Correction: Massive Editing At Getty, Massively Incorrect

Posted on 12/20/2007 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Mea Culpa. Using a search strategy that has worked well in the past, I published grossly incorrect conclusions in my recent article on massive editing at Getty Images. Readers deserve an explanation.

For more than four years, I have used the following strategy to regularly calculate the number of images on the Creative section of

I go to "advanced search" on On the theory that every image is assigned one specific orientation, I make four separate searches for horizontal, vertical, panoramic and square. To search for horizontal, I write that word in the search box and make sure that only horizontal is checked in the Orientation box. The same procedure is followed on the other three orientations. Then, I total the results of the four searches.

When I want to calculate the number of RM images, I make sure only the RM box is checked. If I want to know the number of images a particular brand has, I check only that brand. In the past, this has given me reliable data. If some images have not been assigned orientations, I miss them, but it's rare.

Recently, several photographers and image partners told me that large numbers of their images had been removed from the Getty site. In an attempt to determine removed totals, I used my calculation technique. The results were very surprising; I tried twice to contact Getty for confirmation by email. I did not contact them by phone; I should have. Only after the story was published, did I discover that the person I was trying to reach is no longer with the company. At that point, I was able to get my questions answered by Molly Lohman, Getty's Manager of Communications. Her answers are below.

Q. Getty Images now has about 1,250,804 images on its site and this is down from 2,138,919 in September. Is that correct?

A. The methodology you applied for a total image count on is not entirely accurate. We would appreciate if you verify numbers with us directly before grossly misreporting them in public articles. In a metadata report as of Sept. 29, Getty Images had more than 2.26MM images online across all creative brands/license models.  As of Dec. 18, there are more than 2.14MM images online across all creative brands/license models. The difference between these numbers is much less significant than the 850,000+ removed you stated in your article.

Q.  Was this accomplished by just removing older images, or was each image in the collection reviewed and a determination made as to its status?

A. We continually solicit feedback from our customers about our Web site and the products and services we offer. As part of an ongoing effort to continually provide the best search experience for our customers, we determined the need to review the performance of over 2M images on Our goal was and will always be to ensure the most relevant search results.

To reach our goal, Getty Images recently completed a comprehensive sales review across Stone, Photonica and Taxi RM collections. The result of that exercise is the removal of imagery from that was created three or more years ago, has not sold in two years, and has no exclusive licenses or sister images that are still selling or have active exclusive licenses. This will ensure the freshest and most relevant search results are delivered to customers. This imagery was removed in the first week of December. We have offered to our photographers the opportunity to re-market this material on Punchstock, through the Photodisc RF collection, or have the rights to the images returned if they prefer.

As our image partner program has grown, so, to,o have the number of images we ingest on an annual basis. Consequently, we determined the same exercise was required in order to achieve the same results for our customers: fresh and relevant content.  For Image Partner content, the images were selected because they met the following criteria: distributed on for two years or more, but has yet to be licensed. Getty Images began its process of removing the imagery during the first week of December. Getty Images did not migrate the Image Partner content to Punchstock, but most likely these images are already there if Punchstock represents these collections.

Still Unexplained

Why the big difference in the actual number of images on the site and the number keyworded with an orientation? Why did the orientation numbers change so dramatically between September and December? Were orientation identifiers removed from a significant portion of the images in the three months and why? If a customer searches for a subject and a specific orientation, does he only get to see about half the applicable images that are oriented in this manner?

Copyright © 2007 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:  


  • Don Farrall Posted Dec 21, 2007
    I questioned the original story based on my personal experience as a ten year Getty contributor. It has been my experience that research "test searches" don't tell the whole story. I have had some of my older images moved to the Punchstock site, and in addition some of my "middle aged" images are on both the Punchstock site as well as still being on the Getty site. Most of my work is RF and only a very small percentage ( less than 4% ) have never sold, though clearly the older images are not now selling very often. I don't attribute this to search order, I attribute it to relevancy. While I believe that search order is very important, for the most part, old images are not as valuable as new ones.

    Don Farrall

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