Shutterstock Rejections are Getting Ridiculous (but there’s hope…)

First of all apologies for the click-bait title but trust me this will be a useful quick post since you’ve probably noticed that in the past few months SS reviewers have suddenly become very strict.

Now, getting ridiculous rejections is nothing new and I’ve written about my most ridiculous rejections.

Slow-clap to iStock QC reviewers

From 99% acceptance to (roughly) 40%, overnight

From around September 2019, something drastically changed at Shutterstock HQ when I started receiving a flurry of technical rejections (focus, noise, lighting, etc.). One theory is that they’ve started using AIs on first submissions…

I found it very strange since I’ve been using the same equipment for a good 6 years and know the ideal settings like the back of my hand…as well as how to post-process. Allow me to illustrate the ridiculousness of the situation with the following now-common rejection reasons:

Noise rejection

My recent series of ride-apps were all rejected for noise, frustratingly

Here’s one rejected for focus


Here’s one clip rejected for Lighting (haven’t had this one for literally years!)


Second-time lucky!

So i re-submitted the above content without any modifications and lo and behold, they were accepted. This suggests that there must be a separate, less strict, review on a second or third try (since I assume that most contributors don’t bother to re-submit). However, difficult to speculate for sure what’s exactly going on behind the scenes…it really doesn’t matter as long as they get through and are potentially useful to buyers. Here’s the batch as accepted within my port, which you can view right here:

Thanks, Mauro, for being my stock prop on the apps shoot!

As for the big cruise ship, I’m pretty certain that it should have never been accepted due to the nasty flickering…for once I agree with the reviewers! The real-time looks OK though, what do you think, Doug?

Give it a go

So my tip is that it’s worth insisting to get your images accepted at SS. Once in a while you may have to make some slight tweaks, such as add noise reduction or in the case of focus rejections, export at lower resolutions.

At any other agency I’d probably give up to be honest as just not worth the effort, especially at the Microstock Minnows.

Good luck on your re-submissions.

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’ve devoted six years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet!). I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.

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


  1. I suspect that, despite their protestations, they are using AI for the first pass, but when you resub, it gets looked at by a human. I have had the same results as you. An entire batch gets rejected, I resub and they are all accepted.

    OTH, SS revenue is now about half of what it was even a year ago. Fortunately, Adobe has stepped up and is more than making up for it. I fear SS’s bottom-feeding tactics may have finally caught up with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I use Nikon D5300 mainly atm, but I have photos that were shot with my smartphone for which people say are unreal and I decided to submit them. Bam, none accepted, out of all, none.
      All of them with same rejection reason (subject not in focus, noise and grain).
      Doesn’t make sense as there is no grain, they are all landscapes, no artifacts, no junk, but still rejected.

      What bothers me the most is that I have a batch of light bulb photos showcasing fillaments, for which SS says are underexposed. If I’m not gonna underexpose for fillaments, how am I supposed to make fillaments visible? Doesn’t make sense, it’s a light source.

      There are always stupid reasons to reject photos which other sites accept, but usually as you say, submitting again does work.
      Regardless, I will actively look for next better stock site to upload my content.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, SS reviews are a complete mess these days. I’m getting all kinds of dumb rejections for the stupidest reasons. Anything with water, clouds, or mist is sure to get rejected for noise.

    I submitted several clips with a model release last week — accepted. I submitted more the next day of the same model, on the same shoot, with the same release — rejected because the release does not meet their critieria. This is just a bunch of wasted time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For the exact same 400 images submitted in December 2019, I had an 83% acceptance rate at Adobe and a 66% acceptance rate at ShutterStock. I had many of the same rejection reasons as you did. A little frustrating, but thanks to StockSubmitter it’s not a big time waster. I haven’t tried resubmitting any yet but maybe I will!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad it’s not just me! I know my equipment, I know when a photo is out of focus or too noisy for the agencies, yet I’m getting rejections like this too…it’s been ridiculous lately. Video is even worse!

