Lattice: New PhotoShelter Initiative

Posted on 11/25/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Recently, Photoshelter launched Lattice, a Pinterest like curation and discovery experience designed to show off the best of more than 200,000,000 images from the 80,000 pro photographers that use PhotoShelter.

Currently “boards” are created by in-house staff and “invited curators.”  The vision is that eventually anyone will be available to create boards. Photographers can recommend certain of their best images for addition to boards, but for right now they cannot add images to boards directly.

Unlike Pinterest the only images people will be able to add to a Lattice board are images that can be found on Photoshelter.

Some of the initial boards are built around such themes as: Horses, Classic Roadsters, Blue, Days Gone By, Starry Nights, Field Of Dreams, Architectural Details, Iconic Cityscapes, Miraculous Macro, Tea Around The World, Autumn Scenery, The 50 States and more.


For the “best image viewing experience” Photoshelter has decided to present the images on Lattice without watermarks. Photoshelter’s Caroline Sellke says, “it’s well-documented among our photo editors and buyers that watermarks present a distraction, ultimately negatively affecting their perceptions of an image.”

Many Photoshelter contributors have reacted very negatively to this move arguing that when their images are displayed very large and without a watermark it will be very easy for anyone using the site to grab an image and use it without a license. Photographers want their images protected with a watermark.

Photoshelter points out that, “Your name/copyright and filename will appear on all of your images upon mouse hover (or persistently on touch devices).” In addition, if the user double clicks on the image to enlarge it the creator’s name, as well as links to licensing the photo and contacting the photographer are supplied next to the image.

However, Dale Churchill points out in this video that anyone who knows what they are doing can easily save the image as a jpg. Information in the IPTC header would also be saved, but a determined thief can easily strip out that information as well. Watermarks can also be removed, but it is much more difficult.

It is well known that photo editors and buyers routinely store unwatermarked photos in folders with no photographer information attached. Later, when the person who originally downloaded the image, or someone else in the company, comes across the photo and forgets where it came from, or believes they have an all-rights license, an unauthorized use may occur.


The biggest problem with general searches on Photoshelter is too many images. Virtually any keyword search produces way more results than most professional users have time to review. In addition many photographers have uploaded lots of similars. As a result many of the best images get buried or become very difficult, if not impossible, for the buyers to find. Given the abundance of other image sources available to professional users few will bother to search the entire Photoshelter collection for images.

Professional users will search a particular photographer’s Photoshelter collection when they know the photographer and believe he/she is likely to have the kind of images they are looking for at the moment. But, it is unlikely that they will do much general searching to see if someone they have never heard of actually has a great image.

Editing is needed. There needs to be a way to bring the best images from all contributors to the top when searching for a particular subject. But, editing is expensive. Lattice offers a solution. Photographers can recommend specific images for certain boards. Later, when anyone can create boards users outside the photographic community may take the time to create image boards of their favorite subjects, much as happens with Pinterest. However, this is only likely to work if almost all the images on the site are available for pinning, and eventually there are boards covering most conceivable subject categories.

It is worth remembering that in an earlier time print catalogs provided this type of editing and a huge percentage of the images licensed were ones found in these catalogs because they made buyers work so much easier. Lattice makes it possible to draw from a much larger and more comprehensive collection of images. Lattice offers the possibility of more granular categories. And unlike with print catalogs, constant updating is possible with Lattice.

But, if those who create the boards finds that many of the best images of their favorite subject matter are not available for addition to Lattice boards they will quickly get discouraged and abandon the whole process.

Photoshelter believes watermarks turn customers off. But many of the best photographers are opting out if there are no watermarks. Photographers want some reasonable assurance that art directors who grab a bunch of images for reference material will have some way to locate them and properly license usage when several months later they finally decide they want to use the image.

The questions is whether it is more beneficial for buyers to be have access to boards on a wide variety of subjects from the vast majority of Photoshelter contributors, or if they would rather see boards from a much smaller group of contributors that probably do not include many of the best images available on the subject.

Possible Compromise

There may be a compromise solution that would be less distracting to customers and still make it possible for them to quickly locate image owners and license rights to any image they might have downloaded from Lattice six months or three years earlier.

I would suggest a small watermark in a corner of the image that indicates the image was downloaded from Photoshelter. It would not be anywhere near as distracting as the large watermarks across the center of the image that many photographers use. It would need to be heavily promoted among professional users so anyone who sees the logo knows immediately that the image can be found on Photoshelter. It would not identify the specific photographer.

Instead, Photoshelter would make it possible for anyone who sees an image with this logo to do an “image search” of Photoshelter. The image search would be similar to TinEye or Google Image Search but instead of searching the entire web it would only search the Photoshelter collection.

Such a search would immediately locate the specific image and provide the photographer’s name, links to the photographer’s collection and all the necessary information for licensing rights to use the image.

This strategy could also help buyers who find images they want to use on other Internet sites. Suppose someone grabs the image off of Lattice and posts it on Pinterest or their blog. Later a professional user with a real budget sees the image. The little symbol in a bottom corner of the image tells them where to go to find the image owner.

If Lattice sticks with the no watermark strategy wide adoption and use seem unlikely. But, if everyone can compromise a little, in the long run everyone may have a much more useful and valuable tool.

Copyright © 2014 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 301-461-7627, 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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