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How to Rework Old Photos for Adobe Stock

How to Rework Old Photos for Adobe Stock

Do you have old photographs just hanging around on your hard drive, taking up space? If you do, then perhaps you should consider uploading them to Adobe Stock. You never really know what sort of image someone out there is looking for - they might just want to use that shot that you currently have buried away in the archives. Sometimes, these old shots may require a little bit more work in order to ensure that they will measure up to stock submission standards, but the opportunity to make revenue on work you've already shot makes it a worthwhile venture. If you have old files you want to breathe new life into, the following guide for prepping and submitting those archived shots is just for you.

Noise Problems

One of the most common reason why submissions are rejected is due to excessive noise. Since this is such a big issue with many submissions, we'll cover this one first. This is typically caused by a high ISO setting for content captured in low-light situations, but it also can occur when trying to push underexposed images too much, even if they weren't captured in a low-light setting. If your original edit of an image was too noisy, try reworking it to incorporate some noise reduction techniques for bringing it back into the realm of acceptability for stock submissions. Below is a close-up view of the image used as the cover for this article. I re-processed this image specifically to submit to Adobe Stock.

This image is old enough that my skills as a photo retoucher were pretty new and in need of much improvement when I took it. In terms of noise, the only real difference in the before and after shots is that I simply didn't crank the image sharpening nearly as high. Back when I originally processed the shot, I had pushed the sharpness to the point where the grain visible in the image stood out like a sore thumb. Toning that back down was simple enough to get this image ready for submission.

Get the Exposure Right

The best way to double-check your image before submitting it is to analyze the histogram for it. If you are repurposing a shot for stock usage, try to bring any overexposure down and brighten up any underexposed areas. Many shots will be in the salvageable range for stock, but you might need to put in a little work to make sure they're at their best before you submit them. 

Double-Check Focus

A blurry shot isn't in and of itself a bad shot, specifically if you are going for an abstract piece of work. Just know that the more stylized the image, the narrower your potential audience will be. However, for the majority of stock photography submissions, purchasers will want nice, tack-sharp images, so only submit images that are in focus with your subject nice and sharp.

Keep Iterations to a Minimum

Just because you have a bunch of shots of the same subject with slight differences between them doesn't necessarily mean that you should submit them all. Adobe specifically requests that you don't submit both a color and black-and-white version for any shot. Stock purchasers will more than likely have all the tools they need if they need to turn an image to black-and-white. For shots with slightly varying camera angles, ask yourself why you would pick one shot over the other. If you have a viable reason for each shot, then it might be worth submitting them both. But if you don't, simply pick the best of the two and submit that one.

Don't Go Nuts with Style

When repurposing old shots to qualify for stock photography, remember to keep the effect work and stylization to a minimum. Most people who browse for stock photography have a specific need in mind. The more effects and styles you apply to the image, the narrower your audience becomes. Realistically, most of them will want to modify your image in some way or another anyway, so let them be the ones who apply all the heavy stylization. This before/after example has plenty of things in this entire list that needed fixing, but one of the most glaringly obvious is the heavy use of styles and filters, specifically that super heavy vignette that simply wouldn't do for stock photography.

Watch for Technical Problems

Reasons why your shot might get declined include a range of potential technical issues. Some of these can easily be corrected when reworking your shot for stock. Since you're reprocessing the image anyway, pay close attention to the following potential problems and do your best to even them out before submitting your shot for consideration:

  • White balance
  • Chromatic aberration
  • Contrast
  • General composition
  • Saturation

Get Required Releases

If you're reworking an old shot of a person who is easily recognized by themselves in the image or if the image is of any recognizable property, ticketed location, or a landscape such as a national park, you will need to go back and get model releases and/or property releases before Adobe will accept your shot. Property releases are a big deal. The last thing you, Adobe, or any buyer needs is a complicated legal situation over rights or a release. If you have shots that require it, take the time to get the release before starting to rework the image.

Use Your Imagination

There are many who have found stock photography to be a lucrative opportunity. Repurposing your old images for stock use is yet another way you can gain some residual income from your hard work. Scour those hard drives, and if you find an image that needs a bit of extra work, spend the time to crop, edit, or reframe the image to give it new life. You never know, it might just work fantastically in your favor.

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LA M's picture

This article should be linked to the "Unsplash" post of last month...

Jen Photographs's picture

It's hard to muster up motivation to do stock when the payout is so low. I've seen reports of 19-33 cents. Woo.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Why to Rework AnyPhotos for Adobe Stock?

