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The Devil is in the Details - Photos

What gets rejected or accepted is all in the details. Here we will go over many of those details.

We will refer to this page in our F.A.Q. and our rejection notices so, if you've made it into our Artist ranks, take a few minutes, open your favorite beverage, and give this a read. It may prove valuable... if not, send us a nasty e-mail. We love them.


Let's "focus" <--(har har) on photography for a few minutes. Starting with the obvious topics:

Size And Format

Your .PNG-24 or .JPG file needs to be at least 1200 pixels in width and height. It needs to be relatively square or rectangular. We won't accept abnormal sizes. Transparency need to be checked, non Interlaced, and in sRGB color mode.


Lighting is a broad subject. In an effort to keep this simple let's go over what we deem NOT IDEAL lighting.

Harsh lighting, direct sunlight, direct flash, blown-out highlights, and hard or distracting shadows. We feel typically these are all not worthy of Solid Stock Art... Oh wait, that picture of a lion sinking it's teeth into an elephant mid-day in direct sunlight, yeah we want that! Sometimes subject matter trumps all. That being said, use your best judgement. Below are some examples of poor lighting.

Dull/Flat Lighting

Dull right? Now imagine how this could have looked with warm directional light bouncing off the tops of this cobble stone. As is, this one's a dud.

Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight without a diffuser, reflector, or secondary light casts hard shadows. Lighting like this will typically be rejected.

Direct Flash

Direct flash even with a diffuser is rarely a good thing. This one would be rejected. However, flash can be a powerful tool in the right hands.

Distracting Shadows

Right time of day, right? But it is the wrong angle, thus the shadows are now the subject, rather than the subject. Fill light, or a different angle could have saved this one.

Outdoor Lighting

When outdoors try shooting at dusk or dawn. This time of day is referred to as 'magic hour' (not to be confused with the witching hour, which is midnight, or any time you may receive a rejection email). This light is often soft, warm and directional. Perfect for intense color saturation that adds drama to any natural environment. Most outdoor photographers prefer to shoot during this time, but don't limit yourself to only 'magic hour'. Clouds can really set the mood to an otherwise dull shot, they are also a natural diffusor so take advantage. With the combination of a second light source this natural diffused light is great for up-close shots of flowers, insects, or anything else where detail really matters.

Remember to leave the reflector out of the shot. ; )

Countering direct sunlight is always a challenge. Think outside of the box, think natural reflectors like, lakes, rocks, windows <-- okay that one's not natural, but environmental. Or bring your gear, strobe lights, reflectors, diffusers, flash, or combinations of all of these. It may be as simple as bouncing your camera mounted flash off a window to add fill light to your subject, or as complex as a ten minute work window rushing about with light meters trying to match your strobe lights with artificial street lighting all while syncing this to the fast approaching natural sunset in the background.

Subject Matter

Subject matter is what you want the audience to focus on, or the emphasis of your photo. It's typically in the foreground and usually has the most details.

As a Stock Artist you're probably obsessed over your next big seller. Your head is always focused, on some level, on the subject matter for your next hit. In Stock Photo, the subject can be a moving target, maybe it's time sensitive news, or politically influenced with a short shelf life. It may slip through your fingers before you've even uploaded it. Whatever it is, it usually communicates to an audience, it may speak, scream or whisper. Subject matter is the "subject" for this next section. Let's first go over subjects that are taboo here at Solid Stock Art.

You'll notice a nice feature once you've logged into Solid Stock Art. We will recommend subject matter that has been searched for with low results, so you'll have some insight as to what the customers want, and what subjects we are in need of.

Rejected Subject Matter

No matter how well it's captured/rendered these subjects will be rejected:

  • Sporting Events

    Any organized sporting event. This could be your kids' soccer game or the New York Yankees. Follow these basic rules, if the players/participants registered in any way, we won't accept it. There are governing bodies involved with any sporting event that may own the rights to any rendering of the event. As a Stock Artist, you'll need to stage your own sporting event to get around this. Remember to show your work and release.

  • Nudity

    Yes, the human body is beautiful, but if a swim suit won't cover it, we won't accept it. I know, it's art. But this is business, and we aren't in "that" business. Besides, a few black notches on the S.E.O score card could impact everyone's sales. We need to stay on the safe side.

  • Copyrighted Subject Matter

    We need a property release for anything that MAY have a copyright, trademark, or may infringe on personal or intellectual property. This applies to the obvious things with logos and branding, and the not so obvious, vehicles, clothing, furniture, products, equipment, the list goes on and on. You can stamp out the logos and other trade marks from most objects. But regardless if you've "de-badged" the BMW you're trying to upload, rest assured it will be rejected. Anything we can recognize as a patented design, trademark, intellectual property or art not created by you will be denied.

