Image Listings: The Volume Advantage

Posted on 4/22/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Twenty years ago, when images were color slides and researchers went through drawers of images to fulfill a customer's request, there was great concern that duplicate images were stored at multiple agencies. Shopping around would net the best price. In fact, this almost never happened, even in cases where the same image was available in multiple agencies.

The same irrational fear exists today for different reasons.

Many portals are reluctant to represent images that might be offered on another portal at a lower price. However, given the huge volume of images of similar subject matter available on most, it is usually not that easy to find the same image elsewhere.

1 - First, each portal delivers search returns in a different order. So using the same keywords, an image may come up as number 10 on one portal but number 500 on the next.

2 - The date the image was uploaded plays a big role in where it will appear in the search return order.

3 - Even if an image is uploaded on two different portals on the same date, the number of images from other photographers uploaded after that date will alter the search return order.

4 - Sites that represent multiple distributors give each a different position in the search return order, changing the relative position for all suppliers between one portal and another.

5 - One of the biggest reasons for photographers wanting to put the same images on multiple sites is that when images with the same keywords are added, many older images will no longer be shown. If there are more than 4,000 returns to any given search, only the newest 4,000 will have a chance of being seen. Some might say that no art director is ever going to look through 4,000 images, but the sites never alter their order to bring some of the older images to the top. Thus, in order to give such images a chance of being seen photographers must place them on other sites.

6 - Most portals do not offer variations in the way search returns can be organized, so once an image works its way toward the bottom of the pack, it is effectively locked out of ever being seen.

Taking all these factors into consideration, it is highly unlikely that a buyer will be able to find the image on another site, regardless of price. Given the difficulty, most buyers won't go to the trouble to try, particularly if the initial price seems reasonable based on the buyer's planned use.

Given the above explanation some might view increased volume as the problem. They might argue for tighter editing. But tighter editing tends to keep new, saleable images off the site. If instead, we consider increased volume an advantage because it gives the customer more choice, the answer to making search easy as well as an opportunity to review a broader cross section of images may be to give the customer more options to adjust search return order.

At the moment most distributors reject this idea. But, being able to offer their customers a broader selection of imagery could help them generate more revenue. Distributors should want to help photographers maximize their income as a way of encouraging them to  continue producing in the future.

Copyright © 2008 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff