“Wow, this is cool, people are gonna have fun with this.”

Above is a quote from a designer in one of our research sessions for our newest image discovery tool called Spectrum.

One of our goals at Shutterstock is making image search inspirational and one of the most enjoyable tasks you perform all day. Our newest image discovery tool, Spectrum, lets you explore image results using the colors in the image, rather than typical attributes like keywords and categories. If you haven’t used it yet, stop reading this article immediately and go try it out here by typing in a simple query. Then move the color slider to see your results change in real time. Cool, right?

New in Shutterstock Labs, Spectrum is particularly helpful with brainstorming, ideation and particularly creative aspects of your workflow. It’s designed to take you places in the collection you would never have found just using keyword search.

Search with real-time feedback

Part of the inspiration for Spectrum came from comparing image search to audio manipulation. One late night at Shutterstock I asked, “Hey wouldn’t it be cool if we could effect image search results the way a DJ mixer can affect audio with real time feedback?” Musicians and DJs playing a live show have this immediacy when they manipulate sound (for example, turn the treble or bass down). People who create ideas (design, music, writing) need immediate feedback when they are creating. Why shouldn’t you get immediate feedback while you are searching, before you begin to refine your keywords? A few really talented people at Shutterstock started experimenting until we had an interface that could do just that: deliver results in real-time as the user altered the color parameter. We’ve learned that people (especially visual artists) would rather make a decision by scanning visual data rather than making words out of an image in their head. Spectrum helps people do this.

Spectrum helps find beautiful imagery.

As we refined Spectrum during research, we started to hear over and over again from designers about how much they enjoyed using it. We got more excited with each user session as we saw people get engrossed with the tool. Again and again, the team watched users move the slider across different colors within spectrum and have a visceral reaction. We called it “the color rush.”

We also noticed that depending on what type of algorithm we used to sort the pixel data the color rush had a different intensity. After testing 40 algorithms, we landed on “Balanced” as our default algorithm (“Balanced” emphasizes edges, depth of field, contrast and other tidbits that produce beautiful results). We left two of the test algorithms — “Bright” and “Light” — in a drop-down so you can experiment with different result sets.

This guy below spent a ton of time working on this and hopes you dig it.

David Chester (photo: JJ Knitis)
David Chester (photo: JJ Knitis)

Spectrum is a Labs tool, and does not include all the photos in the Shutterstock collection. So far it searches photos only, not vectors or illustrations. Try out Spectrum and give us some feedback for improvement.

Our image library is large and only getting bigger over time, and we are excited to keep bringing you tools that help you find the perfect image to tell your story.

— Wyatt Jenkins, Shutterstock VP of Product

DJ photo ©hurricane/Shutterstock.