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Images Rejected by Stock Image Distributors Home

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Why aren't all these images available
on other Stock Photography sites like
Alamy, Shutterstock, or half a hundred
others of the same ilk and design?


Why are all these images rejected?

Here's why:


I retired as a photographer around 2010-2016 (it was a gradual process). After that I traveled around the world with not much to do, and I just fiddled around taking casual snapshots, like the ones shown below. Eventually I amassed another 108,000 snapshots (like the ones below), and I started wondering what I could ever do with all these snaps. Professionally, I had never shot "stock" and didn't want to. I'd made my living from a niche market for many years and didn't have to go out and seek new markets for my work. But once I was out of that, I was out, and I had no use for these 108,000 casual snapshots. Eventually someone talked me into submitting to the "Stock Photography" markets. I resisted that for years, having heard far too many horror stories, but in the end I figured I had nothing to lose. Little did I know.



I made a list of half a dozen or more stock image resellers which included Alamy, Google, Adobe, Shutterstock, and a few others I've purposely forgotten the names of. The deal is you must register an account to be able to submit to them, and then you must submit some number of samples to see if you can get "approved". I did jump through those hoops and established accounts for all, and submitted samples similar to those below, then you wait -- maybe a day, maybe three months.


ABOVE: This was a pervert who spent every afternoon doing exactly this for around a year. Seashore on the Gulf of Thailand. He was fishing. For boyfriends. And I don't care. Except that this was a children's beach with families having picnics and the behavior was rankly inappropriate and crude, not to mention lewd, and his targets were a largish group of SE Asian boys, age 11-17, who frequented this beach looking for a few dollars, quick and easy, which meant this man, slick and queasy. I lived a hundred meters from this spectacle and several times I saw him saunter past my window on his way to his afternoon of trolling and I followed him. He would go to exactly the same spot and sit in precisely the same manner, and ever so carefully adjust his shorts down so they showed just enough of the crack of his revolting hairy ass to let "interested parties" know what he was up to, but not so much that he couldn't say they "just slipped" if the Very Puritan Police (VPP) came along. What a damned slag. And the notebook he appears to be drawing in? He never made a single mark in it IN A YEAR. I know; I had a very long lens. BTW, I never saw him "catch" one single fish. I never knew why the boys didn't go for him. Maybe he was just too crude, even for them. Or maybe he didn't have any money, though the price of $5 is hard to beat. And you thought this was a semi-cute snapshot showing an accidental slip of the butt? Nein.


Within a few hours to 12 hours all agencies had accepted me and they established formal upload accounts and processes for submitting anything and as many images as I wanted.




So far, so good.



The contracts of these agencies were utter horrors, written like a Farcebook TOS, completely nebulous and capricious and vague, always, always siding with the agencies, and that caused me (and countless others) a great deal of concern, but I established the accounts anyway because I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment (I love it --seriously; I do; I must, right?).



After that, I culled through my casual images and tweaked about 48,000 photos, and began uploading them in batches to all these different agencies, usually about 100-500 at a time.



It takes a while for these outfits to view and approve your stuff -- maybe weeks -- you never know. So while waiting, I continued to upload more and new batches. In some cases I uploaded batches of as many as 2-3000 photos each until I'd upped the 48,000. Different agencies want different types and styles and sizes; those rules were adhered to strictly. All of the photos below were among those batches.



One by one, the rejects started to pour in.




I'm no master photographer, but I had researched and looked around at what was available from stock agencies for quite awhile, and it was often junk. My idle-hours snapshots, below, aren't great, but they're better than very much of what I saw being offered by the likes of Alamy and especially Shutterstock and whatnot. I was taken aback by this.



In the end, every single photo I submitted, with the exception of the few handfuls used to establish the accounts (a few dozen total), was rejected by every single agency.



I remember one being rejected because, the agency said, there was a trademarked logo in the background. I looked, and that "trademarked logo" was a chalkboard upon which a Cambodian appliance repair shop had scrawled some markings which changed daily (like a coffee shop's daily specials chalkboard out front), and it was far out of the depth of focus, and constituted maybe 1/10th of the sign. Hardly a "trademarked logo" -- but that got the entire batch of 800 rejected. And when ONE photo from ONE batch is rejected for something patently stupid (or even for a valid reason), then ALL pending batches are rejected as well!



