How to choose photos for your first submission on Shutterstock

What to submit?


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Answer to this question depends on what type of photography you are working on.  More information on current popular customer searches you can find  here.

Irrespective of whether you are shooting only one type of photography or wide range, it is important not to include similar images into your first submission. even if you have amazing collection of cat or dog pictures, choose your best one and go on the next topic. They want to see a potential range of images you can provide if your content is accepted.

 5 Possible mistakes to avoid in your first submission – most common reasons for rejection.

  • Editorial/Commercial catch

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You have submitted an amazing, high-quality photo of a cityscape, and it has been rejected!  Why? Possible reason for this is because you have submitted a photo with the visible, recognizable property, logo-s on the billboards etc. as a commercial photo.  Make sure you tick the box  – editorial use only if you are submitting content with any logos, recognizable places, celebrities, landmarks etc. More information on editorial vs commercial photography, you can find HERE. 

  • Focus, focus, focus!

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Photo on – Getty Images

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Photo on Adobe stock

One of the most common reasons for rejection on Shutterstock – in my experience is focus. Make sure you check (by zooming it in by 100%) if your main subject  is crystal clear. I like to use Nikon software ViewNX 2, before I edit my photos in Lightroom, just to check  whether the subject is in focus.  The reason I do that is just to make sure, because Shutterstock sure does care about its focus!   The photos above (accepted on  Getty Images and/or Adobe) were rejected on Shutterstock due to subject being out of focus. 

  • Noise / Artifacts / Film Grain — Image contains excessive noise, film grain, compression artifacts

Another possible reason for rejection, not as often in my experience, but also important to mention, at least for your first submission. Again, if you check your photo zoomed in 100% and there is no noise/grain you should be fine. No excessive post production is desirable. Simple addition of a little vibrance, contrast or cropping to improve your composition is just fine, especially for editorial photography.

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Photo with excessive noise zoomed in 100%
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Same photo in full size
  • Composition — Distracting elements are entering the frame obscuring the main subject or the horizon

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Maybe it seems as needless to say, but check if the subject of your photo is not obscured by any  distracting elements and is composed well.

For example although I found it really cool to take a ‘really close’ close up of this crane, (picture on the left) Shutterstock didn’t quite like the idea of it.

Also, I really liked the view through the opening on the picture on the left, but the Shutterstock quality control wasn’t very excited about the composition.


  • Exposure — Image is extremely underexposed or overexposed

    Even though only one of my photos has been refused for the reason of exposure, I believe that it is important to mention it, since this is one of the reasons for rejection of the photos on Shutterstock. There is often a personal feeling to what is a good exposure of a photo. However if unsure about certain photo don’t include it in your first submission.

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Photo rejected due to poor exposure

Thank you for stopping by and good luck with your submission.

Feel free to share your experience in the comment.

One thought on “How to choose photos for your first submission on Shutterstock”

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