EyeEM – making it better!

I wrote earlier about my experiences of what sells on EyeEM, and since then I have been thinking of how it could be improved. Of course, some of these things are only developments that EyeEM can make, but if they are not described then nothing is going to happen! EyeEM sells in two main places – one is their own site, although it has been a while since I got some direct sales there. The main source of income for me has been their partnership with Getty.

The basic workflow is that you can upload your images to EyeEM and their system imports any embedded keywords. The location, if embedded is also added, although you can also type this in directly, as long as the location is recognized by Google. I found that commonly used words like Corfu in Greece were not recognized although the official name of the capital city (Kerkyra) is. I’ll come back to that! There is a bug that applies the same description to all the images in the same upload batch, which EyeEM don’t seem to think is important. Those keywords and descriptions are used in searches on their own site and so are important in getting direct sales.

Their team then examines each image, sometimes asks for model or property releases and selects those that they are going to upload to Getty. You see those in the Partner section of your portfolio. Currently I have 1500 images, 1400 for sale on the EyeEM site and 888 in the Partner collection. What happens next is supposition on my part. I believe that they analyze the images using some sort of Artificial Intelligence program to come up with a title, description and keywords for Getty. They don’t appear to use any of the information you have carefully added, except for that location. So entering that accurately is really important for travel photographers. However, I couldn’t add Corfu, Greece (which I am sure is what most people would search for) so I had to add Corfu, USA!

Example of keywords on the EyeEM stock photo site
My keywords on the EyeEM site. Of course this image also includes Corfu in the keywords

My guess is that these newly keyworded images also align with Getty’s controlled vocabulary and are then uploaded to that site. As I currently have 406 images in my portfolio there, there is probably both a selection process by Getty, as well as a timing delay before the images are uploaded by EyeEM. However, there are a few images I found on Getty that I uploaded to EyeEM just a month ago, so I think this is more about a selection process than a delay. Their AI keywording is pretty good in some circumstances – it recognized the Acropolis, Parthenon and Lycabettus Hill in Athens for this shot:

Athens Acropolis found on Getty stock agency

But this one below correctly shows the fact it was taken in Athens, but not the neighborhood of Anafiotika, which I think is important in someone actually finding it.

Anafiotika house near the Acropolis in Athens
Anafiotika neighborhood in Athens
Keywords on Getty Images portfolio for that image

When I search for Anafiotika in the main Getty library I find 32 pictures of this neighborhood. So it is obviously an acceptable word. Interestingly enough, the word is not found in the keywords themselves – but is in the title of the images I checked. What this means is that my carefully uploaded, keyworded and curated image has very little chance of being found under a normal search on Getty. There might be a workaround if the location Anafiotika is acceptable in the upload process – I will have to try that next time!

The other thing I found with this AI approach is that conceptual images are described for what they are:

But the actual concept I was trying to illustrate – the new year and move to 2020 – has been lost. So, again, the chance of finding this for a new year image is zero.

Why am I writing all this? Partly to set your expectations about what will sell on Getty via EyeEM. Partly to help with travel images by carefully setting the location to what you think people might search for, and partly in the hope that the suggestions I am going to make are seen and implemented by EyeEM! Perhaps if we all pointed their support team at this article it might help!

So what could they do? Firstly, they could transfer the description of the image that we carefully write into the uploaded file for Getty. Here we could describe the concept, location and key facts about the photo. It appears that Getty searches this for returning relevant files and so this would be a major step forward. They would have to fix the bug that applies the same description to every file in an upload group though!

Then they could take the first 3 keywords that we enter and add those to the AI generated ones they apply. Perhaps we would have to use the iStock controlled vocabularly in those keywords which would be a pain but better than nothing. In those three keywords I could put the concept – 2020, New Year etc. and be sure it would transfer to Getty.

Finally, they could provide a way to edit keywords (or description) on the Getty site. A friend provided me with a link that appeared to do that. I have an image of San Diego on Getty that is wrongly described as Chicago, but although the provided link appeared to allow me to add up to 5 keywords and delete up to 5, after at least 4 weeks of waiting it hasn’t made a difference to the search for this file. So although it didn’t work for me, it appears it was considered at one point.

Can you think of other changes that would help us out and not add to the EyeEM workload? Please add in the comments below!

Edit – added 29 August: Of course there is one other option – add an FTP import option and tie it into the Stock Submitter application. Then we could use Stock Submitter to correctly write the description, use the iStock controlled vocabulary to add appropriate keywords and then EyeEM could take the description and first three keywords for their own input to Getty. Problem solved!

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17 Responses

  1. R.M says:

    I am actually about to give up on Eyeem because of the way they handle keywords.
    They disregards scientific names of plants and animals, they put keywords like grass and lawn for a slab of concrete… They took away the location in keywords. Sunrises become sunsets… Photograph of a child become “Pregnant woman”.
    It is really mind blowing and makes me loose a lot of confidence in their prospect in the long term.
    It has become for me, a waste of time really.

