Photo Artifacts in Stock Photography Submissions


If you’ve ever submitted a photo to a stock photo site such as iStockphoto, Bigstockphoto, Fotolia, or any of the stock and microstock photo sites, then you may have heard from them that “your photo has artifacts.” But what are these “artifacts” they speak of? And, more importantly, how can you get rid of them?

Some Guidelines (from my experience)

  1. Look for them (the artifacts) in Lightroom or the image editing program of your choice. You’ll have to look at your photo using 3x magnification (300%). I know, I know, it seems like it is overkill. But not really. You really will need to look at your photo using this high of a magnification to see the artifacts.
  2. The artifacts that they (the stock photo sites) are talking about are where the colors are not smooth or there are irregular “ghost-like” patterns. It is difficult to describe, but easier to see with an example image (see below).
  3. The artifacts are produced when converting a photo from a RAW or TIFF file (any lossless format) to a JPEG (a lossy format).
  4. Lightroom or your image editing program can produce artifacts in JPEG files just because of the internal algorithm used by the software. There may be nothing you can do about it except to use a different program to convert from RAW to JPEG. For example, Adobe Photoshop does not seem to produce as much artifacting as Adobe Lightroom does for some reason.
  5. The first step to reducing the occurrence of artifacts is to not increase the sharpness of the image too far. How far is too far? I’m not sure except to say that when you see artifacts in the JPEG file, then back off the sharpness and try again. Also try selectively sharpening only areas that absolutely need sharpening. Better yet, don’t sharpen at all. Often the most successful photo submissions are not sharpened.
  6. Strange as it may seem, having too much or too little noise reduction can also lead to these artifacts. It seems counter-intuitive, but when you see too much artifacting and you’ve already reduced your sharpness, the next thing to do is to reduce the noise reduction.

Example Images – The Saga of a Failed Stock Submission

This image was rejected multiple times by Every time it was due to artifacts. Here are the images that I submitted with some close-up views and commentary on each. You can also click on any of the images to get a better view. I would say you should do this because the artifacts are not easy to see.


This is the original image after I sharpened and reduced noise to what I thought was the right amount. Wrong. Rejected. Too many artifacts.

3x Orig

At three times (3X) the original size, you can see what the problem is. Look closely around the head of the seagull. You can see some ghosting line (the contour that follows the head outline and contrasts slightly with the water).

I reduced sharpening and submitted again.

Sharpening reduced and resubmitted, this image was also rejected due to artifacts.

3x first retry

At 3X, you can see that the artifacts around the head of the seagull are reduced. However, there is still some faint amount of them around the head, and there is some blotchiness in the water that looks like noise but with larger blocks. The image is rejected again and I try one more time (read on).

I reduced noise reduction and tried once again.


Noise reduction reduced and the image is again rejected due to artifacts.

3x second retry

At 3X, the water is smoother and with fewer blotches in it. It looks more like random noise rather than artifacts, so that is good. There still appears just the faintest amount of ghosting around the head outline. The image is rejected again and I try another time (read on).

I tried again, this time by exporting the image with Adobe Photoshop instead of Adobe Lightroom. Maybe that would make all the difference and remove this artifact problem once and for all.


Here is my third re-submission after exporting this time using Adobe Photoshop. Still not good enough for iStockphoto. They rejected it.

3x third retry

At 3X size on my third re-try (fourth time uploading) image, I can see here that exporting using Adobe Photoshop has made some difference. The ghosting around the head of the seagull is gone. The noise is a bit higher in the water, but it still looks very random and not too blotchy, so that is really quite good. The image is rejected by iStockphoto again. Why? Artifacts, right. Uh, no. It is rejected for an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT REASON! They said the image “is not what they are looking for at this time.”

All that work and then they said that the image “is not what they are looking for at this time.” But, at least I learned something: I can get rid of artifacts to their satisfaction.

Stock Image Preparation – What I Do Now

Since this experience, I’ve taken an entirely different approach and one that doesn’t involve a lot of re-submissions. Basically, I don’t sharpen my images at all, and that includes changing the contrast of them. They have to be good coming right out of the camera or they are useless for stock imagery and I won’t submit them. They also have to start out as RAW files and I use DxO Optics Pro for noise reduction and lens softness removal to pre-process them ahead of Lightroom.

As for converting to JPEG, I still use Adobe Lightroom and not Photoshop. Lightroom has improved their exporting and it is now comparable to Photoshop, in my opinion. Of the submissions I have made using this process, none have been rejected due to artifacts.


I work exclusively with iStockphoto (Getty Images) at this time, and they have a useful guide on their site that tells what photos they need and what their quality standards require. But, it doesn’t tell everything that is needed and I hope that what I’ve given here from my experience will help!

You can see my stock photo portfolio here (link).

Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it.