Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Microstock: Fotolia, the Honeymoon is Over!

Of the latest batch of 11 images that I submitted to Fotolia, only 3 were accepted! Some rejections I understand or at least can deal with (Similar Photograph), most of them were the general umbrella term Technical Problems.

According to the e-mail, technical problems can be:

  • Blurry or out of focus
  • Over/Under exposure
  • Framing problem
  • Over or under saturated colors
  • Problems with contrast
  • Noise or Pixelation
  • Quality of routing
  • Interpolation problem
Really? You can't give me any more of a clue to which one?

In particular, the images in this post (click to see larger) are some of my favorites. I really like how the birds are engaged with the camera. The extreme depth of field is due to shooting nearly wide open from inside my parents' house outside to the bird feeder.

So now, I don't know if Fotolia (or that reviewer) just doesn't like extreme depth of field on wildlife shots or is concerned about noise (I shot at ISO 800 but did a pass of Noise Ninja in Bibble Pro), sharpness, loss of shadow detail, or some other random reason (quality of routing? what the heck is that?).

So I posted a message to the forums and anxiously await a reply. Hopefully someone in the know (i.e. a reviewer) can give me a real reason because other photographers speculating isn't quite good enough for me at this point. I'm also not against reducing the noise in each image a little more and resubmitting in the hopes that it was (a) a noise problem or (b) a cranky reviewer.

I'll get extra feedback once they get reviewed at Dreamstime, but that will probably be in a week (!).

If any of you experienced microstockers have an idea of why these images didn't meet technical standards (or why Fotolia reviewers are cranky) please leave a comment!

For now, consider yourself on notice, Fotolia. I can deal with rejections and even my current 45% acceptance rate. But if you complain about technical problems but don't tell me what they are so I can fix them or at least be aware of them... well, you're just wasting my time. And making me wait 48 hours to get the images reviewed was pretty uncool too -- the only reason I let Dreamstime get away with making me wait a week is because I love everything else about the site.


Steve - microstockinsider said...

the narrow depth of field might not be helping things, and image inspectors don't like to see evidence of image processing such as noise reduction altering the images, and no sharpening either. fotolia are annoying for their 'technical problem' rejections where they don't specify exactly what, hence perhaps it's best to wait to see what the other agencies say.

did you title the images with the names (common and taxonomical) of the birds? and not just something like 'red bird', proper descriptions and titles of birds, flowers and landscapes are vital. otherwise the agencies just end up with 10,000 images titled 'bird' and if someone is looking for a specific animal they can't find it.

they might be more saleable if they were taken in such a way to make them look more 'wild', by cropping out the bird feeder etc.

48 hours is not bad for review, lots of agencies take a week or more.

Sean said...

Thanks for the comment, Steve.

The more I think (and read) about it, the more I realize these blanket rejections are just the nature of microstock. Like you said, I'll probably wait until I get info from more sites, and then go from there.

I did title them with the common name (and keyworded the scientific name) and cropping out the feeder really isn't possible in this case. Personally, I like these images BECAUSE of the depth of field and the feeder, but I'm realizing what I like aesthetically is typically not what the sites like.

Yeah, I think I just need to lower my expectations of microstock yet again :)

Bernard Shuford said...

I suspect that the blurry tails - which is the "narrow" depth of field ("extreme" gives me the impression of "much" depth of field, which would mean that NOTHING is blurry) - is not what stock reviewers like. If the entire bird were in focus, I suspect these would be quickly accepted. Partially blurred subjects, I believe, is the problem here. It's not whether they "like" it, it's whether it will sell or not, and most buyers of a "bird" photo - for STOCK - are going to want the entire bird in focus.

Sean said...

Thanks for the response Bernard. I responded to this earlier, but it looks like Blogger ate it :(

Anyway, I think you are right on the money -- any blurring of the subject results in rejection. Once I take that into consideration, all the rejections make sense. I expect they'll all be rejected at DT also.

The Aspiring Photographer said...

As a relative microstock newcomer my main frustration is the complete lack of consistency of the microstock sites. Stuff which is declined on Fotolia (quite a lot recently) is accepted and sells on other sites (esp. IStockphoto and Dreamstime). I think this makes it very difficult to learn what is hot and what is not.

As an aside Fotolia have certainly raised the bar recently. When I first started submitting to them I used to get 70 - 80% accepted (this was with a bridge camera and absoultely no idea of what I was doing). At that time I coulnd't even get 3 shots accepted to qualify me for IStockphoto submissions. Now with a reasonable DSLR, much better understanding of what is what and some decent sales on 5 or 6 other sites my Fotolia acceptance has dropped to about 20%!

If you haven't already I would recommend submitting to other sites (esp. IStock, Shutterstock & Dreamstime) and I am sure you will find that you become less reliant on Fotolia.

Good luck!

dghnfgj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul said...

I have just started submitting images to Fotolia - i am a complete newbie and have never had anything accepted anywhere. I too got the ubiquitous list of technical errors. I went back and reprocessed my image and was careful not to include any processing from Bibble - no sharpening and only minor adjustment to contrast and levels in photoshop. I was shot with a D300 and a VR lens. It was shot at ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/320 sec, 4288x2848 @ 300dpi. I can understand if they were not interested in the subject or the composition, but I have no clue which of the list was really the problem:
• Blurry or out of focus
• Over/Under exposure
• Framing problem
• Over or under saturated colors
• Problems with contrast
• Noise or Pixelation
• Quality of routing
• Interpolation problem

I wonder if they have an automated system to pass some "technical" review before an editor actually sees the picture?

I just want to get better and understand the best workflow: NEF or JPG? Photoshop Camera raw or something else? Also, I don't know what "quality of routing" is or how to improve it. Since I didn't resize anything, I don't know how "Interpolation problem" could happen.
I don't have any ego on the line here - it's just a hobby for me and I am happy with what I produce - I find the real art is in the 17x22 printmaking anyway.

Does Fotolia use a program to check images before anyone looks at them? Do they ever give another rejection reason like "your composition is not interesting" or we don't think it will sell?

Sean said...


I've been out of the game a while (and never really much in the microstock game anyway) but I'll take a shot at answering your questions.

Without seeing your image, it is hard to say for sure, but in my rejections I definitely felt like the reviewers sometimes just cited technical issues when they simply did not think the image would sell.

I'd definitely recommend showing the image to someone else and submitting a few other images to see what the responses are. Sometimes microstock sites will surprise you!

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Anonymous said...

In the last year my rejected pictures to Fotolia have increased about 300%.

I can understand some of the rejections (they're getting picky and they want to get rid of contributors), but some don't make any sense. The same photos are accepted by the other microstock sites without a problem.

It seems to me sometimes the reviewer is late for his lunch time and doesn't want to waste time reviewing your pics or at least give you a decent reason for the rejection.

My favorite was when they told me an image needed a release -a close up of a stone wall without any identifiable mark or people, just a wall.

I don't usually bother asking why the images are rejected, but this time I did and got their automated response.

I sent another email asking again why the photo needed a release. This time a real person sent me an email saying that since the image had been already been rejected there was nothing they could do about it. Again no specific reason or explanation for the rejection

Great way to treat the people who are making money for them!