The Do’s and Don’ts of Stock Photo Keywording

Close up of vintage typewriter machine

I’m in a plane somewhere over Wyoming, staring at the wrinkled landscape below and dreaming of the day I’ll own a remote-controlled quad-copter so I can fly my camera way above the ground and take aerial video.

Aerial video has never been a passion of mine… but after the Ultimate Money-Making Photo Workshop this week in Santa Fe, I seem to have sprouted a few new passions!

As soon as I start mounting a camera to flying objects, I’ll share how that goes. In the meantime, I want to let you in on some GREAT stock photo keywording tips I picked up at the workshop, from our very own stock photo expert, Shelly Perry.

Each photo that you upload to an agency needs a title, description, and keywords. Keywords are how your photos are found in searches. And YOU get to choose which words best fit your images.

Here are Shelly’s Do’s and Don’ts of stock photo keywording:

DO: Describe the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the subject of your image. If you can’t describe the subject of your image, or you don’t know what the subject is, it might be a hard photo to sell as stock.

Try finding an image that has a clear and obvious subject, like this photo of a young, Caucasian, 20-30 year-old, brunette, blue eyed, stylish, casual, affluent, happy, beautiful, young, woman.

DO: Describe the “actions” of your subject. In the photo above, our subject is looking, gazing, smiling, dreaming, holding (a wine glass), leaning, relaxing, dining, etc.

DO: Get specific. List the situation and all of the specific objects in the image that relate to the subject. In this case, we have a wine glass, wine, meal, fine dining, white tablecloth, restaurant, table, outdoors, bracelets, necklace, table for two, dinner, (maybe also lunch), etc.

DON’T: Name every insignificant detail and object in the image. Remember that photo buyers are using specific words to find the photos they need. So if you use irrelevant words, it’s only going to annoy them when they see a bunch of photos that don’t relate to what they’re looking for.

For example, you wouldn’t keyword the above image with “salt shaker,” “garnish,” “window pane,” “chair,” or “wall.” A designer searching for “wall,” is looking for a wall. Not a woman in a restaurant. However, you might use “open air” to describe the restaurant setting.

DON’T: Use concepts or details that don’t apply. This is a woman dining in a restaurant. We can’t assume that she’s plotting something, dating, or having a business lunch, because those concepts aren’t clearly portrayed here. We can’t say whether she’s in L.A., Santa Fe, or Stockholm. So leave those things out. Stick to what’s in the image.

Spring is in full bloom in my hometown of Portland, Oregon right now. I’ve got a headshot client tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to having great weather for that! What are you shooting this weekend?