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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 are open! Please add yours below.

About the Author

topdog

Topdog (aka Steve Merryman) is a designer, illustrator, dog lover, smart-ass and budding curmudgeon. He spends time working in his home-based design studio, SIGMA; painting dogs and other things; writing; chopping firewood; hiking; eating cheeseburgers; shooting guns; trying to ignore social media; and wondering where he left his pants.

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Comments 4

  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.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks!

      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.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks!

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

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