Similar images - how to upload and how much is too much

Very often, good images are refused based on similarity issues. Contributors submit technically perfect (and usually sellable) images and get frustrated when they are refused.

Imagine a boy laughing photographed. One image should be enough, not ten of them. No matter if the photographer moved 2 meters to the left, the concept is still the same.

Similar images in Dreamstime's acceptance represent the content that fits a single concept, has small variations in composition OR model expression. Usually it's the kind of content where the designer/buyer can choose any image from that series without changing the visual message of his design.

This issue happens more often at studio images but applies for any kind of subject.

Price wise, this kind of series will generate a single credit sale and more subscription sales. Subscription buyers will download more images "just in case", although in the end they will use just one.

The more images you have on the same subject, the more difficult will be for the buyer to browse among them. Also, it will take way more time for an image to reach higher pricing levels. If you have 5 similars they will all require 25 downloads. Unless one image stands out, you will sell at a better royalty after 25 downloads, as opposed to 5. For the average contributor that's several months more.

Even if one image stands out, its sales will be eroded by the others.

Who wants to pay 14 credits for that image when they can get one for 5?

Be extremely self-selective:

1. Select the best shots to keep in your camera, delete the rest right from the shooting session

2. Once they're on your hard drive, select only the best shots and post-process them. Apply all your knowledge about their sales potential vs. concept, composition and lighting. Cut once and cut deep!

3. Select the best images from the enhanced ones and submit them.

4. Once the images are in your unfinished files, take a look at them at the thumbnail size. This is the most important step. It will show you the images just as the buyer sees them. They don't get to see the image at 100%, therefore remove all files that are not clean and sending their visual message FAST to the buyer.

After the steps above you should have 2-3 strong images for every 100 images you shoot on the same subject. Don't take these figures literally, photographers with good skills will shoot way less. Still, be very selective on what you submit. One exception we do encourage is to submit a portrait/landscape version.

VERY important: similar images used to pass review in the past, because they were submitted at similar dates. Do that only if you have a very strong image in your portfolio (a level 5) and submit only one more similar (or else you will just erode the popular one).

The review system takes into account similars uploaded in the past and the technique described above will bring you refusals. Submit all your similars in a single batch. Even if you're worried about seeing some refusals (ALL contributors receive them), at least the editor will be able to select the best ones.

- Read Andrei's article here for more on the same subject Similarity: Thin line between smart and excessive...

- Don't forget to play Stock Rank. Try to go over 75-80%. You'll play a lot. Ask yourself how many similars did you see.

Photo credits: Kirill Roslyakov.

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June 12, 2014


I just started with stock photography and so far have learned a lot. My issue seems to be with cropping too tightly. Giving some thought to this problem I am starting to understand that these photo's need to be different than the pictures I am used to taking. I have been very pleased after reading some of these blogs about the number of picts I have had accepted as I have had about 50 reviewed and have 5 that have been accepted which from what I am reading sounds pretty good. My initial thoughts were that my technical skills would be lacking and perhaps keep me from getting images accepted. I appreciate blogs like this as they help me further my knowledge of what will be accepted and what will not. I am shooting with an older Cannon Rebel and have also decided that I need more pixels as although all my images have been just composed in the camera I have begun to learn photoshop so I hope to use that to up my acceptance and sales. I was wondering if anyone had a thought as to single item composition, should I try submitting an image with the object in all 4 corners and in the middle as for using this type of image for a business card background this would allow for text in any position or would I be better off going in 3 positions on the lower side or the upper side. Your thoughts please.
I do all my editing on my computer. I delete any fuzzy or obviously bad picts and then save the rest. Then I throw the ones I wish to work with into a separate file and delete from this file any that I do not feel are demonstrating my concept or upon closer inspection I deem technically flawed.
I have taken several random shots at events that would be very conceptual and abstract in usage and have researched images using keywords that I would attach to these images and have discovered that all of these images have fewer than 5 that are similar or even close so I am wondering if no one has thought of this or are these type images just not used as I believe my initial images that were accepted were thrown into a pool of thousands and I have very little hope for those in fact I searched these images out and looked at several that I suspected were mine .... thanks again for the help ....

June 09, 2011


Hahaha.....I wish I had read this yesterday.....Good to know for future submissions.

