Handling the complexity of images is a problem that has long challenged the stock photo industry - a picture, after all, is worth a thousand words.
(Or sometimes more, as in the case of the US judge who fumed: 'I can't tell you what pornography is, but I know it when I see it.')
But the web is changing everything. TonyStone.com, PhotoDisc.com and other comparable sites trade in enormous catalogues of photos for rent to advertisers and designers worldwide, who can browse those image catalogues themselves, instead of spending hours on the phone to a vendor, struggling to put their needs into words. Seldom have extranets accelerated product selection so dramatically as in the visual arts.
The TonyStone site, in particular, sets the standard for elegant, efficient content presentation. The agency represents 1,000 photographers in 60 countries, so superb site searching and navigation tools are vital. Stone offers browsing in 70 commercially relevant categories. The site also powers sophisticated keyword/concept searches (for example, 'green + computers + student', or 'industry, not blurred').
After registering, shoppers may sort their pics, define usage rights, make payment and download securely watermarked copies. After all, who's got time these days for a thousand extra words?