Getty Loses Orientation Keywords

Posted on 1/23/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In December, I published a story saying that the number of commercial images on had decreased dramatically. I came to that conclusion after searching for horizontal, vertical, square and panoramic images, a technique that had for years given me an accurate approximation of the number of images on the Getty site. It was quickly pointed out to me that there were actually 2.14 million images on the site, not the 1.25 million I had calculated. I published a correction.

I also asked why there was such a big difference between the actual number of images on the site and the number keyworded with an orientation. It was my understanding that every image was assigned an orientation. Certainly, searching for the orientations should give me a count of virtually all images. So why had the technique given me a count in August that was so much higher than in December?

The Answer

It took a while, but Getty has finally got back to me with the following answer.

"When the new launched in late August, there were a number of new features and functionality added to our customer experience, meaning much of the code had been re-written. This launch was the first 'new' in about five years, and immediately after launch, we did notice that our orientation filters were not working optimally. We are currently addressing the issue. In the meantime, customers and photographers can use the orientation keywords of horizontal, vertical, panoramic, square to find images. We will continue to make progress with each site release ensuring that our customers' experience continues to improve."

Getty knows about the problem, but in four months, it hasn't figured out how to solve it.

Today I did a search for "computer," and found that they had 68,170 images. Then I searched for "computer horizontal" (24,353 images), "computer vertical" (18,136 images), "computer square" (5887 images) and "computer panoramic" (184 images). That gives me 48,560 total images with an orientation keyword and 19,610, or 29% of the total that don't have any orientation keyword.

The good news, probably, is that most customers don't use the orientation option to search for images. But if they do, they will not see 29% of the computer images in the database. There is every reason to believe that similar percentages of images in all other image categories are missing whenever a customer uses an orientation word in a search. Remember, in December, I found that almost 42% of all the images in the database had no orientation keyword.

This raises another interesting question. If Getty lost so many orientation keywords in the transition to the "new" are there other words like "computer," "man," "cellphone," etc. that are also missing from some images?

Copyright © 2008 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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