Sometime early in the Fall of 2017 I had decided to take a chance and submit my application to become a contributor to Stocksy United. They had just opened up their doors for new applications after a few years of not taking on any new photographers and I jumped in feet first.

For those of you who don’t know what or who Stocksy United is, the super quick version is that they are a stock photo agency with a focus on the non traditional stock photo style.

In their own words:

Raising the bar—and the industry’s expectations—of stock photography and cinematography.
Stocksy is home to a highly curated collection of royalty-free stock photography and video footage that is beautiful, distinctive, and highly usable.

Truly, they have some beautiful work and a very talented base of photographers as contributors. Don’t take my word for it though, head over to Stocksy and browse their collection for yourself! Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Hey! You made it back, pretty awesome stuff isn’t it?! Where were we… oh yeah, my application.

I submitted the initial 20 images they required, picking through some of what I felt would be in that combination of some of my stronger work as well as stuff that I thought might actually be salable.

Which brings me to the first thing I learned.

I had a hard time selecting my images. In part because it’s hard to edit your own work. I don’t mean edit as in lightroom/photoshop, I mean edit as in deciding what work is good and what is not, what fits and what doesn’t. But I also struggled because over the years my photo library has been neglected badly and things are not organized very well, something I’m slowly but surely working to correct now. Nevertheless I made the choices and hit upload, I added my tags and info on each image and that was that.

Fuji X-T10 & Fuji XF35mm f/1.4 R

Then I waited.

This was the second lesson I learned: Patience.

Stocksy had been absolutely slammed with submissions and impressively they were taking time to review each application in detail, one at a time. It took a long time. In fact I didn’t get my rejection notice until early January, roughly 4 months after I submitted. Waiting is hard and I felt like I had very little chance of being accepted.  Yet I waited, trying to be cautiously optimistic while feeling like that rejection letter would arrive any day.

I think we all could learn to practice this one a little more. Patience in today’s photographic society is largely non-existent, I’m no exception.

Fuji X-T10 & Fuji XF35mm f/1.4 R

Patience brings Perspective.

While I waited, I thought about the work I had submitted. I looked at that group of images often. I started working through my huge back catalog of images that I had done nothing with and I did so with a slowly changing perspective. I started to see patterns, sets of images that my mind was now able to start putting together in these loosely grouped themes. Patterns of mistakes I seem to be making with my work over and over…

Most importantly, patterns of some things I really like about my work, things that I can build on as I clean up those mistakes. Like most photographers, I’m very hard on my own work and I struggle with feelings of self confidence in my photography at times. At times it can be almost crippling, to the point where I don’t even want to pick up a camera because my mind tricks me into thinking “Why bother, I can’t make a good photo anyways.” But, that isn’t true. That’s nothing more than negativity feeding negativity.

Fuji X-T1 & Fuji 56mm f/1.2 R

It’s a work in progress, but this rejection from Stocksy has allowed me to start shifting my mindset. We all have those doubts about our work, we see the flaws and mistakes. The key is putting our energy into getting better at not making those same mistakes without dwelling on how much we feel like our work sucks. This was possibly my biggest take-away from this entire process and I’m very thankful to Stocksy for inadvertently helping me to learn this.

Finally the day came when that email came through. Ironically, I had posted a tweet about waiting.

Within 2 minutes I had my rejection email…so I had to update the tweet as I felt like a complete idiot!

To be very clear, my tweet wasn’t what spurred the rejection email. That thought hadn’t crossed my mind! All I could think about was how I should have just been a little more patient. I felt pretty stupid about the fact that I received my rejection letter minutes after tweeting about being hopeful it would get approved.

But, something interesting happened.

Because the email was sent with that crazy coincidental timing, I very quickly had a follow up email pop into my inbox from the editor at Stocksy that had declined my application. She felt terrible and didn’t want me to think that my tweet had caused them to reject me.

I was amazed at that level of service and that they had even felt a need to reach out to me to let me know that my tweet to them was not what caused the rejection.

That follow up email she sent became the final lessons I learned in this process.

First, the importance of taking time to talk to and respond to people and how powerful that can be. Second, she was able to give me some great feedback about why I was rejected and you know what? It wasn’t because I sucked as a photographer or had submitted horrible images.

It was simply that they already had a lot of the type of images I submitted and were looking for something a little different. In fact, she took the time to browse my website and send me a link to a gallery of my own work that was what they were looking for at this time. She encouraged me to focus on more of that kind of work if/when I resubmit because they’d like to see more of that.

Fuji X-T1 & Fuji XF56mm f/1.2

How about that, they actually liked my work. They just had too much of the subject matter I had submitted and encouraged me to re-submit, PLUS they showed me that I already have the style of work they are looking for on my own website!

I do plan to re-submit my application with new work. It may take a little time because I want to shoot some new stuff and it’s by no means a guarantee they accept my application when I re-submit, but I know I need to try.

It’s the trying, the failing, the picking yourself back up and learning from your mistakes, the desire to always push forward and try to be just a little bit better today than you were yesterday. That is what should motivate us as photographers and creators. I need to replace the thoughts of “not being good enough” with “push forward and keep learning”, because why dwell on the negative when there is so much positive to be enjoyed?

