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Quality and technical issues

For content to have commercial value, it must be high quality. Learn about quality and technical issues and how to avoid content rejection.

Quality overview

In general, images and video should be in focus and well-lit with no signs of artifacts. Vectors should be organized and filled shape paths should be closed. Some content may look great in an art gallery but isn’t ideal for stock. Before you upload content, ask yourself how it can be used commercially. If you were a customer, would you buy the image? If the answer is yes, think about what you would use it for.

Below are quality issues that the review team might call out specifically and what they mean.

Out of focus 

Always inspect your content at 100% before submitting. 

Motion blur can be used to convey speed and motion in an image or video. When you use motion blur, ensure that the main subject is sharp and in focus.

A shallow depth of field can help draw the viewer’s eye to where you want it to go. Make sure that the depth of field choice is intentional. If you shoot with a wide aperture, depth of field should enhance the photo. Make sure that shallow depth of field does not result in important elements being out of focus. If the image is in focus but lacks sharpness, ensure that any sharpening in post-production does not introduce artifacts.


For sharper images, use a tripod or monopod when possible. Faster shutter speeds certainly help. It’s important to note that one way to increase your shutter speed is to increase your aperture, which in turn increases the depth of field. Find the right balance to ensure maximum quality. You can also increase your shutter speed by increasing the ISO, but if you set it too high, it can introduce noise or artifacts.

Get to know the limits of your camera. Don’t be afraid to push your work to the edge of those limits, but be careful not to go (too far) over them.


The most common artifacts problem is excessive noise, which causes the image to look grainy. Artifacts are often caused by a high ISO setting for images captured in low-light situations. Get to know the limitations of your camera. Most cameras are excessively noisy at ISO 1600, and some at lower settings. 

Artifacts can be caused by invasive post-processing. Always save your original file. If you get a rejection based on artifacts, compare the image you submitted with the original and assess where artifacts were introduced.  

Finally, artifacts can be caused by sensor dust. The smallest speck of dust on your sensor can cause spots on your image. Sensor dust spots can be removed in post-processing, but a simpler solution is to keep your sensor clean. We recommend that you check with your local camera store for cleaning options and advice.

Lighting Issue

Too much light (overexposure) or not enough (underexposure) can greatly diminish the overall quality of a photograph. Check your histogram, or look at the image onscreen while shooting to ensure that you’re exposing your images properly.

Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are the three main factors that determine exposure. Whether you’re using ambient light or studio light, learn to adjust the exposure of your images to best capture the scene.

In some cases, the exposure of the image may be indicitave of the scene you were capturing though it may not be ideal for stock. When this is determine by the moderation team, the "lighting issue" rejection reason is activated.

Image Quality

If we determine your file to have technical issues other than focus, exposure, or artifacts, which we call out specifically or if the file is determined to not meet our overall quality standards the "Image Quality" rejection reason is selected by moderation.  

Photography and video technical issues include but aren’t limited to

White balance: The white balance may be too warm or too cool.


When you shoot in raw formats, you have great flexibility to adjust the white balance in your post-processing workflows.

Contrast: There may be too much or not enough contrast.

Saturation: Oversaturation may give your file an unnatural look, but under-saturated or spot color can also result in technical decline.


You may want to try the Vibrance slider instead of Saturation in Lightroom.

Selections: Editing must be done inconspicuously. Selecting objects out of their backgrounds (or masking) to composite into new images requires time, patience, and care. Do not submit images that have been poorly selected or look like they are not a natural part of the scene.

Chromatic aberration: Refers to color fringing around objects in the image.

General composition: Is your horizon straight? Have you cropped the image too much? Consider leaving a designer room to add their own text or objects. 

In addition to the above, video technical issues include but aren’t limited to

Visual stability: All shots should demonstrate appropriate camera support and use of image stabilization. If shakiness in the shot is a design aesthetic, then we moderate the file based on that merit. Stabilization in post-production is acceptable if it does not detract from the quality of the image.

Audio: Remove audio that is unusable, such as over-modulated audio or sound that could be trademarked. It is perfectly acceptable to submit clips without audio. If your clip contains audio of human voices, a model release is required for each voice.

Rolling Shutter Artifacts: Shots containing minor rolling shutter artifacts are accepted or declined based on the judgment of the moderation team. Shots containing wobble or “jello” artifacting will be declined. Shots containing skew artifacts will be judged on how obvious, disruptive, or distracting the artifact is to the beauty or effectiveness of the image. Shots containing flash banding are not acceptable and will be declined.  

Logarithmic gamma (log) footage: Footage shot in log should have a simple color grading applied—a basic Rec 709 LUT is recommended.

Up-res Footage: Do not up-res footage (for example, from HD to 4k). Submit footage as shot or smaller, if necessary. Shoot in 4K where possible.  

Vector technical issues include

Open paths: all filled shape paths must be closed.

Raster images: do not embed pixel-based images (JPEGs) into your vectors files—because they are not vectors.

Autotrace: Do not use autotrace on complex images like photos. The resulting vectors are too difficult for a customer to edit.

Artboard size: Your artboard must be a minimum of 15 megapixels or it cannot upload through the Contributor portal.


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Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

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The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online