Archive for the ‘Shutterstock’ Category

Stock Photography Dos and Don’ts

October 23, 2009

Shutterstock :: Make money with your photos!.
This is a very good summary of best practices for stock photographers. The last one is appropriate for me:

Don’t be discouraged by rejections. Understand why they occurred and learn from them.

I was discouraged and I have not submitted a second batch of photos for their consideration. I’ve got two reasons for that:

  1. The fuss about US tax withholding: forms to complete and so on. It’s too much trouble for what’s essentially a hobby. They (Shutterstock, the US IRS or both) should only bother people if their income is above a certain level.
  2. Their one month hold on a second submission after they rejected 8 out of 10 of my first. I felt that was a condescending attitude. If I’d had the chance I would have examined all the rejection reasons and submitted a better second batch within a couple of days. As it was 30 days passed and by then I’d moved on to other projects.

Welcome Back to Shutterstock

August 27, 2009

I received this today:


It’s been more than 30 days since your initial photo submission to Shutterstock.  If you would like, we invite you to submit your recent photo work for another review.

Shutterstock Support

I have not decided if I want to try again.

Posted My Shutterstock Rejects

August 1, 2009

I put copies of the pictures that Shutterstock rejected on PicasaWeb here.

I previously posted Shutterstock’s rejection letter here.

Let me know if you agree with Shutterstock or not.

I’m keeping the two that they approved. They’re commercial! Wow.

Release Required?

July 31, 2009

Someone’s Got to Do It

Originally uploaded by Ian Fuller

I wonder if Shutterstock would require me to get a release from this police officer?

And is the text visible on the back of the van a copyright violation? I think it said “Kenwood” but you cannot see all of it.

Shutterstock Lessons

July 31, 2009

I’ve had a few days to think about Shutterstock rejecting 8 out of 10 of the photos I submitted in my first batch.

I searched WordPress for blogs mentioning Shutterstock and found this post about Shutterstock charging US taxes on photographers’ earnings. It reminds me how complex business is in the US – and how complex it is to do business with a US company. It’s one of the reasons I left for a simpler life here in Thailand.

I learned some lessons from the test submission I made. Maybe they’ll help other prospective submitters:

  1. I did not do enough research about the kinds of images that Shutterstock consider marketable. I looked at Thailand and Bangkok pictures and thought they were rather boring. But maybe a better word is conventional. Stock photography isn’t a place to show off your creativity. They need high quality, non-controversial pictures.
  2. I do not understand the ways that the pictures will be reproduced if purchased.  For example they said that the picture I submitted of the “phra” of a temple was not in focus. It looked fine on my laptop screen. But perhaps their customers need something that will print at A3 or larger. I didn’t check that. My camera are capable of producing high quality pictures, but I need to take more care than when I am printing for my own use at A4 or merely posting them online.
  3. Not understanding the customers may be the source of my frustration about “copyright violations”. Two pictures were of Bangkok city buses – one new, the other old. One has a company’s logo but the old one doesn’t – although the colour scheme could be considered distinctive. I thought it would not be an issue for, perhaps, an article on Chinese buses competing in the export market or traffic accidents – but maybe I did not understand the issues. I feel that they are playing super-safe with this.
  4. I was amazed that they rejected my panorama of the interior of Hua Lamphong Station because I did not have releases from all the people. If you enlarged it enough maybe the farmers in the Sa Kaeo Corn Harvesting picture could be “identifiable” but that seems questionable. Maybe Shutterstock set the bar high for new submitters and they are not usually that picky. I should search their site for crowd scenes and similar landscapes.
  5. Shutterstock’s business model is to accept photos from anyone worldwide. I am sure they have far more submitters than they need. Therefore they do not have the resources or incentive to give every submitter personal attention. If I accept their model then I have to take care of myself.
  6. Further to that, I am sure they get submitters who try to “game” their system and are an irritant. That may be why they put a 30-day hold on further submissions if you fail their ‘7 out of 10’ test. In my case it is not reasonable. I am a bona fide photographer who put some thought into his 10 pictures. OK I did not choose correctly but that isn’t a crime.
  7. What I should have done was submit 10 high-quality “safe” photos. One that Shutterstock accepted was a straightforward picture of a train – no people, no logos and absolutely no creative effects. If I had done 10 similar to that (not all trains) then I would be a happy submitter and maybe given a bit more freedom by Shutterstock.
  8. The 30-day hold just puts me off – I feel like they’re treating me like a child. I’m not going to flood them immediately with loads of similar pictures that don’t meet their criteria.
  9. There are many services similar to Shutterstock. This WordPress blogger has photos on six services. So it can be done.
  10. I bet not many bloggers will be willing to post how much money they make. Let alone work out their revenue in terms of dollars per hour spent. I bet most amateur submitters make revenue that’s well below the US minimum wage for their work. But they do it to get some recognition and the money is secondary. I’m sure that drives real professionals crazy.