    • Steven Heap says:

      Yes, it is annoying. As I think we know now, EyeEM do not make use of anything that we submit, except on their own site. Perhaps this was an agreement with Getty that they had to do their own keywording to avoid spam and incorrect words. But I think their AI system is reducing everything to almost child-like content. I’m lucky that a few of my images are simple enough that the keywords are OK and are selling well on Getty. Otherwise it would be a waste of time. What is interesting to consider is that although we contributors are losing sales, so are EyeEM themselves. They could grow their income considerably with the ideas I put in the blog post.

  2. PaulHardy says:

    Do you submit the same images to EyeEM as iStock? How do sales from both compare?

    • Steven Heap says:

      Hi Paul. Sort of! All my images go to iStock (except a few editorial ones they dont accept) but I pick and choose the “better” shots to go to EyeEM and manually upload them. However, I’ve been so disappointed with the mess they are making of keywording for Getty that I’ve focused on other things and haven’t uploaded images for quite a while there. The sales are very different between the sites – as I explained in the September earnings report, the sales are mainly of a few specific images on EyeEM whereas they are of many different images on iStock. My cat sold multiple times on Getty via EyeEM during 2019 for a total of $224, it didn’t sell at all on iStock. My Jefferson Memorial cherry blossom shot got $65 on iStock and $201 on EyeEM/Getty. So very different sales, but a very small percentage of what I uploaded to EyeEM.

  3. AlessandraRC says:

    What they do with the keywords is really pathetic.

    • Steven Heap says:

      They did say they were working on improvements, but I haven’t seen any news of that and haven’t uploaded there for quite a time.

  4. PaulHardy says:

    Hi Steve, do you think its an issue on EyeEm that the images don’t have visible watermarks?

    • Steven Heap says:

      Hi Paul – it doesn’t really bother me. People who want to use an image without paying will find many unwatermarked versions of my best images all over the web. Every buyer of an image gets one without watermarks and on some sites they get the full size image. People who don’t know what they are doing sometimes use those full images on their websites – hence people looking to use the image for free can find sizes up to the full size in some cases. So why bother about people taking a screen shot from EyeEM?

  5. PaulHardy says:

    True. Wondering whether to submit all my portfolio here or not, another revenue stream. Its all with iStock and sells well. You probably know about the Getty news now, would be nice if they sold on Eye EM too. I see they also do footage, but don’t know how well it sells there.

    • Steven Heap says:

      Hi Paul – as this blog post makes clear, they “can” sell well, but only if you are very lucky with the keywords they assign to the image. They told me they were working on some enhancements to that process, but I’ve seen nothing to suggest that is completed. So uploading files at the moment is very much a “crap shoot” as to whether you will get keywords that result in your images being found with Getty. I didn’t know they did footage – I’ve no idea how well that sells with either themselves or Getty but I suspect it suffers from the same keyword issues.

  6. PaulHardy says:

    Hi Steve, I’ve now started to upload to Eye EM. Although the keywording has proved frustrating. I wish I could save the titles and keywords as I go along, as on a couple it didn’t save anything when I went to post photos which was annoying. Also, Every time I went and titled and image, it wouldn’t save what I typed. I couldn’t see a way of saving. So I gave up, and uploaded and posted images and then keyworded and titled them once they were online. Something, I was wondering if you knew, are your images reviewed once they are posted or once they’ve got titles and keywords attached? What if I have had images accepted to the market before I’ve finished titling them? I know I should have maybe done it the other way around but at least this way once I type a title it saves it! Or are images only pushed through to the market place once you have finished titling them? Thanks!

    • Steven Heap says:

      I haven’t had an issue recently with losing keywords. I upload a set of similar shots (which have keywords and descriptions already). I don’t normally add any more keywords there. If I remember, there is an issue that only one description is used, which is why they need to be similar. I make sure a location is added and then I submit them. I’ve never worked on the real site apart from model releases occasionally. However, in my view, all that is a waste of time because those keywords are dropped when they select images for their partners and a useless set of keywords and description is added instead. So when you look on Getty, you see totally generic descriptions and keywords. complete shambles – so I stopped uploading to them.

  7. PaulHardy says:

    On another comparison it does indeed look like not all of my keywords have gone across to Getty. I only had 20 images there for a long time, and no sales, but I only had 20 images there. Now I want to upload all my old portfolio, but you are making me think, is it worthwhile?! But even if I only sell a few regularly, it would be another revenue stream.

    • Steven Heap says:

      I don’t honestly know, Paul. I sold $22 last month and $40 this month, which is OK, but it is the same images that sell over and over. What really annoys me is that I think if the images were keyworded properly I would sell a lot more. Now the big unknown is what sort of images will sell – I think it is great shots of famous places as they seem to get an appropriate keyword set there, and then concepts where their AI driven system gets them reasonably right. Ordinary travel shots might as well be invisible. But even these few words are pretty uncertain – I have plenty of shots on EyeEM that fit the description, but never sell. So who knows!

  8. PaulHardy says:

    I wish there was an easy way to copy and paste keywords….I’ve never done so much typing!

    • Steven Heap says:

      Why don’t you embed the keywords before you upload. That still works, doesn’t it. I haven’t uploaded for a while so they may have changed things around again!

I'm always interested in what you think - please let me know!