January 17, 2011


I only saw this blog now and while it has - generalized - good points, I disagree with some. I don't mean to hurt ppl and won't put links here. Also, I hope my images won't disappear accidentally but I just have to say this:
Advising people to delete their images from the cam. is ..well, a bad idea. I only started stock lately but 3 of my top5 most sold images (70x, 20x, 18x) on another site are ones I almost deleted. Unless it is technically imperfect keep it, even then you might will like it and/or will sell it somewhere else, not on the stock. HDs are dirt cheap.
You must be very critical of course and I think most photographers are. I keep usually 5-10% for my site.
The other thing why I read this is bc I had technically good images refused for being similar. OK. then how come when I browse among DTs photogs I see almost identical images from them as their latest uploads. Some has 5-10000 photos. I don't want to put links here but it's easy to find them. So if I cannot upload similar, but others are allowed to do so for some reason, how will I ever get a decent (2-5K) portfolio?
I do understand your point but then why do I see almost identical images uploaded the same time from the some people from the same shoot?
The last thing is the selection. "Editors are trained and know what sells and what not"
No they don't. Sure they are well trained, have plenty info to help them. They have an idea, based on what sells at the moment, have experience on what was sold in the past. I'm sure they have all kinds of stats by events, seasons, they have requests and they probably have an idea what the client's interest is, but saying that they KNOW is a bit bold. Unless they see the future, they do not, and images that were refused here for being similar are selling on other sites. So why not give the customer the chance to pick on DT? Or only certain people can do that... ?
The rest I agree with and true, the thumbnail overview is a very good way to prioritize your images. Still, nobody knows what image John Smith will look for next week.

July 28, 2010


When I first started submitting photos for microstock, I was very dissapointed by my rejection rate. Then I decided that I absolutely had to think about what it was the evaluators were seeing. I looked at nothing but the best images here on DT. I started in my own mind trying to evaluate what about those images made them special. I realized soon that I was being lazy about so many things first was focus. I soon learned how to balance fstops with shutterspeed. I even learned how to hold the camera and when to give up and use a tripod. I, too, was extremely frustrated by my attempts to get a good focus. Then I would look at a fuzzy picture and find that the shutterspeed had been 1/15 on auto. As I went along I gradually increased my skills until things started getting accepted. I also had to learn what a stock photograph was compared to a really nice standard picture. Now I still have a small portfolio but the views are going up and almost everything has sold. Some files are moving up in rank. I think the important thing is to study what is coming out of your camera ruthlessly. That is what has helped me.

April 28, 2010


The information given here will help.

December 21, 2009


Archilles....I am new to this site. I have always been told by strangers, family, and friends that I should sell my photos. I do landscape, animals, and intense cloud formations. I was excited to join Dreamstime...but after receiving a refusal for more than 50 images that have been noted excellent by locals, I have spent hours crying and wondering if I missed the boat somehow and if I have any talent at all. I don't understand or comprehend half of the refusal reason, and I feel like just giving up and deleting my account. I have loved photography for more than 20 years...But now I feel like I have been wasting my time. I know you are extremely busy...but your input would be so helpful! I am blind to the path lying before me..and quite frankly my heart is broken!

Same happened to me My first 50 pics. got rejected Let me share with you what I have learned in my first year ( I have the same camera that you have ) Your pictures look like they were shot at an overcast day. If you live in a place that has more cloudy weather most your pictures will lack some brilliance. The D80 takes super brilliant pictures in SUNLIGHT that is true for all cameras I suppose. I have it easy where I live It is close to the equator and almost always sunny.
The best day to shoot is a sunny day with not to much wind because the wind will pick up dust and the sky will not be brilliant. So If the sun is out give your camera a priority. Also a more professional external flash like an SB 600 or SB 800 for Nikon will help with lighting. a little booklet about lighting and reading the manual will help you use it. First rule of Photography or Film school is read the manual
The D80 has some manual settings that can help you as well put your camera on manual the the M on the little wheel on top then press the menu button select the green camera from there you scroll down to white balance there you can set it on the correct setting for flash or shade or full sunlight and so on That gives
you an extra edge sometimes But it requires that you learn to shoot in manual mode. You might already know this I am just saying.
Also landscapes and animal pictures even the most outstanding do not sell so much in stock photography but lots of photographers want to sell them. there are some real outstanding Landscape and wildlife photographers on dreamstime ( I am a fan ) but you will see that they might have good sales but not as many as mediocre photographers with a different subject matter that have learned to isolate images.
Children and grandparents, food shots people doing, something specific will sell. Stock sites of course know this and have probably a quota of only accepting so many a day or a week.