I have not decided it I will try again with Shutterstock. I have 28 days to prepare a new 10 picture portfolio. Since I have gone to the trouble of creating the account I could try my theory that a conservative first submission is the best route.

On the other hand I could get in a snit and take my photos elsewhere – maybe to a non-US service where it isn’t so complicated with tax issues and the like. Paying taxes on my earnings would be nice problem to have: currently I have zero earnings.

Shutterstock – 2 Out of 10

July 28, 2009

Shutterstock reviewed the 10 pictures I uploaded last night very quickly. Unfortunately they only approved 2 out of 10. I feel chastened!

Here is the message they sent me:


Thank you for your submission to Shutterstock.

In order for Shutterstock to maintain the high standard of our photography collection, new submitters must receive approval on at least seven (7) of their first ten (10) images to continue uploading. Unfortunately, while some of the images you submitted may meet our guidelines, we are unable to approve the requisite number and have temporarily disabled the uploading function on your account. This decision was based on concerns about quality, composition, lighting, or other features of your initial batch of images and we have listed the reasons below.

We invite you to resubmit in 30 days. In the meantime, you can still post banners, earn money from referring photographers, and participate in our forum discussions. Please do not create more than one account; doing so will result in permanent suspension.

Thank you for your interest in Shutterstock. We look forward to seeing you again in 30 days!


Shutterstock Support

Ian’s Comments


Not Approved

Focus–Your image is not in focus or focus is not located where we feel it works best. I’m surprised they think this is not in focus. It looks fine to me.


Not Approved

Trademark–Contains potential trademark or copyright infringement–not editorial. I’m surprised that a picture of a passing bus with the Metrobus logo would be considered copyright infringement.

Good job I did not upload any of my Skytrain panoramas. They all contain copyrighted designs / logos.


Not Approved

Trademark–Contains potential trademark or copyright infringement–not editorial. Even more so for this picture – I cannot see anyone seeing a copyright infringement for a generic Bangkok bus.


Not Approved

Model Release–Please re-upload with release. I didn’t think the people were “identifiable” so it does not need a release. Of course it is impossible to get releases from a crowd. If I did obtain 200 releases how would I prove that I had releases for everyone pictured?

That policy seems to preclude acceptance of any pictures with people in sans a release.


Not Approved

7 of 10 must be approved I guess they would have approved this one.


Not Approved

Model Release–Please re-upload with release.

Noise–Noise, film grain, over-sharpening, or artifacts at full size.

Focus–Your image is not in focus or focus is not located where we feel it works best.

Similarly here I would not call the farmers “identifiable”.

In included this one to see if they’d approve something with a different treatment. I think it is attractive – they think it isn’t marketable.


Not Approved

7 of 10 must be approved I guess they would have approved this one.


Not Approved

Composition–Limited commercial value due to framing, cropping, and/or composition. I don’t understand this comment. It looks well framed / cropped / composed to my eye.

But they know what sells.

I included this to see if a B&W picture would be approved. They don’t say anything about that so maybe it would.


Not Approved

Composition–Limited commercial value due to framing, cropping, and/or composition. Same as above. There is another truck in the background: maybe that is what they mean.

I bet if I had included the close-ups I have with the Austin logo they would say it is potential copyright infringement.


Not Approved

Focus–Your image is not in focus or focus is not located where we feel it works best. I cannot see the focus problem here. My eyes must be getting old.

I included this one to see if they like pet pictures. I was thinking they may have too many of them but it was worth a try.

First Shutterstock Submission

July 28, 2009

I made my first submission of 10 pictures to Shutterstock.

I thought of the sort of pictures that magazines etc. might want to buy and uploaded a selection of what I thought were good pictures.

I developed a new “workflow” in Lightroom for the purpose. Maybe I will post more about it later. In brief I made a new export preset for the pictures I wanted to submit that stripped all the metadata that Lightroom adds but keeps the camera info.

I made a new Lightroom catalog for Shutterstock and used that to put the pictures in the categories corresponding to the ones Shutterstock uses. I added suitable keywords (Shutterstock require a minimum of 7) and a short title to each picture.

