Inspiration

Authentic, Bold, Natural: How We Redesigned Our Stock Photo Library for 2017

Insights from a media specialist and photography expert.

Images: Envato Elements

Gaby Jalbert is a media specialist at Envato, with over two decades of experience in the stock photography industry. Gaby writes about the history of photos at Envato, how we refreshed the our stock photo marketplace – and launched a brand-new photo library:

Let’s start with a bit of history.

Twenty years ago, companies needing photos relied mainly on two sources. The first was to hire photographers specifically for their projects and the other was to order photos (on CDs) via catalogues; both options were fairly expensive. Royalty-managed photography was gradually making its way online, but again, it remained out of reach for many.

Then the microstock photography industry took off in the early 2000s. Royalty-free images were made available at a fraction of the price, with a license that was much more simple and flexible. It revolutionized commercial photography. Not only did it become accessible to more customers, but it also allowed a wider range of photographers from amateurs to professionals, to start making a living from it. The small royalty amounts were compensated by the volume of sales. The demand was outgrowing the offer.

Fast forward to 2011: Envato launched its photography marketplace, PhotoDune, with standards in line with what was broadly used across the microstock photo industry at that point. As time went on, not much changed, except for the fact that more photographers were joining and uploading more content. Inevitably this model lead to content growing faster than sales and photographers evolving in an increasingly competitive environment, making it more challenging to generate a decent income.

Part of Envato’s mission is to enable contributors (or ‘authors’) to make a living from their work.

In order to achieve this mission, we knew we had to rethink PhotoDune’s model almost from the ground up. We wanted to bring back our library to the basics of high quality photography; to gradually move away from the over-processed, cliché concepts and move towards images that better reflect the reality we live in. In addition to this refocus on quality, we also launched a brand-new photo library on our subscription service, Envato Elements.

Here are a few examples of our new visual direction:

Image: Girl by ValentinaART

Lovely image shot outdoors with a short depth of field, yet we can still make out the garden environment. Natural processing, everything about the image communicates well-being and happiness.

Friends Gathering Together by Rawpixel

Here we have an engaging composition – it’s as if we were attending the party. Natural lighting, short depth of field. Though certainly a lot of preparation was taken in setting up this shoot, the result looks very genuine. The facial expressions are just as natural and convincing.

Men generation by Pressmaster

Again, natural lighting, facial expressions are credible, lovely image that could be used to represent multiple generations, parenthood, retirement and many other concepts.

Couple in the city by simbiothy

Interesting use of shadows to focalize our attention on the couple. Fresh perspective on an old concept. It’s as if the models were unaware of the camera, which contributes to the image feeling authentic.

Fondant fancies by RuthBlack

Beautiful lighting, bright and nicely coordinated colors, well balanced composition. Hungry yet?

Fashion blond model by EvgeniyaPorechenskaya

Though we talked a lot about authenticity, we will also continue to offer high quality images that don’t quite fall into the “authentic” category. Fashion photography is one example. Here the photographer used primary colors for a very colorful and bold effect. The very defined shapes (including hairstyle) and lines also add to its visual impact.

retro photo camera by vvoennyy


In the same way, we will still offer a collection of high quality isolated objects which can be extremely useful for a wide range of projects. Eventually, these will be in an easily searchable sub-category.

Because of this major shift in quality requirements, we moved away from quantity oriented goals to refocus on quality.

The upside is that the smaller group of photographers we now have will gain better exposure, better support and be more successful. We want it to be worth their time to invest in producing some of the best content available while also improving the customer’s shopping experience with fewer but better images.

This has been a massive project with over 9 million images re-reviewed and thousands of portfolios evaluated – and it’s far from over. Curating is ongoing so that the quality keeps improving as we go. Many announcements are planned for the next year, including:

  • User interface improvements (both for photographers and customers)
  • A smarter search engine
  • Curated collections
  • And much, much more!

We are very proud of our community of photographers who have been very receptive to these significant changes, and without whom this simply would not have been possible. We already have over 240,000 photos available for unlimited downloads on Elements and we’re just beginning.

Browse photos on PhotoDune, or check out our photos available for unlimited download with a subscription to Envato Elements.

Gaby Jalbert

About the Author Gaby Jalbert

Gaby has been in touch with stock photography for almost 20 years.