Fuji X-T1 & Fuji 10-24mm f4 R OIS

Funny thing, the more you push yourself to learn every day, to get better every day, to enjoy the positives…the more positivity you seem to find.

Here’s to searching for more positives as we create and thank you Stocksy for helping me to be a little better than I was the day before.

Fuji X100T
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21 thoughts on “Stocksy United Rejected Me : What I Learned From The Experience

  1. Lileinaya says:

    Virtual hugs for you for your story 🙂 I hope one day to see you in the boat of Stocksy photographers! Keep up working and good luck.

    1. Thanks. Just have to get back to work and give it another shot with some work more in line with what they are looking for! Also, thanks for taking time to stop by and read the article, I really appreciate it!

  2. Gillian Vann says:

    what a great post. Sorry to hear you weren’t accepted, but I love your response here. I suspect you might easily find some mentors amongst the contributor base if you ask. I wish you all the best and if you do get in to Stocksy in the future please be sure to say hi to everyone in the forums.

    1. Thanks so much Gillian! I really appreciate you taking the time to read this article! I’ve no doubt there are some fantastic mentors there in the contributor base, I’ve actually chatted with a couple through this process and they’ve been nothing short of fantastic. I’ll be sure to say hello in the forums if I’m able to join you guys in the future!

      Thanks again for stopping by and for taking the time to leave me such a kind comment, it’s very much appreciated!

  3. Great to see that you took the decline in such a positive way David. Enjoy creating the new work and best of luck with your future application.


    1. Thanks so much Ivar! I’ve learned over the years that there is almost always a positive we can take away from every situation and this certainly left me with a lot to mull over! Truly was a great learning experience and perspective check! Thanks for stopping by and for taking time to comment, especially with your wishes of luck in the future. I truly appreciate that!

      1. Completely agree that there almost always a positive we can take from situations, sometimes you have to dig deep or step away from it for a while before it comes clear, but often there is something indeed.

        Happy to see that you have found the positive in this situation!

        1. Thank so much Ivar, yeah sometimes we have to dig deep but usually there is something positive to take away from any situation! Have a great weekend and may it be blessed with the best photographic light possible! 😉

  4. tara says:

    good on you for sharing your story and your learnings. keep on keepin’ on and hope to see you there sooner than later. high five from a fellow minnesotan.

    1. Hey Tara, thanks for the kind words of encouragement! And YES! I’ll absolutely take that high five from a fellow Minnesotan! Who doesn’t love slapping a good high five right?!

  5. I love your positivity! Sharing this type of rejection publicly takes guts 🙂 And, keep at it. I learned SO MUCH about photography and post-processing through my stock photo rejections (it was back in the day before Stocksy), but ultimately it helped me grow and eventually become a Stocksy photographer. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. ????????

    1. Holy crap! Ok, mini freak out happening that THE Nicolesy just left me a comment on my blog!
      Wow, seriously that is amazing!

      But thank you so much for taking time to read it and I so very much appreciate your kind words! You are absolutely right in that it’s a great learning tool and what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger! Really appreciate you taking time to read and drop me a line here! My mind is blown!

      1. You have me blushing, haha. ☺️ Best of luck with your future application!

  6. Guille says:

    I congratulate you for the way you have dealt with the refusal and the fact of sharing the experience.

    See you soon at stocksy! 😉

  7. Robert Lang says:

    A great read David thank you, I seen so much of myself in your words too, so I can relate to you in someways. When I submitted to Stocksy I must have gone through my selections a hundred times over. I was petrified if I had the right images, fit or style. In the end though it is a leap of faith, and the harder you want it sometimes the scarier it can feel. Good on you for taking the chance in the first place and learning from it all hey. Dust yourself off, have another crack and keep wearing your heart on your sleeve my friend. I hope to see you over at Stocksy one day soon!

    1. Thanks so much Robert!

  8. Great positive post and fantastic images.

    I also applied for Stocksy, waited 4 months and got a rejection…so frustrating. It’s great they gave you personalised feedback on your work and chances are you’ll get in next year with some tweaks with more subjects that they need.

    Just ran into your blog and will keep a lookout for new posts! 🙂


    I write about microstock on my blog –

    All the best,


    1. Thanks so much for reading and following along! I certainly don’t feel like the next time is a locked in for sure deal, hehe but it was great to get a bit of feedback! I’m heading over to check out your blog as well, always on the lookout for great resources!

  9. Do you really think Stocksy made you better photographer? Or Stocksy made you do the things that they like?

    1. Great question and to be honest I’d have to just say that I don’t claim they made me a better photographer per say. Rather the process helped me to start looking at my work with a little differently, thinking in terms of collections, and in general just help my identify some of my strengths and weaknesses in my work.

      As for Stocksy just making me do things they like, I can totally see your thought process here. However, the feedback they gave me wasn’t anything surrounding my visual editing/processing style, if you want to call it that. They didn’t give me feedback about actually changing anything I’m doing. The feedback revolved more around subject matter and less around anything aesthetically or visually changing in my work.

      The only thing that makes us better photographers is our own drive to keep learning and practicing. But this article is really about how even in what could be a demoralizing situation of getting rejected I was able to find some positives and allow myself to learn from the situation.

      Thanks so much for reading though and honestly your comment/question is one that made me think for a minute and for that I say thank you!

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