Smart Searching with Sensei Finding the Content You Need - FAST - in Adobe Stock

A huge collection of great content doesn't mean much if you can't quickly find what you need.

Image, above ID#: 85172263

But Who's Counting?

Adobe Stock just recently broke through the 200-million asset ceiling in our collection. This number continues to grow exponentially each month. As a photographer and Adobe Stock contributor, I'm proud to be part of that ever-increasing collection of high-quality content.

Let's face it, though; a significant collection of fresh, new assets doesn't mean much if you can't find what you're looking for - and find it quickly. A critical factor in design projects - whether it's for a client or for a class project - is the time spent finding or creating the assets for that project.

In my time as a Solutions Consultant for Adobe Stock, one of the many things I've learned is that our stock service does things differently. We are heavily investing in the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (we call it Adobe Sensei) to efficiently assist customers in their search for the right asset. And while this is great, it does mean a change in muscle memory, compared to how one might have searched for content on other stock sites.

Image, left: ID# 196886913

Finding What You Want

This article will identify the various ways you can speed up your search for the perfect image, using Adobe Stock. We'll look at each of the following:

  • Curated Collections
  • Visual Search
  • Undiscovered Content
  • Standard Content vs Premium and Video
  • Aesthetic Filters
  • Copy Space and Isolation Filters
  • Conceptual and Real Life Keywords
  • Find Similar Content
  • Contributor Portfolios
  • Boolean Searches
  • Editorial Content

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Are you ready? Let's go!

Deep Dive into Search

Curated Collections

Not sure where to start? You'll see Curated Collections on the main page of every asset category:

Our dedicated, highly-trained curators are continuously adding new collections to the Adobe Stock web site, including popular, seasonal, trending, and lifestyle content for easy browsing and inspiration.

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Visual Search

Sometimes, keywords just aren't enough. Maybe you've seen an image online somewhere - heck, maybe you even took a photo yourself - and wished you could find something just like it that you could use in an upcoming design or campaign without worrying about copyright or model releases.

You can use that image to perform a Visual Search! This allows you to find content that is visually similar to your image or video footage.

You have three options to initiate the search:

  1. Drag and drop an image into the search bar from your desktop
  2. Select the camera icon attached to the search bar button to browse for and upload your image file.
  3. Click and drag an image from existing Adobe Stock search results.
Drag and drop from the desktop.
You can use still images to search for video footage as well! Just select Videos from the search bar and the search results will refresh with video content instead of image content.

Finding Images from Other Sources

Whether you start your search with a Visual Search or with keywords, you can apply additional keywords or filters to further refine your results.

Adding the keywords, "whitewater" and "adult" changes the search results significantly.

Pro-Tip 1: Changing the sort by to Relevance is a great way to find something you’ve already seen somewhere else and want to find on our site.

Pro-Tip 2: Changing the sort by to Featured returns results that are new, fresh and on-trend with your existing search.

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The Filter Panel is Your Friend

By default, the Filter panel on the left side of the Stock website is hidden. After your first search, click on the View Panel button or the Filters icon to expand the panel. A lot of your options for finding the right image quickly are in this panel. I'll point out many of these options in this article.

Standard Content vs Premium and Video

If you want to limit your search to lower cost or single-credit assets, you can apply the Standard Content filter. Standard Content represents a large majority of the assets on Adobe Stock, so there will be a lot of content to choose from.

All other assets, including Premium collection images and HD/4K videos, are accessible with the Premium and Video filter option.

Pro Tip: Reduce the "cheese" factor in your image search results, and get more "non-stock-like" content in a standard image search by first limiting the search to Premium image content. Find an image you like in the Premium content and use it as the subject of a visual search, and then switch to Standard content.

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Sensei’s Aesthetic & Content Filters

Adobe’s decades of experience in creativity and data science gave rise to Adobe’s artificial intelligence (AI), the Sensei neural network. Sensei is interwoven throughout Adobe tools, from creative desktop and cloud tools and services, to document processing and our digital marketing services.

