Search Problems At Getty

Posted on 3/21/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Since the launch of Getty's new search engine last August, several image partners have become increasingly unhappy with the falloff in revenue their images generate and how low their images appear in the search return order.

In January, Getty acknowledged that immediately after launch the company noticed "that our orientation filters were not working optimally." Six months later, approximately one-third of the images on the site still cannot be located using an orientation search.

More serious is that images from the 122 image partners fall in the search return order, making it difficult to impossible for customers to see their offering.

To understand the problem's dimensions, I searched for "People" (1,275,762 hits), "Japan People" (19,235 hits) and "Travel Japan People" (2,842 hits). Then, I counted the number of images each brand had in the first six groups of 100 to determine the number of each brand's images that are seen.

The first surprise was that there are brands with significant people images in Getty's collection that do not have a single image shown in the first 600 of a "People" search. They are: Image Source (18,000), Glowimages (20,884), Ingram (9,758), Time & Life Pictures (5,414), Panoramic Images (3,104), Gulfimages (987), (556), Nordic Photos (2,667), Robert Harding World Imagery (3,288), SAKIstyle (783), Sebun Photo (734), Imagemore (2,866), (157), Redchopsticks (8,506), Stock Illustration Source RM (7,603) and Stock Illustration Source RF (6,752) for a total of 91,969 images, over 7% of all people images on

Narrowing the search to "Japan People," Time/Life had (6) images, Stock Illustration RF  (1) and Glowimages (1) in the first 600. The rest of the above had none. In both the "People" and "Japan People" searches, 92 of the first 100 images were from the 17 brands Getty owns and only 8 images were from the 122 image partners. National Geographic is given a very preferred position among image partners with 5 of the 8 images being theirs.

In the first 600 of the "People" search, 396 were from Getty brands and 204 from image partners. In "Japan People," 305 were Getty brands and 295 image partners. Only 35 brands had any "Japan People" images. Only 18 of the 122 image partners had more than 2 images in the first 600. Of the 600 images 254 were RF and 346 were RM or RR.

Some companies with significant "Japan People" images got a very small percentage seen in the first 600, but the Getty brands were not always favored. If every brand had an equal share, 3% of their images would be shown.

Total images

First 600














Blend Images




National Geographic




Image Source




Robert Harding




Glow Images




Taxi Japan








Photog. Choice RM




Photog. Choice RF




In searching "Travel Japan People," 85% of the Japan People images didn't have Travel as a keyword. While not surprising because many people images are related to business or other general categories, reviewing the selection revealed that many of the best travel related images found under "Japan People" were omitted when travel was used as a keyword. This could be a fault of the image partner's keywording and not Getty.

When we included travel as a keyword 93 of the first 100 were from Getty brands. However, when we got above 200, we started seeing significant numbers of images from MIXA, imagewerks and Sebun. Many were similar, giving the general impression of a weak travel offering. There were (35) image partners with "Japan People" images, but only (22) had images in the first 600 when the "Travel" keyword was added. Of the 600 images, 515 were from the Getty brands, plus MIXA, imagewerks and Sebun. All the rest had very low numbers.

Another problem is that Getty allows the customer to look at a maximum 41 pages of search returns (100 images per page) or 4,100 images regardless of the number returned in the search. This may make sense in that few customers will look at 4,100 images. But the only way for a customer to look at 15,135 of the 19,235 Japan People images is to enter a qualifying keyword and hope it works. However, as we saw with "Travel Japan People," that doesn't necessarily produce better results.

It is interesting that iStockphoto and many other sites allow customers to order search returns in many different ways, enabling them to see images at the bottom of the pack in the default search order, if they choose. Some search engines allow customers to randomly input the number of the page they want to search.

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