This paper introduces a simple yet effective method to improve visual word based image retrieval. Our method is based on an analysis of the k-reciprocal nearest neighbor structure in the image space. At query time the information obtained from this process is used to treat different parts of the ranked retrieval list with different distance measures. This leads effectively to a re-ranking of retrieved images. As we will show, this has two benefits: first, using different similarity measures for different parts of the ranked list allows for compensation of the âcurse of dimensionalityâ. Second, it allows for dealing with the uneven distribution of images in the data space. Dealing with both challenges has very beneficial effect on retrieval accuracy. Furthermore, a major part of the process happens offline, so it does not affect speed at retrieval time. Finally, the method operates on the bag-of-words level only, thus it could be combined with any additional measures on e.g. either descriptor level or feature geometry making room for further improvement. We evaluate our approach on common object retrieval benchmarks and demonstrate a significant improvement over standard bag-of-words retrieval.