DT Assignment, illustrator discrimination.

Look through the winners archives and take note of how few illustrators are chosen. (Almost none at all.)


Why bother asking for art submissions, if DT won't pick any illustrations as winners?

I want to see artists being treated equally. Perhaps DT could revise it's rules to include at least 1 illustrator as a winner per assignment. That would be fair.

Photo credits: Aaron Rutten.

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So much great feedback! This is how change happens.


It is true that some assignment files do not sell and I also think that some images should not have been accepted there in the first place... (actually the inconsistencies I notice at every contest are much more of my concern than who wins the first 3 prizes).

I do agree about the inconsistencies and I was actually very tempted to mention this in my previous post but was afraid to get told off for discussing rejections on the message board :-)
But it does make you wonder sometimes when you compare your rejected images with some of the accepted ones...!


Wow! Lots of people seem to be interested in the topic and share the same point of view as I do! To tell the truth I didn't write the blog about it myself because I thought I was alone and my opinion would just made other people angry. Things appear to be very different. It gives hope.


@ Wildmac: You make many very good points!

I went into the assignment thinking I could win by illustrating something creative in a unique style. I thought that users would find my image refreshing, because it's an illustration that is made to look like photographed clay sculptures in a diorama. -- I was wrong.

It seems creativity is not valued by assignment voters, only cliched generic shots of people doing generic things seem to make the cut. -- Very stifling, indeed.

The 3 images chosen are basically the same composition, just different people, but all are standing in the center looking at the camera. How uncreative!

There are thousands of similar images to the winners chosen, so why bother rewarding the photographers for taking an "obvious" picture?
I bet DT would have rejected a few of those for being too cliched, if they were submitted as portfolio work.

I thought stock buyers would be more interested in choosing from artwork that conveys a message without doing it literally. Anyone with a camera can do that. -- Even myself.

You or I could have shot similar images and perhaps won, but how many photogs can illustrate an image, let alone, create something unique?

We CAN make a change in the way DT handles assignments in the future. I encourage more of you, photographers and illustrators, to speak up and be heard!

Fantasy would be a good topic. Something more subjective would be fun for illustrators and very challenging for photogs. Sounds fair to me!


I've been thinking for a while that illustrators seem to be at more of a disadvantage in the assignments. The two art forms allow such different view points on a topic that sometimes they can almost be seen as two different subjects. Take these two images in the agricultural assignment for example    Grandmother teaching child the basics of gardening    and    Plant of the book   

The photograph is a traditional idea of families working together to produce food. Where as the illustration is a more fanciful idea of gardening. Now, I see nothing wrong with either approach to this assignment, they are both excellent images that show very different points of view. But, if the assignment had been separated for photographers and illustrators could the illustrations have been even more imaginative? Are we stifling the creativity of our illustrators by only accepting images that fit the more traditional view? Images that look more like the photos. Photographers are limited by their models, props, landscape, eguipment etc. Illustrators are only limited by their imaginations, the sky is the limit.

As for the difficulty of separating what is an illustration and what is a photo, the way I see it, even if it's made up of lots of bits of photos, it's still a photo. If it's hand-drawn, computer drawn or 3d, it's an illustration. I'm sure the people that are making the images will be able to decide which category to enter in.

Just my thoughts anyway. Have a great day :)

PS. Could you imagine what sort of cool illustrations you could get if Fantasy was the topic? :)


This is an image I created last year for an assignment. No sales at all!!!!

L5 Assignment illustration

Once August 4th rolls around, I'll remove it and resubmit as a L1 on DT and other stock agencies. I'll bet dollars-to-donuts, I get instant sales.


@ wisconsin: OK. Sorry, I thought you were tying to say something negative about my work. My apologies for my defensive attitude!

If DT had a problem with my Dio image, they would have not approved it.
By creating a black and white illustration, I've made the image unique enough to not be infringing on anyone's property.

I'm no expert, but my understanding of "fair use" says that you can base artwork from a referenced photo or likeness, as long as it's been altered enough to make it a unique image.

