Released: Do You Use It As A Keyword?

Posted on 4/4/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

A photographer recently called to my attention to a keywording anomaly that those who want their images found might want to consider. The photographer said that when he prepares for a trip to another country he searches some of the popular photo websites for the country name along with the keyword “released.”

The theory is that customers who need model released images might use “released” in their keyword searches. If there aren’t many people images with released as a keyword, it gives him a better idea of what to shoot.

I decided to do a few searches of Getty, Shutterstock (SS), iStock and Alamy for particular countries or cities and the word "people." Then, I added "released" to narrow the same search. The results are very revealing.

  Getty Getty   SS SS   iStock iStock   Alamy Alamy
  People People   People People   People People   People People
    Released     Released     Released     Released
Bermuda 674 2   416 0   184 0   1,737 4
Japan 168,479 3   136,732 13   44,915 45   181,401 351
China 170,409 184   407,594 45   75,608 44   312,459 304
India 100,309 127   73,986 34   49,831 51   251,188 540
Israel 9,255 24   17,652 11   5,014 10   42,940 276
London 110,016 249   82,466 18   27,553 27   269,062 458
Berlin 30,100 38   12,961 0   13,784 15   106,803 325
Paris 42,005 55   41,835 14   15,326 2   114,496 146
Turkey 22,029 43   38,544 16   32,757 67   59,787 180
Italy 118,997 216   123,275 143   62,623 82   281,281 2,392
Spain 116,870 369   76,721 19   36,606 42   305,964 784
Mexico 32,015 78   15,273 15   8,245 15   74,565 1,052
Rio de Janeiro 10,526 18   7,626 1   4,472 1   15,996 8

Note that while Getty has many fewer images in its Creative collection than Shutterstock (10 to 12 million vs. over 70 million) it usually has more images on the subjects searched than Shutterstock. It is also very competitive in terms of numbers with Alamy that also has around 70 million images. It is also interesting to compare Alamy with Shutterstock. Both have about the same number of images in their collections, but for these particular searches Alamy tends to have much higher returns.

On Getty, Shutterstock and iStock, if the images have people in them they are supposed to be releases. I suspect that many that are not marked as released do actually have releases. But, the word released was not used as a keyword.

Customers that only want to see released images will have great difficulty in determining whether a particular image is released, or not. On the other hand, it is definitely not safe for the customer to assume that every image of people in the Getty, Shutterstock or iStock collections has an adequate release.

It is also interesting to see the kind of images that are included in the “released” collection. Many have no people in them at all. Thus, it is difficult to see how they come up in a search for people. A number of photographers seem to think that as long as you can’t see a face, then it is OK to mark an image as released. There as shots of large groups of people taken from the rear that are marked released. I also found some pictures of statues that were marked released.

The next time you're keywording it may be useful to add that little word. The photographer who called my attention to this issue says he has “a few images that are consistent sellers” that he attributes to the fact that he has uses "released" as a keyword. Thus, in at least some cases his work is competing against many fewer images.

Copyright © 2016 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:  


  • Sheron Resnick Posted Apr 5, 2016
    Dear Jim:

    In many cases (this is true in all our sites), "Released" is a search filter rather than a keyword. ShutterStock has "Editorial/NonEditorial" as one of their filters.

    Getty has "For commercial use" as a filter.

    I assume these filters are equivalent to released. On our sites, we generally use the word "Released" as a filter. In all these cases, it is a dedicated filter field not a keyword.



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