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Messages - PicturEngine-JustinB

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1
I might take you more seriously if your site wasn't pushing Getty, DepositPhotos and similar sites that are treating their contributors so badly.  Your words say one thing but so far your actions seem to go in the opposite direction.  I know we could all pay you to promote our images but then what''s to stop you selling out like many others before you?  I admire the way you keep pushing Picturengine but it still doesn't do it for me.  I'm still looking for something completely different that can't go the same way most of the sites have gone, being for the benefit of a few large investors.

Organic images (not paid advertising) on PicturEngine, make up 98% of our search results.  That draws in image buyers with less advertising; we have just about all of the images, so why as an image buyer start your search anywhere else.  Pooling advertising dollars for everyone is the goal; most underestimate advertising dollars needed to compete.  When advertising a marketplace, it takes a lot of work and money upfront; the advertising happens before the sales.  Most need an outside investor, PicturEngine has me and my dedicated team.

About the search results, Images that get hovered over, clicked on, added to lightboxes, etc. rise in the search results organically using our algorithms per their particular keyword.  The paid results are shuffled into the organic results.  (this is a very simplified description)  If every time you come to PicturEngine you click on the best images you see, and those happen to be Getty or Depositphotos... Then you are making your own search results happen, and those images come to the top.  We are always making adjustments to make the search as unbiased as possible.  I do not want to put a mechanical weight system in place to skew results for or against any particular artist or entity, that does not help anyone.

I had considered a co-op and nonprofit status early on. However, any way you look at it, when control is lost, the vision to help photographers and image buyers and protect copyright is lost to chasing big profits and ROI.  This as you can see clearly through our industry usually means paying the contributor less of the sales commissions.   
I am personally listening and working for all of us, weighing each and every decision pros and cons, asking both buyers and photographers for input. If you have not figured out by now, that I am working for you,  building PicturEngine for the future sustainability of the industry (that I thought was needed since 2011,) I don't think you ever will. 

Sharpshot or anyone if you have a doubt let's set up a time to open the hood and see for yourself.  I am very proud of what we have built.

If you think we need to implement changes to make it better, I am listening.  Let's discuss. (I don't think you would ever hear that from an agency.) 

2
My goal is to find the copyright owner and point the buyer to them.

I am a photographer and have been funding PicturEngine for years on my own, and no we are not making a profit.  Hopefully, one day we will.  We only started accepting money last November, anyone before then was and on a free trial.  I have not received a paycheck or compensation since before I shut my agencies down in 2014, and pushing all of my photographers onto the PicturEngine platform to receive 100% of the sale.  I built PicturEngine for all of us because it is the right thing to do, and I believe I have the team to do it. The only shareholders in PicturEngine are friends, family, and dedicated developers.  Our passion and mission is to help photographers from the grassroots up.  Together, we will succeed.

Now with that out of the way.  We are deduping (removing exact duplicates) as fast as we can, always looking for fraudsters in violation of copyright.  If you recall, several years ago we were seeing images listed on PicturEngine as both RM and RF from stock photo sites, we worked with photographers and agencies to clean these up.  Agencies do not have the data to reach across the industry of a billion images to do what we are doing, much less work together to find an amicable solution to the problem.  I decided it was best to work with agencies not against them.  Verifying identity is critical.  We are always looking for mismatches in identity in our search results and when in doubt we don't show the image in our search results (or remove it as soon as we can.)  Our system is not perfect, but I believe PicturEngine is the best shot we've got in the industry for sustainability.   It would be so much easier if all agencies required the copyright owner to use a real name and not a pseudonym.

I was not trying to be critical of any new players in the industry, just sincerely wanted to know the answers to my questions.  If they have a better way, GREAT!  We can work together to find the answers and solve the problems as they come.

3
Are you hitting a single pain point? I am just not sure how using a cryptocurrency or peer-to-peer ungoverned network can help in favor of either buyer or seller/creator. 

PicturEngine lets photographers set their pricing and keep 100% of the sale, using direct peer-to-peer payments via PayPal.  We stay out of the licensing transaction and provide our platform, a time-tested enterprise level agency platform, opened to individual creators.  Instead of a commission or fee, we ask the sellers to help us pay for our platform and marketing upfront, keeping the participation fees as low as possible.  Charging a fee upfront cuts down everyone using it merely for the fact that it is free.

I found that by using PayPal, this helps to verify BOTH the buyer and the seller.  It is already too easy for a seller to upload another photographer's work and sell it as their own, especially on a free to use system.  Agencies do a lot of work and also take a lot of the risks upfront; hence the large percentage taken from licenses.  Take a look at the Zazzle case and more recently Flickr's movement away from print and liability.  Free to use systems simply cannot take on the risk these days. 

Using an anonymous cryptocurrency and peer-to-peer selling without a centralized platform IMO would enable more fraudsters, and make it harder to police infringements. Therefore you lose the trust of buyers and in the end, are not be very helpful for creators.

When enforcing copyright, it is important to track everything, and we help photographers do just that.  Sure, we could write that licensing information to the blockchain, but why, the blockchain is public. For now, most agencies hide this transaction information, masking the buyer's details sometimes displaying usage for RM images, making it impossible for individual creators to monitor infringements.  The agencies want to be the sole enforcer, but many are not doing it because it is cost prohibitive.  I am all for transparency, but it comes at a cost.

One last thing.  Where are you storing these images and who pays for that?  How reliable is it? Most importantly how secure is it? Who holds the keys?

4
I think this is interesting and relevant to our conversation about the search engine business model we are having on this thread.  Over the years Google has added more paid advertising space and less organic to its search results pages. 

https://moz.com/blog/google-organic-clicks-shifting-to-paid

This practice is all too common in the world of search engines, and it teaches us that paid content will in the future be the only way to be found.  Organic site content that comes up will only be the most significant and specialized in that particular subject. 

