everything is usable to someone, true enough, but there are things that may be usable for just one person while other images appeal to a broader audience. And in the end, of course we want a broad audience so our stock gets used, though not for every price ;)

Subject Choice

Basically anything you can get in front of your lense can make great stock, but of course, there's a catch: how do you figure out what could be useful for manipulators or as drawing references? Especially if you are not a manipulator yourself... For that, you can take a look at what is currently hot in the stock section, or you could just upload a ton of images and see what gets used. Personally, I would go with the latter, because it is absolutely impossible to predict what will be hot next week (and who really needs loads and loads of the same old stuff anyway?) ;)

Basically, go outside and take pictures, go through your house and take pictures and if you like, take pictures of people as well - see what you like doing most and go with that!

Just remember one thing:
What gets used in the end is unpredictable!

I have tons and tons of images in my gallery that have never been used even though I could have sworn they were great. But then I remind myself that I myself download loads and loads of stock and only ever use a tiny fraction of it, because, heck, my muse is sometimes on vacation. Without me :( . I would bet others are the same. So if your stock does not get used as often as it rightfully should, it is in all likelyhood not your fault and should not discourage you from uploading more!

>> Need more inspiration?


Dealing with abuse:

While certainly not fun to think about, it is only realistic to expect a certain amount of abuse when uploading stock (or anything really). There are two kinds of abuse you should keep in mind before deciding what you want to upload:
  1. Abusive comments about the content which might range from harsh critique on your photography skills right down to the lowest of the low, like for instance someone telling the model s/he's ugly/fat/...
  2. Abuse of the images. While you may put rules out there (more on setting up rules below) that forbid someone the use of your images for certain things (racism, porn,...) or off site or *insert rule here* , there will in all likelyhood always be someone out there who breaks those rules.
Now everyone has their own comfort zones when it comes to both of these types of abuse. I am not saying you should just never upload anything at all just because some idiot may come and disrespect that. But what I am saying is that you need to take the time to figure out if there are some things you definitely never ever could live with.

Always remember: you can make them take their deviations down and hide their comments, but you can't unsee what you've seen.
Therefore, it is important to think about this before uploading and making sure whatever could happen will not be earth-shattering!

>> Some very good advice from Nobody

--> very important when doing model stock - must read!

Technical Basics for Stock Images:

You don't need the best, most expensive equipment to provide useful stock, but there are some things any manipper who wants to do a decent sized manip will be looking for:
  • Guide on
    image size
    and quality:

    Image size: dA's current stock submission rules state a stock image should be larger than 1000 px on the smaller side and I think they do have a point (though personally, I would rather have them as big as I can get them because I make prints from my deviations and don't want the largest size I can print out to be the size of a postcard). While it is true that the amount of pixels is not a general indicator for the quality of an image, you simply cannot scale images up well (actually, not at all really), so if you have a large size available, think about offering it as is.
  • Image quality: try to avoid grain, noise and blur. Especially blur is a a killer because you can't correct it at all without having to do a lot of overpainting (and not everyone is good or even okay at that). Grain & noise are avoidable by shooting in good lighting conditions and keeping your ISO low (if available, see more tips below). Motion blur can be avoided with short shutter speeds - which then usually means you need more light to compensate.
  • Image lighting: in general, photomanipulators prefer even lighting without harsh shadows and highlights because they intend to put the lighting in themselves. But of course, some cool lighting on a character can help give someone an idea how to use the image in the first place, so this is a case-by-case thing (see below).
  • Crop #1: whatever your main subject is, don't randomly cut off extremities. I'm not saying don't do portrait stock or details of an object, but if you intend to feature a certain object completely, make sure it is not cut off somewhere. Most manippers couldn't draw extra limbs if their life depended on it (me certainly included), so if you decide to go barefoot in tall(ish) grass, remember that all this stock will likely be used for is you standing in a meadow or creatively behind something where the feet vanish ;)
  • Crop #2: Decide what your subject is and let it fill the frame. For example, is it a person, then focus on the person. Is it the landscape behind the person? Get rid of the person and take a landscape shot. Don't try to do both in one, it usually makes the image unusable (person too small to be used alone, but obscuring some of the landscape so landscape only doesn't work either).
  • Perspective: some angles might be more useful than others to a broad audience, but don't forget that if someone is trying to do a manip with a not-so-common perspective, they will need some stock, too. So if you can, take pictures from different angles (you can upload them in packs if you don't like to clutter your gallery).
  • Lense distortion: when taking a picture with a wide angle lense from a close distance, there will be some lense distortion. If you are using a camera capable of zooming, you can use it to reduce distortions by going back as far as possible/feasible and using the zoom - just remember that your subject should still fill out the frame.

Try to ensure the best quality you can offer with the tools available to you and your stock users will thank you for it!
If you find you want to upload something where you can already see the quality is not so great, but the object, location etc is just too good to pass up, you can always let your audience know!