Maybe I had twenty batches in the pipeline to one agency, let's say, but ALL are then rejected and canceled and deleted because there's ONE IMAGE that isn't liked by some East Indian frat boy, girl, or other, who was hired for pennies per day for their "expert photographic analysis". In other words, these people lounge in their hot and stinky little rooms in Bangladesh, watching American porn on their phones while unceremoniously and too often unconsciously swiping Left and Right on the app the stock agency supplied to them, which decides whether your ENTIRE QUEUE OF BATCH SUBMISSIONS GETS WIPED OFF THE MAP. An instant of inattention and one wrong swipe while watching a particularly engaging orgasm, and you must start from scratch. COMPLETELY FROM SCRATCH. Try to grasp the unholy stupidity of that! It's frankly barking-mad. They know if they accept too many submissions, someone will look harder to see if they're actually viewing the images and they might lose that $2.50/day "professional career". Better to be safe than sorry and CULL CULL CULL. It's like the cops who are told that the computer says there are "probably" X number of speeders out there today, SO YOU BETTER CITE THAT MANY OR YOU'RE FIRED.



It turns out that when these agencies go through a batch of submissions of any quantity, they don't rate or grade or accept ANYTHING based on content -- it's all based on the technical qualifications of the images. Got 100,000 technically perfect photographs of SAND? Good. You're in. All accepted. All welcome....All welcome...



And that's fine.

That's their business model and they're welcome to it.



I submit, however, that if you had a verified photo plate of JFK or Lincoln being shot and the lighting wasn't perfect, it would still be an eminently salable image, highly sought after, and that one image alone would certainly, unarguably, make the photographer AND the agency rich beyond their dreams, for two or three hundred years (ok, until the Copyrights ran out). But in today's world, it would be rejected as a stock submission. The most technically PERFECT image of a clear blue sky has no value whatsoever, while the image of a muzzle-ball leaving the gun and entering Lincoln's head, albeit technically imperfect, would be one of the top ten images ever taken in the world -- and would be rejected by every stock agency out there.

So be it.



Again, it's their business, not mine.

It's their right to do things however they see fit, even if it's counter-productive, and even if it's just plain stupid.

The thing is, in street photography, getting a technically perfect shot is 20% skill and 80% luck.



Got a shot of a woman being hit by a car in a busy intersection, and as she's flying through the air at the instant the heavy truck that's coming the other way is about to strike her, and you snap that, and one of her feet is blurred because she's spinning and twisting in the air, well, then, if you're a stock agency, you'll reject that turkey too.

And that's STILL fine and well!



They want perfect images. I get it. I agree. We all want perfect images. We all want a perfect world. But in a real world, you use what you can get. But ultimately THE BUYER decides what they're willing to pay for, NOT THE SALESPERSON. Maybe the buyer -- you know, the person with the CASH that pays the wages of those at the stock agency -- is specifically looking to buy a rusty old Hudson car. But the sales people don't LIKE rusty old Hudsons and won't allow one on the lot. Sale lost. Case closed.


The problem is, as I've said but it bears repeating, if an agency has a submission of, say, 1000 images, and one (1) doesn't pass some unknown technical test, they scrap the entire batch, reject them, and tell you to come back and try again in a month or two, after you've corrected whatever problem has flagged some certain image.



Sometimes they won't tell you WHICH image got the batch rejected.

Sometimes they'll tell you which image was at fault, but won't tell you WHY.



Sometimes they'll tell you which image but their error code makes no sense and there is no way to correct the error (I remember one that was rejected because there was something in the cropping method that they didn't like. Neither I, nor any photographer friend I ever showed it to, could figure out what the problem was, and the agency refused to reply. ENTIRE BATCH REJECTED).



Sometimes, as in the image of Lincoln being assassinated, maybe the gun held by Boothe was recoiling at the instant the ball left the barrel, which was when the slow shutter snapped up on that darkened balcony, and is blurry -- Oops. Dern the luck. The entire batch is rejected.



It's honestly just plain madness. And laziness. And it's the Hallmark of the Snowflake/Millennial mentality that has taken over almost every industry on earth, God help us all. It's Idiocracy in real-time before our very eyes.



A better way would be to flag each errant image, reject it, provide the image name and a CLEAR reason for the rejection, and accept all the others.



But that makes far too much sense.



The agencies say they can't do this because they don't have the time or the manpower to meticulously inspect EVERY SINGLE IMAGE -- they can only inspect random samples. And this is to an extent true. But what they CAN do is to accept or reject a batch based on the PERCENTAGE of good ones to rejects because it will be fairly often that a screening will find a technically flawed image in any batch of 800. You can NOT reject 48,000 images because ONE is technically problematic, OR MIGHT BE, depending on who's looking at it in yellow-stained underwear from a flea infested smelly divan in Beijing, and what their mood is on that day at that hour. It's very, very common for photographers to resubmit previously rejected images a second or third time and have them breeze right through and then go on to make money, so it's anything but an exact science. The mindless and capricious subjectivity is stunning.