This is precisely why we do not want to allow a bidding ranked system on PicturEngine for our paid results.  I want to let the image buyers choose what they want to see in their specific search results.  Why I decided to spend the resources on our suggestion engine and learning image search.  We want the best image for that buyer to come up in their results, not the users' that can pay the most.

The world is changing around us.  We need to be agile and adapt to that change.  Thank you all for your suggestions on how to make the industry more sustainable.  Please keep them coming.   

5
My questions were not related to how the system handles non-conflicting queries, I understand how that works,  but rather how it reconciles searches from competing advertisers on your platform. Perhaps I was not clear enough so I will reframe the question. What happens when you have say 100 photographers with photographs of lets say a pizza. Let's also assume that they are all similarly keyworded which they would naturally be. Since all the photographers are paying  the same advertising rate to you how on earth does your system even begin to prioritize those images in the initial sort?

I understand now; you want to know the mechanics of ranking very similar images for a particular keyword, subject, all paying to be in the search results. For this hypothetical let us assume 100 Platform or Advertising Only photographers submit pictures of pizza, all of the images are similar but still have distinguishing factors or different lighting and all of the pizzas.  For ranking these, we look at many of facets to determine an images' rank and order.  Besides the obvious, what buyers like seeing and have clicked on in the past; color, focus, orientation, copy space, camera view, license type, also other keywords, descriptions, and categories, attached to that image.  We also take into account that photographers particular specialty and what else is in their collection submitted.  All of these facets are evaluated, and each is assigned a score.  This is a fraction of the list we use to evaluate an image.

It becomes a very hard problem to solve indeed when it gets to the point of 100 photographers with 100 cheese pizzas images, all very similar in all respects, all shot from above, with no other distinguishing factors or facets... after all else is exhausted for deciding an images' ranking, in this extream example (for now) we randomize.  That will likely change as we discover more facets to compare. 

Another question was related to how your system would deal with a photographer who was not interested in selling directly necessarily, but rather leveraging your advertising platform to drive sales to a specific stock agency (something I think could be very useful). I understand how that would work in your organic vs paid scheme, but I don't quite get how that would work if the agency I wanted to direct sales to also advertised with you. Or to complicate things even further, multiple agencies with the same image. Who exactly gets priority and how does your system decide who gets dumped from the search? Either way, someone is not going to be happy.

Please go back and reread my first post.

If the image belongs to a photographer licensing directly, they are automatically the default 0 position.  Ranking paid agencies on our scale of 1-10 (as described in my earlier post) is no easy task. We started by using first (oldest) upload date; this was to benefit early adopters to our Advertising Only for agencies. 

We developed this strategy of first come, first served, early on for simplicity in billing. Example: Agency A pays us to list 300,000 images.  Agency B signs up next and also has 300,000 images however 200,000 of this collection are the SAME exact images as Agency A, plus 100,000 unique images.  Agency B only gets billed for 100,000 images because they are unique.  So hopefully not too many feelings are hurt.  This benefits early adopters.  The way I see it, if an agency is paying for advertising in our search results, they are trying to get those images licensed to benefit themselves and those photographers they represent.  So they are working for the photographers' best interest and should be rewarded.
 
This can change in the future if photographers tell us an agency is not treating them fairly, not paying commissions on time, etc.  Photographer feedback is important to us. 

6
It would help if you put the total number of images found on the first page but then I suppose that makes buyers realise there isn't as much to look at as there are on some sites and your USP for them has gone?

Providing a count of total images from a search that learns, adapts, grows and shrinks as you act upon it, was not practical.  The image results count (or totals) continuously change as you act, click, etc., the search results are not supposed to end until you find what it is you are looking for. 

As more users search, click, act and train our engine, smarter (better) it gets at inferring the meaning in words entered to search.  We are not there yet, but that's what we are striving to create. 

7
The most successful companies focus on what customers want, not suppliers.
That is the plan.  Focus on a great image search.  We have received surveys and feedback from over 16,000 paying image buyers. 

We also listen to suggestions and ideas from photographers and agencies with what they want.  It is a balance.

I am doing this to solve the problems our industry is facing, adapt and adjust until we have a winning formula.  Thanks for your feedback and support.   

8
"Yes, your images are probably already in our organic search results if they are listed with an agency.  Using our paid Advertising or Platform replaces your images within our search results, and sends the buyer straight to your site or selling page where you make/keep more money."

I think the project is intriguing on a number of levels but after looking at your pricing plans I am confused by your business model. As mentioned in a previous reply, offering lower rates to agencies than to individuals does seem to contradict one of your expressed goals. The real confusion for me though is in your advertising only packages. For instance, let's say that I as an individual wanted to leverage your advertising to drive sales to a specific stock site that offered higher commissions or to increase my ranking there, how does your algorithm handle conflicts between two or more paying advertisers? In other words, if your platform gains popularity to the point where it disrupts agency sales what is stopping agencies from advertising alongside contributors. Since the majority of us contribute to multiple agencies how exactly would that work? Furthermore, how would/does it handle conflicts between paying contributors for similar searches?


First, see our public FAQs
http://picturengine.desk.com/customer/en/portal/articles/524043-am-i-competing-with-my-agencies-
http://picturengine.desk.com/customer/en/portal/articles/478867-does-picturengine-compare-prices-

When an image is ingested into PicturEngine, we start with a deduping process (removing or ranking the exact duplicate image.)  Our industry is full of duplication BOTH from agencies and photographers syndicating (sending the same image to multiple sources.) It is important that we do not allow agencies to compete on price, so we only want to show the image once in our search results. 
We use a scale from 0-10.  With "0" represented as licensing directly from the creator/copyright holder, either on our PicturEngine Platform or Advertising Only (on the photographers' sales and delivery platform.) When an image is marked as direct to the creator "0" we default and only show this image to the buyers. If an agency is paying for advertising, the lowest they can get is a "1" on this scale.  We use a formula to try and determine the "base" agency for a particular image the lower number on the scale gets shown to the buyer.  We had to come up with a system because we found the same image at several agencies and also direct from the creator.  I don't want to make a super long post, let me know if you need further explanation, (there are many calculations that go into deciding the 1-10 ranking of agencies on a per image basis.)

