My Top 4 Most Ridiculous QC Rejections

If you’ve been in this game long enough you’ll receive your fair share of rejections that leave you scratching your head. At best you’ll probably just shrug them off and re-submit, at worst it’s enough to lose faith in the whole review process and want to throw in the towel, especially considering the diminishing returns lately.

In this blog post I’ll share with you my four most ridiculous QC rejections. Do you have any you would like to share, if so please comment below!

Ridiculous Rejection #4

thumbnail_who is the donkey here

Agency: Canstock

Reason: Property release required

WTF? Talk about donkey reviewers! Of course this donkey, captured in Ecuador, belongs to someone but asking to track down the owner and sign a release is taking the legal requirements to the extreme! Crappy Canstock, gonna ditch you soon.

Ridiculous Rejection #3


Agency: Shutterstock

Reason: Shot at closed event requiring Press Credentials

WTF? From looking at the image you can see that I shot the Danish Pavilion during the Rio 2016 Olympics from a public beach. I wrote back to the agency explaining the facts and was eventually included into the collection. Even though it was perhaps not the most ridiculous of reasons, it was frustrating since the image had time-sensitive value, as it was during the Olympics and they had just set up the pavilion, thus I wanted to have it up asap. By the time they included it in the collection (after many emails and waiting) it was probably too late to cash in.

Ridiculous Rejection #2


Agency: iStock

Reason: Graffiti “art”

WTF? Seriously? I have to zoom in at 200% to be able to see some “art” on a cityscape building. It’s a piece of cake to clone these out but why are they being such pricks about it when it’s only visible with a magnifying glass? Below is a rejection at SS but as you can see the “art” was more prominent than this example above. I wrote about dealing with graffiti rejections on this blog post.

Stock agencies: protecting vandals since 2016

Ridiculous Rejection #1

Look, it’s Windsor Castle and the Queen is waving at me!

Agency: Istock

Reason: European castle/palace

WTF? Just look at the damn picture, QC Reviewer. Are they using bots?…seems likely…

Bonus Ridiculous Rejection

Thanks Adam Melnyk, Based in Vancouver, Canada, for sending me this rejection by Dreamstime.  Hope you managed to get the release in the end!


QC only cares about not getting sued

As mentioned earlier, I rarely ever receive actual technical rejections (focus, composition, lighting, etc.). Do you? Perhaps my photography skills have improved over the years (I hope), but more likely, the Agencies are just overlooking these since they don’t present any legal risks.

As a result, the number of images accepted have risen dramatically in the past few years. A quick search for new images on SS, for instance and you’ll see an abundance of images which will probably never sell for inferior technicals as well as low commercial value.

However, when it comes rejections which are more related to legalities I truly understand that the agency/photographer may have potential (yet unlikely) legal issues should an image be accepted as commercial that may infringe on someone’s rights. That’s fine, but common sense should prevail.

The other extreme – Adobe Stock

Even if this is a brutally honest blog, I need to be careful what I type here.

I’m slightly concerned that Adobe Stock / Fotolia has taken a very liberal view on which types of images they may accept to license as commercial. These include images with CLEARLY identifiable people/property/logos. As most of you are aware, they do not accept editorials into their regular collection.

For instance, the following image I captured of a homeless man sleeping rough which was rejected by all the other agencies as commercial, except for AS:

Although he’s not clearly identifiable, there’s ethical and perhaps even legal issues of using such image commercially to promote a product and/or service

There are many more examples but at this stage I don’t want to go into more detail. At this stage I prefer to research on whether the agency indemnifies (protects) the photographer in case they accept a “restricted” image as commercial. Will be back soon.

Not great to end in such a negative note but I think this is an important topic. Has anybody noticed the same?

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted five years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

Check out my new photo review service, where I’ll help take your images to the next level and get them sold regularly!


  1. It would be great if Adobe Stock / Fotolia released a PDF with updated photos/videos acceptance details, but I doubt it is going to happen. Is it when an object or person is small or covers a tiny part of the horizon? Is it when we don’t see a face? Untill we learn (we might never) we will keep on having relevant rejections and wlak in blind stock paths. Another case that needs to be adressed is when in the past agencies like Shutterstock have accepted a public building with no people as commercial only to find out that now they only accept it as editorial. Should we report the previous picture to be taken down? Won’t we be the bad guys then?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Alex,

    It seems that we share the same concerns about the Fotolia/Adobe Stock reviewing process. I have started being careful with which pictures I submit there, as they have also accepted some of mine that have been rejected as commercial by all other agencies.

