10 tips for photographers in order to get accepted by ShutterStock

If you want to get accepted on Shutterstock site, you have to send them 10 pictures and 7 of them must be accepted. If not, you may try again after one month. Why is it so important to get on Shutterstock? Because Shutterstock is the best microstock site for photographers and graphic artists (check the list of other microstock sites).

1.Check the noise

Noise is the most frequent reason why the photo is not accepted – you should display your photo at 100% zoom and check if there is some noise (especially in the blue sky), JPG artifacts, sensor dust and other defects. You have several ways to fix noise issue:

2. Check the sharpness

Another frequent reason for rejection is sharpness – zoom your photo at 100% again and check if the subject of the picture is focused properly.

The best practice, how to have sharp photos is:

  • use tripod
  • use DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex camera)
  • use wireless trigger

3. Submit photos with various subjects

Don’t submit two and more photos of the same subject – even the variations of same subject. Don’t try to submit photos of:

  • your pet,
  • flowers,
  • sunsets

Try photos of

  • food and drinks,
  • fitness,
  • healthcare,
  • IT, computers, communications,
  • concepts like success, happiness, sadness, anger,
  • seasonal photos (Christmas, Easter, autumn, spring),
  • people (with model release)

4. Use Post processing

You should use at least the basic post processing in Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, or some other graphic editor. The main steps should be:

  • levels
  • white balance
  • sharpness

But be careful, less is sometimes more.

5. Description and Keywords

Don’t be lazy: type appropriate description and keywords – Make sure all keywords relate directly to the image.

If you are too lazy to type 50 keywords, then you can use some tools:

6. Beware of logos or faces without model release

If the photo contains recognizable face, then you need to have Model Release signed by this person. Also check to be sure there is not some logo or company name in the background (on the building, on the clothes etc.)

7. Try illustrations

Quite a lot of photographers are also graphic artists and on Shutterstock is much easier to get accepted with illustrations (vector or just bitmap) than with photos. You can also try to submit some computer generated graphics – fractals, 3D models, 3D scenes… In the 10 images you can have some illustrations, some photos and some 3D graphics.

8. Buy DSLR Camera

If you want to earn some good money and don’t want to spend too much time in Photoshop, then buying DSLR (even the cheapest model) is the best way to do it. Photos from compact digital cameras need much more work in Photoshop and usage of noise reducing software.

9. Try another site meanwhile

Check the list of best microstock sites for photographers, some of them don’t need sample files for review (Dreamstime, Fotolia, BigStockPhoto, 123RF or

10. Don’t give up and try it again

If you don’t succeed, try it again after one month. Use this time for improving your skills, enlarging your portfolio and submitting on other sites. Trust me, Shutterstock is worth the effort.

Do you have some other tips? Type them in comments.


  1. Hi,
    I submitted 10 photos to shutterstock last week(first time) and all 10 were rejected. Two of the 10 were marked with „re-submit“–one was a couple (needed a model release), the other was a close-up of a child. None of the photos were Photoshopped.

    I only have a digital Lumix (Panasonic) 10× Zoom, and a Canon digital, can’t afford a SLR yet. Have traveled quite a bit and have about 15,000–20,000 photos–all of which are, of course, not submittable, but some are good.

    Question: Should I re-submit the two that were labeled as such along with 8 new ones? Thanks for your help. je

  2. Answer is simple – yes, try it again. I can’t give you any better concrete answer, because I don’t know the other rejection reasons.

    And my other suggestion is – try it also on some other site (check the list) – Dreamstime should be one of the best for you – there you don’t need to submit those initial 10 pictures! After some time on Dreamstime you will know, what is acceptable on microstock and what is not. So try it…

  3. Hello,

    I’ve been trying to get into Shutterstock for more than a year. I’ve submitted 6 times now.
    I gave myself a pause of 6 months in order to get better.
    But one thing which I absolutely don’t understand is that for the last 4 submissions, I get 7 out of ten accepted, but previously accepted photos subsequently get knocked down. I could be accepted twice will all the different shots which were initialy accepted and eventulally rejected.
    I’m baffled.

