Common Reasons for Stock Photo Rejections

Building a stock photo portfolio can be a fun and enjoyable process, but it’s likely to be a lot less enjoyable if your images keep getting rejected. Here are common reasons for stock photo rejections.

Incorrect Model Releases. To be accepted into a stock photo library’s royalty free creative collection, each recognizable face in your image must have a corresponding model release. The release is a legal document which provides the person’s consent for their image to be used.

It is important that the information on your model release is legible and correct. It can be really frustrating and time consuming if your images are fine, but your model release is incorrect. So, make sure the detail is spot on. For example, does the date of the shoot entered on your model release match the date shown in the meta data on your image? Taking time to do your model release properly will be time well spent.


Signs in any language can cause your image to be rejected. I cropped out the sign on the far left of this image before uploading to my stock portfolio.

Visible Logos. Logos are not allowed in royalty free creative collections, so you should be checking your images to make sure there are not visible logos in your images. Corporate logos on top of buildings are obvious ones to avoid, but don’t forget more subtle logos – like on the buttons of a shirt.


Careful composition can help avoid problems. Here the subject blocks people in the background, and the tram is far enough away that I have blurred the logos on the front of the tram

Image Quality. Image quality is important, but standards are not as strict as they were 5 years ago. Back then, there were ongoing challenges with digital noise and the dreaded ‘chromatic aberation’. If you shoot with a modern camera and reasonable quality lens in good light conditions you will have few technical problems in getting your files approved. If you are having problems, try to avoid low light / high ISO situations.

Aside from the technical quality of your file, make sure your subject is in sharp focus and you should be able to build your portfolio with very few rejections.

Copyright Protected Work. Some content is not permitted in royalty free creative collections due to potential issues with copyright holders. An example is the Sydney Opera House. It is fine as part of a Sydney Harbour Scene, but is not allowed where the Opera House is the only or dominant element of the image. I am an iStock exclusive contributor. Their standard rejections reason for these is “After serious consideration we feel the subject matter and/or location featured in this image would require special permissions or clearance to be licensed commercially, this makes it unsuitable as Royalty-Free creative content.”

Royal Exhibition Building

This image was rejected for concerns over use of the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Australia.

IStock and Getty Images have a wiki which gives guidance to photographers about this issues. Here’s what it says – “as a general rule, places that charge an admission fee or require a ticket for entry usually require special permission for commercial photography.  Consent should be sought.  These locations are therefore problematic in all collections both Editorial and Creative.  They should be completely avoided in Royalty-Free content, while some may be suitable for Rights-managed or Editorial with the proper consent.  Some locations may be free to enter (like certain museums or historical properties), but imagery taken inside may still be problematic.  Do your research prior to shooting.”

Recognizable people without model releases. Image libraries will not accept recognizable people without a model release. This is a strict criteria and one that is sometimes hard for new stock photographers to understand. A person may be recognizable by their face, and most people can understand that you can’t use someone’s image without their permission. Where it gets harder to follow, is that a person might be recognizable by their clothing and location. Understand that image libraries will not want to risk using a recognizable person without their permission. Ultimately it is in both the library and the photographers interest. If you are not sure, you will probably need a model release.

Thanks for reading common reasons for stock photo rejections.


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