    How can it be that I have nearly a 100% acceptance rate at Adobe, which is picky and I’m down to 60-65% at SS when it was nearly 100% a few months ago? Absolutely frustrating, especially when it’s. A video and takes forever to upload

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I got the same 50-60% rejection. Stupid one like Noise Artifact in a ISO64 image 😀 I also get the stupid out of focus, on tack-sharp images, etc. I tried to resubmit one the other day, and it got accepted really quick, so now I have created a “Resubmission | Shutterstock” album in Capture One 😀

    How long do you wait until you resubmit ?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Strictly my opinion, but this is how should they done it the first place. At least 50% rejection rate. Shutterstock is full of junky, very-similar images that messes up the search results, therefor clients hartdly can find your images. This oversaturation of shutterstock is the main reason people are not getting into stock photography and not making enghouph money. It’s as if they don’t care about quality every junk is approved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m well past basic photography knowledge, I understand basics and am moving onto advanced and expert things(for a lack of better word), so I know how to make a photo very good at least. I shoot in manual mode almost all the time and try to use minimum possible ISO. I never went past 3200 ISO. I don’t mind using a tripod or VR or glue myself to a object to avoid stutter and shake.

      With all that said, I get stupid rejection reasons for my photos. I’m from Bosnia and Herzegovina and things I post on stock sites, you can’t really see anywhere else. There’s not many photographers here, and out of those only very very few shoot everything like I do. When I say everything, then yes, I mean everything (as in type, astro, lunar, landscape, night, street and etc.)

      My accept rate is 20% atm, but that’s because I post 5 photos in a batch, but I’ve noticed that resubmitting puts my accept rate at up to 60%.

      However, while frustrated with SS, I am also looking for other stock sites to post my work. I use Picfair to post all my work, but no sales at the moment, so I need an even better site. If you have suggestions, do you mind sharing?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am finding that getting you photos accepted in Shuttlestock really difficult, I had summit a few photos and all had been rejected then I did some editing and resubmit the same photos again, but it was rejected again and I am really getting tired of shutterstock. Right now, I am in the stage where i think that getting photos approved in shutterstock is impossible. I mean I fixed the photos 6 times and still don’t get my photos approved and I am not a beginner photographer


    • It’s not about fixing a photo since usually there is nothing wrong with them, it’s about re-submitting until it gets through. My record is 7 times but on average it gets through after the 3rd time. Good luck!!!


  8. I thought that I am the only one with so many rejections in some last 3-4 months at SS. I will try resubmit them but up to now, there are almost 60 % of submited images rejected. Therefore it will be a lot of work!
    Thanks to all of you guys in the discusion and especialy to you Alex!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have also been getting a ridiculous amount of rejections. When you resubmit the photos do you click on previously submitted or just resubmit?


  10. F*ck shutterstock. What a waste of time. They reject AEVERYTHING with a vague response. We are rejecting your photo for one of the 5 reasons… ok, which one is it then?? Then I have to waste a bunch of time uploading it again to get a second reviewer? Why not just give me the option to hit a button to resubmit vs wasting my time reuploading? I hate shutterstock so much. Horrible company.


    • Agreed! I’ve spent a few thousand euros on my equipment, constantly learning how to improve quality of my production, I spend almost all of my free time, because I have full time job, working with photos, travelling, looking for new inspiration, reading their newsletters, editing photos, learning new tricks, learning new software, buying another External hard disk, because an old one is full of rejected images, then I finally get a message from them, saying: Congratulations, you’ve sold your photo for the first time! Your earning: 0.10 Euro!!! The biggest, intergalactic, very rude, f’cukingly bad joke! Then, regarding rejections, the same here. Only I’ve noticed, my images they reject because of million of reasons, others are selling, and have to say, selling pretty well! It’s time to say goodbye to SS!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Yep, used to get 90-95% acceptance at SS. Now on some batches 100% rejection. Resubmit at 4megapixels, 40% acceptance. Same photos at TWO other agencies at full resolution, 100% acceptance.

    Getting .10c for an image going through mockery of process is a complete waste of time. Jan 2021 looks like being my lowest income for the month from SS in 3 years. It is obvious that a real person is not looking at the images on first pass as the “subject out of focus rejections” are a joke, particularly when the “subject” is clearly in focus.
    Going to start using heavy vignetting to emphasise subject for future submissions (if I bother) but then I guess rejections will be for noise in the shadows that are not 5he subject.


  12. Yes, the rejections on the shutterS are even worse now. Why can’t they understand that if you use a wide aperture some parts of the photos will be out of focus? I’m better off just using my tiny sensor canon bridge camera so I don’t have to worry about DOF and just downsize the photos making them sharper.


  13. I complained about this very issue in the survey Shutterstock sent me and I told them to sort it out.. I am a trained designer (in the 1980s but even with digital I KNOW what an in-focus photo should look like.


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