Editors have feelings too, you know?

Tolstoi once said that everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. I try to remind myself this quote daily, especially when confronted with criticism. Everybody wants to go to heaven, no one wants to die.

The most common question received from (new) photographers regards refusals. If you're no longer new and noticed this (forbidden) question on the boards think what support sees on email. Just as the rules apply on the forums, they apply on the blogs too, so I will not discuss here about refusals. When one receives a refusal, he/she might want to really take it as a guidance and try to shoot better their next batch. Don't complain to support, if it got refused it will not sell. Maybe it will do it once, twice, but we want it to sell hundreds of times.

If you're approval ratio is low, let's say under 50%, try the following:

1. Think more about the subject that you will shoot, what makes it special? Don't go out and point the camera to the first thing that you reach. Plan your shooting and maybe travel to the most attractive place in your area.

2. Decided what you intend to shoot? See how other photographers have done it. On Dreamstime, with traditional famous collections or just google it. See the best shots and ask yourself what you will bring new to the buyers? Think well, there are millions of Eiffel tower pictures. If you are taking the same classical shot, let it be perfect as technical, equipment etc. If you don't have that, be original. Print the best examples you found.

3. Try to get the appropriate lens and/or at least the best hour to shoot it. If your camera is a compact one, read more about its specific settings related to the subject that you will shoot. Get back to the manual, browse the forums, ask for other opinions.

© Iofoto
4. The shooting day is here: go for the best angle, refer to the prints you got at #2. See what you can bring new. If it's a touristic spot, I hope you are there at dawn, before the crowds show up. Be there before the sun shows up!

Take lots of shots, bracket, change angles... but select only one, the best one. Throw the rest away in a remote folder, then use Photoshop to try to get most of that very picture.

5. Keep the original for backup. Clean out distracting elements using clone. Remove dust, enhance skies, boost levels and saturate color. Be careful on distorted pixels, clean up any noise. Work on separate layers and/or separate channels. It will take way more than the shooting session itself, I know, but you're improving your entire work flow and all your future submissions by doing this.

© Dana
6. Shrink the image at thumbnail size and think, why would you buy it? Is it really special, something that a designer cannot shoot on his own? If the answer is no, then delete it and start all over. Go back to #1.

If small details are lost and cannot be seen at thumbnail size, remove them. If they are important for the concept, you're on the wrong path. The buyer will see ONLY the thumbnail.

© Step25
7. If you said yes, take a look once again and see what else can be improved. Put it aside for a couple of hours or a few days. Good photos are like good wine, they should look better after a while. So, check it once again and if it still attracts you, upload it. If it's not don't be afraid to process it once again or to go back to #1.

Leave it in the unfinished area for a few days. Wait until you have more photos listed there...Does it still look better in that crowd? If yes, then you're on the right path. Are you really sure?

Editors review thousands of images per day. They see extremely good images that brings them all together in the office, clapping their hands and nodding heads :) Then they see images that are ...well, not so good. Those are immediately refused.

Many images are average shots (like the ones in my portfolio). Is your image better than the average? Will you get an WOW from the editor? He/she is your first client. Make him/her say it and you got yourself a stock photograph that sells!

PS: if you've done all these already, then the next step would be to read Ellen's latest article.

Photo credits: Monika Wisniewska, Daniela Spyropoulou, Iofoto, Michael Flippo, Nsilcock, Philip Sigin-lavdanski, Redbaron, Stjepan Banovic.

Your post must be written in English

January 15, 2008


your images look better than adverage to me..

January 06, 2008


very good article....you only can get better if you read it and work like that...

December 18, 2007


Excellent article. I think that i will get more. thanks. : )

August 09, 2007


Excellent, well thought out and extremely helpful article. Thanks

August 06, 2007


Serban, You are a true gentlemen. I know it can't be easy to put up with the masses and our impunity on a daily basis. Thanks for taking the time to break down the steps to consider when looking at our images before uploading them. You are a big reason why this site is so successful and stellar example of the rest of the staff. Keep up the great work. I will be home in a few months and then you will start to see some great images being added to my portfolio.

August 05, 2007


I agree. This actually is so well put that I can't really think of how to add to it. It answers all of my questions in a nutshell. Now I know what I need to focus on when it comes to the photos.

Illustrations are a whole other animal. Do you have any tips for those who love Illustrator? Maybe what Dreamstime would like to see more of? Less of? I do a lot of isolated pieces, but then I would also like to do complete scenes, but am not sure what would be accepted.

Thanks! =)

July 27, 2007


Yes, it is true: selection is half life of the photographer. We should select, and then reselect again. So it is getting better.

July 27, 2007


Excellent article, I have to admit that sometimes i have let the editors to do my job (selecting the good shoots) (not intentionaly). So thank you to the all editors that had a headic, because of me!!!! You guys are great!!!!!!

July 24, 2007


Not shoot myself in the foot I hope? They say I have some sort of heel, couldn't find it so far :)

July 22, 2007


Everyone should read this article, preferably BEFORE they are even accepted as a submitter. Tolstoy spoke wise words. In the end, we all manipulate to make ourselve 'right'.
Being a editor must be a real challenge.
I wonder where you find the time to shoot yourself Serban ;-)

July 22, 2007


I agree with the article. Photography is like food. There is nothing wrong with eating spaghetti once a week but after 2 or 3 times a week it gets old. Same with photographing famous landmarks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower etc. These can get old so try to photograph new beautiful places that have been overlooked. Not all the beautiful places are in popular national parks. A prize winning photo of a New Zealand landscape was of an ordinary farm (Smithsonian Contest). Unfortunately this photo was not mine but I wish it was.

July 19, 2007


This is very well said: "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.". Once we start to remember good phrases, is it a sign that we get older? :)

July 18, 2007


Fantastic statement. I am new at microstock work, but not so new when it comes to understand that everyone is entitled to fail, to feel, to enjoy, and to learn from mistakes. Someone said one single phrase that I never forgot since I heard it for the first time:

"Good judgment comes from experience.
Experience comes from bad judgment."

As for the your educational and useful suggestions, I can only say: Thank you!


July 16, 2007


I second what Ellen has said: very useful, well put article. Some simple steps to success. Errm, not so simple really, but when you get a knack, you'll move on.

July 16, 2007


Hi, It's very good article. ^^

July 14, 2007


Great info! Lately I've been thinking more and more about the feelings which photos "give birth" to in the observer... So, I definitely agree - one goal for me should always be to bring a WOW to the editor and move them on their chair. ;) That would pretty much guarantee a WOW in the end-customer too. Just this question can be a huge mind-opener! :)

July 05, 2007


You have summarized all my blogs in one blog...and more. I think you have put me out of a job! Except you did leave out a couple of things...so you'll have to keep me writing so that you can find out what they are! PS why do you get to use more photos in your blog than I do? Do you get special treatment? LOL

Related image searches
Reasons related image searches