Rejected by Shutterstock

Rejected feature image

Tonight I had a batch of cool photos rejected by Shutterstock, and I'm a little pissed off, to say the least.

It's certainly Shutterstock's right to reject photos. As a new contributor, I've had a few photos rejected and it's part of the learning process to find out what Shutterstock wants. In each case, I understood the reasons given for the rejection.

But this is different.

I shot a large collection of rose images using my macro lens because I wanted to get in tight to create very intimate and unique photos of the roses – images you may not see every day. My goal was to create images that served both representational ("Look! A rose!") as well as abstract needs (for those searching for rosy backgrounds).

When shooting with a macro lens, the depth of field is very narrow. This means the area of focus is small and there is, by nature and on purpose, areas that remain unfocused. That's the nature of macro photography. The job of the photographer (or at least the way I approach it) is to focus the lens on something interesting, and let the other areas create an atmosphere that allows that focused area to be all the more interesting.

Also, it's a bit of work to process a photo that gets rejected by Shutterstock. Granted, I don't set out with rejection as Plan A, but every photo gets the same treatment.

In this case, I only made minor adjustments in exposure and saturation to the 10 photos I submitted. But each photo had to be sized correctly, the meta info (creator, copyright, keywords, and web address) had to be added; and each photo had to be saved in the proper format for Shutterstock.

Processing, uploading, adding search info, and submitting for approval took about two hours. That was in addition to the time I spent actually taking the photos themselves.

The Rejection Lie

In all, I had twenty-four photos I was going to ultimately upload to my Shutterstock portfolio. I uploaded the first ten images tonight.

About an hour later I received the same rejection notice for EVERY SINGLE IMAGE:

rejection notice

Hey, Shutterstock! It's not me. It's you!

This is, in a word, Bullshit.

I suspect the images are analyzed by a computer and spit out if they don't meet certain criteria. Further, I suppose the computer didn't like all that abstract fuzziness in my images.

That would be fine if there were a way to appeal to a human with real eyeballs and a brain that understands sometimes marketable images contain a little mystery.

So at least I learned about Shutterstock's greatest weakness.

They don't want images like this:

These photos have been rejected by Shutterstock, but not by me. I'm going to use them on other items for sale. And in so doing, I'm going to make a LOT more money off them then I ever would have with Shutterstock.

Shutterstock pissed me off, and I'm gonna show them. Because doing well is the best revenge.

UPDATE: Aaaaand just like that, I've moved the Morning Rose Series to RedBubble for sale on various products where I can make more per sale than Shutterstock offers.

RedBubble is like Frank's Hot Sauce, they put my shit on everything. I especially got a kick out of the Morning Rose Mini Skirt.

Morning Rose Mini Skirt

Should you purchase, the artist will happily sign your mini skirt.

Comments 6

  1. Hey I am having the same issue. Really great photos are getting the big X. I have started to load them in batches so It doesn’t take so much time. I am pretty sure there is a machine looking at these and not a person. Keep trying.

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      I’m realizing the ROI for contributing stock photography may not, in the end, cover the cost of creating it in the first place. By my calculations, the payouts range from $.04 – $.08 per download from subscriber accounts (more for On Demand Downloads, but those aren’t the norm). Figuring the number of downloads required to make any kind of money is a depressing exercise, especially for a new contributor like me.

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      I really like them. It’s Shutterstock’s loss because they’re too cheap to hire someone to handle rejection appeals.

  2. Hey Sig, Screw the Snappy computer and its inability to feel. I have always loved your photos and artwork. With personal objectivity, I think the abstract perception and concept of the rose series is beautiful, thoughtful and artful, but (here it comes), from a practical view, four of the shots hurt my eyes, literally, could be its just my eyes, but 3,5,6 and almost 7, I can’t look for very long to enjoy or analyze. The forefront is out of focus and my eyes find it distracting, to the point they can’t get a grip on the focused area. And I’ve tried both ways, glasses on, glasses off. So…… I LOVE the rose skirt, it’s practical abstract realism! TuesdayEve

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      I understand the difficulty those images may present. I like them for the very reason you had trouble with ’em.

      The idea of peering through a tangle of objects to see what’s behind is interesting to me. It’s like a bug’s eye-view of what lies ahead. Even if they don’t “work” as simple representative objects like most stock images, I think there is great potential as background textures, hence my attempt to place them in S-stock. Certainly they aren’t to everyone’s taste and I’m cool with that.

      Thanks for dropping by.

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