492 BUILDING A SEARCHABLE WEBSITE
July 20, 2002
Photographers are finding that the major agencies will no longer accept a significant percentage of
the images they are currently producing. In addition some agencies are reluctant to include any
images taken more than a year ago in their web offering, even if these images are generic and have
sold in the past.
Photographers have also discovered that a huge percentage of the images they had placed with some
agencies have been removed from active marketing. In some cases the images have been returned, but in
many instances the laborious process of sorting the images so they can be returned is progressing
The end result is that large numbers of images photographers want to sell -- and customers want to
buy -- are no longer where the buyers can find them.
At the same time customers are using digital search to a much greater extent to find the images they
need. If an image isn't available in some type of online database there is less and less chance that
it will ever be found or used.
Solving The Problem
To solve this problem many photographers, either individually, or in small groups, are beginning to
look at building searchable web sites to make available, and easy to find, images that the major
image suppliers are rejecting.
The following are a few examples of what some photographers are doing. Highlighted in the discussion
are software and technology services solutions that may help others who are interested get started in
an inexpensive way.
Mitch Kezar developed http://www.windigoimages.com
when the agency he had been working with for years
would no longer accept for marketing many of the images that he knew customers wanted to use.
He currently represents about 40 photographers who specialize in hunting, fishing and outdoor
photography and has about 65,000 images on the windigo site. Given the relatively narrow focus of the
subject matter and the huge number of images that are on the site there are a lot of very similar
images on many subjects -- much as one might find on these subjects in a traditional film file.
While large agencies are not willing to put this type of depth of coverage into their databases,
Kezar has found that this is what his specialist customers want and why they keep returning to him.
Windigo offers custom research of their database, and many of the busy art directors who don't want
to take the time to search through the entire file will avail themselves of this service. The Windigo
researcher creates a light box customized to the customer's specific requirements allowing the
customer to review a tightly selected sample of the images on the site in this subject area.
Windigo has noticed that as customers get more comfortable with online search many of their
advertising customers who originally used the research service to save time, are now doing their own
research and simply ordering specific images. This is significant since the number of variations the
customer must look through has grown since they first started using the site.
There is no automatic pricing or automatic delivery with this site. The large digital files are
stored off line on DVD discs. When a customer calls and orders an image the file is manually pulled
off the DVD and delivered to the customer by FTP (File Transfer Protocol). When the site was launched
initially only about 5% of Windigo's customers were willing to accept digital files, but there has
been very rapid acceptance of the digital files and now over 95% of their revenue comes from files
that are delivered digitally.
New images are now scanned to 60MB using the Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED scanner and the Digital ICE
feature. They do basic clean up of the images, but the files are not sharpened or color balanced.
Those tasks are left to the customers. Windigo has four Nikon scanners with stack loaders working.
Much of the scanning is done overnight when otherwise the computers would be idle.
Initially most of the images on the site were scanned low res so Windigo could build a database
quickly. When an images that has only been scanned low res is requested, the staff scans-on-demand to
supply the customer's needs. The fact that large files are not instantly available has not been a
problem in making sales.
Given the early loose editing the scan-on-demand strategy was particularly important in order to keep
scanning costs under control. Kezar recognizes that a large percentage of the images in the file will
never sell, but in over 30 years in the business he has found that there was no way of predicting
which ones will eventually sell and which ones won't. There is little point in paying for large
scans of images that no one will ever want to use.
However, now as Windigo is taking in images from more photographers the editing is somewhat tighter
and Kezar is scanning everything to high res. Part of the reason for scanning all new images at 60MB
is so the original film can be returned to the photographer limiting Windigo's costs and liability
in storing film.
The basic search engine driving this site is the Hindsight searchLynx software which was developed by
photographer Jim Cook. This search engine require the Hindsight StockView software as a source of the
original data, but the total price of these two programs together is only $890.
