Number three in search, with 2.3 billion queries in May, according to comScore’s calculations, Yahoo today made substantial visual improvements to its image and video search functions, thanks in part to a new deal with stock photo agency Getty Images.

Above: click to enlarge

The Sunnyvale company, still reeling from the ouster of discredited CEO Scott Thompson, is putting on a sunnier disposition in search with high-quality digital images from Getty’s network of professional photographers and new features for enhanced viewing.

Thanks to an extended partnership with Getty, Yahoo will provide searchers with access to more than 20,000 new photos each day and connect them with relevant images tied to the latest news stories. Getty photos will be pulled into the Yahoo search experience within minutes of being taken, the company said.

The spruced up image and video search experience also provides searchers with a full screen viewing option (pictured above) that is supported across web and mobile devices thanks to HTML5 technology. The search results pages feature a new tiled thumbnail viewing experience that displays larger content upon roll-over. In video search, a preview of the video will start playing when the user hovers over it.

Above: Video search on Yahoo

In addition, Yahoo is now marking high-quality images and video in results with an “HQ” badge. The media company is even letting searchers filter results for the most recently uploaded photos from Getty.

The extended partnership with Getty adds a new level of commitment to the relationship between the two companies. The pair previously worked together in 2008 when they connected to bring Flickr photographers and their best captures into the Getty fold.

But search remains an unsettled area for the in-flux company. Yahoo may even be mulling the idea of handing over its entire search business to Microsoft (the companies already have an ad deal in place), according to a recent report from AllThingsD.

Photo credit: acme/Flickr

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