Shutterstock Instant: New Search Algorithm

Posted on 6/4/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Late last week Shutterstock sent out a press release introducing – a little pre-maturely it turns out – a new image discovery tool called “Shutterstock Instant.” In fact, if you go to the Shutterstock site there is no evidence that this feature exists. It turns out it is still a prototype. As with all prototypes when it is finally released to the public it may be quite a bit different than it is today.

To view the prototype go to The page asks, “Need inspiration?” All the user needs to do to get inspiration is enter a keyword.

Shuttertock says, “The interface re-imagines the traditional keyword search experience, and combines speed and simplicity to deliver a visual experience optimized for creative inspiration.”

The first thing to recognize is that Shutterstock has no plans to replace its current search experience. The company simply intend to add an additional new way to explore the collection that the customer is free to use or ignore. (Whew! Many customers will be glad to hear that.)

According to Wyatt Jenkins, Shutterstock VP of Product, “Everyone has moments (where they are) staring blankly at the search bar trying to figure out what to type…. We (have) tried something different with this interface.”

Once the user has entered a keyword, he/she is shown image returns that are several times larger than the typical thumbnail on the regular Shutterstock page. The search-return-order appears to be the same as “Popular” on the company’s primary site, but there are some variations in the order the images are delivered.

On the right are 10 different related keywords and under each of these are 5 thumbnails of images in that category. Click on the “more like this” or the keyword and the primary images are replaced with images on the new theme. Also on the right are 10 new keywords or phrases that are variations on the new theme.

Click on any image to see a full screen version. Then it is possible to move forward and backward one image at a time, or close the image and go back to where you were in the search. The images scroll endlessly allowing the user to browse 50 pages of content in about 1/20th of the time it would take to paginate through that same set of images.

More images meant there needed to be an easier way to save an image for later. To deal with this issue Shutterstock introduced starring images – a simple way to keep track of your experience without having to create a lightbox.

Jenkins says, "With Instant, we set out to give people an inspiring, visual discovery path - one that's not limited by their ability to articulate keywords. Now people can browse over 19 million images and see their ideas come to life with every keystroke."

Copyright © 2012 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:  


  • Paul Melcher Posted Jun 4, 2012
    Looks ( and feels) very much like Getty's catalyst ( launch a few years ago) :

  • Daphne fu Panoramastock Posted Jun 6, 2012

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff