Aspiring Shutterstock contributors often submit some amazing images and vectors, only to have them rejected because of a few “newbie” mistakes. Below are 19 of the most common submission mistakes — reviewing them before you submit will help you ensure that your submissions have a better chance of passing review the first time around.

1. Not Viewing Images at Full Size

Before submitting your images, make sure to view them at full size (100%). Use software like Photoshop, Preview, or Windows Viewer to view the images and look for the following common issues.

2. Focus Problems

The subject of your image should be in sharp focus when the image is viewed at full resolution. Here are some tips to achieve sharper focus and to avoid receiving the “Focus” rejection:

  • If you’re shooting with a shallow depth of field (e.g. f/1.4, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6), the focal point should be located in the appropriate area of the image. For example, if you’re shooting a close-up of a person’s face, the focus should be on the person’s eyes, not their nose.
  • If you’re holding your camera with your hands, use a fast shutter speed (1/60 second or faster) to reduce unintentional blur. Shutter speeds slower than than 1/60 second should be on a tripod to eliminate camera shake.
  • Autofocus is a useful feature, but if used incorrectly, your camera may focus on the wrong area of the image. To prevent this, manually set the focus area (usually represented by a small box with the viewfinder) and learn proper autofocusing techniques.

3. Noise

Images should be free of excessive luminance and color noise, which is usually caused by using a high ISO setting (i.e., ISO 800 or ISO 1600). Here is additional information about noise.

4. JPEG Compression Artifacts

Each time an image is saved as a JPEG file, lossy compression is applied. Lossy compression, or irreversible compression, randomly discards data from the photo in order reduce file size. The more times a JPEG file is saved, the more compression is applied and data lost. If too much compression is applied, compression artifacts will be become visible and the quality of the image will be degraded. To avoid this issue, shoot in RAW or TIFF, never JPEG. After all the edits are completed, do the a final save (Save As) to JPEG.

5. Overuse of Noise Reduction Software and Sharpening

Noise reduction is used to reduce luminance and color noise, and can be applied automatically in-camera or in post-processing. Applying noise reduction is an effective way to avoid the “noise” rejection reason. However, if too much noise reduction is used during processing, your image will lose details and look soft at full resolution, resulting in the “focus” rejection reason.

Sharpening is used to make edges more distinct and pronounced. This technique can be automatically applied in-camera or can be added in post. Similar to noise reduction, you need to be aware of how much is being applied. Applying too much sharpening will introduce halo artifacts and will make your images look “crispy” and over-processed.

6. Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is an optical problem with a lens that results in colored edges around objects. This issue is most noticeable in high-contrast areas, such as the edges of a tree against a sky. Chromatic aberration is also referred to as “purple fringing” or “color fringing.” To avoid chromatic aberration, use high quality lenses or remove it in post-production.

7. Sensor Dust or Dust on Lens

A dirty camera sensor or lens will cause dark spots or dust particles to appear on images. Images that have visible dust spots will be rejected for Sensor/Lens Dust if you submit them for review. To avoid this, clean your sensor and lens prior to shooting, or remove the spots by cloning them out in post-production.

8. Poor Post-Processing Edits

If adding or removing elements from an image in post-production (i.e., cloning, healing, isolating subjects on white, composites), the edits need to appear clean when the image is viewed at full size. Here is more information about how to avoid an editing rejection.

9. Irrelevant Titles and/or Keywords

Titles and keywords must be relevant to what is in your image. Accurate and precise metadata — your titles and keywords — are just as important as the quality of your images, because they are the bridge that connects a customer’s needs with your product. Here are some keyword and title best practices that will help you maximize your visibility.

10. Images with Watermarks, Date Stamps, and Signatures

Remove watermarks, date stamps, signatures, or any other form of personal branding from your image prior to submission. We cannot accept images with signatures or personal logos, because those are your trademarks.

