A Humble Experience


When I met Yan (From Hiding to Blogging), two months ago, she told me she had become a ShutterStock contributor, and she encouraged me to sign up. Later she sent me a couple of links: a link to her photo gallery and a link for signing up to become a contributor.

“Why not?” I thought. After all, what am I going to do with those flower or tree photos?

But I really enjoyed my life as it was… peaceful, no pressure, and I could do nothing whenever I liked to, so, I didn’t take any action, even though I told her I was interested.

A month ago, I suddenly had a desire of starting a new project. After pondering for a while and couldn’t come up with a brilliant one, I decided to give Shutterstock a try; So, I submitted a photo.

Right away, I was rejected with the reason: “Unnecessary release”! It took me a while to figure out that while I thought I was releasing my photo to them, I was, actually, tried to submit a model release form. Okay, my fault. I didn’t read the instruction carefully! That’s easy to fix.

Next rejection: “not focused”. Why? I had followed the instruction zooming in my photo 100% to make sure it was focused. Could it be their standard is higher?

Found a better photo and tried again, and soon received another rejection: “not focused”. Slight hand shake? I started practicing every day, holding camera this way, that way and reading my camera manual page by page (embarrassedly, first time 😉

When I was finally satisfied with my photo, I submitted again. And, again, I was rejected with “not focused”. What do they want? I got totally confused, and even started having some self-doubt… maybe I can never be a good photographer… maybe I should give up…

Seeing “someone” frustrated his wife, my husband got upset. “That’s ridiculous! Your camera wouldn’t even allow you to shoot if it is not focused.”

My husband was right. I’ve set my camera that way. But was he totally right?

After taking a two-day break, I gave a lot of thoughts on this whole situation and came up with some possibilities: hands shake after focusing, the spot I focused on was not the ideal spot, or the size of the area that I focused on was not quite right.

That did it. Things became easier after I figured out the real problem. I was finally accepted as a contributor. 😉 It didn’t take me long to find out that even as a contributor, your photo might still get rejected. But I, actually, like rejection now, because, so far, every rejection had taught me something. 😉

I am grateful to ShutterStock reviewers; I have grown a lot as a photographer from my experience. I’ve also learned something about stock photographing. There are people who make good money in selling stock photos or referring people to join, but it is not easy for sure.

So far, I only have 32 photos in ShutterStock. In case you are curious… here is the link for my photo gallery. (Sometime, ShutterStock will direct you to their home page and you have to refresh to see my photos.)

And… Yan’s photo gallery (She has 1000+ 😉
(Hope you don’t mind, Yan.)

P.S. This light house photo was rejected because I don’t have a model release. Since I don’t know the lady (she happened to be there when I took the photo), I ended up cropping her out.)

Thanks for visiting my blog.


About Helen C

A retired computer programmer who loves writing and photographing, and has managed to publish a YA novel "Jin-Ling’s Two Left".
This entry was posted in photo, photo and thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to A Humble Experience

  1. loisajay says:

    Helen–your photos are wonderful! I don’t recall seeing any of them here on WP. My favorite is the red benches in Vancouver. I have to tell you–I really admire your stick-to-it-ness. I might have given up, but you photos are so professional. Yay! Congratulations on doing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Good afternoon, Lois. Thank you so much for your kind words. Most of the photos at ShutterStock were taken recently. In an effort of trying to figure out why my photos were rejected, I decided to submit new photos only, because I understand my camera setting better now and by using new photos, I was hoping I could easily pinpoint the problem. (Of course it wasn’t that easy. Ha.)
      Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pilgrim says:

    You are a good photographer and it that is plenty of rejection. Glad you pursued until it was accepted. Have you ever heard of Your Shot at NatGeo? I joined their assignements. It’s fun and the site is very welcoming and accepting. Here’s the link: http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/
    and here’s my site.http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/profile/522382/
    Come and join us.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anabel Marsh says:

