Stock Photography Jewelry (Main Image)

Before you can start selling your images on microstock websites you ought to know a few things about why a majority of the submissions get rejected. Every image submitted on a microstock website will have to go through a rigid scrutiny. This is done by experienced photo editors. They would check for compliance of a number of aspects. These tend to vary from one microstock website to another, but by and larger there are some that are in common.

If your images have improper color balance, over exposed highlights or shadows that bury details, have noise and grain, these images will not be purchased by clients. The simple reason is digital stock photos are used primarily to promote products and services which are sold online. Unlike brick and mortar stores where you can drive in, check a product by hand, feel it and even smell it before buying, online shoppers don’t have that luxury. A two dimensional photograph is the first and the last contact that they have with a product before they decide to buy it. If the images are not breathtaking, they wouldn’t care. A little bit of post-processing, thus, becomes imperative to have your images approved by a microstock website and their subsequent sale.

At any point of time, the more images that you have on a microstock website, the greater are your chances for sales. You need to have at least 200-300 images on a single website before you can start to expect some money rolling in. A careful post-processing workflow increases your chance of getting more of your images approved by microstock photo websites and in turn increase your chances of getting more sales.

Point to note before starting your post-processing work

One thing to note before beginning your post-processing workflow is to remember that these images would be taken by an editor and will be further processed to make them fit into the specific requirements of an advertisement or other commercial publication. As a result, overdoing any changes could easily backfire, making these images unsuitable for any future workflow.

Post-processing steps that helps in getting more approvals: Clean the images

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Many times photographers complain that their stock photos have been rejected for apparently no reason. Let me assure you, when an experienced photo editor rejects your submissions there must be a reason for it. She is trying to augment the chances that some of the photos that she accepts in to the library are eventually purchased by clients, people who would download the images and use them for advertisements and other purposes.

The first rule of submission to microstock websites is that the images need to be clean and devoid of spots and blemishes. Clean means two things, first is a clean and simple composition where the subject of the image is very easily understandable. The second one is more about noise, grains and artefacts. A clean composition will be easy to sell because the meaning is easy to understand, something that every stock photo buyer looks for.

On the other hand noise, grain and artefacts will have to be removed because these always results in rejections. Shooting at a higher ISO or using improper exposure settings and sharpening methods in post-processing can create artefacts.

Blemishes can be something on the object you photographed, something you forgot to take care of before the image was taken. They could be dust on the sensor or even some copyrighted material that you overlooked and did not cover-up.

Cropping and its advantages

Stock Photography Food

Sometimes when composing an image you may have unknowingly captured too much of a scene. That goes even for product photography in a professional workflow where the photographer envisioned something when setting up the shot but found that to be too distracting when the images are reviewed on the computer screen. This of course comes from the requirement of stock image buyers who look for ‘obvious compositions’ which can be used to very easily convey a message.

Let’s say you have shot an image of a basketful of green apples with a red one right at the center. But you also captured a cabbage, banana and an orange. Makes sense? No! The green apples with one red one does. You could use that image to portray something that stands out. Not that I would recommend something like that because it is a clichéd composition. But at least the image would have been much cleaner if there were only the apples. At such moments it becomes necessary to crop out aspects that are not adding anything to the image. In this case the cabbage, banana and the orange.

Another benefit of editing is to comply with the rules of photography such as rule of thirds. This definitely adds to the chances of your images getting accepted on the very first submission.

White balance, color and contrast

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Adjusting the white balance is an integral part of editing your images prior to submitting to a stock photo website. If you have shot the images in RAW you can change the white balance to make it more amiable for the composition. Color and contrast would also need to be adjusted because, generally, commercially used photos tend to be brighter and more contrasty. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the histogram and check whether you are getting into the ‘danger zone’ in as much as highlights and shadows are concerned.

Lens profile correction

Another factor which can easily lead to rejection of your images are chromatic aberrations (both lateral and longitudinal), barrel and pincushion distortions. These are problems which are native to a lens. These should be corrected in your post-processing workflow before you submit your images for approval.


To sum up, post-production is an absolute necessity in a stock photographer’s workflow. If you feel that it is taking too much of your time or want to outsource it someone who is better skilled than yourself, go to Phowd and find a retoucher who works for you and your business.

Ben Novoselsky

Ben Novoselsky

CEO and Founder at
Entrepreneur, geek, photo enthusiast.
Ben Novoselsky

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