Shutterstock Reverse Image Search

Posted on 3/18/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Over the past year, one of Shutterstock’s engineering teams has spearheaded and modified computer vision technology to introduce more innovative search and discovery features and to improve the customer’s overall site experience.

In the past, Shutterstock’s search algorithm and similar image offerings on image pages were powered by keywords provided by contributors when they upload their content. That keyword data, while useful for indexing images into categories, isn’t as effective as many customers would like in surfacing the best and most relevant content.

To deal with this issue Shutterstock’s computer vision team worked to apply machine learning techniques to reimagine and rebuild that process.

The technology now relies instead on pixel data within images. It has studied our 70 million images and 4 million video clips, broken them down into their principal features, and now recognizes what’s inside each and every image, including shapes, colors, and the smallest of details; this visual and conceptual data is represented numerically.

Why does that matter? All the data Shutterstock has collected about its content has led to the creation of an unparalleled reverse image search. Customers can now upload an image of their choosing to Shutterstock’s site, bypassing the need to type a query into a search bar, and the technology will identify similar images in look and feel inside of Shutterstock’s collection. Visual search is available on the Shutterstock site. Click on the camera in the search bar and upload a photo. You’ll get results based on pixel data instead of the standard keyword data.

Shutterstock will also soon launch visually similar discovery for video. They say they are just getting started with what this technology can do.

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:  


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