Keywording Secrets For Big Photo Sales

It’s an unpleasant job, but every stock photographer has to do it. Once you’ve taken the shots and battled the uploading system, you then have to toss in all the keywords you can think of so that buyers can find your photos easily. It’s a process that can take time and a large thesaurus… and still leave you with the nagging worry that you’ve left out exactly the right term that will bring in the sales.

Yvan Cohen, a founder of OnAsia Digital Services, the Bangkok-based photo services company behind software tool Image Keyworder, explains:

“It’s hard to underestimate the importance of accurate keywording in terms of making images accessible in a searchable archive. As image databases expand, many photographers complain that their work is getting ‘lost’ in an ocean of images. The more relevant [the] keywords… the higher the likelihood it will be returned accurately in a search; thereby increasing the chances of a sale.”

For most photographers, that means thinking up a bunch of terms then searching the keyword lists of similar images to see if they’ve left any out. (Yvan criticizes this method as “hit-and-miss and much less comprehensive” than his automated tool, but concedes that Getty and Corbis are both good references when researching how other images are keyworded).

Experience helps too. Andres Rodriguez, a top-selling, Colombian microstock photographer, has the dual problem of keywording each of the 500 or so images he uploads each month and doing it in a foreign language. Asked how he found keywording, he told us:

At first it was difficult especially since English is not my first language, [but] I feel more confident now that I’ve done it 6,000 times.

Andres, who sells about 30,000 licenses a month, described his keyword workflow as first typing keywords that come to mind, then checking terms he’s used similar images in the past. He then looks at three or four images from other people to double check that no important terms have been left out, and once satisfied with his list, he saves it as a template to prevent him from having to repeat the work in the future.

Both Image Keyworder, which depends on a searchable thesaurus, and scans of the keyword lists on other images though depend on guessing the terms a buyer might use when looking for an image. A more accurate way to see what terms people are actually using could be to ask Google. The search engine’s AdWords program lets advertisers see lists of related keywords ranked in order of search volume. Although these are searches for information rather than for images, they can provide a helpful insight into how people actually search… and should turn up popular phrases you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.

Photo by Stephentrepeneur.

[tags] photo keywording, stock photo keywording [/tags]

5 comments for this post.

  1. Martin Gommel Said:

    Thanks for that good article. Helps me alot, even for flickr !!

  2. William Walicki Said:

    very good aricle , but not enough info on keywording for the Beginner like myself.

  3. Bill Speaks Said:

    If you are interested in keywording, check out the ControlledVocabulary Yahoo group.

    On David Riecks also publishes the Controlled Vocabulary Keyword Catalog or CVKC. It is a worthwhile investment. The catalog can be loaded into various asset management products such as Lightroom, IView, BreezeBrowser and other products.

  4. Gantico Said:

    I bought the controlledvocabulary pack and I'm satisfied with it. Its database of keywords is well organized and quite handy.
    The advantage is that it took me just a couple of clicks for having it integrated in my work-flow. Lightroom already has a powerful keywords manager, once populated it makes your keywording activity quite fast and effective.

    I can only complain because I had no support (not even an answer) from the vendor when I asked for an invoice: forget to deduct from taxes the money spent for CVKC...

  5. Chris Said:

    Personally, I get lots of help from this site:
    although I prefer to also use my brain combined to it...

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