In Adobe Stock, Sensei goes far beyond keywords, examining millions of images at the pixel level, to learn about the content and intent of the visual image itself, enabling it to make spot-on recommendations when you search for assets. Aesthetic and content filters use Adobe Sensei to empower your search based on an image’s aesthetic characteristics, such as focus and color or image content.

The Stock search team works closely with the Sensei team on research projects that often end up becoming new tools for customers over time.

Search Undiscovered

A challenge with microstock can be feeling confident your image choices are unique. Enabling the Undiscovered Content filter could help you quickly find the right image and one that no one else has licensed through Adobe Stock.

Depth of Field

Depth of Field is a photographic term, meaning, the area of apparent sharpness in an image, from front to back.

Using a sliding scale, the Depth of Field aesthetic filter allows you to narrow your search images with sharp focus extended throughout the image (think - landscape photo) or images with one sharply focused subject with blurred foreground and/or background (think - fashion photography or close up photography).

Search results for images with shallow depth of field (more blur).

Vivid Color

Using a sliding scale, the Vivid Color aesthetic filter allows you to narrow your search results based on color saturation. The slider enables you to choose lower or higher color intensity.

An example showing results with muted color.

Copy Space Filter

Using the Copy Space content filter, you can further alter your search by specifying whether the assets you need require room for other design elements, such as text, logos or or other images.

Note: All the images used in this article are from Adobe Stock, and several of them were found using the Copy Space filter.

Isolation Filter

New for 2019!

Isolation Filter

If your goal is to find images that can be easily masked so they can be dropped into other backgrounds, you can also filter for isolated images. You can choose to show only or exclude isolated imagery from the search results.

Usage Rights

Within the main collection, outside of news-related editorial content, is a subcategory called Illustrative Editorial. This type of asset would include imagery with obvious branding such as store signs, logos, etc, that are not necessarily current news but, but could be used to help illustrate a concept or theme. Perhaps there is a feature article talking about the increase in the number of coffee shops in the downtown core. An illustrative editorial image showing a concentration of different coffee shops with obvious signage, could assist with this article.

You may use content marked "Editorial use only" solely in publications about current events, newsworthy topics, or other items of public interest. No commercial or advertising use is permitted and all assets must have credit assigned. Slight cropping or resizing permitted, but no other modifications except for technical quality is permitted. Do not misrepresent the source or use to imply any third party endorsement. To learn more, see Editorial Restrictions.

Examples of when to use Editorial Content

  • News articles
  • Non-fiction books
  • Documentaries
  • Non-Commercial Blogs

By default, this type of asset is displayed in any general content search, but you can filter out those images using the Usage Rights

Size Filter

The Size Filter allows you to set a minimum pixel dimension or megapixel resolution, which can further narrow down your search results.

Pssst.... if you want to impress your friends, toss around the phrase "Semantic Image Segmentation." It's one of the ways Adobe Sensei learns about the actual image content itself, rather than just relying on keywords and search terms.

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The Key to Keywords

Keyword searches are still important, especially when it comes to narrowing down your results. But thanks to Sensei, your keywords don't have to accurately describe a literal scene; they could be used to add context.


Adobe Stock is continually analyzing assets to understand how they relate to trends, topics, and themes. Sometimes, what you're looking for is an asset that embodies a mood, emotion or concept, rather than a straight-forward description like, "man standing on mountain". If that's the case, try using conceptual keywords in your search, like happy, alone, thoughtful, love....

Adding a word like "solitude" to this keyword search skews the results noticeably.


Similar to conceptual keywords, "authentic" or "real-life" keywords can help narrow your results. Try using words like "candid" with other keywords to find less posed, formal imagery.

Search results for "kayaking" and "candid" display more "slice of life", natural images.


When using keywords to search, the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT can be used in the search bar to limit the results of a search. Connect words in various combinations to expand or focus results.

Example of Boolean search: dog AND kayak AND lake NOT sunset

Pro-Tip: You can also combine keywords with a Visual Search to really fine-tune the results of your search.