  4. I hope you’ll do a guide on how to approach the submission test for istockphoto, or just some tips will be great! =)
    The reason is that I find istockphoto to be much more difficult than shutterstock. But at the end of the day, I wonder if it is worth the effort after the things that I’ve read about istock.


  5. Hi Orson,
    Thanks a lot for your reply and the links.
    I keep getting rejected (4 times) for the submission of 3 photos although the photos do well on other sites. Are the things that I should take note of (composition, noise etc) the same as what I should pay attention to for shutterstock? I would appreciate it if you could let us know what you did and what you would recommend.

    Thanks again.

  6. Hi gnohz,
    if I understand it right, you are writing about acceptance on iStockPhoto. The reviewers there don’t like using noise reduction software and will reject your photo if it looks like you used it.

    Other suggestions – try different styles – photo of some food, something isolated on white background, some people or seasonal shots…

    Also you can look at iStockPhoto to the portfolios of other photographers, what were their first photos.

  7. Just my first try on shutterstock & my portfolio was not accepted. 4 of the pictures had comments, which were quite helpful, but the other 6 said „7 of 10 not apprtoved“. Does this mean these pictures had a chance of being accepted? I am confused.

  8. Amuramek,
    the message „7 of 10 not apprtoved“ means nothing. The reviewer found 4 not acceptable images and that means, that you are not accepted this time. So he didn’t comment the others. Maybe they are good, maybe not. He just didn’t comment them.

  9. @Orson,
    Thanks a lot for the advice and tip.
    I really appreciate it. I’ll have a go again 90 days later…!
    And I’ll be looking forward to your post regarding your earnings report for August! :D

  10. I find your site and articles useful, I am an illustrator and I am working on the 10 illustrations for first submission on Shuterstock. I would like to ask you about the article: avoiding 2 or more photos with same subject (10 tips for photographers – point 3).
    Would you recommend the same for illustrations or this is more for photos ?
    I have 7 different subjects of which 2 (Christmas and love) are represented by two sets of illustrations.
    The two illustrations with same subject are very different in the design and style and I don’t use same character in the illustrations.
    So, what is your opinion about using two illustrations for one subject.
    I appreciate your answer.

  11. Hi Thomas,
    for illustraions is more important, if you don’t reuse the same parts in more images. I think, that you can have more illustrations for Christmas in the initial batch.

    And again on Shutterstock they much more prefer illustrations to photos (so it is much easier to get there with illustrations). Just be careful with the selected categories, when submitting illustrations – one of those two categories must be Illustration and the second Abstract or Background.

  12. Shutterstock has gone the same way as Alamy – once they get past „X“ million imgages they do not want any more but don’t have the integrity to tell new (or old) contributors that in case they might miss something. They are quite willing to put contributors to endless time and trouble, knowing full well that they will reject all images, however good they may be. Unless you have something VERY different I would advise anyone to completely forget about Shutterstock – you are just wasting your time. There really are plenty of other good sites out there.

    If you doubt that just read the forum on their site – you will find many contributors of some years stating the same – even they can’t get their images accepted now and some are seeing in excess of 50% rejects – that’s loyalty for you. Not a nice outfit at all IMO

  13. Shutterstock is the bottom of the barrel. It’s the most arrogant stock site out there, which would be expected if it wasn’t also the worst stock site out there. I conducted an experiment after reading some negative comments about SS to see if it was worth my time to sign up: I uploaded 10 images. 4 were rejected for very vague reasons (they claim to make these reasons clear so that newcomers can learn from their mistakes, but no such luck.) The most arrogant thing about the site is that they make submitters wait an entire month before they can submit another 10 photos. This makes absolutely no sense and totally justifies all the negative things I’ve read about the site. So a month later, I submitted the exact same 10 photos. This time, 5 were rejected and 3 of the accepted ones had been rejected the first time!!! This proves that they have no set standards and whether you get accepted or not depends entirely on which reviewer you get and his/her mood on that day. Also, I have thousands of photos that I gave file names to for submission to other sites, and when I finally got accepted at ShutterStock and attempted my first batch upload, it failed due to a “critical upload error”. I looked for the problem in the forum and discovered that there can’t be any spaces in the filename or the transfer will fail. So I would have to rename thousands of files to upload them. All this trouble and you only make $0.25-$0.33 per photo. I posted my own comment about how ridiculous this was and my comment was deleted within ten minutes. I guess they can’t handle the truth. This level of arrogance is unheard of and I can’t believe there is even one positive review of ShutterStock anywhere. Trust me, folks, don’t waste your time.