    After thinking about it some months ago, I reread the FAQ and the contributor contract and didn’t find that Fotolia/AS would legally protect me if someone sues me for copyright infringement.

    So, in the past I always uploaded all pictures to all agencies via Stock Submitter, and just hoped that reviewing process would take care of any copyright infringements. Now, when a picture is clearly infringing someone’s CR, I just put the ‘ignored’ bubble for Fotolia, and it won’t be uploaded to that agency.

    It just seems that, even though the agencies get more share on every pic that sells, the ones that will pay the price if something is amiss with property rights will be us. Hopefully, I am wrong, but we should be careful…


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Joaquin,

      I didn’t want to post any more pics but some are blatantly editorial with street scenes and logos. I could loosen my requirements but to make a few quarters here and there and risk being sued, as you mentioned, is not worth it. I hope AS will read this and we’ll receive a direct reply to this query.

      Meanwhile, best to be careful and it’s OK to upload borderline editorial/commercial but clearly commercial stuff is best to avoid this agency altogether.

      It’s also a risk to if you sell on Creative Market directly and include risky scenes, but that’s another matter since they clearly state when you upload the image that you agree that you have all releases etc. In AS’s case, not really.

      All the best,


      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Alex,

        You said “In AS’s case, not really. “, but let’s have a look at the Fotolia Upload Agreement:

        “1.1 [Intellectual Property] Rights. You represent and warrant that you own all rights, title and interest in and to the Work, including all copyright, trademarks, patents, rights of privacy, rights of publicity, moral rights, and other intellectual property rights (collectively, “IP Rights”) or have all necessary rights and license to grant us the licenses under this Agreement. To the extent permitted, you specifically waive any moral rights with respect to the Work to the extent permitted by law, and if no waiver is permitted, you agree not to enforce the right against us, our affiliates and our end users. You further represent and warrant that the Work will not infringe the IP Rights of others, contain misleading or false information, or contain any illegal or defamatory content. You will not upload any Work that infringes or violates the IP Rights of any person or entity, or that constitutes any libel, slander or other defamation upon any person. You must also comply with applicable law. We may remove Works or terminate your account in our sole discretion without prior notice.”

        I think I am going to delete all my pontentially dangerous content from Fotolia/AS… I’m not so sure about them protecting us anymore.


        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Joaquin,

          You did well to go straight to the letter of the law, thanks for clarifying this issue.

          In layman’s terms this is how I interpret the following:

          “AS/Fotolia are not responsible if you license an image commercially that infringes on someone else’s rights. You may get sued and take full responsibility. All we check for are a few technicals here and there like noise and focus, the rest is your responsibility. We may remove Works or terminate your account in our sole discretion without prior notice.”

          Do you agree?

          Seems like I need to take out some professional indemnity insurance if I want to continue working with them, just in case.

          All the best


          Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the agreements with some of the agencies may go even further than the Fotolia one – you agree to indemnify the agency if they are sued! So in terms of the contract, the agency has pretty much put the responsibility on you, although they do try to avoid any obvious conflicts as they know that trying to get some large sum of money out of a contributor would be extremely difficult and may give them more bad publicity than it is worth.

    Having said all that, the risks are, in my view, very, very small. As I’ve said before on my blog, in the US at least, the responsibility for appropriate use of an image and confirmation that rights have been obtained, rests with the publisher. Only they decide how to use the image and what text to surround it with. So an image of two overweight people on a boardwalk in Ocean City (one of mine) is perfectly fine illustrating an editorial article about obesity, but totally inappropriate if used to illustrate a weight loss product. We don’t know how it is used – we can only truthfully explain if we have model and or property releases. Anything beyond that is the responsibility of the publisher.

    I also believe that the “general public” need to be able to recognize someone – not the person themselves. So Alex’s person on the wall is unknown to the “general public”. I know the EU is taking a stronger line on privacy so that may change of course.

    So there is definitely a tiny risk that you would be sued but lawyers don’t sue people unless they think they have a lot of money. The number of lawsuits against photographers can probably be counted on one hand – and the ones that happen are usually for pretty egregious cases.

    So, with the obvious disclaimer that I am not a lawyer, I rest my case….

    BTW – this is a great book if you really want to understand more about this topic:


    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Steve, your insight and links are very helpful. I would like to ask you something: do you upload all your content to Fotolia/AS (or any other agency) and let them decide which pictures are violating IP rights and which ones not, or do you just upload the ones that you are certain are not violating IP rights?



  4. My editorial image was rejected under ‘visible trademark’ and latin inscription on the church wall was rejected under ‘too many non-english words’.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.