With site revamp, Fotolia adds vector art

One of a host of "microstock" sites selling members' photos is expanding media types and speeding up image searches.
Written by Stephen Shankland, Contributor
Fotolia, one of a host of "microstock" sites that sells its members' stock photography, plans in the next few days to speed up its Web site and expand the types of artwork its members can sell.

The company currently sells only photos used to spruce up brochures, PowerPoint presentations, Web sites and the like. The new version will permit vector-based illustrations, said Oleg Tscheltzoff, Fotolia's co-founder and president, and pave the way for other types of files as well.

Digital photos are a fixed-size grid of individual pixels, but vector graphics consist of mathematically constructed lines and other shapes and therefore can be resized without any degradation.

"We will add vector files," Tscheltzoff said. "This will be the first move in the direction of other types of files. It could be Flash (animations), maybe even video."

New file formats could potentially attract more members contributing content, as well as more customers buying it. And it could help Fotolia keep up with the Joneses: competitor Getty Images subsidiary iStockphoto, for example, already sells vector art, plus Flash animations and video, as well as photos, and Shutterstock sells vector art.

The new site is scheduled to launch between the end of this week and the beginning of next, Tscheltzoff said. It also is easier to navigate, has more accurate search functionality "and will enable us to grow much bigger in the future," he said.

The new site also responds faster, which will mean better performance for customers, as well as more business for Fotolia and its photographers. "We can expect at least a 20 percent increase, in terms of downloads," Tscheltzoff said.

Fotolia is one of a long list of microstock sites, most of which are run by small companies. But microstock is not the domain of start-ups anymore. Two of the established stock art firms, Getty and Jupiterimages, acquired microstock sites in 2006, and the third, Corbis, plans to launch its own microstock business this month.

New York-based Fotolia launched in November 2005 and is now profitable. It has 15 employees, about 55,000 contributing photographers and somewhat less than 300,000 buyers, who cumulatively download about 10,000 to 15,000 images a day, Tscheltzoff said.

The new site also adjusts pricing. Fotolia lets photographers set their own prices, within limits, and higher-ranked photographers with more downloads may set higher prices. The new pricing schedule caps maximum prices at lower amounts for middle-tier photographers, but it raises the price of the credits that purchasers use to buy photos from $1 to $1.36. A lower-resolution image costs one credit, for example.

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