Rating my own pictures

The foreground is messy and the high grass blocks the view
The foreground is messy and the high grass blocks the view

At Laguna Llanganuco, during my last trip to Peru, I took a hike for about an hour along the lake. The setting was impressive:

  • a beautiful lake with a greenish color,
  • surrounded by mountains, some of them with snow,
  • a deep blue sky, hardly any clouds,
  • a view of the top of the Huascarán (highest mountain of Peru).

Altogether, really overwhelming. During this hike I took 82 pictures (actually, a bit more, however, a handful I threw out in a first round because they were out of focus). I selected only 7 for Dreamstime; all of them were accepted. The others I did not submit. The question is why.
To answer this question I rated my own pictures. Normally, I have a quick glance and reject most of them without making explicit why. It has become intuition. Now, I forced myself to make the reason for rejection explicit. Here are the reasons why:

  • Lack of composition, like lack of balance, blocking flow of the eyes, lack of depth, distracting parts of the picture etc
  • Technical flaws, like out of focus, sun flare etc
  • Snapshots, no other interest than for my own recollection

What is left over are the Winners and close to winners (of which 7 were submitted to and accepted by Dreamstime). Sometimes the differences were minimal.
Here you can view all the pictures I took at Laguna Llanganuco including my comments. And here and here are the Dreamstime pictures (including pictures from another location).
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Be selective

City of Amersfoort, the Netherlands
City of Amersfoort, the Netherlands

Nowadays it is quite easy to make hundreds of pictures and put them on the internet. You can find these type of pictures everywhere and of course they have their purpose, however, with a little bit more effort it is quite easy to improve them.
When I started submitting pictures to Dreamstime I found out that half of my pictures were not good enough. Besides that some of them were of no interest as commercial stock, most of the refusals had some issues:

  • Poor composition Eyes are drawn to specific parts of a picture. There is the Rule of Thirds saying that the important objects in your pictures should be at the grid point of a 3-by-3 grid. From a visual point of view it makes the picture more pleasing and interesting. It has a lot to do with the way eyes wonder over the picture. For example, bright or dark spots on the edge will pull your eyes off the picture. Rule of Thirds is a good way to get started, however, there are also approaches based on visual mass and (circular) flow of your eyes. In a future blog I will come back to this (see also this blog).
  • Out of focus  This may be caused by several reasons. One is that if you are in a hurry you do not correctly focus on the object. Another one is that the depth-of-field (DOF) is too small causing some parts of important objects to be out of focus. If there is not enough light, do not open the lens, instead increase the ISO.
  • Incorrect lightning Parts of the picture might be over- or underexposed. For example, dark buildings and a very bright sky. This means that details have disappeared in the lighter or darker parts. If the dynamic range of your camera is large enough you may still correct this by lowering the Highlights and getting more lights in the Shadows. Otherwise, avoid these kind of situations.
  • Distorted pixels This term is used quite often in the Dreamstime community. The definition is given by examples. Distorted pixels do not exist in your camera, either a pixels works or not. Looking at the examples, the main reason is overprocessing the picture: too much sharpening., too much contrast. The algorithms are not always able to handle this resulting in blurred pixels in your pictures, or outliers as far as color is concerned.
  • Lens fringing When you enlarge the picture to 100% you may see purple or green lines on lines with high contrast. This is caused by the lens, which is sometimes not able to project light of different wave lengths to the right position. Lightroom has a simple way to remove this. Please always check at 100%.
  • Logos For Royalty Free pictures all logos and brand names have to be removed. It is also possible to submit as Editorial picture, the question is of course whether it is of any value as Editorial picture. Again, check at 100% because small logo on somebody’s watch is overseen quite easily.
  • Identifiable persons For Royalty Free pictures for all identifiable persons you need a Model Release Document, which provides information about the model and the fact that the model agrees that the pictures are sold.

Sacred grounds of Yungay and snow-capped Huascar‡n during sunset, Peru
Sacred grounds of Yungay and snow-capped Huascar‡n during sunset, Peru

Nowadays I am more aware of the above issues. I have learnt quite a lot from the refusals. I hope you will do the same.  At the same time, I do not always agree with the editors. Above and on the left two of my recent refusals (poor composition). Dreamstime has the advantage to ask for a second opinion. This past year my acceptance rate is well above 90%. Please enjoy all my pictures at Dreamstime.
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