From http://www.copyright.gov (I'm citing item 3)

"Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2. The nature of the copyrighted work

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work"


No, not sticking it to you, I was wondering if there was something I was missing.

For instance, you can't trace over a photograph that belongs to someone else even if it's an editorial. I am confused by the Ronnie James image because if you own the photograph I would have thought it to be easier to submit the photograph instead of a traced illustration. If the Ronnie James image is not yours then you would need a property release.

I believe a painted picture of a real person still requires a model release when the image is used for commercial purposes. Let's say a buyer uses the Caddo dancer image to sell a product and that face appears on TV, billboards, etc., and is also printed on the product packaging. Since it's a person who can be specifically identified, well, it's my understanding you're going to need a model release.

The US dollar bill is in the public domain which is a different set of guidelines.

So... just curious because if my understanding of copyright laws is incorrect, it opens up a lot of new possibilities for adding to my portfolio.


@ Rosedarc: I agree that the exposure from submitting to an assignment is of some value. However, photographers are getting exposure AND winning the $300 prizes.

Personally, if I spend hours creating something, I want to sell it, not show it for free for a month and then have it sit dormant at L5 for a year, until I can resubmit as L1 and then get sales.

A real L5 has value because people can see it's been downloaded by many users.

An assignment L5 is not the same as an image that has reached L5 by its own popularity. People can see it's just been inflated in price, only because it's been submitted as an assignment file, not because it's a popular and effective image.

I hope you have better luck with future assignments!


Assignment files get a lot of exposure on the site, and that can also be seen as a "marketing" investment. If I like an assignment image, it often leads me to look at the photographer or illustrator's photographer. I also see that some assignment files have sold a lot, although they were a Level 5. I imagine that in terms of revenue, it has an impact on one's portfolio.
It is true that some assignment files do not sell and I also think that some images should not have been accepted there in the first place... (actually the inconsistencies I notice at every contest are much more of my concern than who wins the first 3 prizes).
In any case, I wish more of my assignments files were accepted! Since it's not the case, I often use the topic later to produce Level 1 images... That works well too, since the topics are apparently popular amongst buyers.


Wisconsinart, I like your George Washington artwork, you are a really good artist to have drawn that yourself. Looks just like the artwork on the 1 DOLLAR BILL.

Artwork from the US $1


In copyright law terms, it's called "Fair use."
My images are clearly illustrations I created myself, not someone else's photographs.

The Dio image is listed as editorial, and does not require a release. (You should know this.)

I met the pow-wow dancer in person and he allowed me to take his photo, which I used as a reference for my painting. (I have a model release for the photo, but it's not required for a painting.)

Is this your way of sticking it to me? Should we scrutinize your portfolio as well?

Stick to taking generic photos of US currency and your grandma, and stop trying to slander my portfolio.


Anot, I am wondering if I am missing something in your portfolio... How did you get images uploaded without model and property releases?

 20 Dollar Bills  Ronnie James Dio 

 Image not available or id is incorrect.   Caddo Dancer Painting 


I also want to comment on the folks who say that level 5 escalation is a "REWARD."

When an image is Level 5, it probably won't sell often (if at all,) and it's exclusive to DT for a year.

You're pretty much wasting your time creating an image that won't sell. (Even if it's viable.) Some reward that is...

Instead, I'd rather skip the "contest" and just upload my art as a level 1 image, because most of my level 1-4 images get sales. Also I'm free to put the image on other stock sites to get additional sales.


@ Mani33: If the image is more than just a plain photo, I would consider it to be more of a graphic design. I would count creative compositions with photographic elements as illustrations.

@ Tjurunga: Yes, it seems most votes (and submissions) are by photographers. Again, this is advantageous to photogs. Keep protesting, DT will listen if our voice is strong enough.

@ DT illustrators: If you feel cheated as an illustrator, speak up. You are not alone in our fight for equality.

Until things are fair, I suggest not participating in assignments any longer. If an assignment concept interests you, use the theme as inspiration to create new artwork, and just put it in your portfolio as a level 1 image. What do you have to lose?