  • Recognizable people without a release

    People that are recognizable in any way must have a model release associated with them. We will accept silhouette, or people that cannot be identified. Keep tattoos, and other recognizable scars, or marks in mind.

Typical Subject Matter

A successful Stock Artist is always trying to guess what story, concept, or problems their customers are going to use their art for. Subject matter is all important. Your subject may be a human model, a blade of grass, a cloud in the sky, but no matter what it is, keep a few things in mind. We are not after snap shots! Your subject needs to stand out! It needs to be clear what that subject is, at first glance. To achieve this, isolate, zoom in, crop close, be creative with light and color, add emphasis to your subject.

In this example we have a light bulb made of flames. This is a great example of typical "stock art". It fills a broad range of needs, it communicates a message. A buyer could easily add lines like "Bright Ideas", or "Hot Ideas" next to this picture, and it's a complete ad. Or it could be used as a small element in a larger design and because it's isolated on black, designers and hobbyists will find it easy to work with. So now you have a good example of typical "stock subject matter". Push those boundaries, remember this is Solid Stock Art, we want to bend and even break the mold for traditional Stock Art.


Composition applies to any artwork found on Solid Stock Art. Composition simply means the arrangement of visual elements within your work. The composition of any Stock Photo is probably the most subjective topic on this page. What one person deems poor composition, another may find appealing. You may follow a few basic rules to avoid rejection for poor composition. These are guide lines, not rules to govern your art.

Visual Path
Your artwork should have some sort of visual flow or a path for the eye to follow within the piece. A good composition will allow viewers to gaze over points of interest naturally as a whole work that produces the desired statement.

Defined Edges
Areas defined by edges either organic, or geometric.

Visual depth, via light, limited focus, and shading to emphasize form or space.

Space is very important, positive and negative space could make, or break your art. Use space wisely, for example, adding more space in the direction a person is looking will draw the viewers eye in that direction as well. Great to keep this in mind for buyers to add text in these areas.

Rule Of Thirds

The rule of thirds is to divide the image into three equal rows and columns. Ideally subjects of interest are near the intersections of those lines. When people are involved, it's common to line the body up with a vertical line and the person's eyes with a horizontal line. Again, these are guidelines intended to help you produce approvable artwork. These are not rules you have to follow. Break them, sometimes the subject matter lends itself to breaking every rule in the book.. or webpage.

Technical Flaws

Technical flaws, like the following:

  • Overexposure
  • Underexposure
  • Noise
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Blown-Out Highlights
  • Lens Flare
  • Out Of Focus
  • Motion Blur

These technical flaws can ruin your day, or at least your photo. Like the Black Plague, until you're aware of what's causing these flaws, they are likely to kill your best shoots. Each one of these issues are addressable and with the proper knowledge can be completely avoided, or minimized.




Exposure is the amount of light allowed to pass to the film, or image sensor. Thanks to digital cameras, LCD screens, and being armed with loads of information on each shot, getting exposure "correct" <--(correct is relative) has never been easier. Each camera is different, but the idea is the same. You have a few variables to adjust how much light passes through the shutter, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO or film speed. Getting the photo to turn out as you intended is what we deem as "correct".

An easy way to get things looking right is to take bracketed shots. To do this simply take a few shots at a low shutter speed, raise the speed between each shot. Also try adjusting aperture and ISO until you have the desired exposure.

Most cameras have an on-board histogram. The histogram is a fantastic tool, if you're not using it you either hate data, or you don't understand it. The histogram is just a graph that shows the amount or number of pixels in photo or image. The higher the mountain the more pixels, low valley = less pixels. Left is black, right is white, and grey is everything between. A good image often, but not always, has a histogram spread all over. In this example, you can see there are zero pixels in the white area of the graph. This histogram was from the underexposed pumpkin picture. One look at this graph and you'd see your settings need some adjustments.


Noise in your photo is typically undesirable. It's a by-product of the image capture that adds spurious and extraneous information. Always try and reduce noise with your camera settings by lowering your ISO, have adequate light, and use noise reduction on long exposures. But let's say you have a great shot with just a little noise, we have a tutorial on how it may be saved.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is a type of color distortion that manifests itself as "fringes" of color along edges that separate dark and bright parts of an image. This issue is usually fixable with a little post editing. See our tutorial.

Blown-Out Highlights

Blown-out highlights are common with a bright light source and reflective surfaces. Break out the powder for your human subjects, and try shifting your position with uncontrollable surfaces.

Lens Flare

Most often lens flares are not ideal, use a lens hood to prevent them. Sometimes it can be a nice effect, just be sure it's intentional.

Out of Focus

Being just slightly out of focus is never good, and will alway be rejected, this is not to be confused with purposefully defocused subjects. For example, defocused Christmas lights, everyone has at least one in their portfolio.

Motion Blur

Most photos with motion blur will be rejected with the occasional passable photo where the blur is intentional and appropriate. This one was close, but too much blur.

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