Image Search At picturemaxx

Posted on 8/12/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The picturemaxx image search engine is unique in its approach to providing an image search experience that benefits customers – particularly editorial - as well as agencies trying to license images. The company is headquartered in Munich with offices in New York, London, Berlin and Vienna. Virtually all German speaking media customers (97%) use picturemaxx as their primary source for finding content. Sixty-five percent of the company’s registered users are from the German market. 

Beyond the German speaking world – the third largest market for stock images after the U.S. and the UK – the next largest group of customers is in Poland followed by the UK where more than 50 companies use the service. In the U.S. the system is used by the NY Times, ABC News, Time, Forbes and Pearson among others. There are also users in Italy, France and Spain.
Currently the site offers customers about 500 million total assets – photo, video, audio and text – from about 210 agencies. Some of those agencies also supply images from several other brands as well as their primary brand. The suppliers range from Getty Images and Reuters all the way down to many small specialized sources.

Approximately 10,000 individual photo buyers from over 500 magazine and newspaper publishers, corporations and advertising agencies have access to the site. Close to 70% of these customers are looking for editorial imagery. Despite the editorial concentration all the major commercial stock brands are also represented on the system.
To get access to the site a customer must first request permission from picturemaxx and be pre-approved. picturemaxx takes great care to ensure that all the customers listed are active users. Among the advantages of this access control for contributing agencies is that they are not inundated with requests from non-professional buyers looking for free pictures or deals that the agency can’t afford to give.

picturemaxx does not handle image licensing. Each agency deals directly with its customers and retains 100% of the fee negotiated. The agency pays a monthly hosting fee for the services provided. There are no pricing schedules on the site. Buyers must deal directly with each agency to negotiate rights, however in many cases the customers have negotiated standard pricing arrangements with the agency prior to being allowed to search the agency’s collection.
This works well in Germany where the BVPA (German picture association) conducts annual pricing surveys and publishes a brochure that outlines the prices currently being charged for various types of picture use. The vast majority of buyers accept these numbers as the prices they must pay. Volume deals are normally negotiated upfront before the buyer chooses images. Thus, when the buyer downloads an image file she knows exactly what she will be billed for the usage.
While approval by picturemaxx is a first step to searching for images on the site, customers must seek approval from each individual brand before being allowed to review any of the images in that brand’s collection. About 75% of the brands offer automatic approval to any customer approved by picturemaxx. However, in at least a quarter of the cases interested buyers must contact the supplier and set up an account before receiving access to that supplier’s collection. For example Reuters gives automatic approval; Getty Images requires the buyer to contact them.

German customers like this system because they can easily search across a broad range of suppliers, all on the same site. This helps them better manage their photo needs. Companies like Getty and Corbis might prefer for customers to independently search their sites in hopes that the buyers won’t look at their competitor’s images. Nevertheless, they have loaded their collections on picturemaxx because customers tell them, “We only use picturemaxx for our image search. If your images aren’t on picturemaxx we won’t see them because our researchers are not going to any other site to look for images.” picturemaxx makes it easier for volume users to manage their total acquisition processes.

Buyers can easily set up multiple groups of preferred providers rather than always searching the entire collection. This is particularly useful when the buyer works on a variety of different projects and needs to search different agencies for each  project. With a single click only images from the selected agencies will be shown.

Consider an advertising agency art director with an automobile company and a medical supply company as clients. This AD may want a few specialists in medical photography at the top of his preferred search list when looking for images for the medical projects and transportation shooters at the top of the list when doing something for the auto company.

The customer also controls the sequence in which each agency’s offerings appear in the preferred supplier list. The default is to show 25 of the newest images from each agency in the group the customer has established. However, the number of images shown can be easily adjusted if there is a need to see a greater selection. The customer can also easily do a global search of all the brands on the site.

A feature called “my Offers” allows customers to view all the latest images uploaded by participating agencies. When suppliers upload a new set of images a brief description of the group is shown in my offers. Customers can review any of the recent offers selecting only the ones they want to see. They can narrow the list by searching by agency or keyword.

One advantage for customers is that all the images appear with one search. It is not necessary to click page after page. Users can simply scroll down to see all the images that relate to a particular keyword. Clicking page by page can be particularly frustrating on sites with only 20 images to a page. Of course if a search produces 1,000 or more returns it can take a while for all the thumbnails to load. But, the customer can start reviewing images as they load.

picturemaxx also offers customers an events calendar that lists all the important events that happened on any day of the year. There is also a way to easily send special requests to individual suppliers.

Advantages For Selling Agencies

The availability of preferred provider lists gives specialist agencies a better chance of getting their images seen. In early June we did a piece on “Getting Images Seen” at Getty. If the customer is looking for a specialty of one of Getty’s Image Partners, the customer will normally be shown whatever Digital Vision, Lifesize, Stone+ and PhotoDisc have on the subject long before the customer has much of a chance to see what the specialists have to offer. Getty wants to encourage customers to buy what it puts at the front of its store. Customers like it when they are given more flexibility in choosing what to review first. In Getty’s advanced search mode customers can search for just those images offered by one or a few image partners, but it is a more cumbersome process than at picturemaxx.

One of the big benefits for picturemaxx suppliers is that they are provided contact information for each registered individual and company even if the supplier has never done business with that individual. This information is readily available and freely exportable. picturemaxx takes great care to keep this information current and insure that only active buyers remain on the list.

The availability of this data makes it easy for small suppliers to market to those who might be interested in using the supplier’s work and to encourage them to add the suppliers name to their preferred provider list.

One disadvantage of the picturemaxx service is that it is focused almost entirely on selling to the “Professional Buyer,” and for the most part large buyers. A small design firm that only needs images occasionally would be unlikely to go through the hassle of setting up an arrangement to search picturemaxx. In my opinion, while professional buyers will always be an important revenue source, the industry is rapidly headed toward small business and personal users being the major revenue source. picturemaxx is unlikely to help a picture agency address this new market.

picturemaxx supplies sellers with a list of all preview and high-res downloads. The system also provides information on search requests, lists the individuals who viewed previews and search requests that had no results. All this information can be viewed within selected date ranges.

picturemaxx caters almost entirely to agencies, not individual photographers. About 1% of the suppliers are smaller collectives of photographers, but individual photographers may not participate. Many of the suppliers are very small agencies with small collections. No information is provided relative to the size of each provider’s collection.

The cost for this service is a little hard to calculate. The fees are available here. There is a $2,800 initial set up charge and a monthly charge based on the number of media files visible in the i-picturemaxx collection or the MB of storage being used. For example if you have 50,000 images in the thumbnail and preview database and are delivering the hi-res images from your own database the monthly fee would be approximately $390. If picturemaxx is storing 50,000 hi-res files of approximately 5MB each your monthly fee would be about $890.

picturemaxx offers an Enterprise Resource Management Solution which they call BACKSTAGE. BACKSTAGE provides a full featured web site for participating agencies. About 60% of participating agencies use this service while the other 40% (mostly large sites like Getty, Reuters and Alamy use the i-picturemaxx service to connect to their own database.

If an agency is only participating in i-picturemaxx it receives a light version of the BACKSTAGE software to manage the buyer activity, contact information, statistics, etc. A full BACKSTAGE customer would have access to all the BACKSTAGE tools like finance which allows them to take the download activity and push it into an invoice process, among other things. picturemaxx does not meddle in the licensing process but provides all the information agencies need to fulfill a “sale.”  

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 301-461-7627, 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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