How to process your photos before selling them: 8 top tips

First published:
October 13, 2020
February 8, 2024

How to process your photos before selling them: 8 top tips

First published:
October 13, 2020
February 8, 2024

Cover image by Jaromir Chalabala

Follow these key processing steps, prior to making your images available for sale, to help you maximize their sales potential

Whether you plan to sell images as prints and digital downloads to clients that you’ve known for years, or to new editorial and advertising customers, (such as book publishers, magazines, newspapers, websites and design agencies) via Picfair’s Central Marketplace. These key steps in your image processing that will help you get more sales.

1 Dust removal

Even if your camera has a built-in dust removable system, it’s inevitable that some dust will find its way on to the sensor and make itself known in your images. And once you or a potential client sees a dust mark, it’s hard for them to see beyond it.

Thankfully, it’s easy to remove the tell-tale marks using the cloning or healing tool in an image editing software package like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. However, a methodical approach is essential if you’re going to get every spot.

Whatever software you use, magnify the image to 100% and examine it in sections, starting from the top left corner, move down checking the screen’s width to the bottom of the image before moving across another screen-width and checking the next section. Keep moving down and across until you reach the bottom right corner and all the marks have been removed.

Example of dust marks on a camera sensor as seen against a blue sky
Example of dust marks seen against a blue sky... one of the most common areas where dust can easily be noticed
Example of camera sensor dust marks removed after using the 'Healing Brush' tool in Photoshop.
Dust marks removed after using the 'Healing Brush' tool in Photoshop

2 Cropping and levelling

Ideally you want to avoid too much cropping, leave this to the buyer. However, when processing your images you should crop out any odd bits that may have crept into the edges of the frame accidentally. When you crop, stick to one of the standard aspect ratios.

If you're unsure, an ideal aspect ratio is 3:2, which gives the buyer plenty of flexibility when it comes to cropping. You can learn more about best-practices for cropping with our dedicated guide.

Uncropped image as seen in Adobe Lightroom
Original image before cropping as seen in Lightroom
Using the cropping tool in Lightroom
When using the cropping tool on the majority of image editing programs, you'll be able to drag and adjust the crop area to see exactly where you'll be cropping the image
Final result of the cropped image in Lightroom
Resulting image once cropping has been applied

You also need to make sure that the horizon, or any vertical lines, are straight. Some image editing software can detect and correct wonky horizons for you, but if not, there’s usually a simple tool that you can use often situated with, or near, the cropping tool.

Image of a road with a grid overlaid used to level the horizon of the image
Many image editing programs offer 'levelling' tools, similar to the cropping tool, that also displays a grid over the image - which is perfect for correctly adjusting horizons
Image from Phillipp Dase

3 White balance and color

White balance can be a creative tool, but for straight editorial images in particular, it’s important to correct colour casts, especially with images uploaded as a series. An attractive, warm landscape image is more likely to sell than one that has a cyan cast, for example.

A group of kids in Capetown, South Africa.
Example of an image with a soft, warm color cast that compliments the scene. Image from Stefan Ferreira

4 Noise reduction

Unless you’re shooting at a very wide aperture, if you’re hand-holding your camera in low light you have to push the sensitivity (ISO) up to enable a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake spoiling the shot. The downside is that a high ISO setting introduces coloured speckling called noise.

Cameras apply noise reduction to JPEG files to reduce the visibility of noise, but it can also reduce the amount of detail that’s visible. As a rule, the best results are created by shooting raw files and then applying a bespoke level of noise reduction when you process them. We’d rather see a little grain than lose all the detail or have images that look like watercolour paintings.

Example of an image displayed with ISO data in Lightroom
Image captured at night with the high ISO setting at 2000. You can see 'noise' is clearly visible.
Example of an image displayed in Lightroom with a noise reduction filter applied
Image after a small 'noise reduction filter' has been applied in an image editing programme. Notice the difference?

5 Creative processing

There’s a creative aspect to image processing that’s entirely personal, and it's great to develop your own style. A personal style makes your images stand out from the crowd, and it’s why your clients come to you.

However, many editorial clients, such as book and magazine publishers look for 'straight’ images, or images to which they can apply their style. So with this in mind, it may be worth producing two versions of your images. One for editorial buyers and another for your followers and creative clients.

Image preview seen in Lightroom with no edits or adjustments applied
Image in 'straight' style without any creative adjustments as seen in Lightroom
Image as seen in lightroom with some colour and contrast enhancements applied
A stylized version of the image with prominent orange and teal tones and high contrast. Perfect for prints - but less ideal for editorial use

6 Sharpening

We recommend that you don’t sharpen images that are for the editorial or advertising market, leave that to the buyer. However, you may wish to apply a subtle sharpening treatment to your creative work, but take care to avoid introducing sharpening artefacts such as halos along edges within the image.

Image of the New York skyline where the image has been over-sharpened
An example of where over-sharpening has formed a 'halo' along prominent edges in the image

7 Personal watermarks

There’s no need to watermark your images before uploading them to Picfair!

Picfair's watermark will be applied automatically when you upload your work. And, with your Picfair Plus account you can choose to upload your own watermark, or remove them altogether. Find out more about custom watermarks for Picfair Plus here.

Any images uploaded that feature a personal watermark will not be accepted. Buyers need a clear image, and when images are purchased on Picfair they are delivered without watermarks. We cannot remove personal watermarks uploaded with images and therefore cannot accept them.

Image of the New York Subway with a Picfair watermark overlaid
Once images have been uploaded they will be visible on the site with the Picfair watermark

Ready to start your own photography store?

8 File format

Although you may shoot raw files, you need to create JPEG files in order to upload your images to your Picfair Store.

We accept a minimum size of 800pixels along the shortest side and the maximum file size of 50MB per image.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend always uploading your images at the largest size possible up to 30MB and as close to the original dimensions of the image as possible. The more freedom you can provide the buyer to resize the image to their preferences, the better.

Image being saved as a JPEG in Adobe Photoshop
When getting ready to upload your images, make sure they are saved as JPEG files!
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