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.

How to become a Shutterstock photo contributor in 5 simple steps

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– Step No. 1  – Go on the Shutterstock Website 

and press the red button – Sign Up Now, and enter required information.

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– Step No. 2 – Confirm your email address.

After signing up, you will be sent an email to your email address, which you need to click on in order to confirm your address, and log in to your account.

–  Step No. 3 – Confirm your identity.

You will be asked to submit a scanned copy of your passport. If you don’t live in the same country  your passport has been issued, you will be asked to submit additional document as a proof of your residence.

– Step No. 4 – Upload your best 10 photos. 

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After your identity has been confirmed, you can start uploading your photos. Needless to say, you should choose your best photos. Your first submission should be ten photos that represent a variety of topics you can contribute to.  If you click on the following link you can find more information about  How to choose photos for your first submission .


– Step No. 5 – Tag your photos and submit.

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After your content is uploaded, you will need to add a description, choose a category and if required add a release (e.g. you have recognisable people or private/recognisable property in your photo).

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After that, you will need to scroll down and choose/add the keywords. It is very important to choose wide range of relevant keywords, because this is what bring your photo visible in the search of potential buyer.

After you have entered your keywords, all you need to do is press SUBMIT.

Hope you find this post helpful. Feel free to share your experiences, and links to your Shutterstock portfolio.

Top 3 Microstock websites for selling your photos

DSC_5498So, you have some nice photos, taken during your last holiday. Maybe you generally love to take pictures and happen to have a stash on your computer.  If you have a Digital SLR camera and would like to earn some extra money doing what you love, than stock photography might be what you are looking for.

When searching for a place to sell your photos you will come across endless amount of websites. Some  are well known companies, such as Shutterstock, Adobe, Getty;  some are less known. The question is how to choose the best site/s for you in order to avoid spending hours uploading and tagging your photos without having much or any sales at all.


1. Shutterstock 

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  • Relatively easy, stress-free application procedure.  All you need to do is – sign up to Shutterstock contributor website, upload the scan of your photo ID and upload your best 10 photos for review.
  • Quick reply on the status of your uploaded photos.  When you upload your photos, they will be reviewed very quickly. Usually within 24 hours for commercial photos and about 48h for editorial, in my experience.
  • Assessment of each submitted photo. Every submitted photo will be assessed individually, unlike some stock websites (such as Alamy) that judge your whole submission based on random selection of photos. For example, one not accepted photo on Alamy can make your whole submission rejected.
  • Your earnings are updated frequently.  More precisely, every fifteen minutes if someone downloads your photos, you can see it on your dashboard, alongside with the information about the location of the download and the list of the most downloaded photos.
  • What to Shoot list.  One of the new features on Shutterstock – the list of the topics that the customers are searching for the most in the given month. Very helpful tool for increasing the number of downloads.


  • Low fee for subscription download. If your photo is downloaded via subscription, you will earn only  $0.25 per image download ( $0.33 after you earn between  $500 and  $3000 and so on – bigger your lifetime earnings, bigger the fee per image download). However, if you photo is downloaded on demand or with custom/enhanced licence you will earn more.
  • Possibility of paying 30% of your earnings due to American tax. If you don’t live in America and your country doesn’t have a treaty with America, 30% of your payment might be deducted for the tax purposes. If your country has a treaty with America you will need to fill in the form accessible from your Shutterstock account and that should save you from paying extra tax.

2. Adobe

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  • Relatively higher royalty fees. Like other stock agencies, Adobe also has various royalty bands, depending on various factors. On my experience, these fees are slightly bigger and are available in currencies other than dollar (e.g. on my account, earnings are in pounds, since I live in United Kingdom) unlike Shutterstock, Getty etc. 
  • Easy application process and upload of photos. All you need to do is, create an Adobe ID and you can start uploading your photos. If you are an Adobe Lightroom user, you can upload photos directly from Adobe Cloud. After upload, the keywords are generated automatically; all you need to do is write a title and double check the keywords.
  • High quality of photo submissions.  This may be seen as a con at the same time, since only the best quality submissions are accepted due to very rigorous quality control. I personally like the idea of being a part of such a community as Adobe is.
  • Your photos are automatically offered on another stock website. If you are contributor on Adobe, your photos are offered for sale on Fotolia as well, since it is a part of Adobe stock.


  • Only commercial content is accepted. No editorial content is accepted on Adobe, so make sure there are no visible trademarks and logos on your photos. Also if you shoot lot of editorial, as I do, this can be discouraging, when you need to sort your photos and submit only a small portion of it.
  • Long waiting times for approval of your submitted photos. I have found that the waiting times for finding out if your photos are approved is somewhat longer than on other websites. However, they do inform you via email.
  • Photos accepted on other websites refused for lack of aesthetic/commercial appeal. I have had my good quality photos, sold multiple times on Shutterstock and Getty images, being refused on Adobe, due to lack of aesthetic/commercial appeal. This can be annoying, especially if you know that your photos are being sold successfully elsewhere. However, they probably know the needs of their market and customers better.

3. Getty Images (Istock)

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  • Access to exclusive briefs – what to shoot. You can submit your photos to an assignment. Photos are approved faster and it enables you to have more relevant content.
  • Your photos are being sold on multiple platforms at the same time. Besides being sold on Istock (Getty) your photos are being sold on Thinkstock and


  • Lower royalty fees if you are non-exclusive. If  selling photos as non-exclusive photographer, I have found that the fees are slightly lower and very inconsistent, compared to other websites.
  • Long waiting times for getting information on your royalty statements. Unlike on Shutterstock, Getty is not so transparent on your downloads and earnings. Although you can find information on number of downloads and views, you need to wait for a statement in order to see your actual earnings.

Please note that all above information are based on my personal experience. Other photographers may have had a different opinions or experiences with the same websites.

If you are reading this, feel free to share your experience with stock photography.

Thanks for stopping by.