Blog Home Contributor Contributor Support Submitting Editorial Content, Part 2: Documentary Editorial

In part one of this post, you learned everything about submitting illustrative editorial content. We talked about the main differences between illustrative and documentary editorial, image quality expectations, captioning and keyword requirements, and some restrictions that you need to be aware of—now let’s do the same with documentary editorial.

Documentary editorial is content that accurately captures an event, situation, or location at a specific moment in time. This could be a protest, parade, landmark, political event, concert, or as in the case below, a Spanish maritime rescue team doing a helicopter rescue exercise.

helicopter rescue editorial stock photo
VALENCIA COAST, SPAIN – DECEMBER 25, 2014: The helicopter of the Spanish Maritime Rescue Team and his rescuers during rescue exercises.

As you can see, what makes documentary editorial different from illustrative editorial is that you don’t have control over the elements that make up the scene—you’re simply documenting something that naturally occurs in time. Because of this, documentary editorial content is reviewed differently.

The leniency of the review is heavily determined by the what is taking place in an image. If an image captures a rare occurrence, a highly newsworthy event, or a situation where using optimal camera settings would be very difficult to do, we might overlook minor quality issues such as noise or soft focus. However, if an image captures a static, common subject, we might be more selective.

For example, we would not expect the focus and lighting of this image of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, to be exceptional. It would be very difficult for the photographer to achieve tack sharp focus and have perfectly balanced lighting when shooting in a situation like this.

running of the bulls editorial stock photo
PAMPLONA, SPAIN – JULY 13, 2013: Bulls and people are running in street during San Fermin festival in Pamplona.

However, for a more static image of the same location in Spain, like the one below, we would expect the photographer to take more time adjusting the camera’s settings and composing the shot to achieve good image quality and aesthetic.

pamplona spain city editorial stock photo
PAMPLONA, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 10, 2012: Buildings on Calle Nueva in Pamplona city center. City is famous for San Fermin festival in which bulls run and chase people on city streets.

The good news is that in general, documentary image quality standards are not as strict as our commercial or illustrative editorial standards. This should increase your chances of acceptance, but be sure to keep the below requirements and restrictions in mind.

Documentary Editorial Caption Requirements

Editorial captions must contain the following:

  • City, state/country where the image was taken.
  • Month, day and year, circa month and year, or circa year when the image was taken.
  • Factual description of the image content, including what the image portrays.

We highly recommend using the following format when creating editorial captions:

CITY, STATE/COUNTRY – MONTH DAY, YEAR or CIRCA MONTH & YEAR: [Factual description of the image content, including what the image portrays].

Image Quality

Unlike illustrative editorial, documentary editorial content can contain some imperfections such as minor noise, focus, or exposure problems. Each image will be evaluated for quality issues on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the subject matter, event taking place, shooting conditions, etc. It is in your best interest to submit well composed imagery free of excessive image quality issues to avoid rejections.


Only traditional photographic post-processing techniques can be used to enhance documentary editorial content. For example:

  • Cropping
  • Dodging / Burning
  • Color Toning

Major editing alterations are unacceptable for documentary editorial content. For example, we do not allow:

  • Removing elements from a scene, like removing backgrounds or cloning out objects.
  • Adding elements to a scene, like incorporating additional photos to form a composite, adding digital text, or adding objects.
  • Collages

Press Credentials

Images that have been taken at private and/or ticketed events, such as the the events listed below, require proof of credentials before they can be accepted into our editorial collection:

  • Select air shows
  • Openings
  • Red carpet events
  • Runway Shows
  • Sporting events (including non-collegiate schools or recreational, non-professional events)

    • Sporting events that take place on public property, such as marathons, bike races, boat races, etc., do not require credentials unless we have a specific restriction on the event.
    • Open air sporting events that take place on private property, such as motocross races, horse races, etc., require credentials.
  • Theatrical performances (including those taken at school performances/theater

As of March 20, 2017, our requirements have been updated. The following types of events no longer require credentials:

  • Ticketed Festivals, including, but not limited to major music, film and food festivals. Concerts or theatrical performances that take place at these festivals still require credentials.
  • Auto Shows, including, but not limited to major auto shows that take place in convention centers.
  • Conventions / Expos / Trade Shows
  • Opening Events, including opening events such as highway opening, store openings. This includes celebrity-endorsed events as well.

See this Support Center article for detailed instructions on submitting content that requires credentials.

Restricted Documentary Editorial Content

  • Restricted Editorial Locations:
    • The Atomium
    • Ayers Rock – Uluru
    • British Royal Residences
    • Burning Man
    • Casa Mila (La Pedrera) – Interior
    • Crazy Horse Memorial
    • City of Arts and Sciences – Valencia, Spain
    • Guggenheim Bilbao
    • National Trust Properties
    • Sagrada Familia – Interior
    • Top of the Rock
    • World Trade Center / 9/11 Memorial
    • A full list of known image restrictions can be found here.
  • As mentioned before, images taken at sporting events, concerts, festivals, trade shows, theatrical performances, conventions, openings, or ticketed events should not be submitted unless press credentials were provided.
  • Head-on images or images that isolate artwork are not acceptable documentary editorial content.

We hope you will find these guidelines helpful, and you can always find more useful information in our Contributor Support Center.

Top image: MERZOUGA, MOROCCO, APRIL 13, 2015: Local man walks on Dunes Erg Chebbi near Merzouga.