Posted Wednesday, 27 October 2010 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn, Photography
No one likes to have his or her photos rejected. It's painful but can be fruitful: rejection can provide an opportunity to learn how to improve your photos. In this and the two subsequent posts, I'll discuss some of the major reasons that images are turned away. 

1. Don't load up your submissions with multiple copies of the same shot with only slight variations. Some, if not most, of the multiples will be rejected and your favorite might be one of the images that gets the knife. Plus you will have divided downloads over many similar photos reducing the popularity of what is the best image of the lot and lowering the placement of those images in the rankings of microstock search engines. (This is important since many users sort search results to see the most downloaded images.)


It can be difficult to choose between a dozen or more variations of a set up but you must learn to be your own best editor and to be thoughtful in selecting your subjects. Image editors and reviewers favor photographers who take the time to self-edit.

2. A vertical and a horizontal of similar photos are generally OK unless one of the formats doesn't suit the image content. But don't send too many of both formats. (Worth saying again).

Business Meeting

3. No need to submit a B&W copy of a color image. The end user can convert to B&W if that is what they want. You are simply creating another similar but this one will be an exact duplicate.

4. It's tempting to submit a cropped version of a portrait, for example, as it reads much better in the thumbnail size; but remember if you submit both the original and the cropped photo, one might be rejected. (And severely cropped photos don't leave room for type or product inserts).

Female portrait

5. Good advice for any creative endeavor: "sleep on it." Do your major edit and then give it a rest for a day or more. Fresh eyes will most likely give you another view on what to cut.

6. Here's the big one: if you consistently submit images on themes that have already been covered extensively and your images don't stand out from the crowd, expect that they will be rejected. This falls into the "no more photos of clouds outside airplane windows" category of advice.

7. A tip straight from the pages of my book, Microstock Money Shots, "Boring photos will be rejected. Sleeping cats are especially dull."

8. Avoid what I call the Las Vegas style of shooting - and I don't mean show girls and gambling photos. When you click the shutter as fast as an old lady at a slot machine reloads her nickels, you are creating a ton of editing work, cluttering up your storage and wasting your time and that of the reviewers. Take your time, be patient and plan ahead to build a successful portfolio over time and to avoid the ego smashing experience of rejection.

Check in over the next two weeks' posts for an explanation of the major technical reasons images are rejected and to develop a formula for planning a shoot that will maximize your time and increase your percentage of accepted images.

Ellen Boughn

Ellen has over thirty years of experience in the stock business gained at such organizations as Dreamstime, UpperCut Images, Workbookstock, Corbis, Getty (Stone), The Image Bank (Artville) and the creative agency, After-Image, she started in Los Angeles at the beginning of her career. Having been directly involved in the creation of four major stock photography collections, Ellen offers her decades of experience to assist photographers seeking success in stock photography.

Twitter @ellenboughn Facebook ellenboughn

Ellen Boughn's best-selling book, Microstock Money Shots, is filled with insights, tips and advice on how to create commercial images and improve your work flow to profit from photography whether you're a hobbyist or a professional photographer.
Order now on

Weekly Free Stock Photo The Weekly Free Stock Image
We are giving away a free, high quality photo every week! Get Your Image


Thanks for your advice
By Cindy Augliny on Thursday, 28 October 2010 9:34 AM
You know, sometimes, it's a shock when my photo's rejected. At the first time, I almost gave all up. But my close friend, he encouraged me lot. Then I cam back. Everything seemed easier. I've tried my best. And I love the quote "Boring photos will be rejected. Sleeping cats are especially dull."
I don't really want to be a dull cat lol
Cropped images
By Inkpot_Printing on Thursday, 4 November 2010 7:24 AM
As a designer who buys a lot of microstock, I must add to this that a photographer loses sales when they crop too tight. I can't count the number of otherwise excellent images that I have rejected because there's been a bit of someone's body cut off, the worst offender seems to be the top of the head. Remember, close crops = lost sales.
By Florist on Monday, 15 November 2010 8:56 AM
Thanks for the advice, now I know what to do.

Add your comment:

Further comments have been disabled on this post.