Have You Ever Tried This With Your Photos?

If you're not exploring all the possibilities that modern digital editing software offers you then you're letting potential earning opportunities pass you by. This article explores how you exploit different markets with single images.

For a very long time, many years in fact, I steadfastly stuck to a rather rigid, limited workflow process. I'd go through my raw file images, select a handful that I thought were worth editing, put the rest into my backup files after I'd deleted the duds, carefully edit the ones I liked, upload them to my website, and maybe share a couple on social media. I'd confidently wager a bet that many of you do something similar. There's nothing extraordinarily wrong with this process, but it's short-sighted. Why? Because doing single edits of your images ignores so many other possibilities and available options at your fingertips.

Modern editing software platforms such as Photoshop afford you so many creative possibilities. Honestly, the options are pretty much limitless once you become intimately familiar with your preferred editing platform. It took me a very long time to understand this but nowadays I do at least four or five edits of single images, each one vastly different from the other and for a very different audience. Let me give you a few examples so you can see what I'm talking about.

Regular Edits

I'll use a recent surfing image as my prime example. The image below was taken at a local reef break during a good run of swell earlier this year. The surfer in the image is well-known in Japan and has many lucrative sponsors.

I edited this image and a bunch of others from the same session and sent them to one of his major sponsors, who I often work with. After some back and forth emails regarding usage rights and fees and so forth, the company syndicated the images and decided to run a number of them in its annual promotional brochure, which you can see below.


Whenever there's a good run of swell at home and the pro surfers head out, I always take some shots that I know companies like. It's important to remember that even if you have your own creative style that you lean towards, if you want to sell your images you have to think about the client and what they might want as well. I learned early on that the companies are the ones that pay, so you have to respect their creative preferences more than your own, especially for commercial work.

However, that doesn't mean that your edits or your creativity should end there.

Editing More Creatively

Kaito Morizono, the surfer above, has a very aesthetically pleasing style and puts his body into some unique positions on a surfboard. With that in mind, I wanted to explore some other creative possibilities with this image. Therefore, using some adjustment layers and masking in Photoshop, I came up with the edit below. Obviously, it's very different from the original, and definitely an acquired taste, but I've already sold this image to several clients in printed form and as downloadable soft copies.

For this specific image, I used the Enhance tool in Adobe Camera Raw to increase the megapixel size before cropping out most of the image until I was left with the subject only. My main reason for doing that was to ensure that if someone wanted to print the image onto paper or canvas, they had enough to work with to ensure the image didn't lose its quality or become disturbingly pixelated. After I'd done that, I converted the image to black and white then used a Threshold adjustment layer. Finally, I simply put a solid background color adjustment layer on top and set the blend mode to Darken.

These types of images are very popular with clients who tend to like abstract art, so if you create something like this then it's good to seek out marketplaces that cater to that crowd. At the very least, if you upload something like this to Instagram or your other social media channels, use suitable hashtags.

Creating Photoshop Brushes

Finally, I took this image and used it to make a couple of Photoshop brushes. In the last 12 months or so I've absolutely fallen in love with brushes — both using them and making them. They are a great time-saving tool if you're doing any kind of composite work, as you can add any number of elements with a single click. Of course, the problem is that often you can't find the exact kind of brush that you want. When that happens, I just make my own.

The first brush I created from this image is below, and it's kind of similar to the image above. I created it using different methods that I might explore in a following article, but I was pleased with the final product and now have it in my creative kitbag. The great thing about this brush is that I can now create this with a single click. You just have to make sure you save your brush as well as export it to your hard drive.


The second brush I created from the same image was more like line art. Using a Wacom tablet and pen, I simply drew the image freehand. You can see that I didn't really concern myself with the hair too much, as I just wanted the basic outline.

Again, I saved this brush to my growing collection and I can now call on it whenever I'm creating sketches or conceptual work for clients. An added bonus when you create brushes is that you can sell them on marketplaces where artists go for brushes. There are many such marketplaces including Brusheezy and Creative Market. It's very simple to set up an account and upload your brushes for sale.

Summing Up

Learning how to edit an image can be a lifelong learning process. Here on Fstoppers there are whole courses dedicated to editing, be it landscape imagery, portraiture, or macro work. You should never stop exploring those options but you can also get more creative and abstract with your edits. I have found that there's a market for almost everything and the more markets you can tap into, the more chances you've got of picking up sales. No matter how big or small those sales might be, they all add up to money in your pocket. 

Do you have any other ideas for editing creatively with a mind to sell? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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7 Comments
barry cash's picture

Too bad u can’t get someone in the water with a strobe light to two potentially producing epic images from the area, also you could hire a drone pilot to fly the strobe light.
Nice image and great article.

Iain Stanley's picture

That particular spot has some grizzly old locals so don’t know how a drone flying overhead would be received. But yeah, maybe one day

Don L's picture

would this be considered creative editing? just asking

Iain Stanley's picture

I like it. Looks like you used an Inverse Adj. Layer in some way. Great effort!

Catherine Bowlene's picture

Interesting and looks a lot like some pop art type of thing. Not actually my cup of tea, though, but I love adding color accents to black and white photos and I've seen so many articles and Photoworks tutorials just to get it right lol

Iain Stanley's picture

Should never stop learning and trying to improve :)

Jon Kellett's picture

I found the "threshold + red" image to be very compelling. I know that it's technically simple, but there's something about the balance of the image that I really liked. Great use of negative space.

I'm a fairly traditional style photographer, but I'd love to do more images like this. I wonder how much of an art market there'd be for this... Also, what art market would you position it in?