Some ideas on how to improve stock photography websites

I feel a sense of dread whenever I need to source a particular stock image. It really shouldn’t be that hard, but searching for images on stock sites has never been a pleasant experience for me.

I have some ideas for improvement. Stock providers do include most of these suggestions but the implementation is inconsistent and sometimes obscured.


Improved tag filtering.

I believe tags would help the imagery discovery process by implementing a couple useful features.

Update search terms

This is probably the simplest change that would have the greatest impact. On the majority of stock websites, once you enter a search term you can’t go back and modify it afterwards. You can filter the results for that search term, but if you want to modify the actual search you start from scratch.

Allow adding and removing search terms

A simple solution would be to allow the adding and removing of search terms as well as the option to exclude search terms. The ability to exclude search terms is obscured on most stock websites, either in hidden menus or using the “-” search operator. For example if you want to search for “cats” but don’t want images including “dogs” or “ginger” cats you should be able to exclude images with these tags simply.

Show tags on search results

Considering the above problems/solution, it then becomes useful to display tags in individual image results. That way if there is a particular image that doesn’t meet your search criteria you can identify the offending keyword, or alternatively if there is an image that matches your search you can identify which keywords you may have missed.

More/Less Buttons

Now that you have inclusion/exclusion tags and the tags are visible on search results, it would be easy to refine results by looking at which images fit your criteria and which ones don’t and filtering by keywords in your search results.

By implementing visual feedback when you hover over tags you are able to see what images will be included or excluded relating to certain tags.


This is just one way to improve stock websites slightly from a UX perspective in my personal experience, I will add more ideas to this list in the future. I’m sure there are many other tweaks and improvements that could be, and most likely are being, implemented.

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