December 21, 2009


I agree that too many pictures confuse the client. In my work I have seen if I deliver to many shots of the subject the best ones might be overseen and others are chosen by web designer or editor leading to to the client being not quite satisfied so I end up making a tight selection anyway in the end . The shots they wanted were there just was overseen.
BUT recently I was asked by my husbands firm to design several pamphlets on a tight budget in short amount of time. I had some pictures that were used but we needed some additional food shots. So instead of having the chef buy and cook the food ( in this case sea food, eggs, fruit plate, meat I thought it was easier, faster, cheaper and much less hassle ( they did in the end to download them from dreamstime. After more then one hour I found one shot that worked and I down loaded it. I found other pics for the subjects I was looking for but I needed them in horizontal format for the template I was using and they were all vertical shots. (After another hour online I decided to prepare the simple foods and shoot them myself - they wanted fried eggs with perfect yokes and none I found were perfect enough or the right angle and lacked the desired garnish of a green chili and Mexican stile Napkin - I used several cartons of eggs to get the yokes even close to perfect.) This happened to me before so I always tried to shoot both Horizontal and vertical naturally one will be better composition wise but sometimes both are usable and good. So one argument for at least uploading at least 2 files of the same subject on horizontal one vertical and a small one for small variations like fork no fork, red wine white wine - things I have been asked for " We really like this shot but we would like flowers on the table instead of the fruit basket, " " We like the angle of the shot of this particular beach but we would like it during the day instead of sunset." " do you have a shot where the couple is holding hands. " So some variations might help sales because they fit the idea of the client better.

September 27, 2009


Thank you so much, Red, for taking the time to answer and explain my concern and questions. I now understand a little more of the images that work and the ones that don't--not to mention the why's behind it all. With this new information I realize I need to re-evaluate my goals in selling my photography and see if they match what dreamstime can provide me with. Thank you again so much! I sincerely appreciate it!

September 27, 2009


Just curious how you'd comment this portfolio which all consists of huge series of similar images.

September 26, 2009


Archilles....I am new to this site. I have always been told by strangers, family, and friends that I should sell my photos. I do landscape, animals, and intense cloud formations. I was excited to join Dreamstime...but after receiving a refusal for more than 50 images that have been noted excellent by locals, I have spent hours crying and wondering if I missed the boat somehow and if I have any talent at all. I don't understand or comprehend half of the refusal reason, and I feel like just giving up and deleting my account. I have loved photography for more than 20 years...But now I feel like I have been wasting my time. I know you are extremely busy...but your input would be so helpful! I am blind to the path lying before me..and quite frankly my heart is broken!

September 26, 2009


Archilles....I am new to this site. I have always been told by strangers, family, and friends that I should sell my photos. I do landscape, animals, and intense cloud formations. I was excited to join Dreamstime...but after receiving a refusal for more than 50 images that have been noted excellent by locals, I have spent hours crying and wondering if I missed the boat somehow and if I have any talent at all. I don't understand or comprehend half of the refusal reason, and I feel like just giving up and deleting my account. I have loved photography for more than 20 years...I live, breathe, eat, and sleep photography! But now I feel like I have been wasting my time. I know you are extremely busy...but your input would be so helpful! I am blind to the path lying before me..and quite frankly my heart is broken!

September 18, 2009


@Achilles - What about black and white versions of an image, are these considered "similar" images?

September 15, 2009


Few times I was requested to post more images from the same shoot (20 more). Dreamstime is by far my favourite site, but I had to look for another place to upload all the images that allowed clients per image download. Those images always sell in series. I cannot say if the same person downloads them or not, but the site is making money. I agree about low quality images that look the same - delete, but there must be some kind of option for series of hi-quality. Thank you, in either way, for a great site.

September 13, 2009


How about different approach.
What about submitting stack of previews of similar images?
My problem is simple. Sometimes I have similar of images from shoot and I have no idea which one is going to sell. I cannot submit them all and let inspector decide – I just don’t have enough time to retouch them all.
On the other hand why would you waist inspectors’ resources on this?

So idea of solution may be:
Photographer submits 1-2 images. As soon as they are accepted photographer may submit previews of additional similar images (200px on long side) Inspectors wouldn’t check quality at all, just the fact that images are similar to those already accepted.

Now, when customer goes into details of image there would be option to see all submitted similar previews. If buyer really wants particular variation, there will be option to request this image. Then photographer get automatic e-mail, prepares this image and upload it. At this moment inspector checks quality issues and if image is accepted buyer gets notification. You can even charge buyers little extra for this kind of service.

That’s just rough idea that probably has some cons as well. Still think about this, maybe you can develop something useful from it.

September 11, 2009


Thank you, very useful. Good baseline. O course, plenty of debate about exceptions to the rule and what is simular. I do think with Dreamstimes branding they are correct on keeping similars down more.

I find that adding one or two similars after an image has helped and adding over 3 similars to a popular waters down the "Value" and kills sales. "Can't be that great, there are dozens just like it".

Don't compete against yourself... only improve.

September 10, 2009


We considered this option, but technically it would be difficult to implement.

Not only that, but how do you add them to a stack?
Automatically= too difficult.
Editors= affects review time & pending line.
Contributors=unsafe (some will add them, some not).

If we rely on keywording to generate the stack there are many different images that are keyworded the same. They will all be under a single stack.

The solution could work for a much smaller database.

Our engine already takes into account similarity, we don't want to reinvent anything. It's up to you if you want to submit them (but face risks of refusals).

