It’s the least interesting part of any photography project but it could well be the most valuable. Whether you’re uploading your photos to Flickr, to a stock site or even to your own website, if you don’t get the keywords right, you won’t get any views.
And we don’t need to point out that no views means no sales.
Here’s how to keyword your images so that potential buyers can easily find your photos.
Step 1. Start at the Top
It’s important to remember that although you will have to produce a long list of unconnected words, any text that any website asks you to add to your photo will also include keywords.
That includes the picture title.
Stock titles tend to be short and sweet, often just one word. (Flickr’s photos tend to be a little more loquacious.) Whether you decide to go for one term or three, the phrase you use for the title should include your most important keyword.
Different sites work in different ways but it’s quite possible that that phrase could count as much in the search program as your entire keyword list.
So look at your photo and ask yourself what the subject is or what the subject’s doing. That’s your title and it could as simple as “Businessman Reading Newspaper.”
That’s the easy bit…
Step 2. Write a Caption that’s Catchy for Buyers and Searchers
The next block of text is perhaps the hardest but it does makes the next stage much simpler. You’ll need to write a caption that describes the photo.
The temptation here is to come up with something quickly and move on to the keyword list.
But that would be wrong.
The caption is your top keyword list arranged into an order that can be read.
Although you don’t want the caption to be so long that it becomes hard to read, it should include several of your most important keywords. There are all sorts of details you can toss in here, including:
- Items in the picture
So while the title might say “Businessman Reading Newspaper,” the caption might say: “A businessman holding a red briefcase and reading a newspaper at Central Station, while waiting for a train.”
Do you see how that sentence packs in a number of different terms that a buyer might be looking for? There are nine different keywords there (businessman, red, briefcase, holding, reading, newspaper, Central Station, waiting and train). Some of those keywords might have little relation to the subject of the picture but they should all be in the picture and they could all be of interest to a range of different buyers.
That gives you far more options for a sale than simply focusing on the subject of the image.
Step 3. Building a Comprehensive Keyword List
Chris Hughes, a keywording expert, has put up a fascinating little calculator to show just how quickly the benefits of adding extra keywords to an image can multiply. Put five keywords in your keyword list, for example, and there are only ten possible combinations for which the image might appear to a buyer who enters a three-word search term (“businessman reading newspaper,” for example). Add another five keywords and those combinations rise to 120.
Adding just a few extra keywords then, can make a huge difference to your views — and to your sales.
That sounds like a lot of extra work but if you’ve written a good caption much of the hard stuff will have been done. You’ll already have a short list of keywords (in our case, a list of nine terms). For some of them a quick look at the thesaurus, or Panlexicon.com, could produce useful synonyms (paper for newspaper; executive for businessman). For others, a little more detail could work too (New York City for Central Station; New York Times for newspaper).
You could also think of other messages that the photo portrays. A man waiting for a train could suggest patience, for example, or boredom. Include those terms too.
Step 4. Copy the Opposition
Once you’ve thumbed the thesaurus and listed everything you can see and understand from the photo, you can then start tossing some of those terms into the site’s search engine and see what else turns up. You might well come across all sorts of other keywords that you didn’t think of but which your competitors have considered for you.
You can’t copy another photographer’s photos but there are no laws against stealing their photo keyword ideas.
Step 5. Save So That You Don’t Have to Do It Again
And finally, when you’ve creating your keyword list, make sure you keep a copy of it. Keywording properly can take a long time. Having ready-made lists at your disposal can make your next upload a great deal faster.
It really shouldn’t be long before all you have to do to produce a new set of keywords is to pull out your Excel file and paste in the terms.
[tags] photo keywording [/tags]