Some of the other web sites that use searchLynx are:
As you view these sites you'll note that the interfaces are quite different. Your probably want to
have a customized design that fits the style of your particular company. That will be an additional
cost. The Hindsight software is designed to allow a lot of customization. Kezar used John Hillis at
http://www.Omnera.com to design his page. For more information about searchLynx you can go to
http://www.hindsightltd.com . A manual is available as a PDF download to explain in detail more about
what is possible with this software. The manual is available at:
Independent Photography Network
An option that may be particularly useful for editorial photographers is the Independent Photography
Network (IPN) founded by Jose Azel of Aurora&Quanta agency. The software was originally developed by
Azel for use by his agency. The Independent Photography Network gives photographers the option of
having their own site, which shows only their images and which they can promote directly to their
customers. Many of the photographer's images will also be made available to customers of
Aurora&Quanta and thus the photographer benefits from Aurora&Quanta's direct promotion.
IPN is unlike most other portals. It's business model blends the technology provider role with a
sales and distribution channel model. Individuals members license the software and manage their own
web sites with regard to image upload, price negotiations and collections for sales.
The only way into the software is through a members web site. There is no direct entry to the IPN
network at this time. If the client does not find something they want within a specific site such as
www.carywolinsky.com , the customer has the option to see the total search results of all
participating IPN members. Thus the client is not disappointed when they get a null search result
from a particular photographer's web site.
In the event that a customer eventually finds an image they want to use that belongs to a
photographer other than the one whose portal they entered that sale will be negotiated by the Aurora
team (the network) and by contract the network takes 30% of the negotiated fee for their services on
Currently there are 17 photographers that have web sites connected to the Independent Photographers
Network and a total of about 30,000 images. Some of the sites you might want to review are:
There is a licensing fee of $195 per month for the hosting and storage of a photographer's individual
web site running the IPN software. Storage of up to 500 high resolution images is included in this
price. An additional 1000 images costs approximately $35 more per month. Hi-res is defined as a 40
meg files, which compresses to about 5MB's as a jpeg.
The general quality of a photographer's work must be approved before the photographer is allowed to
join the IPN network. After that there is normally no restrictions or editing of the images that the
photographer places on the site. However, to control quality, the network does reserve the right to
edit. The network staff reviews work placed on the site and advises the photographer if they think he
or she is putting too many similar images on the site, or if there are other issues that need
ITN does not make money on their software licensing and hosting fee. Their investment and the
photographer's investment only pays off if there are image sales. ITN receives 15% if the image is
found on the photographer's site and 30% if it comes from the IPN network. They also make some of the
photos photographers supply available through the Auroraphotos.com site. In this way photographers
can benefit from Aurora's own direct marketing.
They want and expect photographers to use the site as a primary marketing and sales vehicle and their
feature set (administrative tools) makes this easy.
Another example is Peter Dean's agripicture.com site. Peter specializes in agricultural photography
and he supplied us with an article published in February (Story
464 ) explaining how he built his
http://www.agripicture.com . This story gives a good outline of the kind of revenue that can be
generated from a category searchable site of less than 1,000 images when your subject matter fits a
specialist niche and there is also a specialist clientele interested in this type of image. Collini
Design at http://www.collinidesign.com developed the search engine for Dean.
At a somewhat higher level Capture in the United Kingdom offers a full featured search and delivery
system that provides both keyword and category searching and advanced search on field combinations.
It has unlimited multiple lightboxes, the capability of e-mailing a light box, viewing of up to 60
thumbnails at a time and low res downloads as part of the basic package that starts at about $5,000.
Other features such as pricing and licensing, full e-commerce, rights control to prevent images from
being viewed in selected territories, high res downloads, search for images from a printed catalog,
and invisible fingerprinting of images can be had for an additional fee.
For more information about their services go to http://www.capture.co.uk . To view a site using this
system go to www.travel-ink.co.uk .
Capture also provides a web hosting services for about $425 per month.