Time Is Money: Using Artificial Intelligence to Take the Pain (and Cost) Out of Image Search and Discovery

An array of calculators signify the time and cost associated with inefficient image search and discovery.

by Alex Filipkowski

posted on 06-26-2019

Anyone who creates digital media for publication understands the challenges of generating photos, videos, illustrations, and vector graphics from scratch. Doing so gives you creative freedom and infinite customizability, but there’s often a significant trade off: it takes a lot of time and money to create all the elements of a creative project yourself. We live in a world of project deadlines, and we often don’t have the luxury of time; a lot of us are also resource constrained, and orchestrating your own photoshoot may be well out of budgetary reach.

This is why stock photography and video have become so popular; they provide a necessary resource for content creators who need to source assets quickly and affordably. However, the advantages that come with having a large content repository can also lead to new challenges. Sorting through all those assets to find the one that’s just right can be a formidable and frustrating task. Moreover, the time spent on this task is time that could be better spent on the rest of the content creation process and strategy.

In fact, according to a qualitative research study commissioned by Adobe in October 2018, based on interviews with creative pros across the US, UK and Germany, 74% of creatives said they spend over half of their time on repetitive, primarily uncreative tasks.

That’s why at Adobe, we leverage Adobe Sensei, our artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, to take the pain out of mundane tasks like this in Adobe Stock. Stock has a digital content library containing more than 150 million assets, it gives you the ability to access images, videos, templates, and even 3D objects to find the ingredients you need to create, without having to produce content from scratch. We want to ensure that content search and discovery will always be relevant and efficient, so that you’ll get to spend more time doing what you do best: creating.

Through interviews with Adobe Stock customers, we’ve learned that the search process is one of the biggest pain points when digging into deep content libraries to find the right assets. Project owners and their requirements are often quite particular, and as a result this process can take upwards of 30 minutes per asset. This work is typically done with highly trained and well paid workers, and the search experience should be more efficient and much more pleasurable for them.

Many opportunities for improvement trace back to the use of conventional text-based search, for images. Under the hood, these text search queries are mapped to human-assigned text metadata that are associated with each potential result. While this type of search architecture is successful for helping us surface content which is generally relevant to the text query, images often have unique features that are hard to capture through written descriptions. For example, sometimes it’s hard to articulate what exactly it is that attracts you to that perfect image, but when you see it, you instantly know it’s what you’ve been searching for. In addition, for many of the image attributes that designers care about, there is no standard search vocabulary. ‘Depth of field,’ ‘bokeh,’ and ‘background blur’ are all ways that a designer could potentially search for a depth of field effect. Similarly, ‘copy space,’ ‘white space’ and ‘negative space’ are all different terms that a designer could search for images with space to overlay text. This too, makes it hard for traditional search engines, especially since the lack of consistency in the search terms also exists across the metadata.

We want browsing Adobe Stock to be relevant and meaningful at all times. This is why we have created a series of Adobe Sensei services to improve search functionality and cut down on wasted time and resources. These services, powered by artificial intelligence, are trained to “see” an image in the complex way a customer does, by discerning all of its relevant visual characteristics. Below is a breakdown of four features built off of services the Sensei & Search team has developed in collaboration with the Adobe Stock and Adobe Research teams. By using these features, content creators can identify the image that perfectly suits their needs much faster than before.

Visual Search — Find Similar Controls

Visual Search in Adobe enables a customer to use an image they have or find in search results to generate a set of search results that are similar to that image. The Find Similar Controls feature adds an extra layer of functionality to this: you’re able to pick elements of an image, like the color or composition, and find images that have that same visual characteristics. This also allows you to tweak your visual search; e.g., if you want a windsurfing image with the windsurfing board on the left but a slightly different aesthetic than the original image you found, you can do so with the click of a button.

In Adobe Stock, the find similar controls feature allows users to pick elements of an image and identify other images that share those characteristics.

Copy Space filter

Copy Space, a filter powered by Adobe Sensei, identifies images that have space for an overlay. The feature will find areas of an image that are somewhat uniform in color and texture where you can cleanly overlay text or a logo to use together as digital marketing material. For those who create these types of assets, this feature can save tons of time by limiting the set of search results to those images that have the necessary space available.

 In Adobe Stock, the copy space filter allows users to identify images that possess areas that are somewhat uniform in color and texture and suitable to overlay copy on.

Vivid Color Slider

The Vivid Color Slider allows you to reshuffle search results based on how vibrant the images are. The upper end of this slider will show you bright and bold colors, whereas the lower end of the slider shows you monochromatic and muted tones.

 In Adobe Stock, the vivid color slider allows users to identify images according to the vibrancy of colors that are present in the images.

Depth of Field Slider

Lastly, this feature allows users to reshuffle search results based on how much of a ‘depth of field effect,’ or bokeh, the image has. This will help you quickly find images that use this effect, something that proves to be quite difficult with a simple keyword search.

In Adobe Stock, the depth of field filter allows users to identify images based on how much of a 'depth of field effect,' or bokeh, the image has.

Calculate your potential time and cost savings by using features powered by Adobe Sensei

To really show how much time traditional image search can take, and the potential cost savings of using these Adobe Sensei powered features within your workflow, we can leverage a cost savings calculator that the Adobe Experience Manager team created. For example, say you work with the following:

If we estimate that the features detailed above on average decrease search times for an asset from 30 minutes to around 10 minutes, we can estimate cost savings of just over $400K in a year just from the increase in search efficiency. That doesn’t even take into account savings that you’ll see from other gains such as reduced asset re-creation and other creative workflow efficiencies.

In order to do the calculation for your own team, open the calculator here and follow the steps below:

  1. Create a new test, and choose ROI Calculator on the next screen
  2. Select Reduced Search Time, Reduced Asset Re-Creation, Increased Asset Reuse, and Creative Workflow Efficiencies to get a good sense of the ROI you’ll get from optimizing your Adobe Stock searches.
  3. Enter your own figures in the Financial, Resourcing, and Cost Assumption fields.
This tutorial video shows you how to use a new cost savings calculator, created by the AEM Product Marketing and Strategy team, to determine how improved AI search and discovery features can affect your bottom line.

And there you have it! You’ll be able to see how much money you’ll save in reduced search and discovery time.

Future steps to reduce friction for content creators

While we’ve made some incredible strides in harnessing the power of AI to help content creators, our goal is to continue to improve our services and think of new ways to make it easier for our customers to design and create. We know that “discovery” – browsing assets and taking inspiration from results, is often as important as “search,” for users looking for the right assets.

We believe it’s our mission to reduce the toil and drudgery of creative work, freeing up workers to leverage the most important value they provide to the team: human creativity. We’re continuing to listen to our customers and build out new capabilities that leverage Adobe Sensei to minimize time spent on long drawn-out tasks in their creative workflows. Evolving our traditional search schemas to help capture important design-related information is one such way we are making improvements. We hope to use these new technologies and opportunities to completely revitalize the digital content designer process while also feeding imaginations to take creative work to new heights.

Topics: Digital Transformation

Products: Stock