Too Many Images

Posted on 3/15/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

I received a marketing email from Pixmac today encouraging people to look at their Easter Egg pictures in preparation for Easter. They have 29,723 images to choose from.

I thought I would see what some of the other microstock sites have to offer on this subject.

iStockphoto 18,710
Dreamstime 39,129
Shutterstock 78,440
Fotolia 84,586

    Does any customer have even a fraction of the time necessary to look through this many choices?

With Pixmac the customer has the option to look at just 435 premium priced images, but does than mean they are “better” than the budget images. After a cursory examination of both collections I think many customers would find some of the budget images much more appropriate to their needs than the premium ones which are 50 times more expensive.

On iStockphotos it is possible to organize search returns by downloads so customers can at least see what other buyers thought were good images. The image that has sold the most has been downloaded over 4,000 times. The 100th image has sold a little over 100 times. If I were a customer I would look through the first 200 or 300 of the best sellers before I bothered to look at any of the other 18,000+, or go to a different site.

On Dreamstime the best selling image has been licensed 201 times and the 200th image has been licensed 15 times. On Shutterstock customers can organize search returns by “Most Popular,” but they are given no information about how many times a given image has been downloaded. We also know that subscription customers tend to download lots of images that they never use in actual projects because it doesn’t cost them any more to download extra images so maybe the number of downloads wouldn’t mean that much..

On Fotolia the most popular image has been downloaded 2,458 times and the 100th image has been downloaded 153 times. The 84,586 is the number of returns you get if you just type in Easter Egg without using quotes. If you put the phrase in quotes you only get 32,239 returns, but not all of them have eggs in the picture.

Getty Images has only 2,595 images of Easter Eggs. So among the advantages of is a much more tightly edited and better keyworded collection. All the images in the initial returns actually have eggs in the picture, unlike on the microstock sites. But we have no idea whether any of the images have ever been used, or how often. And is any customer actually going to look through even 2,500+ images.



The general conclusion is that the industry doesn’t need more images; we need more editing to somehow help customers find what they need, or what they can use more quickly. But editors cost money, and no editor has a perfect understanding of what every future customer will want. So getting more paid editors is not likely to happen given today’s prices for photographs. The microstock system of telling customers what other customers liked certainly helps, but it also quickly buries new images that might be of interest to someone.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any good answer to the problem. All we can be sure of is that more images are not what is needed.

Copyright © 2012 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:  


  • Dean Siracusa Posted Mar 15, 2012
    Easter is the same each year. So, the only new images for this holiday would be ones that show it in some new way.

    However, Transtock specializes in transportation imagery and primarily automobiles. In the USA alone there are 350 different models of cars and trucks from more than 30 brands. Each year there around 1/3 of them are new models. And since our clients are always searching for the latest, newest vehicles, our quest for adding more images must never cease.

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