Since 2003, Bloomberg has collected and archived the images taken by our global team of photographers. What began as a fairly limited collection of finance types in suits is now a thriving business of 700,000 high-quality, often unique images of all things business – faces, places, products – and more. Those striking photos are made available to internal groups and external clients, including more than 200 media companies in more than 40 countries who license Bloomberg’s images.

BIG DIG: An employee uses the light from a head torch to illuminate the machine cut walls of a potash mine in Berezniki, Russia. Photographed by Andrey Rudakov for Bloomberg.

“We’re photo-journalists,” says Natasha Cholerton-Brown, managing editor for Photos. “We understand what’s going on in the news. Given the trends in the economy and the news overall, we’re creeping onto more and more pages, because we’re able to get photographers anywhere they need to be.”

You don’t have to be a photographer to know that a unique image can drive newsstand sales, web traffic, and industry buzz. So the photo desk scrambles like reporters when it comes to breaking news and key events, with the goal of getting clients shots that no other photo service can get.

“We’re not just selling to business publications; we’re selling to general interest newspapers, websites, and broadcasters,” says Josh Rucci, global head of sales for Bloomberg’s Media Licensing and Distribution business. “Images can be used over and over again, in so many different outlets. That’s the power of the service.”

The group has expanded far beyond its roots in headshots of financial executives, shooting major world events, economic and business developments. One such example is a recent feature series, created with the help of a Maersk captain, that details a container ship going through the Suez Canal. The result of the work is a brilliant, detailed shoot of the massive ship being escorted through a tiny strip of militarized territory, illustrating a multitude of newsworthy subjects: East-West trade, economics, geopolitics, history and business. (See the slideshow.)

Cholerton-Brown points to the Best Photos of the Year, a selection of 80 images that sets Bloomberg’s content apart. One of those images, taken in Berezniki, Russia, on August 23, shows employees illuminating the depths of a cathedral-like potash mine. Bloomberg’s photo team editors gained exclusive access to the mine for photographer Andrey Rudakov during a politically fraught period of time. The stunning photograph captures a process rarely seen by the public at a newsworthy moment. These days, Cholerton-Brown’s main activity is preparing the archive for a 2014 re-launch that will make the photos available through the Bloomberg Professional service.

Partly as a result of the broadened perspective, Bloomberg Photo Service has 200 external clients in more than 40 countries that license imagery for editorial use, including the South China Morning Post, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and O Globo. Rucci’s team also sells media clients Bloomberg News, data for print, digital video and the Bloomberg Professional service.

The team stocks the archive with work from staff photographers and more than 400 global freelance contributors, many of whom have won a significant number of prestigious photo awards..

So when, say, Jeff Bezos announces his purchase of the Washington Post, Bloomberg Photo Service has an image of the Amazon founder and Donald Graham (Washington Post chairman and CEO) together weeks earlier in Sun Valley at Allen & Company’s conference, ready for the world’s newspapers to reprint

Or when, say, Jeff Bauman is wheeled away moments after the Boston Marathon Bombing, Bloomberg has it first, ready for the world’s websites to post.

“Our photographer was in the right place at the right time,” says Cholerton-Brown. “Photographers do what any journalist aims to do when news unfolds in front of their eyes. They have to tell the story honestly. This is challenging when one is dealing with personal trauma and the chaos that occurs during catastrophic events. But that’s what professional photographers do.”

With this level of quality, let’s hope they never stop.

Contributed by Sara Pepitone, a freelance lifestyle writer and business journalist