At the moment it looks as though your site only returns one page of results for any of the search terms I input, however what happens when that expands to ten, or a hundred, or a thousand? I know if I am paying the same amount for exposure as my competitors then I don't want page 20 or even page 2. I want number 1 page 1. So then what? Sort by popularity, relevance, new? I get that for free already. Maybe by rotation then? I suspect I get that for free already too, so the only thing I can see if the platform takes off is a pay for placement auction scheme similar to Google adwords. Is that correct?

Forgive my skepticism but I like to know what I am actually getting before I spend my money. By the way, are you aware your splash page explicitly states "PicturEngine features unbiased searches"? You should probably remove that.


The search results are listed as an infinite scroll. When you search for a particular term, you receive a set of results; we load about 100 images at a time.  As you (the buyer searching) act on the search results, click on images, add images to a lightbox, etc. our system is listening and learning what you like to see in your search results and can then suggest images in the next load of results as you scroll.  Think of our search as a big funnel starting wide at the top and narrowing as you act on the results and we learn what you like seeing.

The goal is a smart, learning image search where no one can pay to have higher results (no auction type mechanism, as that, won't benefit the creator or buyer) Instead we try and determine the best result for that person searching.  Giving a shuffled result of both organic and paid results giving the buyer the best search experience possible. 

On the flip side, we also want to give creators data as to how their images are performing, and what they can do to improve.  The good images (for that particular search/subject) should rise, and the not so good ones fall, let the buyers actions decide.

We are always interested in feedback that's why I started this thread.

9
JustinB, how can you say "I am working toward a solution for our collective future" while at the same time I see images from sites like DepositPhotos are high up in your search?  Perhaps  lucky for us that Picturengine doesn't appear to be much use for buyers.  I think it ruins your credibility, you can't claim to be trying to help us while helping sites that make it unsustainable.


PicturEngine currently searches over 850,000,000 organic images.  We will cover the entire industry, giving image buyers a comprehensive selection of stock photos available for license.  Some images rank higher than others in our search results; this will change as more buyers train the system to what they like seeing in their individual search results.  I have discussed several times how we list images in our search results, Organic vs. Paid.

Do you stop using the searches from Google or Bing (or other search engines) because they show you a particular website or search result you dont like?  They probably provide that search result because of your past searching habits.  Click on more images that you DO like.

Sites like Alamy and Pond5 keep the industry sustainable for me.  There's others that pay 50% but they need more contributors and buyers to back them.  PicturEngine promotes sites that pay us very little and makes the industry more unsustainable.


I believe stock photo agencies should pay fair commissions to creators.  My agencies Picturesque and Corner House Stock Photo paid 50%, and now photographers receive 100% using the PicturEngine platform.

I do think there will be a better way to sell image licenses in the future.  Blockchain technology looks interesting.  I think we will have a very low fee option one day without having to pay middlemen.  Until then, sites that pay 50% will do for me.


Blockchain does look interesting, however by itself it is merely a ledger of transactions written to a permanent block.  Cryptocurrencies that use blockchain for transactions such as Bitcoin do have transaction fees.  This is how the distributed blockchain pays for itself (and pays the miners that make the operations possible).  These fees are based on many variables and often have long delays coupled with currency fluctuations. In my opinion too risky for now.
http://mashable.com/2017/08/28/bitcoin-transaction-fees/

The PicturEngine Platform currently uses PayPal (set fees we can predict) we can switch (or add) any widely used transaction method in the future.  It is important to me that PicturEngine does NOT touch your transaction/money; it passes straight from buyer to seller instantly when an image is licensed.

10
You can please some of the people, some of the time, @Semmick Photo and @sharpshot. 

We learn from our mistakes and are evolving and adapting to the current changes in our industry.

When I started PicturEngine, I knew our industry was not sustainable in its current direction.  I am working toward a solution for our collective future.

11
It is our goal to connect image buyers as close to the source creator (or agency that pays the creator directly) as possible, thus reducing the unnecessary intermediaries that exist in our industry.

Your search engine is an extra intermediary.
Not sure what you mean.  We are closing the distance gap between buyer and creator. Do you consider other search engines like Google or Bing to be "extra intermediaries"?  Or are they needed to find what you are looking for, in a sea of information on the web?

My focus is on:
1. A better, smarter image search. (we are working on that)
2. Helping image creators make/keep more money.

12
So the '500 images' relates to - how many images are on my site? Or how many links I get? Or how many sales I get?

Number of Images.

Select the total number of images you want us to represent in the drop-down. http://www.picturengine.com/#pricing-plans
We are evolving, listening to the needs of creators and offer a new tiered pricing structure for our Photographer Platform.

13
I can't quite work out if by paying contributors get higher placement and to me thats a fundamental contradiction.
Just like Google and other search engines, the paid results get mixed into the organic search results. 
Unlike Google, our search is not PPC or PPV. Instead, our ranking engine decides the image order, what is best for the viewer searching.
So YES, paid search gets a better "chance" of being seen, BUT ONLY those images that match the users search criteria get seen.  We ONLY want to show users relevant search results. 

When Google started it was all organic content, no paid.  Then Google offered paid.  Now do a Google search and count the paid vs organic on the page. 
We are trying to learn from others, and improve upon their models to adapt to our industry.

Too many similars in search returns. To my eyes no better than agency searches. Nice theory not seeing the benefits in the implementation.
I agree and plan to stack visual similars from the same photographer and same shoot etc.  When it comes to stacking visual sims, we have to be careful. 
Some of the things we are working on are.
Figuring out what image attracts the most attention (within a photographers collection from a single shoot/subject) This is not a random decision.  It is a big responsibility to decide what image gets top placement in a group of similars from a photographer if a single shot is shown in the search results. 
We are gathering data now to perform this stacking task using our ranking system.  There are a lot of moving parts.  It is not a one size fits all solution.

