Avoiding refusals - My musings of the common ones

© Yanc
I am new to DT, and the stock world in general, but am sure that in my trial and error to have images selected and posted I have received just about every reason for refusal that there is. I understand and am not bitter about images that don't get selected. I know that all of the members on this site have felt that feeling when you get the notice that an image has been refused, so I decided to pick apart each reason I have received in an effort to help myself get less turndowns and more images posted. I don't want to be the guy that bogs down the approval process with a bunch of junk just to try and get stuff online. I know that quality and context are the most important aspects to success. I have made it a goal to try and learn from each rejection so that I can provide the best quality, and not quantity that I can. I chose the refusal that I personally have received most often to discuss first, because I believe that it is the most challenging to get past. Most of the rest have to do with equipment and not content. I'll bet everyone who has submitted has gotten this one at least once. If you have not, then please add your input to this blog to help the rest of us. :)

Disclaimer: Please don’t take offense if you have lots of pictures of examples that I used in this blog. They are only examples ie. Kittens, waterfalls and the like… these are some of my favorite subjects personally which is why I bring them up.

Here is the one that I think is the most challenging.

"This is a very well covered subject in our data base or the subject of your image is too specific. We are looking for images that exceed the technical quality and creativity of the images already online. Please take a few minutes to browse through the best selling images online (on this subject) and go deeper, play, have a more creative, more personal approach to it, also keeping in mind the technical quality of the image."

Wow. With so many great photographers and photographs, it is a little overwhelming to try and consider how to overcome this obstacle. I have concluded that there is no real way to completely beat this one.

I have broken this paragraph down into two parts. 1. The problem and 2. The Solution.

1. The problem: A well covered subject or your subject is too specific. There are millions of pictures of cute kittens, butterflies, waterfalls, puppies, keyboard/mouse combos, buildings, trees, flowers... In short, if there is a subject, there are tons of photos of them. The second part of this statement, too specific covers a lot of the same ground. When trying to think of a good stock subject, that could actually be useful; you have to find a fine line between generic and spectacular. Generic is like white bread, there are hundreds of companies that make it, but it pretty much tastes the same. Spectacular only happens every now and then. The trick is to squeeze into the middle somewhere. Try and add ingredients to spruce up the bread and make it into something that people will want to eat. What would a telecommunications company ad executive use to sell his company? A furry kitten or pictures of trees? Perhaps, but a better bet would be images of his trade. Don't get me wrong, I love a good fuzzy kitten image, but why will it sell, and who would buy it? That is what you have to ask when considering each upload.

The next part to this statement encourages us to try and surpass the quality that currently exists on the site. So there are a million kittens, how can you get a shot of a kitten that is better than everyone else’s? This is what you have to ask yourself. If I knew the answer, I wouldn't be writing about avoiding refusals. Each artist will find their own unique solution to this problem.

This leads us to the second part of this statement;

The solution: Do some research on the subjects that you intend to post. Do a search and ensure that you type in the keywords that you likely intend to use for your image. If 10,000 images come up, there is a good chance that you could get this refusal message. Your only chance at this point is to confirm that your image surpasses the quality of all of the other images. Keep in mind that if your search brought up this many images, you can bet the same will come up for a designer looking for your topic. How do you set yours apart from the rest? I don’t think the designer has time to peruse all 10,000 images to make sure they get just the perfect one. This begs the issue of key wording which there are plenty of useful blogs about so I won’t explore any further. The point is, research your topics and make sure your shots can hold their own against all of the other images out there. I really like the last part of this refusal; “go deeper, play; have a more creative, more personal approach to it”. I don’t depend on photography for a living, so I don’t feel the pressure that professionals may feel in trying to find the next shot or the next subject. In this respect I may not be the best person to really break this part down completely, but I do know that when something becomes a “job” sometimes the playfulness and experimentation can get lost to the business. Some of the most brilliantly creative things that my children have ever come up with to say or do were during times when they were fully engaged in playing. Approaching a subject with the mind and eyes of a child might be the solution. The evaluation finishes off with the part that pulls it all together; “keeping in mind technical quality”. This statement leads me into the next blog that I hope to write.

I realize that this is a long blog. I tried to keep it short, but there is a lot more that I could have said to cover this very short refusal reason. It is my hope that newcomers to the site will be helped by this. I don’t want to see any budding artist become discouraged by refusals. It is my hope that they will be inspired to grow and learn from their early trials. Good luck and happy shooting


Photo credits: Alberto Pérez Veiga, Thomas Perkins, Steven Cukrov, Sharon Day, Yanik Chauvin.

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December 03, 2013


wonderful advice, thank you

May 13, 2009


great article and advice, thanks a bunch :)

May 13, 2009


excellent article and advice, thanks a bunch :)

May 11, 2009


Thank you for your article. It has been very useful to me. I am new to Dreamstime and just received refusal for images I submitted. Your suggestion to search images before submitting is very helpful in terms of how many of these specific images are listed. I had not thought this would be a problem, but it makes sense to try and submit to categories that are not saturated already. Apparently the technical quality was acceptable as no mention was made of this. One of the reasons for refusal of my images has to do with capital letters, keywords, and too many similar images. I am a bit perplexed about keywords as I had checked other contributors for ways they were describing images and I thought I was on the right track. So I will get back to the drawing board and try again. I am not a photographer. My images are digitally painted. I would appreciate any suggestions for a newcomer.

August 27, 2008


I've learned to do a keyword search (using the ones I would use) before I even submit any images... if there are lots of responses, I look at the most uploaded ones and the newest ones, to see what images would compete successfully.

Regarding the "play" language - I find it interesting that many of the images that are successful are those that were "grab shots" - just one brief snap because I liked the way that looked. I'm trying to pay attention to that little voice of inspiration, because so often it is the best moment of the session.

August 05, 2008


Nice article - thanks!

August 04, 2008


good article ~
i always have trouble understanding this thing:
" A well covered subject or your subject is too specific. "
It sounds like 2 opposite ends of the scale to me, and sometimes i can't figure out which end i'm on.. :))

August 04, 2008


Good article and analysis!

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