The Right Tool For The Job

Cackling Geese swimming in a leaf covered lake. Nikon D850/ 200-500mm VR @ 500mm.

I took the new Nikon D850 out for a test drive on Friday at a local lake.  The camera works great; however, when editing the photos I ran into the same issue that I experience with the Nikon D810. File sizes.

At 45.x megapixels, the images from this camera are huge. Lightroom takes a little longer to generate the full resolution previews and processing a batch of about 150 photos took a bit longer than what I was used too, but I’m not at all surprised.

I got to thinking about a how this new camera will fit into my stock photography workflow and like the D810’s 36 Megapixel files, the D850 files require me to scale the images down in size if I intend to use them for stock photos. Why is this?

Most of the microstock sites have a maximum file size limit, which may vary from site to site, but typically hovers in the 25 megabyte range. I’ve found that with the D810, I’m reducing the image sizes down to a 24 megapixel image, but sometimes I have to go a little smaller when the dynamic color range of the image is higher.

The way I deal with the reduction in file size is to create an export setting that renames the file with an added “R-” at the beginning of the file name and produces a 24 megapixel stock jpg photo. The “R-” lets me know that the original file was “Resized” for the creation of the stock jpg photo.

So, what is the best camera for stock photos? In a general sense, I’ve found that cameras with a 20-24 megapixel resolution generate the best image size for the stock agencies. The processing time required is less, which speeds things up a bit when editing large batches of photographs, but the conversion process is about the same. I can confirm this in my portfolio by analyzing the different cameras I’ve used and by a fairly large degree, more of my stock photos from the past three years have been from my 24 megapixel Nikon D750. The reason, if I know I’m going to be shooting for stock, I take the 24 megapixel D750 with me.

So why have a camera that creates 45 megapixel image?  If you’re shooting for stock photographs, you don’t need this much resolution. A 24 megapixel camera is going to give you near perfect file size and resolution results as far as stock photography is concerned. I like the higher resolution cameras though, as they do give me a little more wiggle room on cropping and a lot more wiggle room for making larger prints.

I suggest you keep in mind what your intended use will be for your photographs when selecting your next camera. You can get excellent prints up to 20 x 30 inches using a 24 megapixel camera, which is about all you need in the real world. Those extra pixels don’t always solve a problem, and can sometimes cause you problems.

It’s really about having and using the right tool for the job. Right now, the 24 megapixel camera is the sweet spot for stock photography.