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Thursday, November 13, 2008

I hate istockphoto

A bit of a rant today, so bear with me. After many people telling me that I should join an stock photography site I decided to give it a try. If your not familiar with stock photography sites, they basically exist to provide companies and websites with a central place to get professional quality images. They sell the royalty-free images and split the profits with the photographer.

Anyways, I joined istockphoto a few weeks ago hoping to try this out. I filled out the application, took the short online course, passed the quiz at the end, uploaded documentation, and read the super long user agreement. After all of this you have to upload 3 sample images for them to go over. I uploaded three decent shots (not my best stuff) just to see how picky they are. I've heard of sites like this being picky about sharpness, noise, and composition, even while zoomed in to 200%. I ensured these pictures were sharp, had no visible logos, were very low noise, and would be relevant to businesses looking to buy these images. I received word back many days later that the pictures were rejected because they "did not feel the overall composition of your photography or subject matter is at the minimum level of standard for iStockphoto. Please take some time to review training materials, resources and articles provided through iStockphoto. The photographs provided in your application should be your best work. Try and impress us, we want to see how you stand out from the crowd."

Ok, that's understandable. I read the training materials and articles (which were actually pretty well written!), and submitted some of my best work, including some that have been published in national calendars and books. I hear back just a few hours later that they were rejected for the same reason. Ok, now I was getting a little upset. These pictures were totally different in composition from the first ones and were also very sharp, and low noise. How could they have rejected them for the same reason? I know they have been useful to businesses in the past because they have been used as advertisements before. I also checked istockphoto to make sure there wasn't a totally identical photo already submited; nope there wasn't. I just didn't understand why they were getting rejected. So I waited a week and decided to try one last time to submit some photos. This time I even picked some of my best people images to submit (stock photo sites love people pictures because most advertizements are aimed at them). Got rejected, same cookie-cutter reason.

I don't mind being rejected, criticized, or laught a lesson. As long as you give me a good reason, or way to get better in the future, I don't have a problem with it. It's how I get better! iStockPhoto didn't give any of this. They simply gave me the same cookie cutter answer every time I submitted sample photos, even though they were all drastically different every time. I just don't get it! How can they accept a picture like this or this! and then reject my stock steak!

Maybe I'm blind but I would love for someone to tell me how a picture of a tree branch in front of a bland looking lake is going to help a business more than a nice sharp picture of a juicy sirloin! Oh well, maybe the istockphoto editors woke up with a stick up their arse that morning. I know I'm far from being the best photographer in the world, but I do like to think that I'm relatively decent at it after 5 years and almost 100,000 frames. Regardless their failure to communicate their issues with my pictures has lost me as a potential customer.

Top Sirloin Steak - Photo By Josh Jones
How could you say no!

I was never really a huge fan of stock photography in the first place. It emphasizes a lot of what doesn't matter in photography. Does it really matter if your image is ultra sharp when blown up to 200%? Does it matter if it has no semblance of noise or grain? I guarantee if you you printed an image at anything less than billboard size these things wouldn't even be visible. Sometimes the best images aren't perfectly sharp, and some of them even have grain in them! Even some of Ansel Adam's pictures have this "unacceptable" grain in them, and, according to their composition articles, would not meet the "minimum level of standard for iStockphoto."


  1. Your photos are way better than the two examples I looked at ... Sounds like someone might have been hitting the old pipe too much!

  2. I've had a similar issue with iStockphoto. I managed to get past the initial sign up but out of a couple of dozen submissions only three got accepted. Same cookie cutter rejections despite far worse images already being on the site. I actually bought an image from them to make a poster and it was hugely out of focus - not narrow DOF just plain out of focus. Complained to them but they flat refuse to accept it!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I have been accepted by I stock but they have treated me the same way. I have had images rejected 3 times then with no change in them they have been accepted. I think they must have a lot of people who review pics and you have to be lucky to get one that is not on drugs.

  5. I have been accepted but they continue to make the most stupid decisions that could be made. I will have a picture denied 3 times then accepted. I think they must have several reviewers and you just have to be lucky to not get the ones that are on drugs.

  6. HI guys,

    I submited 3 photos for my application all refused same kind of explication, noise and artifacts that I cound't see even at 400%,
    I submitted 3 more, accepted this time.
    I used the same photos for my first download and so far they refuse two of the 3 that they accepted in my application.

    I send them a e-mail asking them how can they accepted a photo one day and refused it the next, I also asked them what kind of screen they use, I like to know how they can see what we cannot!

    My experience with them is complete inconsistence in their process, they need to get their act together and increase their inhouse communication and training.

    For what it paid and the work it required i'm not sure I valid for a artist to lose time with this agency.


  7. What I do now is that I submit my pictures under public domain license on Public Domain and I earn credits by referring new members. It actually earns me more than selling photos themselves.

  8. I had the same experience, then after finally finding three images they would approve I submitted the same images as my first three listings and all were rejected. I disputed it and they said they showed the ABILITY to do work that would be accepted, but were not acceptable works themselves....Please!!

  9. I had to submit three times to get accepted as a illustrator in istock. The first image they rejected is my best selling image in all other agencies.

    You can try Dreamstimeor any other agency. For me Dreamstime is the best. That brings me more than 500$ per month now:) And the most important thing is, they always respect the artists and warmly welcome new comers

    My Portfolio

  10. dont waste your time with istockphoto- as you say, they are run by a bunch of idiots (IMHO) - I have had the same problems - jusy look at some of the crap they still carry!. I invested my 4000 image library with Alamy and never looked back. Micro-payment stock has seriously damaged the profession

  11. Same thing with me. Submitted six images and rejected both times. The images weren't the best but some of the pictures on their website are pretty amatureish. I email them back to delete my account using a few choice words to make my point.

  12. Hey,
    Do you believe is this image on your blog describes you who you are ? You must put yourself into your images first. Stockphoto is not easymoney.

  13. Ditto... for all the same reasons.
    I just hope that web 2.0 will destroy there business model and allow more photographers to sell direct.