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How to Check Your Image Quality

Updated on August 11, 2013

Example of Stock Photography

Why you should review your image quality?

We’ve all seen examples of fantastic photography that looks great in a thumbnail or framed hanging on a wall. You may even have images of your own that compares favourably and attracts a lot of attention on-line. However, even well exposed and composed images can often fail to meet the strict criteria that makes the image suitable for commercial use. You may gain praise for the shot, but you may have a nagging feeling that it just won’t make the grade at stock photography sites. It is necessary, therefore, to learn how to review you image against the strict criteria used in commercial stock photography.

Step by Step Guide to Image Quality Reviews

There are a number of checklist items that you should cover during post-processing. The image histogram, white balance, shadows, highlights, and spot removal are the usual issues that should be checked. However, you need to view your image at “actual pixels” (or 100% zoom) to really check on the quality of the image. Some may call this “pixel peeking” an out of date concept, but you can rest assured that the stock photography agencies are scrutinizing your image to this level of detail.

Here’s what to check for:

• Image sharpness. A common cause for rejection of an image is soft image details when viewed at actual pixels. Don’t just use the sharpening slider in ACR. You want to be able to control which part of the image, and even which tonal range, gets sharpened and which does not. There are a number of great sharpening techniques on the internet

• Chromatic Aberrations. Those glowing, thin, soft blue or red hues that run along the edges of dark and light tones in your image are a common cause for rejection. They may not show up when viewed normally, but you must correct any that appear when viewed at actual pixels. Adobe CameraRAW offers a slider that can fix most of these issues, but be aware that some chromatic aberrations are so extensive that they cannot be removed.

Example of Chromatic Abberations

• Compression Artifacts can ruin image quality. They basically look like smudged or noisy patches in the image. They are caused by the compression of the image to JPeg formats and are extremely difficult to fix. Make sure your image has none of these lest you will be rejected by the stock agency. Shooting in RAW format and saving to TFF will help reduce your images susceptibility to compression losses.

• Any corrections made to exposure and the tonal range can introduce noise to the image. Noise is common in point and shoot images, which use variations in ISO to control exposure. Removing noise can be very easy, however. Neat Image software generally works very well. However, be careful not to overcompensate with noise removal. It can make the image overly soft, and compensating with sharpening will introduce faults that are similar to compression losses.

• Checking for spot removal is essential. Hot pixels or dust on the sensor can damage the quality of an image and will almost certainly lead to rejection. The good news is that spots are very easy to fix using the spot healer or the clone stamp tool in Photoshop.

If you follow these guidelines, you should find that well composed and well exposed images will have few problems being accepted by stock photography sites.

Compression Artefacts and Blown Highlights


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    • raydevlin profile imageAUTHOR

      Ray Devlin 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Funkarkhalid - i agree, but it is a fact of life that many people will try to sell images which may not stand up to scrutiny. There are lessons here that i had to learn myself. A photographer needs to understand what is acceptable and what is not before shooting to avoid such technical flaws. Also, post processing is a fact of life in the digital age, and most editing tools can introduce flaws which may no ordinarily have been apparent. Many cheaper lenses also have inherent performance flaws which introduce chromatic aberrations, regardless of how well you shoot the image.

      Learning how to avoid such flaws is a different matter, one perhaps deserving of a another hub. Thanks for your comment, though. Much appreciated.

    • Funkarkhalid profile image

      Khalid Ahmed 

      5 years ago from Lucknow

      Firstly, I want to thank you for stopping by and visiting my Hub.

      You have explained in fine detail the requirement of a good image , it is a good writeup. But what I do, I prefer to shot the image which needs a very few correction afterward. Though the editing tools are very helpful,but some times one may use them overtly which may become noticeable, and the loss of quality will be painful to accept.

      I request you to kindly visit my other Hubs and help me in improving the quality and content.Thanks.

    • raydevlin profile imageAUTHOR

      Ray Devlin 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for the suggestion - i may look into Denoise.

    • JanMaklak profile image


      5 years ago from Canada

      Good article Ray.

      I often use Adobe Lightroom to reduce noise. It is tremendous(ver 4) I have been working on an article for reducing blur and sharpening and I have found 25 different means to reduce to fix problems. Included are use of tripods and all the way to the high pass filter - the sledgehammer of sharpening. Topaz puts out a plugin called Denoise (I think). It is one button noise removal and it works very well.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 

      5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Thanks for the hints for processing photos for stock photography sites! I'm looking forward to seeing some examples too, so I know what to look for, and how to correct it!

    • raydevlin profile imageAUTHOR

      Ray Devlin 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi thanks for the comment. Your are right, i should add some examples. Thanks for the tip!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great tips, especially about shooting in RAW format and converting to TIFF instead of JPEG format. One small suggestion I have is to include some example images of these things to look for, such as noise and chromatic aberrations--just an idea.


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