In 1995, Mark Getty and Jonathan Klein founded Getty Images to bring the fragmented stock photography business into the digital age. And that’s exactly what they did. We were the first company to license imagery online – and have continued to drive the industry forward with breakthrough licensing models, digital media management tools and a comprehensive offering of creative and editorial imagery, microstock, footage and music.
Companies and individuals pay Getty Images for their stock photography/licensed work to accompany their business/blog/CD etc. The company prides itself on offering the best digital images to its clients. Therefore, it is of little surprise that the website is simple, beautiful and usable by all its consumers.
Getty Images is known to have the biggest photographic archives in the world with over 60 million photographs (Sarah McDonald, curator). Less than 1% is digitised. She suggests that classification started during the 40s and haven’t been changed since: topographies may now be ‘wrong’ by 21st Century means. The operation to have many collections migrating onto the online landscape would be very costly, and this cost is not central to Getty’s business model. Getty makes its money from contemporary stock photography; archaic photography in current affairs arguably are not as profitable. It can be inferred that digitisation plans are not in as full swing as a public archive.
Nevertheless, their is an extensive digitised archive which sits with its contemporary digital images. For example, searching ‘Coventry’ gets 9,856 many results, yet you can use refining tools in the side bar to find what you want. It is important for Getty’s profitability that what a viewer is looking for is accessible, and therefore can be purchased. Thus, web design is poignant in their business structure. If you tick the box for editorial images, more hits come up from the archive. Furthermore, you can ‘search within’ the previous search to refine the results. This recognisable user interface is similar to e-commerce design such as Amazon or eBay.
Getty and Flickr
In March 2009, Flickr and Getty Launched (you guessed it) Flickr Getty Images. This is where Getty scouted Flickr for content that they would like to license. The collection holds over 600,000 images from over 100 countries. Great eh? Getty are infiltrating platforms where users generate the content, to start discussion and to put work on the commercial market. Great for the photographers I guess? However, this does mean that any person who has used the images before Getty licensed them ought to watch their back. All of the Flickr content has been copied onto the Getty Images database from their own website.
This doesn’t really relate to how physical archives want to be free; but it is interesting to see how Getty is infiltrating the social landscapes to barter more sales. Not a bad idea to increase their market, good for them. However, knowing that many public institutions have been using ‘The Commons’, could there be some eCommons by which archive images can be bought over Flickr? I’m not sure…
So is Getty embracing free?
Libre – Getty has adopted an eCommerce-look about its design and user navigation: it’s recognisable and easy to use. The homepage has a large search bar in the centre of the page, reminiscent of Google, which in web terms is called ‘laser focus‘. Users can search freely through the archive of both digital and digitised content. However, with less than 1% digitised, it appears that there isn’t much of a drive or budget to warrant digitising more material. Yet, their partnership with Flickr has meant that they are broadening the platforms of which their images can be found. Getty is liberating how to make their content accessible on the web by means of interface, yet, I feel a cry for more digitisation.
Gratis – It’s libre however does only go as far as browsing: an image has to have its right paid for before a user can take it away from the shelf (so to speak). However, it is a business, and it still thrives: the BBC commonly turn to Getty for its stock photography and therefore sees a value in its information. Yet, although users do have to pay for the rights of the images if they want to use them themselves, the content is available for browsing. It really like a shop: if you like the look of something that could be really important to you, then you can buy it.