14
Sorry for the long responses.  I feel it is often useful to understand my thinking; this hopefully gives you a better understanding of what we are doing and why. 

I am creating a better, smarter, learning image search.
We are a search engine and marketplace. We have to pay for the smart search somehow, so we have broken it up into parts to benefit creators.   

Search engines traditionally operate on advertising revenue.  Take a look at Google, (NOT Google images) paid vs. organic search results.  (Google Images does not make Google money directly YET, but that is an entirely different and long topic.)

The current search engine PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising models do not work to benefit smaller creators in our industry.  These models reward those with the most money to advertise for paid search or the sites with the best SEO for organic traffic (usually the ones with the money to pay for PPC.)  On Google, advertising clicks for searches such as "Insurance" pay as much as $55 per click!  Individual contributors to the stock photo industry cannot support these high PPC prices and would not/do not use it.  In Google, and other search engines, Large agencies win every time, and the money to do PPC advertising eventually comes from your reduced commissions and further lowering prices to compete with other agencies.
   
We needed to be more creative in our approach to advertising and think about how we can benefit the creators.  Our smart, learning search and suggestion engine decides the location and placement of the search results (as stated previously,) like shuffling cards, but the deck is not random.  We let the buyers choose the arrangement of images using our internal ranking score.   

The goal is to help creators make better decisions, by giving them data, on how their images perform and providing insights into the industry, etc.. This is something agencies do not do.  I want to do this in real-time.

We try to push the keyword spammers in both organic and paid search down in the search results. We grade images per image buyers needs, and per keyword, image, collection and also added a visual component to check for relevancy of keywords and content.  It is my ultimate goal not to need keywords attached to images for image search but that is a couple of years off.   

NOTE to photographers: If you are searching for a random word that you "loaded" in your images keywords, (not in the dictionary or on the map) to specifically find your images, it is probably not searchable on PicturEngine, or if it is, it won't be for long.  Also if you are searching for your name, we also try to remove that from the searchable content (unless you are selling direct.)  We do this to prevent price comparisons. 

It has taken me and my team years designing and developing our search to listen to the cues of image buyers.  It is not perfect and is getting better with every search.  With that said, we have to be very selective in who we let train our engine, and we had to put qualifiers in place.  We discovered some undesirable results (the hard way) when everyone (not just image buyers) was allowed to teach our engine. 
Example: Images across many subjects began to rise prematurely due to clicking on images to see details or larger images.  i.e. we saw pictures of "waterfall" at the top of our search results start to have more girls with bikinis in them, not the desired result we were seeking.  We needed to adjust our ranking techniques; this is all a learning process.  We are solving the issues in search and ranking as they come, deciding who can and cannot train our engine. 

Yes, some undesirable results will show for a few searches, we try to catch them and adjust, in time they will be filtered and ranked lower where other more relevant images will rise to the top.

The photographer platform is a full-service platform (created and used by my agencies for many years) it includes everything you need for licensing photos (and more) plus the advertising component.
Photographers asked for it, so we provided it as an option.  The only thing the platform does not give is a front facing website to represent your shooting work.  Other platforms like PhotoShelter and PhotoDeck do an excellent job of making websites.  I did not want to focus on website customization and instead focus on a better image search. 

More on that here:http://picturengine.desk.com/customer/en/portal/topics/187968-photographer-platform/articles
I am trying to keep my post here shorter.

Yes, your images are probably already in our organic search results if they are listed with an agency.  Using our paid Advertising or Platform replaces your images within our search results, and sends the buyer straight to your site or selling page where you make/keep more money. 

With enough support, we can further enable creators to continue to create. 
Tell me, are you happy with the current state of the industry?  If not, what can we change to make it better?

15
A review as we have evolved over the years.  Yes, I have been working on this for many years, because I believe this is the direction the industry is heading.  My goal is still the same. 

We are the search engine and marketplace for the stock photo industry with a focus on smart image search and discovery. 

Including every stock photo in the industry within our search results is our goal.  PicturEngine is not another agency or aggregator and does not take any commissions.  I am a photographer and agency owner myself (picturesque.com and cornerhousestock.com).  After running my other stock photo agencies for many years, I realized our industry has evolved and does not need another stock photo agency or new pricing model.  We need a better, smarter way to search for images.

PicturEngine operates on the traditional search engine model with organic and paid search results.  The best, most liked, viewed and clicked on images float to the top of the search results, while at the same time, our smart machine learning search allows many images not previously or regularly seen by art buyers to be discovered.  We use the art buyer's own searching patterns and buying habits to suggest unique, never before seen images helping buyers find that perfect image for their needs.  It is not always about the most popular or most "used" image. 

PicturEngine does not compare image prices.  It is our goal to connect image buyers as close to the source creator (or agency that pays the creator directly) as possible, thus reducing the unnecessary intermediaries that exist in our industry.  In theory, this will give the creator more money to keep shooting and save the buyer some time searching and money too.  Although, some photographers have the same image listed for $1 at agencies and list on our platform for $25, so it is not perfect.  Providing creators with good usable data helps them make informed decisions.

Agencies over 1 million images make up our organic content, (this gives image buyers a compelling reason to come to search us first) smaller agencies and individual creators have the option pay a small advertising fee (or use our platform) to be suggested or injected into our smart search.  Think of it like shuffling a deck of cards, organic on the one hand and paid on the other; our suggestion engine decides the placement and ranking of images for that particular buyer's needs. 

Individual creators already using a licensing platform can utilize our Advertising Only system.  Several existing platforms like PhotoShelter and PhotoDeck are fully automated; we push images into the database immediately upon signup to PicutrEngine.  Other platforms use a CSV or XML upload of a "data file" (no need to upload images directly for Advertising Only) until we bring these other platforms into the automated system.  It does take a couple of weeks for PicturEngine to create a visual fingerprint and for images to begin gaining a proper ranking in our system.  We also remove exact duplicates from agencies when creators use our system.  We look at the whole picture, all of its data and visual content for ranking (along with what image buyers think of the image per the terms searched), not just the existing attached captions and keywords.  The industry has a keywording problem that we are actively addressing with our smart search.

