Why iStockphoto Sucks:

Several years ago I set up a free account with iStockphoto selling stock photography. At the time, almost all of my submissions were accepted, people started buying my images and I was racking in the $$$. Lately the company has been really pissing me off. Their method for uploading photos is less then efficient and a pain-in-the-ass to navigate. They should take a cue from flickr and come up with a standalone application where you can batch upload images. Furthermore, only about 1/5th of my images are now getting accepted. They send me responses as "no clear focal point" (when the image is that of a texture or landscape) or speculating that I'm using an inadequate camera that can't process high res images. (I'm using a Canon 50D bitches)

As I browse through a random selection on their site, I notice tons of images that have gotten approved that based on their requirements, shouldn't have.

And now I'm starting to get emails from them saying: "we regret to inform you that your image has been deactivated based on trademark protection".... on images that have been uploaded way back in 2005 and on images that have been making me money.

So iStockphoto, if you listening, your approval people suck along with your frustrating website. You're not fun to use anymore :(

Some examples of their BS:

"We could not find a clear center focal point for this file."

"+++Sports car design.
This file includes content that may be subject to copyright or trademark protection."

"This file contains an excess of pixel discoloration when viewed at 100%, which we felt too severe and would affect the quality of print production."

"++ Distinctive amusement park. ++ This file includes content that may be subject to copyright or trademark protection."

A day after I did this post, I was contacted by Joy Griffith who is the Senior Director of Client & Contributor Relations. She wanted to clarify some things in my blog post. Here are the emails:

Hello Bob,
I hope this email finds you well. I just wanted to touch base with you regarding your blog post http://the-bob-blog.blogspot.com/2009/09/why-istockphoto-sucks.html If you’d like to discuss these issues further and would also like some clarification around the rejections you have received, I’d be more than willing to discuss all of it with you. I did try to contact you via the telephone and left a voice mail, but thought I’d also try email just in case the message didn’t get through.

Please feel free to contact me via email or telephone at your convenience.

Best Regards,

Joy Griffith
Senior Director, Client & Contributor Relations


Hi Joy, thanks for contacting me. As you can see by my blog post, I'm not the only one that feels iStock has gotten ridiculous in their regulations. In fact this morning I got a comment that basically sums it up "looks like it's a blanket ban on any photograph of anything man-made, as it may constitute a design infringement blah blah. odd decisions."

I worked for Apple Computer for 4.5 years as a Creative trainer and I use to promote iStock to all my clients, and they were all impressed by the concept. Ever since iStock was bought out by Getty things have been too strict. I remember where the basic idea of the site was anyone with a point-n-shoot could upload and there was a good chance that 80% of the image would be accepted. I'm having a hard time distinguishing iStock from Getty stock. The site just isn't fun anymore, unless I'm missing something, the uploading of images is less then efficient. And for how strict everything is, I'm really not making much $$ off my efforts.

I do appreciate you contacting me, it shows that you do care about your contributors and I do realize that regulations don't change over night. I hope there is something in the works to loosen the choke hold a little.

Thanks again

Bob Kueppers


Hi Bob,

Thanks for getting back to me.

We definitely do care about our contributors and our clients and try to do what is best for both parties. Unfortunately, there are some circumstances where it’s not possible to make both sides happy. In order to protect our clients and ensure that the images they’re using are free and clear of any trademark, copyrights or privacy right infringements, we’ve been required to tighten up our inspection processes and be more stringent on images that may pose a legal risk. While I can understand your frustration with some of our new processes, please know that we are doing it to protect you, the contributor, our clients and ourselves from any potential claims.

In the last few months, we have made numerous changes that I understand may be very frustrating to contributors, including the requirement of a model release for contextual images of people. In this situation, again, we are trying to protect the contributor and the client at the same time. If we accepted an image of a person whose face wasn’t identifiable in the image, but their tattoos were, there is a possibility that the person may be identifiable to their own family or others. In a case like this, if you didn’t have a model release you, as the contributor, could be at risk of a lawsuit because you didn’t have the rights from the model to sell their likeness for commercial purposes. I’ve included a link to an article that discusses this in further detail. http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=648

We definitely don’t have a blanket ban on any photograph that includes anything man-made. As always, we continue to require contributors acknowledge that we do not accept images that infringe on copyright, trademark or rights of privacy. In addition, if an inspector finds there may be a copyright or trademark on the man-made item (or anywhere else in the image), the image will be rejected. This doesn’t mean that we won’t take a second look at it. If you can provide us information that no copyright or trademark exists, we will definitely re-evaluate the image. We also do offer a service called “Scout”, which allows you to submit rejected images for a second review. (3 per month) If you wholeheartedly disagree with a rejection, Scout is more than willing to take a second look. If the rejection is upheld by Scout, Scout will provide further information on the rejection to assist in explaining the rejection and how you may be able to correct it in future.

In regards to upload issues, we are currently working on improving our upload process and do offer the following plug-ins that will provide an easier way to bulk upload your images. The plug-ins are iPhoto, Aperature and Adobe Lightroom. You can find these by clicking on the “Upload” link and then about halfway down the page in the middle there’s a header called “Contributor Software”.

I want to assure you that we are continually working to improve our site and we do care about our contributors. I can appreciate how frustrating all of these changes can be, however the industry and laws associated with it are constantly evolving which means we also have to evolve in order to protect the interests of all of our clients and contributors.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


So I'm still frustrated with the regulations, but I am impressed that Joy actually contacted me. It does show that while the company is strict, they are doing the best they can.

I probably won't upload anymore images to iStock, but I will leave the current one up (until they get banned). I only ever posted the images I really didn't care for since I basically loose the rights to them and it's not worth the time and effort to retouch and go through all the B.S. just so I can make $6 on an image.
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