Shutterstock Tips: Why Were My Images Rejected and What Should I Upload?

Rejection Reasons and Subscriber Requests

First, a disclaimer: The following article presents recommendations. Shutterstock makes no guarantees that the following suggestions will lead to greater acceptance rates or more downloads. Rather, this article is a collection of feedback we‘ve received from subscribers combined with an attempt to answer many submitters‘ questions on the forums regarding what they should submit and why they‘re getting images rejected. Read the information here with an open mind. Disclaimer over.
Rejection Reasons.

Many submitters have posted questions/discussions/arguments on the forums regarding “too many rejections.” This generally occurs when submitters are frustrated with rejections or unhappy with sales. Naturally, they want answers. The fact is, there is no simple answer. Yes, the review process is subjective; however, our reviewers are qualified. Contrary to what many have opined on the forums, we have not altered protocol in the review process. Always remember: rejections are not personal.

Every image is unique. Every image will have its merits and its faults. With this said, not every image that is submitted will be accepted. Some general suggestions:

• Edit your submissions – uploading your whole take from a shoot is not the best way to submit. Edit. Pick your best selections and submit only those images that you feel merit a review.
• Communicate with us – add a note to the reviewer. If you are “on the fence” about an image or a group of images, let us know. We’ll do our best to provide you with a good, honest review.
• Finally, send in your emails to Submit Support at We will reply. Why? We value all submissions.

Our intentions are to help submitters understand what our clients are generally looking for and how submitters can help meet that demand for quality imagery. We are not the easiest agency in which to gain acceptance because we hold a high standard. We want our clients to keep coming back for more imagery, so the images we represent must be top quality. Our ultimate goal is to encourage our submitters to think like a subscriber, then cater to that market appropriately.

Image Requests from Shutterstock Subscribers.

Through conversations with clients at trade shows as well as various emails, here is a brief summary of what some subscribers had to say.

Most of our feedback pertained to the People and Food and Drink categories.


The one comment we heard most was ethnic diversity. Clients need images of different races and cultures, of both genders and of all ages, but particularly seniors. Please note, while this request is universal, it also varies region to region. For example, a Southern California client needed images of Mexican Americans.

Since lifestyle shots (a sub-category to People) are quite popular, many subscribers requested images of people performing particular actions candidly, i.e. not looking at the camera. As you plan your next shoot, think about the mundane specifics of everyday life: a family gathered at the breakfast table, or a senior citizen on a treadmill.

There were also a few requests for shots of teenagers and children. These requests included displays of emotions other than happy and, again, diversity (think group shots with multiple races/cultures included).

If you‘re working in a studio or with models, try to make sure the clothing/styling is current, not outdated. Pay attention to details – no crusty fingernails, smudged makeup, etc. Also, accuracy matters. For example, if you‘re doing a medical-themed shoot, be sure the model in the white lab coat is wearing the stethoscope, not the “patient.” This may sound obvious, but we mention it here because we do receive such snafus and they simply are not sellable – resulting in the dreaded Limited Commercial Value rejection reason.

Food and Drink.

Most clients were pleased with Shutterstock‘s collection of Food imagery, but here‘s a little food for thought, courtesy of some European clients: People going to a market for their daily fresh produce and meats. As a concept, think about the differences between owning a small refrigerator versus a huge one — this is a space issue as well as a freshness issue in many cultures. Themes of space/storage as well as freshness would be applicable.

Simplicity was another request regarding food photography, i.e. focus on a single dish or entrée rather than a spread with several dishes.

Lastly, a request for video submitters: we‘ve recently received requests for shark footage, especially sharks attacking prey. [Editor‘s note: If you choose to shoot such footage, be careful!]

It is usually helpful to be aware of trends as well as upcoming events and holidays. However, consider these very important questions before you upload:

- Is my image technically sound? (Lighting, composition, focus, etc.)
- Does my image help sell or promote a product, concept, or idea?
- Are there only a few or no similar images already for sale on Shutterstock?

If you can answer yes to these questions, you‘re on the right track. Most important: whether you‘re a photographer or an illustrator, have fun creating your images. When you enjoy what you do, it will show in your work.

You can buy this image here:

Related posts:

  1. Shutterstock: Vector Tips – Rejection Reasons #1
  2. Shutterstock Tips: Improve Your Sales with Keywording – Part Three
  3. Shutterstock Tips: Improve Your Sales with Keywording – Part One
  4. Shutterstock Tips: What Are Photo Buyers Looking For?
  5. Shutterstock Tips: How to Upload via FTP
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