Corbis Improves Online Search

Posted on 11/9/2001 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



November 9, 2001

Corbis has made dramatic changes in their online search tool that should greatly improve the
customer experience and lead to increased sales. Photographers and customers used to complain
that when they were looking for contemporary advertising images they would often get a lot of
totally irrelevant editorial and historical images.Now that problem is solved.

If you go to and click on "professional licensing"
you get a screen that offers the
search options of (1) Creative, Advertising and Promotional Use, (2) Publishing Use, and (3) Search
All. If you click on the first option and then enter your keyword you get a refined selection of
images of the type most often used by graphic design firms and advertising agencies. Option two will
give you more of the type of imagery that editorial users often need.

By using the Creative option you get 718 images. When you use the Publishing option you get 10,000
images. While this is a major step forward in narrowing the search for advertising buyers, it is
only the beginning. On the left hand side of the screen you have related terms that allow you to
look for both "broader" and "narrower" groupings.

For example from "family" you can go to "groups of people" and select from the words audiences,
families, firing squads, harems, human chains, queues, and retinues. If you pick "audiences" you get
46 images in the Creative category and 3698 in Publishing.

One of the words I like to use to show the potential of this new tool is "love". If you search on
love in the Creative section you get 2749 images and in the Publishing section you get 5314 images.
If you do Search All you get 8224 images which indicates that there are a few images with the
keyword love that do not have either the Creative or Publishing designations. This is a problem that
will happen to a certain degree in any keywording system, but it is a concern for those
photographers whose images can only be found when the customer uses the Search All option.

One of the related terms connected with "love" is "caring". In Creative you get 968 images that are
keyworded love and caring. In the Publishing section you get 341. Of the 968 a lot of the images are
animal pictures and we wanted people. When we add the word "people" we get 24 images returned. The
problem here is that if you go back and look at all those 968 images you will find many more people
images than 24 and some of the best people images showing love and caring are not included in the
24. The problem here is obvious. The keyworders failed to add the broad category word "people" so
that customers doing searches could easily focus on images that include people, if that is what they
are interested in.

Everyone trying to sell images online needs to be recognize these problems, but at the same time I
don't want to make too much of them and have them detract from the tremendous improvement this tool
has over the previous tool used by Corbis. Every site will have similar problems, but it is
incumbent upon everyone involved (photographers, agency staff and management) to help identify and
fix such problems, particularly on the words that are most commonly used, if they want to maximize

A couple other things we learn from the "love" search. If you go to "positive concepts" under
broader terms you get an extensive list of concepts that will be very useful for advertising buyers
in connection with many words, not just love.

We also see that the very common word "love" is part of the identification of a lot of images that
will not immediately be thought of as being connected with love. There is Love Canal, Love County,
Love Grasses, Love-in-a-mist, Castle of Love, Triumph of Love and Sacred and Profane Love. With this
tool all of these categories can easily be sorted separately.

One of the things that becomes immediately evident when examining the capabilities of this tool is
the value of multiple keywords on every image. Word that define broad categories and those that are
used to narrow a search are both useful. Unless you have a very small database you can not get along
without either.

Currently the Corbis Stock Market images are not included on this site, but CSM photographers have
very little to fear when that integration occurs. Now, it will still be easy for the CSM customers
to find CSM images among all the other images that are on the Corbis site.

Copyright © 2001 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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