Getting Images Seen

Posted on 6/9/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (4)

Today, the biggest problem for professional photographers is how to get their images seen by potential customers. Most photographers would agree that the way to get the widest possible exposure for their work is to get their images on Sources at Getty Images tell me that 96% of the company’s sales come from images customers find on the first three pages of the search returns. Customers have a choice as to how many thumbnails they want to see on any given page -- with a maximum of 100 allowed -- so three pages of images would be a maximum of 300.

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Copyright © 2011 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 301-251-0720, e-mail: vasb@fryyvat-fgbpx.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 MelcherJim,

    Great research.

    could you elaborate on the methodology used to obtain these results ? Where the placement of image per brand an information given to you by someone in charge of search at Getty or did you perform multiple searches?
    If you did multiple searches, can you tell us how many , with how many different keywords, from how many different countries, we can have a better understanding of the numbers involved.


    Paul M Posted on Jun 9, 2011
  • Jim PickerellPaul:

    The information in this story is based entirely on my analysis of the site. No one in charge of search at Getty Images gave me any information about the algorithm. As stated in the article the numbers are the result of a single search on the keyword “people”. However, if you do searches on other words lie “man” or “woman” that would apply to almost every brand you will see that the image sequencing remains the same.

    The big differences come when some of the brands have no images that fit the keyword requested. Then they are skipped and the next brand is moved up in the sequence. This enable some of the images for niche brands to get higher in the search return order. For example one would think that when someone searches for “aorta” the 19 images from the brand 3DClinic would come up near the top because that company specializes in medical illustration. In fact their first image is 86th in the search return order.

    As always an image from Digital Vision is first. Not necessarily the greatest illustration of an aorta, but it is in the DV brand. All the images from PhotoDisc, Photographer’s Choice, Vetta, and The Agency Collection appear before anything else. Science Photo Library, De Agostini, Visuals Unlimited and Science Faction have a lot of images in the first 100 because they have a lot of imagery on this subject and most of the other brands have nothing. Getty also has a brand “Collection Mix: Subjects” which includes images from a number of different brands including Universal Imaging Group and 3DClinic. It is in this collection that the first 3DClinic image appears. If this image happens to be chosen by a customer I presume 3DClinic will receive a percentage of the percentage paid to Collection Mix: Subjects”.

    As far as I know, the different countries from where the searches are made have absolutely no bearing on the search return order, as long as customers are searching the Creative section of the Getty Images Site. When searching for editorial content the algorithm may be different.

    Posted on Jun 15, 2011
  • John LundJim,

    I just did a search on Getty. the results came back with over 6,000 images. Number 8 was one of my images that has been with Getty since 1994. That would seem to contradict the idea that the most recent images submitted come up first.


    John Posted on Jul 7, 2011
  • Jim PickerellJohn:

    It is certainly possible that they include in their algorithm something that brings best selling older images to the top of the search order. That would make sense, but if you look the search results of most searches it is hard to believe that they take sales into account in any way.

    I assume the 8th image was in the Stone collection. Is it possible that there is no other image in the Stone collection that has the same keywords you used. If so then your image would come up first because the 8th slot is reserved for an image from Stone (assuming that the other brands in 1 through 7 all have at least 1 image.)

    Is it possible that Stone only has one image on that subject but all the other brands put together have the other 5999?

    Another thing to consider is that if you used two or three words to find your image all the images with all three words will come up first. But, after that all the images with just one or two words will be put in the pile. It is certainly possible that there might be 100 images with all three images and the rest only had two or one word. Posted on Jul 7, 2011

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