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Stock Imagery: Winds of Change

(July 2010) posted on Fri Jul 16, 2010

Image providers are helping users create more effective messages.

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By Kacey King

PhotoSpin: We have doubled our collection in the last 12 months, and expect it to double again within the next six months. Our interaction with our customers and contributing artists allows us to gain timely insight into their needs and, as a result, we rank very high in customer satisfaction. Search by orientation, search within a search, search by color, and search by similar are popular.

iStockphoto: iStock recently revamped its search engine. There must be a focus on appropriate keywording, because unlike Amazon, what a designer buys one time has zero relevance to his next project. You will see further international pairing searches in the future, where we take data about where you are from and match it with your keyword search, so that the image you get of a “biscuit” is correct for you, which can be very different for example in the UK, versus the US.

We have a wonderful new highly art-directed image collection called Vetta on our site. Our members told us that they would be willing to pay more for really pristine, original images, if we made them easy to find.

Dreamstime: Dreamstime provides three ways of browsing the content: Regular default search, Dynamic search (an automated retrieval of the content), and Flash Browser (click the Flash Browser button on the any search results page to open a different interface). Each of these three interacts with the lightboxes section, that allows designers to organize their downloads.

What changes do you see coming in the future?
Getty Images: Greater choice, greater volume, greater quality. Technology continues to push the quality bar with higher resolution and overall technical quality, particularly with user-generated content.

PhotoSpin: Stock is going to continue to be a large percentage of an advertiser’s overall budget. The major advertisers will always need new product shots, but stock will continue to be what they need to complete their advertising and marketing demands at a reasonable cost. Growth and consolidation will continue over the next 12 to 18 months. The barriers for entry are low, so everyone thinks they can be a stock agency. The difficult factor is getting the customer. So as the country is still trying to come out of the recession, more and more photographers are going to attempt to build and maintain their own sites. These sites will be micro, subscription, rights-managed, and traditional royalty free. Niche stock providers will offer specific content for specific industries. Photographers who have not traditionally embraced royalty-free will offer their images for sale.

Shutterstock: The volume and the quality of royalty-free images will continue to improve. As collections get bigger, search will become increasingly important to help buyers find the right images.

Dreamstime: On the buyers’ side, the demand for better looking images will continue to increase, while the prices will be expected to decrease. Platform-wise, I see better platforms and more interaction, which will lead to the customer being served better and faster.

Cincinnati-based freelance writer Kacey King is the former associate editor of The Big Picture magazine.