PicturEngine has a direct to seller marketplace called the Photographer Platform.  We make image licensing directly from image creators simple for photographers on our platform.  Photographers maintain 100% control of their images, set their pricing and keep 100% of the image license fees.  We have changed the platform system pricing recently offering tiers as well as our original unlimited plan.

Last but certainly not least, we provide many other valuable services such as image keywording, industry pricing analysis, analytics, and performance metrics.  We will be providing data and analytics detailing how your images are performing and how to edit better, shoot, organize, caption, and keyword your images for better performance within our system and yours.  We want to provide the data on where the industry has been, where it is today and where it is going. 

PicturEngine is continuing to evolve.  I want us to be the best image search and discovery engine possible.  Helping this industry that I have been a part of for over 20 years.  The industry cannot continue its current course; something has to change.  I have asked for help during our beta and sincerely appreciate all of those that helped us develop into what we are today.  Data science is an expensive, long and tedious process and involves a lot of testing.  We are not perfect, that is why I continue to ask how we can be better.  If you have a suggestion or complaint, bring it to me, personally, and I will address it.  My goal is like yours to make this industry sustainable in the future.

Feel free to ask questions; we are always here to help.  Also please see our FAQs for any questions we have answered.
PicturEngine http://www.picturengine.com/
Pricing http://www.picturengine.com/#pricing-plans
FAQs http://support.picturengine.com/

Again, my goal in posting here is to get your feedback on what is working for you.  What is not working and where you see the future of our industry.  I am here to try and help.

16
Are you happy with the current direction of the industry?  What needs to change?  Where do you see the future?  What do you consider our industries biggest problems? 

Many of you know who I am, and what I am doing.  I have posted here before about what I do to try and solve some of the industries problems.  I am working on perfecting a better, smarter, learning, and predictive image search.  I have also opened my past agencies enterprise-level sales and delivery platform to photographers, giving 100% of the license fee they set, for a flat fee to run the system.

I wanted to comment on some trends am following, many resulting in my current direction, I hope to receive your constructive feedback, and see what we can do together to make things better for all of us. 

Content creation in our industry is growing exponentially.  Now that just about everyone with a camera in his or her pocket, anyone can create content for our industry.  Yes, I know it takes more than a smart camera to take great photos. However, the barriers to entry into the stock photo market space continue to decline.  Image quality continues to improve, and finding the best (most relevant) images to represent a company, product, brand or idea will continue to vex image buyers.  Manual image curation is not enough, and cannot possibly predict the future market need.  I built my first stock photo agency Corner House Stock Photo on the inadequacies of stock photo agency curation.  I took on released houses and home lifestyle images that other photo agencies turned away; we filled a niche others did not see.  I am an architecture shooter and had direct insight into what real buyers in the space wanted and were looking for, which the other agencies did not see. 

With this influx of new stock photo content, oversupply and competition, agencies have even less of an incentive to take on additional out of scope images that may or may not sell.  It appears that the new" plan or trend, is to allow buyers to request content on demand.  On-demand content is nothing new, look up the history of On Request Images and others following the same model like ImageBrief.  Yes, we can hear it straight from the horse's mouth what buyers are "looking for" when they put out a request or brief.  However shooting such content with a single consumer's particular product or service in mind, on speck is risky business for the image creator, locking up their time on creating images for one buyer.  Yes, the request can be expanded upon and shot for other subjects. The short version - In my opinion retrying old failed business models, is NOT a good "new" plan for the future.

My focus has been on a smarter, learning and predictive image search.  A search that is all-inclusive, and lets the image buyer decide what they want to see and we simply show them more of what they want and less of what they don't.  The search engine model works, we use it every day for other industries, why not stock photos?   It is time to embrace the technology that is pushing our industry into the future.  Use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help buyers find images and help photographers get images licensed.  I am the first to say that my system is not perfect, we have had our fair share of growing pains, but it is getting better, faster and smarter every day.  With enough data, we can predict cycles and trends sharing this information with image creators.  It all depends on how you use the massive amount of data collected and available.  I am actively working on this. 

Let me know where you see the future.  Is this a problem that can or needs to be solved?  How?  Do you think search and data derived from search can help us or are we better off in our current path guessing and shooting in the dark? I am open to your constructive thoughts.

17
General Stock Discussion / Re: PicturEngine is ready!
« on: September 27, 2016, 17:26 »
More about PicturEngine on Selling Stock. http://www.selling-stock.com/Article/pictureengine-update

18
General Stock Discussion / Re: PicturEngine is ready!
« on: September 14, 2016, 14:17 »
I think most buyers seem reluctant to use more than one or two sites.  That's why I never got too enthusiastic about Symbiostock, it looks like buyers don't like signing up to many sites or we would see the smaller sites doing much better.  I presume that with PictureEngine, if they found 20 photos they wanted on 20 different sites, they would have to sign up to all of them?  I just don't see how that will work.  Then there's price.  Not much point finding what they want on PictureEngine only to find its not the right price.  What about quality control?  All the sites have different standards, some buyers might be OK with images that are on the sites with almost no review standards but I'm sure many wouldn't be.

If you can sell images from all the sites with only one sign up, standardise prices and make sure all the low quality old images that really shouldn't be on some of the sites were excluded, PictureEngine might be a good idea but then you would still have to convince buyers and that doesn't seem easy.
We are talking about multiple subjects here, so I will try not to make this too long.
First, PicturEngine is a search engine.  Our focus is providing a better image search than what is currently available.  We want to help image buyers find the perfect image for them.  With the stock photography industry so saturated with images, finding ONE image to represent a buyers unique business or product is challenging.  The more users search on PicturEngine, showing us what they like, the more relevant images float to the top and irrelevant images sink to the bottom.  I am not going into the mechanics details here, although we employ a lot more than keywords, using our ranking algorithms to weigh individual images visually.

