Natural Selection Offers Category Tree Search

Posted on 7/11/2002 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



January 7, 2002

Natural Selection has launched a new site at that showcases its traditional
rights-protected stock images from Natural Selection and its Black Sheep collections.

"Our site uses what we call Category Tree Search rather than relying on keywords," said David
L. Brown, President of Natural Selection. "This makes searching for pictures faster and far
more accurate. Designers and photo researchers can browse our site by categories, the same way
they would a collection of print catalogs -- and with the added advantage of seeing many more
pictures organized together."

He explained that with typical keyword-based sites the user must "guess" at keywords, rather
than finding pictures by the actual visual content of the images. Keywording was developed to
search text databases, but is less successful at locating pictures, which are visual rather
than text-based. An additional limitation of keyword searching results from the fact that
photographers and stock agencies sometimes tend to over-keyword images, applying dozens or even
100 or more keywords to each picture in an effort to make them appear more often in searches.
This results in selections that often disappoint, yielding many pictures that have little
relation to the desired subject. Over-keywording also may lead the picture researcher in wrong
directions when he or she attempts to narrow searches, according to Brown. (For a discussion of
the benefits of appropriate keywording see Story
445 ).

"With our Category Tree search system, each picture is placed in one or several of a large
number of specific categories by one or our picture editors. This action creates edited
selections and automatically assigns all related category names to the pictures," Brown
explained. "In other words, we approach it from the other end, paying attention to the content
of the picture rather than trying to assign keywords to it. The category names (keywords) come
from the placement of the pictures in groups, rather than vice versa. This leads to much
greater accuracy and efficiency in searching for pictures. With the previous input of our
picture editors, the user is always in control, just as if he or she were working directly with
our researchers."

Users can locate more than a thousand subject categories on the site by mouse
pointing-and-clicking to navigate through the "Category Tree." When they find the topic they
want, a single click on the category name will open a pre-edited selection of thumbnail images.
Clicking on a thumbnail will open a large preview image and display other categories with which
the image is associated. Clicking on any one of these category names will open those related
folders in turn, creating an intuitive and visually-based method of surfing through the image
database. Written and hosted in the efficient Linux operating system, the site is fast and can
easily be updated. The agency plans to add new images to the collection on a regular basis.

Registered users can create an unlimited number of personal lightboxes to organize their
projects. Once a final choice has been made, an on-line "Request for Quote" e-mail form makes
it easy to contact the agency and initiate the licensing process.

In addition to the category tree search method, the web site features on-line "virtual
catalogs" which can be browsed in much the same way as flipping through a print catalog.
Included are the images from more than 15 print catalogs represented by Natural Selection and
Black Sheep, as well as special collections such as "Advertising Animals" and "The Travel
Collection" which serve as digital versions of print catalogs.

Natural Selection's collection specializes in nature, landscape, agriculture and travel scenes
and they focus on serving the needs of advertising and corporate designers with a tightly
edited selection of top quality stock imagery. Through its Black Sheep Stock Photography brand,
it also represents collections of non-nature stock images from leading agencies overseas.
Subjects in the Black Sheep collections include business and industry, people and lifestyle,
sports, design elements and more.

Copyright © 2002 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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