  14. Mike,
    yes, you are right – it is harder and harder to upload something on Shutterstock, the rejections are quite often :( But still it is the best site for selling. And I think that in last 1–2 months it is a bit better.

    well I can’t agree with you. Although Shutterstock is somteimes quite arrogant, it is still the best site for selling photos and illustrations.

    I think that 1 month waiting period for newcomers is acceptable (much better than for example on iStock). I agree with you, that the rejections contains weird reasons and all depend on the reviewer.

    But again – Shutterstock is the best microstock site – you can see it on all microstock forums, that’s true. The prices are quote small, but the number of sales is big. For example for me Shutterstock earns 2–3 times more than all other microstock agencies together (I have similar portfolio on about 10 other sites).

    My suggestion is – try it, give it a time and be patient.

    P.S. it is quite simple to rename millions of files – try some file rename tool.

  15. Dear Orson. I need your help. I sent 10 photos at Shutterstock exam. But I failed. In the last 10 photos 7 photos not accepted. 3 photos are accepted. I’m preparing for the next exam. Should I send 3 photos have been accepted for this exam. Looking forward to receiving your early reply. Thank you very much.


  16. Hi dinhngochung,
    sure that you can send them those 3 photos again, but it doesn’t mean, that they will be accepted again – it is always up to the reviewer (and he will not be the same as in the previous case). So there is just a little bigger chance, that they will be accepted.

  17. hai orson, thanks for sharing with us, i have some question regarding uploading a sample files on istockphotos.com , i already made it 250×250 pixels image as preview and Eps 8 in zip folder but it doesn’t work , it is still said ” You have uploaded 0 sample files” maybe anyone could help me solve it ?


  18. Hi orson. I plan to join that website and it says on the upload page that photos should be focused etc etc. does that mean that abstract pictures like shimmering light or out of focus macros or reflections are not allowed?

    And can you give me some tips on what to shoot outdoors on a sunny day

    Thanks, nice tips btw

  19. I have had my first 10 images all accepted on shutterstock, but how do I make them available for sale, or does this happen automatically? Not sure if I’m missing something…

  20. Hi Brian,
    no you can upload abstract fotos too! I have some in my portfolio and they are selling quite well.

    it all happen automatically, it just took few hours…

  21. I submitted a total of 23 pictures, my last ten, seven were excepted. Now reading what some posters stated about arrogance, not at all we all sometimes value different points, a strong picture will surpass it all. Now viewing my pictures, I think they are all good but reality is some pictures I and we take are just not that good. So read and shoot would be my advice for all submitters, my theory is take one hundred shots and one may be excellent, view allot of pictures and try to see what they see. And keep shooting.

  22. Hello there,
    I just sent my 10 images to SS for 2nd time. I have chosen 10 images that are accepted on fotolia. I think they are all okay.

    They have accepted 3 and rejected 7 for the following reasons.

    2 for poor lighting, 2 for copyrighted contents (I dont see any logo etc…) and 3 for focus.
    Those rejected due to poor lighting are:
    About the cup, I really dont understand what is the problem and how to fix it ??

    These are rejected because of focus issue: http://us.foto­lia.com/id/4582­2913
    The pills and the bottle are in focus, why are they rejected?

    Please assist me on this.


  23. Hi,

    I have just failed my first Shutterstock submission.

    1 was ok but –

    6 were rejected as – This is not an editorial image.

    Should I re submit these 6 in my second attempt as non editorial?

    Another was rejected for – Proper editorial caption format needed.

    Hope you can advise.

  24. Hi Andi,
    Sure, that you can resubmit them. BUT, your next attemp will check some other person, so either if you reupload image that was OK in the first attempt, the same image the new person can refuse.

