10 Reasons Why Your Stock Photographs Are Rejected

Posted Wednesday, 18 July 2007 by Chris Garrett in Photography
As we saw in my last post, the first part of becoming a stock photographer is getting some pictures approved and available for sale. It can be frustrating but if you follow these simple tips you can have a much easier time of it. Today I will show you some of the common problems stopping your pictures getting approved and what you can do to avoid them.
My mistake was rushing headlong and uploading any old photographs that I found in my collection. This was obviously not going to be the best approach.

Rejected photos
 You have to be your own editor. Delete, hack and slash any of your stuff that doesn't make the grade. You only want to upload your best work. If you can't correct problems easily in photoshop then don't give it any more of your attention, move on. At this time you should be looking for basic issues. If necessary get a friend's opinion, and not your gran or anyone else who has gushed over every picture you have taken since age six!

 Obviously the golden rule with stock photography is "what is this photograph good for?" - stock photographs are sold to be used, if there is a reason why a photograph would be unsuitable for use, no matter how good it looks, then it is useless as a stock photograph. We saw that in my failed upload attempt. It's not enough that you think your photograph is beautiful if it has any of the following flaws.

 Once you have a set of likely suspects, go through this check list and make sure you are not making any of these mistakes:


1. Schoolboy Errors

 In your rush to get some pictures into your account you might overlook some simple flaws ...  
  • Have you rotated your pictures to the correct orientation? (just because they are the right way up in your preview doesn't mean they are in the saved files).
  • Are the horizons straight?
  • Have you adjusted contrast and saturation?
  • Are your photographs the right resolution? (it might be a beautiful photograph but if you have cropped below 1000x1000 pixels don't expect it to be accepted).
  • Is it in the required format? (probably safe with JPEG but steady with the compression).
  • Check the submission requirements and follow them is the basic advice.
  • Finally when uploading, make sure the upload completes before shutting down.

2. UFOs

 Take a good look at your photograph. Anything there that ought not be? You obviously don't want to be adding anything to the picture such as date stamps or captions. Keep your camera and lenses clean and make sure any stray dust blobs or hot pixels are cleared up in post. Your final product needs to be clean and pure, that means you need to use a low ISO to avoid too much digital noise, go light on the JPEG compression to avoid artifacts.

Detail of photo with sensordust
Sensor dust is a common problem with DSLRs and shows up as dark, circular spots, most noticable in light areas with even colour such as skies.


3. Haven't we seen this before?

 Again, only upload your pre-vetted good stuff. Don't upload your entire archive and hope some of it sticks. Going for the "quantity over quality" approach is not a winning formula. Once you get pictures approved don't think "if they accepted it once they might again" - go for originality rather than repeating the same basic picture over and over. Too many similar uploads and you will get rejected. Mix it up, add some creativity and originality.

Photo of sunset
Everyone has a couple of sunset photos in their collection, but how unique are yours?

4. Lighting

Light is a major factor in taking a humdrum scene and adding drama but it can also curse an otherwise decent result. Ensure your lighting is suitable for the shot, avoid accidental harsh shadows, shaded areas lacking in detail or distracting reflections. I will be following up in a future post with some lighting tips to help you achieve great results without spending a fortune on gear!

Example of photo taken with direct flash
Direct flash is rarely very flattering. Even using a cheap camera mounted flash to bounce the light of a wall or ceiling can dramatically improve your lighting.


5. Exposure

Along with lighting, exposure can make or kill a shot. You want to achieve good colour, contrast, balance and crisp but not blown-out highlights. Careful metering is the key, use your histogram and shooting in RAW can help.

Example of an underexposed photo
You can't always trust your camera's lightmeter to determine the optimal exposure. Large area of bright blue sky and white, sunlit houses caused this photo to be underexposed.


6. Composition

The main issue with composition is "what is this picture about?" - it needs to be clear what message, theme, mood or subject your picture is trying to portray. Avoid clutter and distracting, unnecessary details. Did you intend to cut off the top of that guy's head? Is it interesting or bland? Are the lines and angles helping or breaking your composition?


7. Bad Blur

There is good blur, for example having a background out of focus to add emphasis to the subject, or motion blur to emphasize speed and movement. Then there is bad blur, where you have not focused correctly or the camera shook while you were taking your shot. Is your picture blurred intentionally or unintentionally?

Example of a blurred photo
1/60sec exposure was not fast enough to 'freeze' the movement of this plane passing overhead.


8. Bad Photoshop

A bit of light post processing is worthwhile, just do not over-do it! Over sharpened, over processed, bad effects or clumsily retouched work will not sell. If your Photoshop skills are still developing, best to stick to basic adjustments.

Example of poor photoshop editing
Some image adjustments can be timeconsuming and tricky to master. The above attempt at darkening the sky has resulted in a very artificial-looking halo effect.


9. Trademarks

You might love your laptop, MP3 player, car or sportswear but legally you ought to avoid displaying brands and trademarks in your photographs. Recognizable architecture, design or art also falls under this heading. If you don't own the trademark then avoid shooting it or carefully remove it.


10. No model release

If a person can be recognized in the photograph you need to have a model release. The legal problems ignoring this can cause are just not worth trying to slip one through.
You can download a Crestock model release here.



In most cases if you take your time you will be able to spot which photographs are worth uploading and which need to be fixed or dumped. Of course there could always be other issues not listed here. Concentrate on producing your best finished work and you will have many more hits than misses. If you are not sure then consider the upload process as a chance to learn something new. I certainly learned a lot from my rejections!


Related posts:

» Rejected! – Falling at the First Hurdle With Stock Photography
» Top Ten Bestselling Crestock Contributors
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