Think about Google, and all of the content indexed, yet they make it all searchable.  They try to make the best most relevant content come to the top.  People searching tell them what is relevant and what is not, by their actions.  Like all search engines (Google, Bing, etc), there is an organic and paid search (paid advertisements- Adwords, Bing Ads).  Unlike these search engines (that have been found to enable or help users to find and steal great images, PicturEngine refers the buyer to the SOURCE where the image can be licensed.  We dont show the images too big and we ONLY search licensable content.  It is our job to give ALL those looking to license an image a great place to search and find the perfect image for them.
 
"I think most buyers seem reluctant to use more than one or two sites.
PicturEngine is a search engine as stated above.  We offer a Platform" and an Advertising Only plan, both to help photographers get their images seen by a larger audience.  With that said, the PicturEngine Platform is nothing like Symbiostock.  We dont build photographers an individual website because buyers wont come to an individual website unless you have a massive amount of AMAZING content, updated regularly, and actively advertise to be seen by buyers.  As an agency owner with just under a million images between my two niche agencies, it is really hard to get buyers to regularly come to an individual site.  I spent tens of thousands of dollars every year on advertising to get buyers to come take a look, and we had great niches, amazing images of released houses and Caribbean travel, just not enough to get them coming back every time they needed a fresh image.  This is WHY I built PicturEngine, to help individual photographers and small agencies affordably stay in this business and make money creating and licensing stock imagery.  Please do check out all of the features our platform provides.   http://support.picturengine.com/customer/en/portal/articles/2562568-photographer-platform-features-list

"If you can sell images from all the sites with only one sign up"  If you are talking about a single sign on and license for ALL of the agencies and platforms of the industry, I dont see that happening.  But, if you want to license 20 different images, from 20 different photographers on the PicturEngine Platform, thats EASY!  We have just ONE login, ONE checkout, ONE payment, and ALL of the photographers are paid 100% of their sale instantly.  PicturEngine handles invoicing and content delivery.  If thats what you want, we built that.  Think of it as Amazon or eBay for our industry; one cart, many sellers.  As for pricing, we do give our platform photographers crowdsourced pricing suggestions, but it is up to them to price their own images.  If a buyer does not agree with the price you have set, they can always click "Make an Offer" using our automated system, then you can accept, counter offer, or decline.  Its pretty simple.  My team and I have built agencies before.  We have all the standard tools available to an agency and much more, all at your fingertips.

I suppose you could compare our PicturEngine "Advertising Only" plan to Symbiostock, where we allow a photographer with his or her own platform (that meets our base criteria) to participate and be placed as advertising in our search results.  This would be a fair comparison.

"What about quality control?"
Our focus is on a quality image search.  Just like Google, we dont discriminate, we include all.  We are searching our organic content, our advertisers, and the industrys top stock agencies in near real-time.  We let the buyers actions tell us what they want to see more.  The best image search is our goal, and is our focus, we are way beyond just keywords.  If we find that a particular photographer or agency is trying to game the system to get higher in the search results, or just has a bunch of images that are undesirable or not licensable, our search is designed to let those images sink.  So far our search thinks people coming from Microstock Group want to see kangaroos with black borders. :)

How about a payment model where you keep the first 30$ of the photographer's sale? That should also motivate you to do something about getting good sales for your contributors.
We would rather pay you 100% of the sale, keeping it simple with a flat fee.  This keeps the overhead on our end low, where we never have to worry about the tracking or reporting of which account is paid etc.  Keeping our system simple is the plan, as our focus is on image search and not accounting.  Although, we do have accounting, sales tracking, sales reports, etc in your individual account on the PicturEngine Platform.  Photographers and image buyers we interviewed said too many times they essentially circumvent or "go around" the platforms they are currently on, to avoid paying even 8% (eight percent) of the sale or the smallest processing fee just to save money.  We would rather give the incentive for our users to actually USE the system we have built, with all of the protections and rights tracking included. We automatically embed in your images' metadata your proper copyright statement, contact info, including the license details in the PLUS LDF (license data format) for you, after each sale and just prior to your image being downloaded by the image buyer.  We provide so many tools that we want photographers to use for their OWN protection.

As for image size, once I click the thumbnail and I get some basic info presented, I can't click the image and see it bigger which I feel is a natural thing to do as a buyer. I don't want to click "License image" just to see it bigger, as I am not ready to license it.
Similar to a Google search, if you want to read more than what is displayed in the 2 lines available in the search results, you click to see the full site.  We do not store the images, just the link to the images where they can be licensed.  The action of clicking to see more information, adding the image to a lightbox, or licensing an image also tells us what you are looking for when you search a specific term and makes your results better.  Our algorithms will change as we mature, our search will improve with more users telling us what they like and dont like seeing.

the $30 a month is significant. FineArtAmerica charges $30 a YEAR, and some have balked at that. I don't think its a modal that I can get excited about, but I wish you all the best with it.
I understand completely, PicturEngine is not for everyone.  I like to remind people that not everyone uses (or pays for) Google Adwords, or Bing ads, to draw traffic to their website, but these advertisements pay for the rest of us to use search engines for free.  PicturEngine works on the same principal.  Think of it as a cross between Google, Amazon, and eBay.  If you take advantage of what all the PicturEngine Platform has to offer, many photographers think it is a bargain.

19
General Stock Discussion / Re: PicturEngine is ready!
« on: September 11, 2016, 16:45 »
how many buyers/ customers do you have?
We are launching PicturEngine to our current client base of image buyers this month (from my agencies cornerhousestock.com and picturesque.com) of over 30,000 confirmed image buyers that helped us shape PicturEngine with their feedback and knowledge of the industry.  We listened to their needs when creating PicturEngine, but they are just the beginning as we start marketing.

There is no translation for customers not searching by english keywords?
For now, just English.