September 10, 2009


It would be cool if a compromise of having an image stack could be used. Instead of submitting multiple distinct images you submit a series with the 'best' image as the top of the stack (maybe submitting a single image first, then adding to the stack after approval). DT could treat the whole stack as the single top image for searches, pricing, etc. but still give the buyer the flexibility of purchasing any image within the stack (for the overall stack's level). If you are exclusive DT could pay you for one image (not for each image in the stack). This would maximize revenue for a series, and make it easy for buyer to see other shots from a shoot. Note that I'm not suggesting you stack a whole shoot, just those selects similar enough that they really represent alternate poses or angles. Kind of like how the model images work - you see a single image that you can click on to bring up all images for that model. The difference would be that the images behind the stack would not appear in search results...

I agree 1000%

As a photographer I support the principle of submitting only the best shots, but as a graphic designer I feel that having some variety is often a good thing. Not 50 boring shots from the same shoot of course, mind you, but 5-7 is a good number. Stack system would be a great solution.

September 04, 2009


Some good points Achilles - or perhaps we should call you Pandora, as you seem to have opened the box! It's good to put a limit on "similar" photos from the same shoot with the same model(s) in the same/similar poses as it's far too boring wading through them all sometimes......

September 04, 2009


Thanks dude! Very helpful - I never actually thought of looking at the thumbnail. I've been trying to select only the 'best' ones from shoots but it is sometimes really hard, so I get my wife to pick out the best ones after I filtered them down to the technically best ones.

September 03, 2009


Very useful blog!

September 03, 2009


I totally agree with cutting out the doubles in your portfolio. You prune your trees to encourage new growth and fruit/flowers. I can't think of anything worse for a buyer than wading through pages and pages of the same image from very slightly different angles. I say prune your doubles and watch your portfolio grow and bloom in the new light. Great blog! Thank you :0) PS. Also doesn't 2,255 images in a portfolio with 14,327 sales look great when a buyer is checking out your portfolio. (Check out Achilles images to sales ratio) It looks so much better than the other way around because of doubles and similar images. Cheers

September 03, 2009


thanks for the advice, very useful,
cheers ::) fran

September 03, 2009


I'm very pleased to read this. It will be so much easier to search when not having to get through near doubles.

Although I do almost exclusively illustration, I did study photography in Art School. I see the difference now being editing...just as mentioned. Before-when film was used-the photographer did editing even BEFORE snapping the shutter. I remember then it being good if a good photograper got a couple of worthwhile shots from a roll of 24. Now a days I hear of good photographers who take 1000's of shots in one photo session. That, to me, is mind boggling.

I think Achilles has it right and that images should be deleted right in camera. That preview is about what a customer will see when browsing and anything that is compositionally not nice should go because we can assume that the photograper has the shots technically correct already and won't need to perform all of the magic out of camera.

I just wanted to offer my support here to Dreamstime - I'm happy this is now clearly stated.

September 03, 2009


A helpful blog to give me pause and scrutinize images for quality vs. quantity when uploading. Personally, I get so enthusiastic about great shots it is very difficult to choose just a few; perhaps like a parent choosing a favorite child? In addition, I strongly agree with others that say, “Don’t delete in the camera! “, I like to view a photo numerous times at full size before axing it. As stated, the blog is helpful to encourage me to examine my work more closely before uploading, thank you for taking the time to create it.

September 03, 2009


thanks a lot for your blog it's very very useful

September 02, 2009


very useful!!!!THX!!!

September 02, 2009


Just don't be so rutheless with self editing that you forget to submit both a horizontal and a vertical of the shot. Print tends to want vertical shots, but if you send only a horizontal the buyer may never visualize your photo on the cover of their magazine.

And oh, god, NEVER delete in the camera! Not to mention, you shouldn't be chimping at every single shot.

September 02, 2009


yes, i agree with you Photoshow. many times the images i thought were wasted editing at the time of shoot, ended up as my best images when viewed 100%.
in fact, i now use a larger mem card for this reason. so i don't have to delete to recover storage space during a shoot. i now back up everything and leave my editing to a little later. dvd's are so cheap, it's not even a consideration of savings.
finally, good point. many images not meant for microstock still find their way into my portfolio for other usage ie. gallery, graphics post processing ,etc..

September 02, 2009


Useful blog but I have to disagree with deleting from camera. One can never tell the true quality of an image from the 2-3" LCD screen of a digital camera.

In fact to me deleting anything is a mistake. Just because it won't work for me in my Dreamstime Collection today does not mean that there wont be a new market for an image somewhere else tomorrow. There are more image markets in the world then just microstock. If we restrict our vision to only microstock we restrict our potential to earn over the long haul.

September 02, 2009


Good reminder to control my OCD! But I don't like to make the decisions.....

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