PicturEngine Nears Public Launch To Customers

Posted on 9/14/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

After years of development PicturEngine is about ready to begin promoting its search engine to customers. It has more than 500,000,000 keyword searchable images from 64 stock photo agencies and hundreds—soon to be thousands—of individual photographers.

The site is designed to put control of image distribution and commissions back into the hands of photographers where PicturEngine believes it rightfully belongs.

The site is designed to eliminate duplicates when the same image is with multiple agencies. If the photographer’s prime agency has put the image with several sub-agencies, buyers will be directed to the prime agency for licensing, and the images that are in the collections of other sites will not be shown. If the photographer has placed an image with PicturEngine directly and the same image is on multiple other sites non-exclusively licensing will be handled by the photographer directly and the same image will not be shown as being represented by any of the other agencies.

The theory behind this is to, as much as possible, either let the photographer control the licensing directly, or to designate one prime agency to handle all negotiation, and eliminate the multiple sub-agent cuts that are so prevalent in the industry today.

When customers search on the site, there is no indication as to the number of images found in the search. Unlike most other sites, there are no page breaks requiring the user to click to go to the next page of 100 or 200 thumbnails. Instead, the user just keeps scrolling down – in theory through tens-of-thousands of images – never knowing when they might be getting near the end.

It the searcher clicks on a preview, it is shown with all of its information under the last row of thumbnails. To continue searching the user simply scrolls down below the preview and the next row of thumbnails is shown.

I did a search for London and 20 of the first 25 pictures shown are Wolfgang Kaehler’s pictures of the London Eye. This is not necessarily a good cross section of photographers, agencies, or the general subject matter available to someone looking for London. I narrowed the search to “London Big Ben” and got a lot of Getty Images pictures, but not a lot of images from other sources, at least initially. In addition, in many of the first images, while Big Ben was there, it was a very minor and insignificant part of the image.

I searched for “United States Capitol.” This should have given me pictures of the U.S. Capitol building. The first images were mostly credited to Getty Image. If there were several shots from one photographer, they seemed to be lumped together in one sequence. The 30th image in the sequence was a shot by John Elk III of the Capitol building in Minnesota. After the initial Getty photos there were a long series of Depositphoto images and then a return to more Getty Images.

At about thumbnail 150 there was a series of about 20 frames taken by Tim McGuire of the Capitol Dome from slightly varied angles. Tim is a direct contributor to Picturengine, but all of his images are superseded by a lot of agency images.

I searched for “Egypt” and again got a lot of Getty Images pictures in the beginning. One 537022793 of a Greater Sand Plover was taken by “David Verdonck/NIS/Minden Pictures - Getty Images.” It seems that Getty will do the licensing of that image and there will be three cuts of the fee before David receives any money.

Side by side in the Egypt search, there were two exact same images credited to Peter Phipp, Getty Images. These images had two different Getty Images numbers – 160833017 and 527950185 – so evidently Getty has included the same image twice in its collection. To narrow my search, I added Sphynx (“Egypt Sphynx”) to my search term. Not too far down in the search I found two Fotolia images. One (32112628) was of Sphinx above the Opera House in Budapest was taken by Viadislav Gajic and the other (90140717) was a Sphinx on the embankment of Neva River in St. Petersburg taken by Anna Pakutina. If a researcher is looking for the Sphynx in Egypt these aren’t too useful.

I searched for “Monument Valley.” Among the first pictures shown was a Getty Images picture 556443071 credited to Danita Delimont. That image will be licensed by Getty Images and a royalty paid to Danita Delimont Stock Photography. I suspect the image was actually taken by one of the photographers Danita represents. That photographer will receive a share of what Danita receives from Getty. Also among the first pictures was 80361400 credited to Tim Fitzharris/Minden Pictures – Getty Images. In addition, there was a Joe Sohm pictures 520375200 of Saddles on a Hitching Post in Monument Valley credited to Getty Images. This image will be licensed by Getty and a percentage paid to Sohm, but Joe Sohm is one of the photographers who has put his images on Picturengine directly -- in theory eliminating that agency cut.

It is possible that Danita Delimont Stock Photography and Minden Pictures are not included among the 64 agencies currently participating on PicturEngine. Agencies with at least 1 million keyword searchable images, and online pricing and delivery, are included on the site for free.  Smaller agencies can join the archive for a small monthly fee.

PicturEngine makes its money to cover costs and profits by charging photographers and smaller agencies a small monthly fee for making their images available through the site. To review the pricing schedule see here.

Keys To Success

1 – To be successful PicturEngine must make it easier for image buyers to search all the images of a particular subject that are on multiple sites. If the images on GettyImages.com are always the first to show up, why should the buyers bother? Just go to Getty.

2 – Images of photographers who place their image with PicturEngine directly must come up first. Images from agencies that have been designated as the photographer’s primary agency must come up second. Images from the agencies where the image creators have made no designation must follow the other two. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

3 – Customers must be able to quickly review a broad cross section of the images being shown in a particular keyword category. Given the number of similars shot by the same photographer of the same situation that show up side by side, that does not seem to be happening. Over time PictureEngine will be able to determine which images are clicked most frequently (by customers, not photographers looking at their own images) and show them first. However, getting to that point requires a lot of customer interactions. In the meantime, customers aren’t getting much benefit from the huge database of images.

4 – Getting a significant number of customers to use a new site is not easy. It takes a huge amount of marketing. To get customers to switch from the current site they are using, they must see that somehow it will be a huge benefit to them. It’s hard to see where the benefit is for customers today.

5 – One of the problems customers face is that they have no idea, until they open the preview, whether an image is RM or RF or the approximate cost of licensing the image. Customers with budget requirements could spend a lot more time trying to find an image that fits their budget. It is probably more practical to go to sites that offer prices they understand.

In addition, increasingly customers that spend the most money on photography want to negotiate a discounted price-per-image used, plus special services and legal indemnities if they only use images from that particular agency. PicturEngine has no way of effectively servicing those customers.  

PicturEngine is released to the public with a few features disabled. To turn on all the bells and whistles, visual search, More Like This, real-time search deduping, phone and tablet front-end formatting, and more, PicturEngine must first get itself to market.

Please note that search results at http://www.picturengine.com/ will fluctuate over the next few weeks as they prepare for their public campaign and bring new data online.  They take photographer suggestions very seriously, and want to ensure that everything runs smoothly.  If you discover an issue, or have feedback of any kind, please send a message to support@picturengine.com.  Updated FAQs are available at http://support.picturengine.com/

To learn more about the platform features for photographers check out this link.

Copyright © 2016 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Christine Osborne Pictures Posted Sep 14, 2016
    If you searched for "sphynx" it's a wonder it didn't bring up "cats" as the Egyptian sphinx has been spelled this way since the time of the Pharaohs.

    This said, I tried some keywords on the picturengine website and up popped the most irrelevant and badly photographed images I have ever seen.


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