Great that this project is still going, but I don't really understand the above - what does getting PicturEngine to market actually entail and when will that happen?
Please see above.

That sounds as if you're filtering out some of a contributor's work - is that the case and if so, how is that done and what are the criteria?
Are you referring to real-time deduping?  Here is an FAQ that explains that:
http://support.picturengine.com/customer/en/portal/articles/478867-does-picturengine-compare-prices-

I have no idea what platforms you support for advertising only and couldn't find a list in the FAQ.
Currently we have instant availability through Photoshelter.  Other platforms will come that meet the criteria. 
See this FAQ:
http://support.picturengine.com/customer/en/portal/articles/478304-do-i-need-to-upload-images-for-my-advertising-only-account-
To qualify for an Advertising Only account, your images MUST be properly keyworded and searchable online, you MUST have production-ready high resolution images available for instant download, and your images MUST have an online pricing calculator.  If you meet all of these criteria, we will create a feed from your sales platform and include your images within our industrywide search results.

There is nothing explaining what, if anything, PicturEngine does for the Advertising Only package other than show images in a search if someone happens upon the site.  Some details on what the monthly fee is purchasing would be helpful.
Here is an FAQ that explains that:http://support.picturengine.com/customer/en/portal/articles/412559-how-can-i-be-included-in-the-picturengine-search-results-

What are the criteria used to order images in search results?
The short answer is each search result is unique, the more you search the better your search results become for your specific needs.  Here is a good FAQ:
http://support.picturengine.com/customer/en/portal/articles/415477-do-i-need-to-login-to-search-

Given the large number of images returned, some sorts of filters (people/no people, horiz/vert/square, photo/illustration,  exclude keywords) would be helpful - are those in the works?
We are sorting through the whole stock photo industry, of which our organic results exceed 500 million.  If what you are looking for is not in our organic results, we also search most of the industry (all the main agencies) in near real-time to get the top results from their searches when you search.  These near real-time search results load in batches as you scroll to provide a constant mix of fresh and organic images.  This is what we mean when we say, the more you search the better your results.  Each search builds on the last, as we hone in on what the image buyer is really seeking.  We built a pretty awesome, learning search engine.  With that said, we do need filters.  Currently all Boolean search operators work within our search (AND, OR, NOT, or you can use -people -person)  Also you can place RM or RF after a term or search string to return just those license types.  In short, search filters are either already there (just need to build the GUI) or coming.  We are trying to keep it as SIMPLE as possible to get people searching and exploring.  With PicturEngine, the more you search the better your results.

The site looks quite nice, but upon doing a search its not quite as good

http://www.picturengine.com/search?query=kangaroo

in the first few rows (may vary per user) there are images that appear to be slide scans, including the black edge of the slide - not very professional or appealing. Then there is no way to actually click on an image and get a bigger view?
We display the image preview size provided from a vast number of sources.  We do try to average the thumbnail sizes and have in the works other display options.  If you want to see an image bigger, just click on the thumbnail.  We show the bigger preview provided from the source.  If you want to see it even bigger, click License Image to open a new tab and go to the site where the image can be licensed.  Most sites where the image can be licensed, just a click away, have much larger preview images.  We want to make sure images are found and licensed quickly so we try to keep the clicks to a minimum.

there are images that appear to be slide scans, including the black edge of the slide - not very professional or appealing.
I suggest clicking on the image and see the source.  I saw a couple kangaroos with black borders from Ralph Clevenger, one of the most successful stock photographers in the business.  He taught the stock photo class at Brooks Institute of Photography for years and is an amazing photographer.  You might recognize him from his famous iceberg shot that he makes money from everyday when it sells, and also when it doesnt. http://ralphclevenger.com/tag/iceberg/

$30 a month isn't cheap in my book
We are seeking serious and experienced photographers, as we are enabling them to self edit, giving them the opportunity of unlimited uploads/sales and invaluable information about the industry and searches.  Check out our substantial, full feature list for the Platform Photographer. http://support.picturengine.com/customer/en/portal/articles/2562568-photographer-platform-features-list

What happened?  Wasn't this supposed to go live 5 years ago?  I suggest people wade through the previous threads, if you can still find them.  Some things went on that really put me off PictureEngine.
We have been in Beta, working on PicturEngine for a long time, this is true.  We are VERY dedicated to helping photographers succeed.  I am a photographer and a niche agency owner.  Without a project like PicturEngine there is not much hope for our industry.  Image buyers and photographers like yourself have given us great feedback and suggestions over the years and we work tirelessly implementing these great suggestions.  Sorry if we ever put you off, as that was not our intention.  There was some early misinformation and accusations that simply were not accurate.  Our intentions have always been to help photographers, image buyers, and the overall stock photo industry.

Do buyers want even more images to wade through in a search?
When you have a search that encompasses the whole industry, why wouldnt you just go to ONE place that has it all?

How can you be good both for mediocre photographer paying his or her money for promotion and buyer willing to purchase top notch content at the same time?
Our smart search lets the buyer decide what they want to see more of, and is ever evolving.  As far as mediocre, that is subjective and will be decided upon by the buyer.  If we inject an image here and there for advertising, that is because we think the buyer may be interested in seeing it, and thats good for everyone.  Often times the buyer does not know exactly what they are looking for and need to go on an exploring mission to find the perfect image for them.

Those poor photogs who did sign up years back and paid good money for a site that only now is launched, what did they get for their dollars? Taken for a ride? I hope not.
Those awesome photographers that signed up and helped with the Beta, paid nothing but a couple cents to test our PayPal subscription system, and maybe a few dollars for storage.  They GET a FULL YEAR FREE!!!  They PAY NOTHING, until ONE YEAR AFTER our official launch date.  I KEEP my promises.  None of the Beta testers have been or will be charged until a year from now, as their feedback was invaluable in helping us shape the system into what we have today.  Thanks again to all of our Beta testers!   

