In this series of blog posts we have taken a look at how microstock may be an attractive place for you to sell your pictures, how copyright and quality come before all else and how you can streamline your upload process to multiple microstock sites. In this instalment, I wanted to let you know a little about the software that I use to process my images for microstock sites and for use on iFootpath, with a hope that this will help you produce great images from your walks.
I am sure that you will have seen some of the plethora of software available to help you process your pictures ready for submitting them to microstock sites. Rather than a review of all the software available I will just cover the programs that I currently use and describe a little about how I use them. However, just because I have the program on my Mac does not mean it’s the best or that I am using the right software for the right job, it just happens to work for me. So first, the list of the software (by the way, some of the software is free)….
Nik Collection (now known as Google Nik Collection)
ON1 Effects 10.5 Adobe Photoshop
Let’s start by thinking about what we are trying to achieve by using this software – in short, the output I desire is a high-quality picture that will sell well on a number of chosen microstock sites (namely Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Adobe Stock). To do this I want to be able to process the pictures to produce super results in a short period of time. Whilst I do quite enjoy learning about how best to use the software, I feel that I only need to learn enough to gain the outcome that I desire – some sustainable earnings from microstock whilst fulfilling the image needs of iFootpath at a reasonable cost.
I will start with Lightroom I have been using this program for more than 6 years now, having started off with Lightroom 3. It took me a while to commit to Lightroom because, at the time, I needed to choose between Lightroom, Apple Apperture (no longer available), Picasa (no longer available) and Nikon Capture. I am sure that Lightroom was then, and still is now, the right choice for me. To understand this choice, it’s probably best to explain what Lightroom is and then you will better understand why you may want it too. Lightroom is an image management and editing program. Using Lightroom, photographers are able to work through their images from import, to sorting and organisation, to processing, and finally all the way to export and sharing. One of the key elements is that it can manage RAW ima
ges (which contains the maximum amount of information) and all the processing is non-destructive, so you can always get back to your original unprocessed image. You can organise and catalogue all of your images. It is full of great features such as face recognition, geo tagging, output to standalone web pages and a host of ways to help catalogue your images.
Here is a simple explanation of the Lightroom workflow that I use. First, I import the pictures I have taken from my DSLR (which is
set for RAW) into Lightroom. I then carry out some simple processing (using an import preset) that enhances my images so that I get a good first view of what I have available. Then I use Lightroom to edit (including cropping) selected images so that I have the right pictures for the iFootpath website and App. I make the pictures bright with high contrast so that they stand-out on screens for the website and App. Then, when I am happy, I can export the images for the website and App. The key point here is that I export the image, size and format, that I want for iFootpath. This does not change the original image that you imported.
With the needs of iFootpath fulfilled, the next stage is to think about whether the photos I have imported are good enough for microstock (in terms of composition etc) or for other uses such as printed materials. If it shows potential, I then go through another process which depends a little on the picture. Lightroom can do a lot, and often Lightoom is all you need to get all the elements correct including exposure, contrast, clarity, vibrancy, noise reduction, lens correction, colour balance, sharpening and a lot more… Indeed there is probably everything you need to produce a great image. But there’s more…. you can seamlessly edit your pictures using other software as part of the Lightroom process. This is done through plugins. I use two packages to do this.
The first is the Nik Collection – now known as Google Nik Collection. The Nik Collection is free and very powerful. There is not enough room in this blog to provide information on what this collection can do, but wow it is very powerful…. I bought this collection about 5 years ago, but now it is owned by Google and they provide it free (either as stand-alone programs or as plugins for Lightroom). Unfortunately, I have learned from the website that Google will not be updating the software further. (Don’t get me going on this! Google has discontinued Picasa and bought Nik only to abandon it. It’s rather annoying to acquire great software and then let it die – I think that the techno jargon is ‘sunsetting’).
The second (and similar) add-on that I use is ON1 Effects 10.5 another free package that can dramatically transform your images. Once again it is very powerful and you will enjoy changing your pictures and producing images that you never thought possible. It is worth mentioning that ON1 has an alternative to Lightro
om/Photoshop that looks interesting, so if for some reason you don’t like the Adobe route I would take a look.
Third on the list is Photoshop. Believe it or not I am new to Photoshop. I have always used Lightroom with the plugins mentioned above (and Pixelmator which I will cover next). As most people know, Photoshop is now often used as a verb (to photoshop an image) as well as being the name of Adobe’s best-known software, in the same vein as Hoover (are you going to hoover the house?), Google (I’m going to google that) and Skype (I’ll skype you later). I wonder, does anyone ‘iFootpath with friends this weekend’? Photoshop, as you might expect, is very powerful, but with this power comes complexity. Although I have started to find my way around Photoshop and already produced some images that have been ‘photoshopped’ and successfully uploaded to microstock sites, there is an awful lot to learn. My strategy is to ‘google’ want I want to do (and use the Adobe resources) – such as replace the sky on a picture – and then try it for real. Why Photoshop now? Well,
I did not invest in Photoshop in the past because of the cost, but just recently I have moved to Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography so that I get the latest version of Lightroom and Photoshop all in one package. I have found that Adobe’s Creative Cloud has a lot of advantages (not least that you always have the latest versions of the software, great training videos and software for a tablet if you need it). I am pleased with my Creative Cloud investment and don’t think I will go back to the stand-alone versions.
Last, I wanted to mention Pixelmator (only for the Mac), another very powerful package that is worth checking out if you want an all-round graphic package. It’s not for organising your images and I am not aware of a Lightroom plugin. I use Pixelmator Pro to create the schematic maps for the iFootpath PDF leaflets. I also use it if I want to edit some short-lived images such as screen grabs, the odd icon and photos that guest authors want help with. As you don’t need to import the picture you can just grab it and start work. It’s a good (one-off) price with excellent support. If you have a Mac and don’t want to fork out for Photoshop, I would suggest you take a look.
So, there we have it, lots of great software to help you produce great, sellable pictures. All of the above have plenty of training videos and documentation and there are lots of books on Amazon that will help you up the learning curve. I have bought a few for Lightroom and I would recommend the author Scott Kelby – he certainly knows his way round Lightroom and always has up-to-date books available.
If you have found this post helpful, please take a look at the others in this series or add a comment below (I will always try to answer any questions). Many thanks for reading my blog post.
Future blog posts will include:
Equipment – the essential and the not so essential.
You may also like to check out: