8 Image search engines that don’t license images

In our article about Imense we touched on their Picture search service that uses visual search technology to find images from various libraries. Imense serves up the images but does not take part in the licensing. Instead it refers clients to the content owners who can then license the images.

There are a number of other companies offering search services. This post on makeuseof points to a number of other companies providing a similar service. I added others that are allready estabished in the industry to help gain insight into the search possibilities. I left out the big search engines as I have reported on seperately.

The first set of companies search across the web and have no agreements in place with the content owners.


Pixsy Corporation describes iself as : “the leading B2B provider of Video and Image Syndication to websites and applications. The Pixsy Index is a massive library of video and image content that can be integrated into approved premium websites and applications. Key benefits include new advertising monetizing, increased pageviews, SEO optimized content, flexible integration options, and media that can be targeted to most any vertical category.”

The focus is business to business and the integration of the search engine into existing systems. The engine searches over 50 millions pieces of content and includes video.


Incogna uses something they call parallel processing to search images based on the information in the images (i.e. visual search). This is how they describe it:” Bluntly put, the goal is to organize the world’s visual information. Searching text has proven crucial on the web, but searching images and video is much more complex and needs an entirely different approach. Of course, processing such large scale visual information is a difficult problem that’s set to evolve quickly over the next few years…but we’re happy to show off what we’ve got so far!”

The company was launched one year ago with the help of the University of Ottawa and financial backing. They have applied the technology on another site called Shopachu that uses it to find similar items of clothing and matching items.


This company has indexed 3 billion images. Aimed at consumers and families this company describes itself as having: ” three main features that make it unique. It has a relevancy unrivalled on the web due to its patent-pending indexing algorithms. Also, Picsearch has a family friendliness that allows children to surf in safety as all offensive material is filtered out by our advanced filtering systems. The site is also very user friendly as it’s designed to be simple, fast and accurate. Due to all of these features, Picsearch is perfect for fun, school, business and families!”

The following companies are more specialist and have agreements in place with the stock agencies whose images show up in the search results. They charge for the service or use advertising and therefore do not take a share in the revenues.


A long established company that searches  4,6 million stock images


Picturemaxx facilitates search by connecting to libraries via an API that aggregates the portfolios of over 250 photo agencies, media portals and archives.  The company launched in Germany, now has offices in France, Eastern Europe and the US and is opening up in the UK. The focus is mostly on editorial content.


Spffy is a service of Stockphotofinder. Even though the site was launched in 2007 it says it’s still in Beta. It only works with Firefox.

“SPFFY™ is all about providing you with as many options as possible to find visual content for your use. We do this by providing in one site the most and broadest range of different content sources and prices and business models, and of course, of images and video. We hope you will find spffy useful and help us with your suggestions to really make it special. We are launching with this public beta, looking forward to adapting our search site to best fit your needs.”

The site searches Stockphotofinder, Jupiter Images, Fotolia, Dreamstime, Superstock, 123RF and Bigstockphoto


THP is a search engine that has signed on most Stock Photography companies and powers their search capabilities. Companies pay for licensing the technology. THP hosts all the images, which is a critical difference from the others.


Calling themselves the Google of Stockphotosite this company that was founded in August 2008 says: “Tired of the cumbersome searches through stock photo sites? See better results with Cyclo.ps. Our monster machine brings the results of the most popular stock sites to one location. Search once. See it all.”

The site searches on: Flickr, Shutterstock, Bigstockphoto, Fotolia, Stockschng, Cutcaster, photos.com and Stockvault

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses