Updated: Feb 12
What Stocksy is looking for?
If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that Stocksy , AKA Stocksy United, is very hard to get accepted into as a photographer. In their first year of launching in 2013 Stocksy accepted around 500 contributing photographers. Since then however, they’ve only grown to about 900 contributors out of more than 10 000 submissions. For a while they weren’t accepting new photographers at all.
Why is that? I hear you ask.
Stocksy is what’s considered a macrostock photography site. So compared to other microstock sites they have fewer high quality carefully curated photos at a higher cost. This can be hugely beneficial to a buyer because it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for without having to sift through thousands of crappy images. Their photos all have a similar feel to them too. Quirky, authentic, diverse, vibrant, punchy, different.
I know, because I’ve been one of those buyers. I have a background in journalism but I spent a bit of time working in content marketing and in my role I often had to look for stock images, with Stocksy being our preferred provider.
I was working for a large global company and our brand image and image consistency was important to us, so we could afford to pay a higher price for images that we knew were going to suit our brand, be a high quality, and be easy to sort through. I loved Stocksy then, and I still love them now.
The company has a strong focus on fair pay for it’s photographers and it doesn’t offer subscriptions. They pride themselves on offering the highest royalties in the industry. Fewer photographers mean they can offer their contributors a much greater income - less competition means their photographers don’t have to work a thousand jobs just to pay the bills, they can focus on creating great content.
Stocksy prices range from $15 for a small image to $125 for extra large, and videos sell between $75 and $400. Stocksy pays its contributors 50% of standard licences, so the smallest sale you’ll earn is $7.50, but you could earn more than $200 for a single sale.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Just got to get over that tiny little hurdle of getting accepted.
To understand what Stocksy is looking for, you have to spend a fair bit of time familiarising yourself with their content. You’ll quickly realise that virtually all of their images have that quirk factor. They’ve all got something a bit extra about them. But if you try to copy what they have already, you’ll get rejected.
Not only do you need to fit their style, but you also have to provide the type of image that can’t be found anywhere else - not even on their own site.
In order to continue to be successful, Stocksy needs to be able to offer something different that buyers won’t find on cheap microstock websites.
I made this mistake when I submitted my first couple of Stocksy applications.
Getting rejected by Stocksy
I got rejected by Stocksy. Not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. And having been a Stocksy buyer, I thought I knew exactly what they wanted.
I didn’t, but I’ve learnt a lot about what they are and aren’t looking for in the process so I thought it was worth sharing my review. And in hindsight, I’m a bit embarrassed that I actually thought my first submission would get through!
Anyway, I got rejected by Stocksy and it made me a WAY better photographer, and taught me a whole lot about myself, about stock photography, and about humility!
My first Stocksy rejection came soon after I discovered the world of Stock photography. I’d done my research, realised they were the best paying stock photography agency around, and thought that I’d have a good chance of getting in. Lifestyle photography was my jam, and I had many images that fit the style of the photos I used to buy from their site.
So I sent off my first Stocksy application without much thought, candid people, kids, happy families, relaxed, cute, friendly, authentic kinda images.
Well. I kept researching as I waited for them to respond, and realised very quickly that wasn’t going to cut it. My photos were too mainstream. Stocksy is not mainstream.
I started planning my second application before my first application was even reviewed.
I needed something extra. Costumes? Props? Wigs?
I focussed on just “shooting for Stocksy” for a few weeks after that, and always had them in the back of my mind. My second application I felt really good about. I’d done my research, found their gaps, and filled them. They lacked Australian imagery, summery Christmas scenes, kids playing our local sports, other typical images that featured our traditional foods and meals etc. Nailed it. So I thought. Nope, wrong again.
So after my second application was rejected, I decided to reach out to see if I could get any more specific feedback. If the quality of my images weren’t good enough, I would accept I just wasn’t good enough to be accepted. But if it were the subject, then I’d keep trying with new content and fresh submissions.
A kind and helpful Stocksy team member responded in just a couple of days:
Thank you for applying to Stocksy and for reaching out for feedback.
Looking at your application we're seeing content that is very well represented by already accepted artists. As we're a small co-op we are very conscious of not flooding the market with content unless it either offers something new or helps to raise the overall quality level.
If you are planning on resubmitting an application in the future one thing you could do is to have a look through our homepage and do some searches to see what you think you could offer that we are missing, or where you could raise the bar. The content you mention, if well shot, could well be interesting.
The curated search is a good starting point.
Our blog is also a great place to see the kinds of work we are interested in.
Name omitted for privacy reasons.)
So! I wasn’t totally discouraged by that. In fact, I was totally pumped. I wasn’t a disaster, I just hadn’t nailed that “something they don’t already have” factor yet.
I went out and gave it one more shot, shooting a climate change protest in the city, making friends along the way and convincing them to pose for me and sign model release forms. I used a long lens with a low f stop which meant you could tell they were in crowds but the backgrounds were so blurred, no one was in focus except for my models. I loved the end product, and was sure I’d finally nailed it.
I sent off my submission and waited… and waited… and waited. They didn’t respond this time for weeks (the first two times my application was reviewed and rejected in just a couple of days.)
When it finally came through…. It was another rejection.
“Thank you for taking the time to share your work with us. After close consideration, we have decided that your portfolio is not the right fit for the Stocksy United collection at this time.
We think it's awesome that you've made this effort to understand our collection needs. We encourage you to come back in the future when you've developed your portfolio further.”
So for now, I take a break.
I’ll definitely try to get accepted by Stocksy United again because I love everything they stand for but I won’t for a little while, I’ll focus on honing my skills and finding new things to shoot that can’t be found anywhere else.
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