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. You embody this saying! I also think your photos look wonderful. Interesting, I had no idea how Shutterstock worked before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Anabel. I took a drawing class long time ago. At the end of the semester, I asked my professor what my strength was, and he told me it was my determination. I thought he meant that I didn’t have any artistic talent… ha.
      I knew nothing about stock photographing before. It’s fun to learn about it and I am still learning, But I already knew that it’s not for everyone… maybe I’ll be brave and write more about it. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Joanne Sisco says:

    1) of course I had to check out your portfolio and your photos are amazing! The red benches and the birdhouses are my favourites. I love the lines in both of them.
    I’m curious though as to what the problem was with ‘not focused’ that you were finally able to solve.

    2) Like Anabel, I had no idea this was how Shutterstock worked. What an interesting idea because your point is right – what do we do with all those photos we’ve taken?

    3) I will never be that good so I don’t have to worry about #2 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Joanne.
      (1) I thought shallow DOF was cool. I mean only part of an object was sharply focused, and the rest blur. It turned out this was not always true. ;-( I have to say that after I stared at the photo for a couple of hours, I understood why. In a way, I had to learn how to look at photos.
      (2)But there is more… ;-( Like my respond to Anabel, maybe I will write more about this. 😉 Basically, the commercial value is important. Usually, people download a photo (that’s how you get paid. may not be much, by the way) because they have a need (business need?), not because they like it so much that they want to hang it on the wall. I think.
      (3)You never know!!! 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Thanks, Helen, to share the experience in becoming a contributor of Shutterstock. Last year the standard is at least 7 out of 10 submitted photos accepted to become a contributor. I failed four time, and succeeded in fifth time. Earning money is not the most important inspiration for me to continuously upload the photos, improving the photography is. I am expecting to share more stories or techniques in photography with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mabel Kwong says:

    Amazing to hear that you learned a few things about the way you shoot from Shutterstock. I had a quick look – amazing images there. I’ve always liked your images on your blog. They are all amazing to me. There is always so much to learn about photography, and different perspectives appeal to different people. As long as you have fun with it, I think that’s the most important thing. Good luck 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Mabel. Learning is always fun for me. As long as I can learn something, I don’t have too much complain.
      This was a great experience for me. For a while, I felt that I was stuck at a place, didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know what I needed or wanted to learn, didn’t know how to improve. I was considering of taking a private photographing lesson, but even if I am willing to pay the cost, how do I find a good teacher who has the style that fits me well?
      Now, unexpectedly, I do have found a sense of the direction. 😉
      Have a great day.


      • Mabel Kwong says:

        So true on what you said about learning. Finding a good teacher can be hard because we all have different styles of learning. With Shutterstock, you can take your time with it, and learn to be your own teacher in a way 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Amy says:

    Remarkable photos in your ShutterStock gallery! You are an exceptional photographer, Helen.
    Thank you for sharing with us. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thank you, Amy. It seems to me that you’ve already found specific themes that you like to photograph. I, on the other hand, am still looking and that shows in my gallery. I am not sure stock photographing is for me, but learning something new (whatever the thing is) is always fun.
      Have a great day.


      • Amy says:

        Thank you for your comment, Helen. I don’t really know anything about Stock photographing. Most of the time, I just try to capture what is interesting to my eye (like these three images). I admire your unique style, which is difficult to achieve.
        Enjoy your day!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. prior.. says:

    I enjoyed this post – I do not know much about stock photos and how cool that your meeting with a fellow blogger led to this new endeavor.
    And good for you for handling the rejection – and for sharing the experience for others to glean.
    I have gotten “tough skin” over the years – but it took a little while to get there – a healthy detachment and objective thinking seeing more angles helped –
    And out of your collection that was accepted – I like them all – and the doggie one was my fav….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Yvette. I am working hard on developing a “tough skin”! Usually the whole process goes like this: at first I felt embarrassed, and ashamed, then I felt somewhat angry, then I accept the challenge and like it. I have to say that after so many years, the first two stages are getting shorter and shorter, which is good. Ha.
      Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Beautiful post, Helen and thank you so much for introducing ShutterStock to us 🙂