Pro-Tip #2: Did you know, you can even start your search on Google? Simply type in a keyword and include "adobe stock" to focus your results on content from the Adobe Stock web site.

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Find Similar

If you're using Visual Search, or have narrowed down your results with keywords and other filters, you may find yourself on the right track, but still need to focus your search results further. Let Adobe Sensei help you with our Find Similar options.

Searching based on similar content can help remove outlier images and keep your results on theme. Note all the kayaks here have yellow, red or orange in them.

Search for images that are similar in look and feel to those you’ve already selected by clicking the double box icon on the image, or by clicking on an image for a larger preview.

Perhaps it's not the scene, but the color scheme you want. We've got you covered by choosing "color"
Sensei is learning all about the placement of objects in a scene. Searching for similar compositions looks for similar layout, without regard for the actual subject matter.


In early 2020, we launched a public beta enhancement for our Find Similar feature, allowing you to select specific objects within your source image. To learn more about this exciting development, check out this short tutorial.

Find More

When you click on an image for a larger preview, you can also select More from This Series or More from This Model.

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Contributor Portfolios

Do you like the work of a certain contributor? Simply click their profile name (in blue), found in the image details, to go right to their own Adobe Stock asset gallery.

Pssst....if you're stuck on who to pick, I can suggest a certain contributor (shameless plug).

Pro-Tip: If you find suddenly that your results are not what you're expecting, you can quickly clear your search settings by clicking on the Stock logo at the upper left corner of the website. This will reset all search parameters to their defaults, and take you back to the home page.

Contributor Search

New for 2019, you can search for specific agency creative collections (such as Stocksy, GoPro, Twenty20, etc). Simply run a search with the ‘Agency Name’ on the Adobe Stock website. The search results will include a link to the contributor page.

Searching for Stocksy results in a query, asking if I mean the actual contributor.
Clicking on the contributor link brings me to their portfolio of work.

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Searching Editorial Content

Editorial Default

Editorial content is hidden by default from All, Images and Video categories. In order to search for editorial content, choose the Editorial category from the main menu or from the search bar drop down.

Editorial Search

Because editorial content is essentially news and current event assets, the editorial default sort order is based on most recent, not relevancy. In order to get the best results when searching with an image, choose Relevance as the sorting option and use the date filter to narrow results to a more specific time range. Putting in a few keywords such as Place (City/Country), Event (Academy Awards/ Super Bowl), Person's Name (Alicia Keys, Merkel) can also improve the results. Make sure to click on Find Similar if you don't find the image in the initial search results.

Pro-Tip: Search with Associated Press (AP) standard names, places and events, ex: Academy Awards instead of Oscars.

Main image ID#: 220175367 (editorial)

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The Wrap Up

The Search is Never Really Over...

And there you have it. Well, there you have it for now, at least; Sensei is constantly improving and learning more, so your search options will no doubt increase over time and become even more accurate.

I hope you can see that by making some small changes to how you look for stock content, you can find what you need much faster when using Adobe Stock.

What would YOU like to learn about Adobe Stock? Drop me a line and let me know.

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Created By
Jim Babbage


Created with images by Alexander Raths - "Colorful spices on wooden table" • Jim Babbage - "cute, small boy in cowboy outfit standing with large white horse" • Craig Zerbe - "Saskatchewan River Crossing during Autumn golden hour of the Icefields Parkway" • jakkapan - "Photo album remembrance and nostalgia in summer journey trip on wood table. instant photo of vintage camera - vintage and retro style" • TTstudio - "Waterfall, Iceland - Seljalandsfoss" • lily - "Lake and road at sunset" • SFIO CRACHO - "office building exterior" • alexx_60 - "Used paint brushes lying on the side in a row on dark background, space for inscriptions." • tubartstock - "Laptop and notebook on wooden desk" • Romolo Tavani - "seashells on seashore - beach holiday background "All photographs courtesy of contributors to Adobe Stock.