Let the customer decide what they want. Yes, yes, the rusty Hudson might take up too much space on your car lot -- but a digital image WON'T, and if it does, or you THINK it does, you're in the wrong business. Go franchise a Burger King instead. You're in the business of STORAGE. Suck it up and learn to STORE.



Again, let THE CUSTOMER decide because YOU aren't capable of it (and neither am I). Decades ago I was humming merrily along selling words and pictures and various things online. A lady contacted me to ask if I could create a particular kind of product. It was a patently silly product and I said no. She contacted me again. I said no again. She pestered me over a couple of months; I always said no and I was getting a little testy about it and was very close to blocking her. Finally in exasperation I told her I'd create a one-off just for her but she'd have to pay all the R&D and startup costs for that one item on that one order and it would be EXPENSIVE. She didn't even flinch, and said fine. I did it and she paid and she jumped for glee and that was that. I forgot about it, thinking to myself there are some really, really crazy people in the world.



But maybe six months later I thought what the heck -- let's throw that stupid product out there among the 2300 I was already selling, because it can't hurt, right? What did I have to lose right? The drive space on my server for one lousy product page and a couple of images? Silly to be penny-wise and dollar-stupid.



The orders started pouring in almost immediately. And they never stopped. They now make up 80% of my revenue, coming up on 30 years later.


It's their money; it's their decision.

Try to grasp the concept:

The customer is smarter than you.



The. Customer. Is. Smarter. Than. You.

And me.


Times 3.



And if that tiny bit of drive space required to hold a few technically errant pictures of Lincoln being shot (equivalent to a few molecules of one grain of sand on the beach) is going to put you in the red, I'll say it again: you're in the wrong business.



Speaking of which, I hear nasty rumors that the stock agencies might start charging their photographers a "storage fee" to keep their images online and available, and also an "upload" fee for the "privilege" of sending your photos to them. So let's see -- they're going to sell your image for, say, $38. They're going to promise you about 35% of that if you're supremely lucky. But of course you'll REALLY only end up with twenty three cents because your image will have been offered in a "special volume wink-wink deal" to some giant corporation who buys them by the billions (and resells them again at a profit). And on top of that, you must pay these people to store your images on their servers? I'm thinking, um, NO. Better to not even consider getting involved with an industry that even allows RUMORS of nightmares like that to circulate.


ABOVE: Let's say you really do have that photo of Wilkes pulling the trigger behind Lincoln that dark night in the theater and it's crystal clear and certified authentic (forget about copyright expiration for a moment), or of the ACTUAL shooters killing JFK -- let's suppose you have one of those and you own the copyright and you know you're going to retire on the proceeds (you should) when you sell it so you submit it to a (gag) Stock Photo Agency and you sit back just waiting for the check. And you get it, too -- for seven cents, which is your cut of the twenty two cents they sold it for. I couldn't get any agency to guarantee me a minimum sale price on any photo, ever! Great business model -- but only for the agencies. It's an unmitigated disaster for the stock artists/photographers worldwide. It's just a disaster, like almost everything else born of Millennials and Sillycon Valley and The New Internet. I cannot advise strongly enough that anyone invested in any stock image agency get DIVESTED of them as quickly as possible and as completely as possible and never, ever give in to the temptation again to submit to these cheesy assholes. At the very best you'll make pocket change, but you'll find your unprotected images scattered worldwide with little to no recourse except to get a subpoena and obtain the IP records form the poster's ISP and then physically go to their home and FORCE them to delete the images as you watch and to then write you a check or make a bank transfer to cover three times the value of the image -- which is what the law usually allows -- and if they're unwilling to do that then perhaps the world should be unwilling to allow them to continue living here because WE DON'T NEED ANY MORE ___DAMNED CRIMINALS AND SHYSTERS. We're full to the gullet of them. Society is drowning in them. The world can't thrive under the current assault of thieves and they have to be stopped. That's where the rubber meets the road.



Will your agency sign a contract with you promising under threat of significant penalty to never, ever charge you to store your images? Why not ask them point-blank today? If they say no, or don't reply, that means they're thinking about it.



Stock image agencies are now owned and run by Millennials and Snowflakes and they aren't known for having the sense God gave a crowbar.

This is where we're at.