    You have got a beautiful album with some stunning landscape images there…

    To me the highlight of the blog is how you took the rejection of your earlier submissions and the way you used it, I really appreciate this attitude 🙂

    I think I should seriously give it a try as a contributor and see where I stand, long way to go as a decent photographer, I need to put some sincere effort, I love this craft 🙂

    Thanks a gain for sharing this post, and have a beautiful day ahead 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Sreejith. Have you tried it yet? I didn’t reply your comment because I wanted to reply it with a post… there are more I would like to tell you. I even figured out an outline, but I watched Ryder Cub instead 😉 (It played in Minnesota, so I felt that I had an obligation to support the tam in from of my TV. 😉
      Anyway, I have no doubt that your photos would be welcomed by any of those stock photographing site. But m personal feeling is that your photos are “bigger” than stock photograph. I think they belong to National Geography magazine or other likes that. You should find an assignment from those places and get a decent pay! (and don’t forget your friends 😉
      Please read Perpetua’s (Pilgrim) comment above.
      Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Helen, Thank you so much for your genuinely appreciative comments, it really means a lot to me 🙂

        It’s truly my dream to get published in National Geographic one day,

        I know there are no short cuts and I am ready to put whatever effort it requires 🙂

        I did read Pilgrim’s comment and thank you so much for your support 🙂

        Have a beautiful day ahead 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Helen C says:

          I meant every word I said 😉 Nowadays, I don’t have time to lie. One of these days, I will point at your photo and said “I know him!!!” 😉
          If you decide to go in a different path, if you publish a book, please, please let me know. You have a fan here.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t know, how to respond to your kind words, Helen 🙂

            Only thing I could promise is, I will keep trying to be a better photographer and keep you posted about my progress 🙂

            Have a beautiful day 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Helen, seems so interesting, I’ll check it out. Your photos are always so gorgeous! I’m cleaning up my blog, so deleting lots of people I follow, it’s easier to delete everyone and them follow back the important ones. So don’t be surprised when you see I’m following you again! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth. It turns out to be a good way for me to check my photos, I am glad.
      I do the same thing – follow, unfollow.. It’s not easy to manage our time, that’s for sure. I recently found out that we have a meditation center in town. I thought of all of your posts.
      Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Edward Tan says:

    Thanks to the unknown lady, she makes your photo a storytelling one!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. rommel says:

    I particularly like the teapot shots on your Shuttershock. Did you try to send your “red leaf” image?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Nope. So far, I only sent new photos, because I would know my setting… etc. and if they reject, I would know (hopefully) how to make a change. I will start sending old photos from time to time.


  13. Hi Helen, I loved your shots on Shutterstock. They are gorgeous. And congratulations on becoming the contributor. After reading your experience, it looks like it’s not easy to become contributor. What do you say?

    BTW, what does the first rejection ‘model release’s mean? I could not get it.

    When you submit your shot on Shutterstock, do you lose the copyright of your shot? How does it work? I am kind of interested in such an assignment and see how it works for me. Thanks for writing this post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Suyash. You still own the right. As a matter of fact, a lot of people would submit the same photo to 2 or 3 stock photo shops. They say sometimes one shop sells great and other time the other shop does better.
      When you take a photo of a person, you need to get a release form signed by your photo subject. Some time you need a property release from the place you shoot your photo (some places require that). I really didn’t need any, but I check the wrong button 😉
      It was difficult to get in for many, but some people got in for the first try.
      Have to catch a fly, so I will stop here. Have a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm….got it, Helen. I hope to start putting my photos on such sites some day sooner than later. Thanks for your wonderful article that gave me insights.

        Have a nice trip. Have fun. I will gone to India starting tomorrow for a month on a vacation trip 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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