Research Request System Submission Feedback

Research Request System Submission Feedback

The PhotoShelter Research Request System (RRS) has been live for over a week, and we thought it might be helpful to give you feedback as to the types of images we’re seeing and how we think they stack up against the actual requests. The images used in the examples are representative of all the images we received for a given request.

In general, we encourage you to pay more attention to the request details as some of you submitted images that had us scratching our heads given that they didn’t match any of the criteria. Also, we can’t emphasize “production value” enough. Exposure and composition go without saying, but things like making sure that hair and make-up look good (where appropriate) are essential for producing commercial level stock. We are providing both excellent and poor examples to help hone your eye for successful stock photography.

Beautiful landscapes of Mexico and surf towns
Grade: B+

We received a large number of images, and many of them were quite good. We did receive a number of generic sunsets and would encourage you to incorporate foreground elements that give the viewer even a little context of the location. Most of the images were well-composed and properly exposed. The locations were portrayed in a way that made them desirable to visit, which is arguably the most important aspect of travel photography. In addition, photographers sent us a wide range of images that covered various viewpoints from panoramic to detailed.


  • Horizon and pool edge create a nice vanishing point
  • Color and exposure are fantastic


  • Great composition. Really gives a sense of the area.
  • A shame that the diver is blurred. Use a faster shutter speed to stop the motion.


  • Captures the local flavor effectively
  • Good “straight on” shot, but not spectacular compositionally
  • But there’s No Caption! Always include captions in your meta data on your submitted travel images so the buyer can know what they’re looking at


  • Nice sunset, but fails as a Travel image because it doesn’t give any context of location. This could literally be anywhere.

Portraits of middle aged people trying to look younger MR
Grade: F

The request stated:
A publishing company is looking for portraits of early to late middle aged people trying to dress and act younger then they really are. Also, they must have a “sleazy” feel to them. These images must be able to pass as a Florida location. All images must be model released!

The images we received had very low production value to them. Mixed lightsources and compositions that were decidedly snapshotty in appearance.


  • Color cast from an incandescent light source
  • Not a portraits, but a snapshot
  • A total lack of styling and composition
  • Doesn’t match criteria at all

A successful image would:

  • Read compositionally as a portrait
  • Pay close attention to styling and had appropriate hair/make-up
  • Utilize a neutral lightsource


  • Not a portrait
  • Much too far away to determine whether the person is old trying to look young, or just young
  • Body positioning is far too casual. This is a snapshot with a telephoto lens


  • You are wasting our time.

Action Shots of Diverse Kids in Late Summer/Fall Setting MR
Grade: B+


  • Really nice light
  • Great use of selective depth of field to highlight the child and not the background
  • Great composition and use of color


  • Light on the child’s face is much too dark for a lifestyle image…This reads as a snapshot. Need to use a bounce card to fill in the shadows
  • Would have preferred more separation of foreground and background elements by using a longer lens and wider aperture
  • Kids need to be “directed” to have more of a decisive interaction. Right now it looks random because it is.

Natural Food and Plant Request
Grade: A

We received many submissions to this request and many of them were very good.


  • Soft, neutral balanced light (i.e. no color cast)
  • Selective depth of field and receding lines draws the eye


  • Technically correct but styling is more “art school” than “stock”
  • Is effectively a “silo” but if that’s what it’s trying to be, then just shoot it as a silo.


  • Composition is a bit banal
  • Underexposed by at least 1/3 stop (view the histogram)
  • Tomatoes not sharp
  • The image seems more about the plant leaves than the tomatoes

Overweight Children and Adults Spec Lightbox Search
Grade: C


  • Neither “active” nor “couch potato”
  • This looks more like a modeling portfolio shot than stock
  • Request specifically asks for “Full length only – no crops”


  • Face is obscured (which isn’t a bad thing given the sensitivity of the subject)
  • Does come across as overweight, but she’s in a bathing suit doing something active, so this could illustrate a variety of stories.
  • Good colors and decent lighting
  • Doesn’t fulfill the “full length – no crops” requirement

We hope this gives you some guidance for future submissions. Again, the clients have an expectation of high image quality and production value, and we have an expectation that your submissions match the requests. Keep on shooting!

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Enjoy Mexico at 11:06 pm

    Enjoy Mexico

    I’ ve often felt my deepest connection with the world of Adams, O’ Keeffe, and the other artists who ventured to New Mexico when I’ m in Taos. There’ s the San Francisco de Asis Church, a building painted by O’ Keeffe and photographed by Adams. It epit…

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