Shawk Parson's picture

apparently to attract more viewers who're not able to visualize an unedited image as edited ... but if a serious editor / graphist wants to buy a stock image, they may prefer to buy the unedited original one and edit it themselves ...

Mike Schrengohst's picture

Yeah working on a photo for an hour to make 50 cents sounds like a great use of time.

g coll's picture

Multiply by 300 photos once you've done the groundwork you can leave them to incrementally make you some money. It won't make you rich but it might pay some bills. A nice additional income stream that can run in the background once you've done a little work early on.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

Multiplied and got 300 hours / 2 months and $150.

Shawk Parson's picture

yes, not so good really ...
but if you don't have a regular daytime job and nothing else to do, then why not?

Jim Meyers's picture

Because you are shitting the bed for the entire industry and this is in no way going to help anyone with no job make a living, eat, or even put gas in their car. That is the dream they sell you. At best you are getting paid pennies on the hour for YOUR work (your gear, maintenance on the gear, gas money, expenses to get places to shoot, etc.) while big companies are laughing all the way to the bank. If you account for any expenditures at all, you are far more likely to be LOSING money -
not making it. Respect yourself. Respect your work. Respect others.

Shawk Parson's picture

sounds like you own quite a poopy tongue in that nicely smelling mouth of yours, don't yeh? and then you advise people to "Respect others." at the end of your comment as well ... (daytime job at the warehouse so hard? drink too much cheap beer perhaps? or smoking super costly recreational dope? both?)

Daryl Hunter's picture

I am so pissed at Adobe for starting this thieving program that screws the demographic that built their business. I quit Getty Images becaue I'd get angry every time I saw the commission split as will as the exponentially falling prices.

Shawk Parson's picture

Adobe wasn't much of a thing since day one really! there were other still image and video editing programs that were already doing much better than Photoshop or other Adobe products but people simply ignored them just as they ignored (and still do!) better operating systems and got stuck with Windows!

J Maloney's picture

Hey Rex, Talk to some professionals like myself BEFORE you write about stock photography. Corbis, Getty and now Adobe have driven this biz into the ground. Revenue splits are abysmal!!! Prices are abysmal and insulting. Supply exceeds demand by a HUGE margin. It is indeed a whores market. Spending time, money and energy to benefit these three companies is a dead end. Just my two cents.

Shawk Parson's picture

true all that ... i may personally go with supply more than demand to some extent though, as far as 'more choice' is a good option for everybody ... although as we can see in some cases, there are many mediocre photos, technically speaking at least, selling higher than the good ones!

btw, in a legal case i read a couple or so years ago, Getty Images sued a female photographer for using her own photos because Getty Images had already uploaded those photos under GI's own name and without obtaining her permission first! imagine that! :D

Bill Peppas's picture

Somebody I met recently was an old buyer of a piece of mine on 123rf.
He paid 21euros ( around 26$ ) and I got paid... 5.1$.

I refuse to give stock agencies more pieces of my work.

I'd rather create a new stock site with lower fees and better payments for the photographers than to submit an image to those greedy b*stards.

Shawk Parson's picture

i have thought of that too: creating a new stock site with better treatment for the original copyright holders of the photos ... but handling such a HUGE website would not be very easy really because now at least 99% of photogs from other websites will rush to yours! it can be done though ... if you thought you may need someone else to join and help you with that, you know where to find me! :-)

Desmond Stagg's picture

Makes me wonder, I had a lot of images "rejected" by adobe for one reason or another. Strange, the same images "without" any further work on them get accepted by Getty?
I did have a conversation with one of the individuals who vet the work sent in. It transpired, he was NOT a professional photographer. He wasn't even employed by adobe! He does this on a voluntary basis. As a reward he gets the use of adobe products.

I will NOT have my work vetted by amateurs!

I believe it was on the last Max, they had a lawyer from Germany praising adobe stock and how he makes a four figure income with his pictures. Pull the other one mate, it's got bells on - WHAT a lot of BS!!

I have pics on AS just lying dormant - I don't post anymore - my time is worth FAR more than waste it on AS. Getty is no better. They sell a pic for $9 - my commission is 15% - a rip off!!

George Robinson's picture

People think that all they have to do is upload tons of photographs and over time you will make money. Some people think they will retire someday. The only problem is the algorithm that they use, pushs the older photographs further and further back in to the pile. Over time they will never see daylight. Sorry to burst your dream. The corporation is playing you and they are getting rich.