    It is better not to use Editorial image in the first 10, they must have special captions, descriptions etc – for more info check this article: http://www.shut­terstock.com/…/cre­dentials

  25. On Shutterstock you have to be 18 to be accepted, they will check it via your ID. But you can register there as one of your parent and use his ID. Once you will be over 18, you can trnsfer the account to yourself – you have to contact support and send them some agreements, but it is possible.

  26. Hi Orson,

    I was about to submit ten sample images to SS. But I was kind of surprised to see the first item on the Contributor page:

    It says „Upload Identification and Images“
    1. Upload Your ID
    We accept any of the following documents: Passports

    However other than Passport no other document is shown.

    Why does SS need such vital information? I’m bit apprehensive about giving my passport details.

    Please let me know if this is absolutely necessary and if not the passport, what other documents are accepted.

    Thank you very much.

  27. Hi Ajay,
    this is quite a standard step on microstock sites. You have to prove your identity.

    If you don’t want to send passport scan, you can try another ID card, or Driving car. But they can refuse it.

  28. Firstly, great article & tips. I found them very helpful and interesting.

    I prefer to use the sites that don’t have the whole ‚acceptance‘ thing. I use SnapMarket, they pay great commissions and all photos are approved or rejected on a photo by photo basis.

    Check them out for yourself if you’re interested: http://snapmar­ket.com


  29. Hi i want to know about camera submit photo to shutter stock is their 10MP camera’s photo allow my friends have less money and can’t afford for SLR at this time he have 10MP camera canon, can he use this camera for photograph he can’t afford new one now for buy.
    If you tell me what the criteria are for submit photo and please say something about camera price then it will help him. I can help him RS.5000 IND only. If any new camera he can buy for built his career.

  30. Hello

    I have one question. I got accepted to Shutterstock with 9 out of 10 images accepted (one was possible copyright infringement, though no logos or brand names were left of the photo).

    Now here’s the question. I have resized all photos to 5Mpx. Should I delete them and upload them at full resolution, or should I let them be and just upload the rest of the series in full resolution?

    Best regards and thank you for all the information you’ve shared to help others!

  31. Hi Orson a very stupid one…. where do I put my description and keywords In my IPTC or Metadata via LRoom?? thanks to answer i am pretty confused on this one also Metada wise which copyright should i indicate LR may thanks

  32. Hi Orson, I have two requests. Can you help me understand how to keyword the photos that we upload in shutterstock? I have recently uploaded 10 images for review with shutterstock and hope it gets through.

    I read your advise on comments to others and understand that you are someone to reach out to. Would appreciate if you could review and comment on my work.


    Thanks in advance.

  33. Hi There,

    I tried to register a contributor account but i can’t even get through the first stage. When I receive a verification email and clicked the link to verify my email, it always said my link is invalid or expired. Can you please advise?



  34. Hello there …

    a best thing you can try on shutterstock is to compare your image with shutterstock existing images try to find out same images mostly related to your image or photograph then after you can see whats going on with your image … shutterstock images are quite amazing.and no words for photographers. checkout some images , search keywords like butterfly , checkout links below..





    all the best

  35. Hi Orson,

    I did a lot of research and web browsing on stock sites and came across this one…..I have to tell you that I believe all the advice here helped me get approved with Shutterstock on my 1st try!!!! So happy and wanted to pass on how much this page helped me prepare.

    Thank you!

  36. How to know the rejection reason of my photo from shutterstock? I have submited many photos but did not get any reasons. They only mail me try again.

  37. If I could offer just one single tip for evolving into a better photographer, carrying a camera always with us would be it without any doubt. Moments happen in front of our eyes without expecting them, and the images that I haven’t had the opportunity to capture due to simply not carrying a camera with me, have been haunting my guilt for ever.

  38. Hi,

    I have two questions. 1. Can I submit only 1 photo for approval from shutterstock? And 2.Can I submit photos without any approval if my first submission is accepted?


  39. Hi
    I have a problem getting people to visit my portfolio.
    I have uploaded 10 images ( first time) using my smart phone Micromax c1 and 7 of them are approved, but still nobody view my images. If anyone could give me tips on how i can attract viewers to view my images, i would be very grateful.
    Thank you

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