Keywording Tips to Increase your Stock Photo Sales


Often, a reader says something like this:

“I got a bunch of photos accepted into stock agencies, but nothing is happening. Now what?”

Of course, there are many possible answers to this question, but one of the biggest ways to make your stock photos sell has nothing to do with your photography at all.

And that thing is keywording.

The quality of your keywording can absolutely make or break whether an image gets seen by buyers.

Keywords lead to your photo being found among millions of images in stock photo agencies.

So let’s look at a couple of photos and go over how we might keyword them for stock.

Citrus Slices by Photos by Sara Ehlen
Citrus Slices by Photos by Sara Ehlen

Grapefruit, citrus, fruit, orange, juicy, ripe, red, blood orange, round, circles, row, healthy, fresh, organic, natural, overhead, above, food, half, colorful, health, ingredients, breakfast, snack, vibrant, nutritious, closeup, cleanse, table, tabletop, ripe, vitamin C, vivid, sour, sweet, tart, summer, raw, wooden, design, similar, pattern, circle

When keywording your images, think of words that you would type into a search engine to find a photo like yours. That’s what a buyer is going to be doing.

If you get stuck, it helps to think of the who, what, when, where, and why. Make sure your keywords cover these basics. Then add in other important descriptors and feelings your photo portrays.

Also be sure you are only using keywords that are relevant to your image. Notice I didn’t include words like “farmer’s market” or “fruit salad,” because they aren’t represented in these photos.

Shoot for somewhere between 20-40 keywords per photo.

BONUS TIP: Some agencies ask that you put your keywords in order of importance. So start with the most relevant keywords. This can help your image in searches, too.
A number of agencies offer keywording guides, too. Check out Shutterstock’s handy keywording guide, or Fotolia’s “Keywording Guide to the Galaxy.” There’s also Getty Image’s keyword guide, which breaks it down by subject.

I use Adobe Lightroom to keyword all my images before uploading them. If you do this, then when you upload to each agency, the keywords will automatically come in with your photo. (Note: If your keywords get rearranged by alphabetical order, simply move them back into order of importance when they get to the agency.)

Taking the extra minute to thoroughly keyword your photos could literally be the difference between a photo that sells, and one that doesn’t.