Rick McEvoy's picture

Blimey. Reading these comments makes me want to give up even trying with stock photography!
Rick McEvoy Photography -

Daryl Hunter's picture

I started attempting stock photography in 1985, it wasn't to bad until the internet came along. It completed it's free fall with the invention of digital cameras. Getty images started farming amateur photographers on Flickr and that was the end of the stock photo industry as an effective income source.

Today you need multiple revenue streams, I chose stock agencies not be one of the streams. I sell a little stock off my website; however, I never expect to make more than a few thousand dollars per year off it.

I have supported my nature photography with other jobs and self employment endeavors for 32 years. We must do photography because we love the capturing light, photo sales are the frosting on the cake.

Shawk Parson's picture

with all due respect, aren't the before/after examples given in the two samples here misplaced?

besides, as far as i know, uploading photos in Adobe Stock requires membership and regular monthly payment, doesn't it? if so, there are MANY similar scam sites like that around and believe me you, some are probably more worth paying for than Adobe's Stock!

the point is, there are many free / semi-free options for uploading photos and be seen just as well ... besides, if i am to pay for a monthly service, why not pay that for my own website and upload my images there!?

Shawk Parson's picture

regarding the model release, photos of people and private property are surely ones for which such permissions are required ... but as for the photos of national parks, do we really need to get a 'model release' for them too? who from? who *owns* national parks: God? government? the nation? who's the 'authority' on that really? doesn't sound a little too ridiculous to get permission for the release of photos of nature!?

btw, was there a mention of railroad photos here? according to some resources, taking photos of railroads and showing them around is STRICTLY forbidden and subject to persecution with hefty fines and/or jail, at least in the US of A ... did you know that? does anyone know more about this? (there is at least one Facebook photography group that has put such a restriction in their rules ...)

Daryl Hunter's picture

You don't need property releases for public lands, we collectively own the National Parks. That said, you can't work with more then you and a model or helper without a permit. Also need permits for commercial video.

Shawk Parson's picture

there was a time not many stock photo sites existed and entering them wasn't easy despite the high demand ... and they were not free, nor cheap ... by the sounds of it, there were apparently truly professional photographers and image editing experts judging entries and rejecting or accepting them ...

then there came semi-free or totally free socializing and "image sharing" sites where you could also upload images you liked: those of yours, others', whatever ... Facebook is probably the largest one out there right now with no limits whatsoever on the number of images (and videos) you're allowed to upload, albeit at a cost: the image quality drops a lot after upload due to Fb's image compression algorithms ... but experience has proven so far that the drop in image quality on Facebook is tolerable enough in case of most images and they do attract a good number of viewers --serious viewers that is-- if not buyers ...

long story short, the presence of free or semi-free photo / video upload sites (YouTube and the like included) caused those earlier 'high nosed top-level' and rather snobbish stock photo sites or whatever they call themselves, to either go totally out of business, or adopt newer tricks to attract users of al kinds ... thus many restrictions were removed, especially those regarding image quality as well as image subject matter and so on ...

the result? well, now it's a lot easier to upload one's samples of photography and other artworks to these sites at almost no costs but the downside is, people are uploading all kind of 'cheap' photography work such snapshots of their pets and their latest walkabout around the neighborhood to high-level photography websites just as well ...

nothing wrong with that of course, after all, it's free country and stuff ... but what bothers me a little (just a little and no more than that, i swear!) is the fact that now your professionally shot and expertly edited *best works* receive much less 'likes and positive reviews' than most people's barely focus and incorrectly exposed (as well as badly edited) snapshots of whatever taken using their smartphone fed up to those sites!

conclusion: while the Internet-based social media is a blessing in letting people create their own low-cost/no-cost imagery outlets, fully equipped personal tv stations even (which are at times a lot more successful than the traditional ones btw!), it has also created huge grounds for mediocrity to florish, just as it was before with the regular media!

Jim Meyers's picture

*Sponsored by Adobe.

Daryl Hunter's picture

Adobe Stock was created to save Adobe InDesign users money as well to make Adobe a few bucks at the cost of Lightroom/Photoshop users. Photoshop users built Adobe, then Adobe stabs us in the back. Adobe is accelerating the race to the bottom for stock photo pricing.

Jay Andrew's picture

Personally I prefer the Before image.