I used Jeff Friedl’s “Megapixel Sort” plugin to check that all the pictures were above the 4MP minimum (after cropping) that Shutterstock now requires of new submitters like me.

Then I uploaded using their Java plugin. It does not sat Chrome is supported but it works. Yes, I had to download the Java runtime. More megabytes of overhead on my PC.

Shutterstock has you add metadata in their own editing screen. When you submit the batch it does a spell check. Of course it didn’t recognize Thai words like “Wat Burana” or “Hua Lamphong”. It didn’t recognize “b&w” and split it into two keywords “b” and “w”. I think that is a bug.

So once I persuaded the software that I spelled everything correctly they are now in a queue for review. I presume by a human.

Shutterstock gives you a 6-digit batch id. I added that as a non-exportable keyword in my Lightroom Shutterstock catalog.

I also have collections for Accepted and Rejected photos.

Now I am waiting eagerly to see if they will accept any of them. I have no idea really what they want and will sell. This is a learning experience.

The guidelines say that if they accept less than 7 pictures out of 10 I must wait a month before submitting more. So this is like a test.

One good thing – my license to Shutterstock is non-exclusive. I can sell the pictures elsewhere if I wish. Ha! Let’s sell one first and make a quarter!

Shutterstock Accepted Me!

July 27, 2009

They accepted me as a submitter without any queries. That is a relief.

I read the Submitter Guidelines. It looks like what I have to do is strip all metadata from the images I want to upload then I add keywords etc in their web interface.

I started a new Lightroom database to organize the pictures I submit.

Problem 1 – Lightroom does not let you have more than one catalog open at a time.

I will write more as I learn about the process.

Shutterstock Signup

July 26, 2009

I wrote here that I may try and sign up for a stock photo agency. It would be good to make some money from my photography.

Today I decided to sign up and upload some pictures. I filled in their online signup form providing all the information they requested. When I submitted the form I got this page:

Shutterstock Need My Passport

Shutterstock Need My Passport

So I uploaded a scanned copy of my passport.

BUT maybe I’ll have a problem. I have a British Passport but I am a legal resident of Thailand. Thus my passport country does not match the country I submitted. They say it MUST.

I sent them an email message explaining the situation. I’ll find out next week if MUST means MUST.

I was in the same situation when I lived in America for 20+ years as a permanent resident. But in the States I had a PR card (Green Card) and a California Driver’s License. I don’t have a Thai Driver’s License. The only Thai Government Issued documentation I have is the visa stamp in my passport. That’s good enough for the Thai Government.

I should think this is a common situation. I hope they are flexible and understanding. I sent them an email explaining my situation.

I had to agree to a 20 paragraph Terms of Service (six PDF pages) and five more pages of Submitter Guidelines. I printed them and will read them later.

I can see why they are cautious about new submitters but this is the kind of thing that must intimidate many people. I wish there was an alternative to all this legal stuff. But changing the common human urge to do bad things is a bit tough.

I have a user name and password for Shutterstock. In order to sign in submitters must solve a “Captcha” puzzle every time. One like this:


I got it at the second attempt. They don’t say if spaces and case are significant or not. The first one they presented had a couple of lines on the left that could have been lower case letter ‘l’s but may have been there to confuse robots.

I need to think about the process (workflow!) I will use to submit photos. The main issue I can think of is keywording. I need to add keywords that potential customers will use to find pictures they need for a project.

I was thinking of my pictures of the lovely old Austin van in Bangkok:

Austin A40 "Devon" Van in Thonburi, Thailand

I should think I will need to add keywords like ‘old van’, ‘vintage’, ‘blue van’ and so on. I don’t want those cluttering up my carefully (obsessively?) crafted Lightroom keyword hierarchy.

I think I will have to strip the keywords from the pictures I submit to Shutterstock and put them into a separate Lightroom catalog. Then I can add new keywords that are more ‘salesy’. That goes against my ‘everything in one Lightroom database’ philosophy but it may be the best solution.

Buy maybe it will be moot if they don’t accept my id.


July 9, 2009

I’m thinking about trying to make some money from my photographs by submitting them to a stock agency. I found this one:

Shutterstock :: Make money with your photos!.

It’s free to join and they pay a minimum of 25¢ (US) for every photo downloaded by a subscriber.

Pictures of people are a challenge as they need signed model releases. But I have many other images.

I looked at samples of the pictures they already have for Thailand and they are the predictable postcard/tourist shots. I am sure I could post more interesting photos, but I have no idea if they are marketable.

Please comment if you have experience with Shutterstock or other agencies. Thanks!