The money you'll make off Stock amounts to pennies -- I mean, literally, pennies. You might make five or fifteen cents on a photo (THAT ACTUALLY SELLS), once or twice a month. Some make more. Your mileage may vary. Sure it can add up, but unless you are really, really desperate and you have no other salable job skills and no prospects and you can work 35 hours a week for $1000/month, it's just not worth it. And that's for those very lucky few. It's not worth the time and it's not worth the aggravation.



And it's not worth the supreme ludicrousness of having to go fight the image thieves after they've been enjoying your profits for three years and give you the finger when you catch them. If you enjoy going to court, by all means, go for it and entrust your hard work to agencies who care absolutely nothing about protecting that hard work. Here's just one of a thousand crappy tricks that get played on the stock agencies (meaning YOU). The agency sells your image for $18.60 and they give you $1.30. You're thrilled because, well, you're just that easy to please because you wanted so, so, so incredibly badly to be able to say you're a professional photographer.



Four days later the buyer submits a claim for a refund -- there's one pixel out of place, they claim. Of course no one can find it, but no one has to find it -- the refund is granted automatically. You must pay back the $1.30 and you get a little black mark in your file for submitting an image that someone wanted a refund on. Get too many of those and ALL your work is down the drain and your account is canceled. But still, no big deal, right?


Yes, yes it IS a big deal.

NOW that image (or that batch of images) is being copied around the internet willy-nilly and even sold under the table. No big deal again, right? But yes, yes it is, because once that scammy customer paid, they got the image with no watermark. And then they got their money back. And now your image is part of THEIR portfolio. Great deal, eh Home?



In the end I gave up and canceled ALL accounts -- except Alamy which is proving very, very difficult to get divested from. I will have to send them a legal cease and desist soon. Even though my images have been deleted by me from their site, they won't let go of them [UPDATE: 62 days later they stopped using the tiny handful of my images that they had accepted when they initially set up my account).



I won't ever waste my time or my sanity on these outfits again.

I see, now, that countless photographers are mirroring my own sentiments and actions. Those who've mistakenly uploaded to these entities for a decade or two and are heavily invested in them and have many tens of thousands of images or more out and around the swirling ether are finding that their contracts with stock agencies are horrifically poor and riddled with holes (all in the agencys' favors, of course of course, which are often enough "updated" to be even more horrifically ridiculous).


If you search the big stock warehousers online, like Shutterstock, Alamy, etc., both of whom rejected the image above, and you search all of them for "saleng" which is the name of any SE Asia sidecar on a motorbike, you'll find things like the three samples below. The images below were accepted by the "stock agencies", but every single image of every single saleng on this website (thousands of them) was rejected by every single stock site they were submitted to. THAT is why I stopped submitting to stock agencies within the first month.

Shutterstock Thumbnail Below

Shutterstock Thumbnail Below

Shutterstock Thumbnail Below

The perks and bonuses the agencies promise virtually never come through. When your images are incompetently "accidentally" presented to the public or as part of some "promotion" but often without copyright water-markings at all(!), and are STOLEN and used around the world for the profit of everyone but you, you may find that it's very difficult or even impossible to get the ongoing theft stopped and more difficult still to extract back-payment -- I have some such images and pieces of literature right now in that category. In the past I've luckily collected handsomely on every single theft and infringement, eventually (it can take two or three YEARS), but honestly I have better things to do with my time.



Many photogs are reporting that they have given up on photography and stock agencies altogether and spend all their working hours now, just chasing and collecting on infringements that the stock agencies have let slip through. That's their occupation now --- copyright theft detectives, and then, subsequently, collection agencies and then, subsequently, lawyers, because too often when you PAY a "lawyer" they'll just screw things up even worse.



The stock agencies probably won't help you at all to any appreciable to degree. Their sloppy contracts, riddled with loopholes, are responsible for your losses, but try, I dare you, to get compensated by the agencies directly.



Back when I was writing for a living, I had a friend, mentor and agent in New York named Richard Curtis. He wrote a book called, "How to be your own literary agent (sometimes)". Read it and glean a weak and watered down education of what the image market has become also, because they are the same. At least with text, it's easy to string-search for thefts. Images, not so much. Read the book and you'll decide not to write except for fun and family and you'll decide not to take pictures except for fun and family unless you're doing it under a direct contract where your benefactor is flat-out paying you for flat-out "all rights", and paying handsomely. Then, when that NEW OWNER of your images let's someone steal them, YOU DON'T CARE AT ALL.



This is now the state of stock photography.



I, personally, elect not to become involved in it ever again.



Thank God, I don't have to.