Friday, October 24, 2008

Making iStock lightboxes work for you

In spite of the shortcomings of so many iStock photos (whiter-than-white, straight teeth; everyone posing and smiling; distinct corporate bias; preponderance of US-centric images etc.), it remains a very useful place from which to source images for powerPoint presentations, user manuals and elearning materials. They not only stock photos, they also have an excellent supply of symbolic graphics which I find even better than the photos for PowerPoint slides and elearning pages.

But I've discovered that many people under-use the lightbox facility, so I thought I'd give a quick rundown on some of the advantages I've discovered. First let me explain what it is that many people seem to do instead. Bear in mind that lightboxes can only be created and/or used by those who have created a log in identity (how else is the system going to keep track of which lightbox is yours?).

What I've found is that many people will find a promising looking image and download a comp, or save the image with the protecting watermark across it to their own system. Perhaps to a folder on their hardrive, or to a network folder, where the project team members can all see it.

Using lightboxes allows you to do effectively exactly the same thing, except that this way, the metadata comes with the images, allowing you to search through them using a range of different keywords, rather than having to view each one individually.

Let me explain...

First - what is a lightbox?
This is a virtual holding space in which you can place images that you thing might be suitable for some or other purpose, at no expense to yourself. You can collect as many images there as you like and then come back to them later to decide which ones you're actually going to buy.

Creating a lightbox:
So you've used the search facility and ben offered a gazillion images that might be appropriate. You've spotted one within that lot that looks promising. You've selected that image and are now on the screen from which you could choose to buy and download it. Just to the right of the image, you will see the section labelled File Tools. Select the option to Add to a Lightbox.

This dialog box will open up. Since you don't yet have any lightboxes, yet, there is no option to use an existing one. If you already have a lightbox, the dialog box will be slightly different, but you'll get the idea. Enter the name for your lightbox, together (if you like) with a short description and a few keywords. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that it's a good ide to give the lightbox a name that will make it easy to find again. If you're working on a presentation for a conference, or an elearning module for a project, why not use the name of the conference or the project? Hit Add, and in one fell swoop you've created a new lightbox and added an image to it.

Adding an image to an existing lightbox
Once you've created one or more lightboxes, you can add images to them to your heart's content. Simply select the individual image, and use the option to add it to a lightbox. This dialog box will open. Use the drop down arrow to reveal your lightboxes and select the required one. as you can see, you can opt to add a new lightbox at any point.

Public lightboxes
You can choose to make a lightbox public or private. I won't presume to tell you the circumstances under which you might choose one or the other. If an image has been saved to existing public lightboxes, this information will appear in the File Tools section. You may find it useful to trawl through those lightboxes to see if there are any other images that will suit your purpose - especially if it seems the lightbox was created to address an issue similar to yours.

Managing your lightboxesIf you look at the banner across the top of your iStock screen, you will notice the lightboxes link. Use this to access your lightboxes (and to see the featured lightbox of the week). This page will tell you whether your lightboxes are public or private - they are set to private by default. Select Manage to edit the settings of your lightboxes.

Okay fine, so now I know how to do all this, how is it an advantage?
As I mentioned earlier, an image added to a lightbox takes with it all its metadata. So you could save yourself a lot of heartache by using the search facility within a lightbox rather than across the whole of iStock to see whether you already have an image that fits a specific bill.

If you do this sort of thing on a regular basis, your lightbox contents may start to number thousands. Imagine looking through thousands of thumbnails on your system for a specific image. Instead you can opt to run a search on your lightboxes, using a few keywords to pinpoint a specific image.

If you're working with a team, you could tell a team member that you're looking for images with a simiar look and feel to the ones in such and such a lightbox. The team member can then identify a few key words to help them source additional images of the same type.

If you suddenly need more images for a specific resource, you already know that you have a shortlist set aside in your lightbox, and you don't have to go and start again from scratch.

I hope this post will have been of help to a few people. Please let me know. If all I've succeeded in doing is raise questions in your mind, please pose them... someone out there (maybe even me) will have the answer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I use the lightbox all the time. Recently, I spent some time looking for images on a certain topic. The next day when I went back to my lightbox many of the images were not there! So frustrating.