Lighting Setup

Lighting can make or break your image. Not enough light can result in grainy pictures while a harsh light source results in harsh shadows that are hard to retouch. Here are a few tips on what to look out for:
  • Use natural light: go outside to shoot people stock, take the vase you wanted to take a picture of outside onto the porch instead of staying in your room. The sun - even covered by clouds - is a much stronger light source than whatever lamp you may have inside.
  • Example of an image shot during blue hour:
    When outside, avoid harsh lighting by keeping to the shade. Of course, there are subjects you cannot move to the shade. In that case, try to go out in the evening, when the sun is low and the light is softer; or take advantage of a coudy sky (though this may also result in dull colours, which is no big deal for architecture shots but may make your model look pale). A nice touch (especially for architecture shots) might be to go out in the Blue Hour, catching the first or last light of the day on long(er) exposure (take a tripod with you if you plan on shooting in the almost-dark - those long exposures are impossible not to get blurry because your hand always shakes a bit).
  • Use even lighting: What often looks great in person or from an artistic point of view, but is a hassle to have on stock images, is light filtering through leaves. This results in spots of sunlight and shadow that you can not remove easily in Photoshop. Try to avoid this and similar issues.
  • If you need to be indoors for your shots, buy a powerful lamp (or two) in the hardware store, something like this for example. These are cheap and powerful, but you need to be careful as they get really really hot after a short time.
  • Wherever you take your photos, try to find a background that is not too distracting and easy to cut (provided it is something you can influence in the first place). What is always nice for indoor model stock, is having a plain gray background. Try NOT to use bright colours such as bright green or pink because while it gives great contrast, the ambient light will seep into everything and is not so easy to get rid of!

Example of bad vs. good lighting:

Both of these images (courtesy of Nobody) were shot on the same day (I presume). On the left, you have direct sunlight coming through the half-open roof with plants, leaving dappled spots on the dress and the arm very light and overexposed. Overexposure is bad because you lose details, everything is one harsh white or off-white colour without texture. Compared to that, the image on the right with no direct sunlight is evenly lit and all details in the dress, hair and arms are clearly visible. This is much easier to work with in a manip, because getting rid of all the "sun-spots" in the left picture would take ages (and probably considerable overpainting skills - if at all doable) On top of that, the background on the right makes it easy to extract the model.

>> Some advice on lighting / studio setup etc:

There are tons of tutorials on how to set up studio lighting without having to buy expensive gear, but my faves are these:

and some more advanced lighting tutorials for photographers: :new:

Tips and tricks on getting the most out of your camera

The following tips and tricks are based on my personal experience and will not only work for DSLRs, but some can also work for compact cameras. I'm trying to keep the techno-babble to a bare minimum. Also, note that these are tips for people who usually keep to (semi)automatic mode even if they have a DSLR camera (I am one of those btw).
  • If you have a camera that allows you to set the ISO value, choose a low one (100 is the lowest, Nikon cameras call it Lo 1) then take a picture and check if it is sharp. If it is blurry, increase the ISO until you can take a sharp picture. The ISO is the sensitivity of the chip or film and a low number means it is less light sensitive - your digital camera will use a longer exposure at low ISO values to compensate. This results in less grain and noise and often in better colours, but the long exposure time may mean you can no longer keep your hands still enough to avoid the blur coming from your shaking hands. At some point (and this depends on your camera), you will need a tripod if you want to avoid too much grain. Even point and shoot cameras often have the ability to set the ISO manually, DSLRs should have it in any case, but your phone most likely won't (though who knows what they'll be coming up with next year).
  • Example for yellow colour tinge indoors:

    thank you Nobody
    If your camera allows it, you can use the white balance to get rid of the strange colour tinge you can get when using indoor light. The colour tinge comes from different light sources having different light temperatures. Our brain usually filters out this effect, but the camera can only record the light it gets on its sensor. If you know what kind of light you are using you can set your camera to compensate. Usually, there are different presets available, one of them is a light bulb symbol. This will do great at compensating for the yellow tinge of most traditional indoor lighting. (Please check your camera's manual for further information.)
  • Use a shallow Depth of Field (DoF) and a small f-stop value to your advantage when photographing people outside (especially great for portraits). A shallow DoF means that your background will blur while your subject is sharp. For more information on how to achieve this effect, please read this guide.
  • Use a big f-stop value to make sure you get everything sharp that you need to have sharp (this results in a wide DoF). Especially when doing close ups of small objects, it can be important to make sure that none of your objects edges get too much blur so they are easy to cut out. Note that even a very big f-stop can result in blur if you are in the range of close-up or macro photography. Again, please read this guide for more information on the effect.
  • Don't forget: you can use the zoom as well as your feet to get a different crop. Sometimes standing a bit further back and using the zoom can help get rid of lense distortions and may even result in some blurry background effect that helps to separate fore- from background.

>> Photography Tutorials :new:

Post-processing images

While it may seem that with Photoshop, anything is possible, it actually is not. You cannot get more light into underexposed areas nor can you get less light into overexposed ones. If the information is not there, no algorythm can bring it back. So if you want to take your stock to the next level, you will have to deal with all the aspects listed above and make the most of your circumstances.

However, there are of course some things you can or sometimes even should do with your photos before uploading them to dA. Just remember that if you want to do stock for manipulators, it is likely that too much post-processing done on your part might make them go "it's nice, but for what I need I would not have done x, now it's unusable":
  • Example of pre-cut stock:
    Rotate your images right-side up! At least this one is a must :P
  • Remove unwanted objects / people from the scene if you like - even though manipulators should be able to do this themselves, clean images are often more attractive not only because they don't need to put in the extra work any more, but also because it is just easier to see the stock image in a new context if he mundane things like phone lines and trash bins have been cleared away already.
  • Correct colours to be more natural or more artsy if you like, both is fine if you feel the image needs some work in that department at all; if you are shooting in RAW format, you can even correct some white balance and even exposure issues with post processing.
  • You can also correct lense distortions to get rid of that "bloated effect" you sometimes get when you take an image with a wide-angle lense from close proximity.
  • And if you are feeling really fancy, there is always the possibillity to offer pre-cut stock or premade backgrounds -- just remember the copyright issues that can arise from this if you decide to use other people's resources instead of sticking with your own images.

>> Post Processing Tutorials

Thank you Nobody for allowing me to use your old images as examples :love:

Stay tuned for Part 03: Stock Rules

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albrecht995's avatar
grey/white background is great unless they are wearing grey/ I found out the hard way :shakes head: