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Stock Imagery Takes a Turn

(January 2007) posted on Tue Jan 02, 2007

Micropayment sites surge, while RM images look to come back.

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By Theano Nikitas

"We’re seeing agencies that previously were RF now adding rights-managed because it’s more profitable, it serves the customer, and rights managed [images] tend to be of better quality," says Sedlik. All the big agencies, along with smaller agencies and trade organizations worldwide, are part of the effort to "make rights managed easier, more transparent, and universal." By doing so, says Sedlik, "it would become easier for clients to license an image and the liability involved would be reduced."

Not only would the licensing process be simplified, but licensing information would be embedded in the image. As a result, "Anyone who gets their hands on that file will know where it came from and when, what size it could be reproduced at, who to contact for information-the information that’s critical for the customer," explains Sedlik.

This is especially important for any agency or company, for example, that has thousands of images on a server. "You have to track those images," says Sedlik, "and it’s difficult to retain accurate accounting of licensing for images."

Additionally, the ID codes will be especially useful for global commerce. Sedlik uses an example of an agency in Rome, licensing from an agency in Spain for a client in New York: "Everybody needs to know what those licensing rights are," says Sedlik. "Each of those parties can look up the definition in their own language; it’s a common language for licensing that transcends language itself."

From there, the images "pass through the hands of prepress people and when they do pass through those systems, the license is going to pass through the system so anybody working on it will have access to the information," says Sedlik. This lessens the possibility of accidental misuse or placing it in the wrong client file, which is especially important, he explains, since file names are often changed during various stages of the process.

Not only would this system protect the rights of the licensees, but also the licensors. "PLUS has ensured that the interests of both the licensors and licensees will remain at the forefront, and anything we do will be designed to benefit both," reports Sedlik.

Tech developments and more

Meanwhile, the stock-image market has been tweaking various technologies to help better accommodate user needs.

Launched in July, Jupitermedia’s new search engine provides an enormous amount of control over the types of images retrieved with keywording. Not only is it possible to search images for people (and more specifically, by gender, age, ethnicity, and whether or not they are looking toward or away from the camera), but customers can now also search by the type of emotion expressed by the subject. Other features allow for searches to narrow image results based on lack of nudity, availability on CDs, and large file sizes (e.g., 50 MB or larger). The interface also makes it easy to move quickly between rights-managed and RF images.

Digital Light Source’s Hutchings indicates that he had been waiting for the right technology provider to launch his site, which he founded with 20/20 software, the company that built the website and database tools. One thing the site uses is an advanced lightbox manager, which gives the user access to an unlimited number of lightboxes and the ability to store an unlimited number of images a long as necessary. The lightbox can be e-mailed with notes so "they can build a concept with the images on the website," says Hutchings, "and present the concept with notes to whoever makes the decision without buying the images."

Anything that makes the life of researchers, designers, and other stock-photo users easier will certainly draw attention. But, in the end, the bottom line is whether the collection of images meets the client’s needs in terms of concept and quality.

Theano Nikitas is a freelance writer based in Ellicott City, MD.