Sorry, Tangie, I made an assumption that DT admins select the winners.

Regardless, what is the incentive for illustrators to participate in assignments, knowing that artwork is rarely chosen?

I still think that there should be winners chosen for both photography and illustrations. Why?

Many photogs have large portfolios, and can easily choose from pre-existing work in their portfolio to submit. They have nothing to lose, and often the context of the assignments lends better to photographic images.

Personally, I am spending 6 to 8 hours creating a hand-drawn illustration exclusively for each assignment. My goal is to submit something creative and unique, not generic photos anyone can shoot. I thought that was the purpose of having a contest.

Selling my work for $25 is not worth it, and level 5 escalation just means my image will never sell. I could have put "Clay Family Fun" as a regular image in my portfolio and it would probably have sales as a level 1.

Don't get me wrong I love and support DT, I just want to see illustrators get a fair share of the pie. I'm going to keep pushing until there is equality.


I totally agree with the idea of separating photographs and illustrations in assignments.
I have suggested a couple of times on the message boards to have them judged separately but I never got any response.
It seems that the majority of contributors (and therefore voters) are photographers, some of which may not pay too much attention to illustrations. I know I'm one of them which is why I think it is unfair to the fabulous illustration artists having to compete in the same category as the photographers.
I have no idea about the logistics involved in setting up two separate voting systems but it might be worth considering.


I like the idea of separating illustrations and photos in the assignment. That´s a really good idea...


I think it's all said here, the only observation I would like to add is...
Some images you really can't know whether they are illustrations or photographs, so separating the contest doesn't make much sense "to me" as both are treated the same! If you look harder to some winning images you notice that they are not pure photos nor pure illustrations!
Level 5 is always good... 4 of my 5 assignment illustrations had sales!
One more thing it's always a good prestige for any portfolio!
Cheers :)


Oh, some thoughts really do fly in the air: I was going to write about the same thing as you, Aaron. I stopped participating in assignments for the same reason: being an illustrator I have no chances to win. For some unknown reason photographers receive better votes. I think when chances are so unsignificant it isn't worth of spoiling an image (when it becomes level 5 from the start it is unlikely it will sell at all). I'd propose to run separate assignments for photographers and illustrators to equalize chances, but it's very very doubtful that DT will do that. And what to me... all I can do there is not to participate.


I won with an illustration!


Site members decide who wins the assignment by voting for the images they think best. Reviewers/admins may vote for images but their votes are counted as all other votes. Admin votes are not decisive and we certainly have no policies regarding assignment winners - the winner is the one who gets most voted for.


I like several of Aaron's art and illustrations. I guess some photos may strike a closer feel to the theme of the assignment than others. Anyway to be accepted and have an image escalated to level 5 the creators of all those photos and illustrations approved were already winners. Cheers : )


I'd have to agree with the responses, the reviewers only pick the "candidates" and illustrations always seem fairly well represented.


Like Martine, my feeling is that they often sell better than photos; they're often the first ones to be accepted, so they get a lot of exposure on the DT banner, and often they start selling before the end of the competition!
Since the votes are given by the DT users themselves, DT can't be blamed for discrimination. When it comes to the votes, it's a fair game.


I voted a lot of illustrations with 5 points!


When I vote, I vote 5 points for the images that speak to me most, whether it be photographs or illustrations. This time I voted 5 for some of both of them.

I agree with you that it is remarkable that so little illustrations are chosen as winners. It might be that it is harder to make an illustration truly touching? A photograph can reach your heart within a second, which I think is harder with an illustration. But I might be wrong?

The upside is, that I am under the impression that illustrations sell better than photographs. Maybe that balances things a little for you ;)

And still, all accepted assignment files are escalated to level 5, which off course is a reward already.



As far as I know the winners for this assignments are chosen by the people who vote, not by the DT admins or whatever! You should blame the taste of the people who vote, I don`t think that DT can be blamed for discrimination!
Anyway I voted for your drawing, it seemed the best in my opinion! But it seems that not everyone thinks like me!
Good luck!

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