11. Not Attaching Model Releases

If submitting content for commercial use, all images of identifiable people must be accompanied by a model release. Go to to download the form. Be sure to upload the completed document in the content editor before submitting  and make sure it meets the requirements outlined here.

12. Unacceptable Foreign Releases

Shutterstock’s model and property releases are now available in 14 foreign languages. We are also accepting certain foreign-language model and property release forms from other agencies. Shutterstock will only accept a foreign language release from these agencies.

13. Incorrect Tagging

We want to ensure that all images are reviewed accurately and as efficiently as possible, so please tag your illustrations, clip art, editorial images, nude/r-rated images, and model and property releases appropriately, as explained below.

Illustrations/Clip Art
JPEG illustrations, 3D renderings, scans of paintings, and hand-drawn artwork must be tagged as an illustration. It is important to tag all illustrations properly in the Content Editor prior to submission. Here is a list of helpful instructions to assist you with tagging your illustration.

Select “Yes” from the “Illust./Clip-Art” dropdown menu.

Documentary editorial, illustrative editorial, and editorial illustrations/vectors need to be tagged as editorial.

Select “Yes” from the “Editorial” dropdown menu.

If submitting nude/R-rated content, select “Yes” from the “Nudity/R-Rated” dropdown menu.

Tip: Nude models require a model release with a photo ID attached, and the model must be over the age of 21.

Model Releases & Property Releases
Model releases need to be tagged as model releases, not as property releases. Select “Model” under “Release Type.”

Property releases need to be tagged as property releases, not as model releases.

Select “Property” under “Release Type.”

14. Not Providing an Editorial Caption for Documentary Editorial Content

A proper editorial caption format is preferred and includes “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when” information. Here is more information about Shutterstock’s editorial guidelines.

Example: DROGHEDA, IRELAND – MARCH 11, 2014: A view of buildings along the River Boyne early in the morning in Drogheda, Ireland on March 11, 2014.

15. Illustrative Editorial Keyword Requirement

When submitting illustrative editorial content, the keywords “illustrative” and “editorial” or the keyword phrase “illustrative editorial” must be used. Here is more information about Shutterstock’s editorial guidelines.

16. Not Including a Reference Image for Auto-Traced or Live-Traced Illustrations

A reference image needs to be uploaded in the property-release field if an illustration was created from another image. Keep in mind that you must also own the copyright of the supplied image. Here is more information about how to submit vectors created using other images.

17. Not Including A Property Release for Scanned or Photographed Artwork

A completed property release should be included with your submission of scanned or non-digital artwork. The property release ensures that you have created the work yourself, or that you own or control the copyright for the original artwork. The standard property release is what we require for each submission of non-digital artwork. The release also needs to include a thumbnail of the artwork, preferably photographed from a different angle. Contributors can find our property release here:

18. Editorial Illustrations of Celebrities

We will only accept illustrations, cartoons, or caricatures of modern elected public officials, celebrities or public figures for editorial use.

19. Submitting Vectors in the Wrong Format

Vectors that are submitted must be compatible with Illustrator 8 or 10. We want our customers to be able to open your file no matter what vector editing software they own. Be sure to select either Illustrator 8 or 10 when saving your EPS vector file.

Keep all these tips in mind when preparing your initial image submissions to avoid making common mistakes, and you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a successful Shutterstock contributor!

Top image: Photographer shooting outdoors by Rasstock

For more tips on avoiding rejections, check out these articles too:

The Silent Treatment: How to Avoid a Visual ‘Noise’ Rejection

Light Advice: Avoid Rejection for ‘Poor Lighting’ or ‘Lighting Problems’

Keep It Clean: How to Avoid an ‘Editing’ Rejection

Angles and Lines: How to Avoid a ‘Composition’ Rejection

Providing Your Sources: Avoid a ‘Reference Image Needed’ Rejection

There Can Be Only One: Avoid Vector Rejection for Multiple Artboards or Windows

Size Matters: How to Avoid a ‘Too Large’ or ‘Too Small’ Vector Rejection


Top image by lzf