Is there a checklist that covers the basic technical aspects of a photograph? I assume reviewers for micro stock websites go through a set list of points and professionals have some mental checklist they go through. Can anyone elaborate on this?
I don't think there's a single checklist. I've spent a little time looking at the forums of some stock photography web sites and can list at least a few of the technical things they look for:
- Focus - are the right things sharp? Are the sharp things sharp enough? Is the depth of field appropriate for the subject?
- Composition - this one is a huge topic and may not be considered technical, but in general, is the composition balanced? (Or appropriately unbalanced if that's the point?) If you intended to follow the rule of thirds or use the golden ratio, did it actually work out? Is the framing right? Is the subject properly isolated?
- Chromatic Aberration - is the CA minimized or at least not objectionable?
- Vignetting - is the vignetting either not there, minimal, or appropriate for the image?
- Exposure - Is the exposure good?
- Illumination/Lighting - Are the right things illuminated properly and effectively? Are the wrong things deemphasized through illumination? Have you used the right types of lighting for the subject? Have you placed the lights right, or placed the subject in the light effectively?
- Color - Does the color work for the subject? Is the color accurately reproduced?
- Perspective - is it right? Does it make anything too big or too small relative to other things in the image?
- Lines - Do the lines in the image draw the eye to the appropriate places? Or do they conflict with the subject or draw the eye away from where it should be?
- Motion Blur - this goes along with focus, but is more about shutter speed than lens focus. Have you either removed unwanted motion from the frame or emphasized desired motion appropriately?
- Shape - have you captured the shape of your subject accurately?
I'm sure there are more, but those are the first ones that I think of when thinking about this subject.
There are also those that relate more to delivery of the photo than the actual photo:
- Is the resolution high enough?
- Is it in the right format? (JPEG, TIFF, RAW, etc.)
- Is the aspect ratio the right one for the delivery medium (16:9 for stuff that will go into HD video, for example)
I think the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) criteria sums it all up. I was a member for many years. Follow this link.
Professional Photographers of America – 12 elements to judge
7.) Color Balance
8.) Center of Interest
10.) Subject Matter
12.) Story Telling
Link below is good reading!
Wikipedia Commons has a decent set of standards along with examples and an ongoing Quality Images submission page where active application and feedback based upon their standards are available to observe daily. Their guidelines encompass the same line items mentioned in other answers here, but I'll repeat them here for reference. Note that the primary display medium for Wikipedia/Wikimedia is a web browser- additional standards also apply for images destined for print.
Paraphrased from Wikimedia Image Guidelines:
- Resolution: Avoid downsampling, images should contain adequate detail
- Compression: Images should not be stored in a format with excessive compression.
- Noise: Images should not have excessive noise when viewed in original size
- Exposure: Avoid overexposure, blown highlights, underexposure, lost shadow detail
- Color: Images should have reasonable colors, be properly white-balanced, low chromatic aberration, samples should be in a proper color space
- Focus / Depth of Field: Key objects in the image should be sharp, and the overall image should have clearly defined focus
- Motion Blur: If present, it should have a purpose (quote: to emphasize motion)
- Lighting: Lighting should be appropriate for the given subject; avoid distracting reflections, inappropriate vignetting, harsh shadows, lens flare
- Editing: Avoid unnecessary use of artistic filters and effects. However: cropping, perspective correction, sharpening/blurring, color correction, etc can be beneficial.
- Composition: The arrangement of image elements should support the subject, not distract from it. Foreground/background objects should not be distracting.
- Distortion: Images should not be unintentionally tilted, architecture should be rectilinear, perspective distortion should either contribute to the image or be insignificant, avoid or correct barrel/pincushion distortion.
Here are additional items quoted on that page but not enumerated:
- Stitched Images / Panoramas: Avoid stitching artifacts, ensure color/luminance/lighting is consistent across the image, correct parallax, avoid vignetting.
- Color Spaces: This is specific to display on Wikipedia / Wikimedia and websites in general, but images should generally be in sRGB color space or include a proper ICC profile.