20
General Stock Discussion / PicturEngine is ready!
« on: September 09, 2016, 13:27 »
Hi Microstock Group,

PicturEngine is ready!

We built something so many said could not be done. Together, we're putting control of image distribution and commissions back into photographers hands where it rightfully belongs.

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, we must first get PicturEngine to the market.

I encourage you to check out the new system at http://www.picturengine.com/. Please note that search results will fluctuate over the next few weeks as we prepare for our public campaign and bring new data online.  We take photographers' suggestions very seriously, and we're here to ensure everything runs smoothly.  If you discover an issue, or have feedback of any kind, please let us know what you think at support@picturengine.com.  Updated FAQs are available at http://support.picturengine.com/ 

I hope you are as excited as I am about this tremendous milestone.

If you are new to PicturEngine here is a quick summary:

Advertising, Sales and Delivery platform
Showcase your work to a larger audience
Level playing field thanks to unbiased search results
Exclusive tools and analytics help get your best images online fast
Pay only a simple flat fee and keep 100% of your sales
First SIX months FREE!

Advertising Only
If you already have a sales platform, take advantage of an Advertising Only plan.
Include your images within our industry-wide search results
We point buyers to your images where you make the sales
Flat fee, zero commissions
First month FREE!

Best,
JB

21
General Photography Discussion / Re: Web storage service
« on: April 20, 2013, 14:06 »
I did get this in an email today if anyone is interested. 

$20 OFF: To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, Bitcasa is offering $20 off your first year of the Infinite Drive. Just enter the promo code EARTHDAY20. In addition, with each purchase, Bitcasa will donate 5% to the charity Trees for the Future.

I started reviewing backup solutions a few years back, primarily due to the fact that just about every two weeks I would get a call from one of our photographers with a dead hard drive asking what to do... You can never have too many backups!!!

I should also say that Amazon Glacier is looking very promising (@ 1 penny for 1 GB/Mo) as an automated backup solution.  http://aws.amazon.com/glacier/

Best,
JB

22
General Photography Discussion / Re: Web storage service
« on: April 18, 2013, 20:03 »
I recommend BitCasa to all of my photographers.  I have been using them since 2011 for keeping an offsite copy of images.  I also use BackBlaze on my desktop computers and laptops.

https://www.bitcasa.com/
Free for 10GB
-10GB storage / backup
-Access anywhere
-Keep your data safe

OR
$99/year Or $10/month
-Infinite storage / backup
-Infinite file version history
-Chat & email support*
-Access anywhere
-Keep your data safe

Best,
JB

23
General Stock Discussion / Re: PicturEngine: Some thoughts
« on: December 07, 2012, 12:40 »
We have advertising scheduled for first quarter 2013, and possibly sooner if we are able to get the Advertising Only finished up quickly. We are working every day to get PicturEngine fully launched!

24
General Stock Discussion / Re: PicturEngine: Some thoughts
« on: December 07, 2012, 12:05 »
PicturEngine is in open photographer beta, meaning that we're not yet open to the public.  The purpose of beta is testing the site, looking for areas of improvement, bug fixes, etc.  We are actively asking for feedback from photographers in an effort to make PicturEngine the best it can be BEFORE advertising publicly.  We do NOT compare prices, period.  I apologize that one word on one page of our website led some people to believe otherwise, despite numerous other places which clearly articulate the fact that we do NOT compare prices.  We have updated the page in question to more clearly state the fact that we do NOT compare prices.  Thank you very much for bringing this concern to our attention.  We greatly appreciate constructive, professional, and productive criticism/feedback, which will enable us to more quickly complete the beta process and launch publicly.  Again, thank you.  If you find any other inconsistencies, please email our support center so we can review the issue and get it resolved.


Best,

JB

25
General Stock Discussion / Re: Check Out PicturEngine
« on: December 06, 2012, 22:10 »
As stated previously in post :
http://www.microstockgroup.com/general-stock-discussion/picturengine-some-thoughts/msg283239/#msg283239
...
My statements are clear when taken in context.  (Anyone can change the meaning of a statement when taking text out of context.)
....
I will try to stay out of your conversations on this thread unless asked a direct question.  I will need to respond, however, if misquoted.
Best,
JB

Does Justin and PE really believe that contributors will be willing to pay to be part of a service that effectively sends buyers to the cheapest source of their images? Is that what PE will offer for buyers? I've been convinced by Justin thus far, but my confidence is seriously shaken by this revelation. Justin, I'd really like to hear your explanation...?

Montys answer:  Sadly, some users of this forum appear to be on a witch hunt, taking my old posts, removing a word here and there until my words (out of context, of course) say what they want them to say.  Its called libel.
We are and always have been crystal clear regarding price comparisons.  Let me spell it out, W-E  D-O-N--T!  Furthermore, buyers see only ONE place to license an image.  Please, please review the PicturEngine support center.

Look, I love this industry.  I love photography.  I have profound appreciation for photographers.  Its what Ive wanted to do all my life.  I want this industry to survive.  I want this industry to succeed!  Every day I get up motivated to do everything I possibly can do to save, and ultimately reinvent this dying industry before its dead.  Im simply offering an alternative, a fantastic alternative, to the status quo.  If youre not looking for an option to constantly decreasing commissions, lower image prices, buyers frustrated by image duplication and marketplace chaos, and on and on, then dont join PicturEngine, its that simple.  I understand skepticism and questions.  Hey, Im skeptical and ask tons of questions every day of my life, and thats simply being smart and savvy.  But outright libelous accusations, are just not productive to our common goal.  May I ask that we keep the discussion based in reality by first reviewing the PicturEngine support center resources, and secondly by reading original posts rather than concocted and false misquotes.  If after reviewing these resources, something remains unclear, please PLEASE, by all means, ask me!!

Please try to keep in mind that Im a photographer, I think like a photographer, I know what its like to be a photographer.  Were on the same team.  Your success is our success.  Please join me on this positive journey.  Together we CAN create a bright future for the stock photo industry.

Best,
JB

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