Common mistakes when keywording

© Studio
I will continue with providing tips and examples from my hands-on experience with your images. Beware, here I come, I have my grades prepared and they rank from one to ten. I will proceed as announced also adding other experiences I came across in my ramblings through the site. Today – I feel over-teacherly here :P – we are going to discuss about: why does my image and the keywords attached have very little in common? Pay attention as this has serious consequences for your portfolios and accounts. Unfortunately for you.......the following cases are considered serious offenses and punished accordingly.

Most common mistake – abuse the auto-populate function. Well, here I've seen some very paradoxical cases. We all love copy paste....and Dreamstime makes it even more than one small click and there you go, problem solved, keywords added, title added, description added. You can enjoy your coffee, do the laundry, go shopping, play with your dog while your 50 image series gets keyworded by itself. Sounds better than any advertisement for washing machines: turn, pour detergent, hit start and........go mind your own business. If only things were that easy....I have to sort my clothes otherwise they will all end up pink or green or grey or yeyyy, spotted – not that this has never happened.

Listen to my advice if you do not want your images to end up pink or spotted when they should have been white and plain. Edit images, remove irrelevant words – maybe the model smiles whereas in the previous image she cried, or maybe she is backwards to the camera whereas before she was staring straight into it. In other words, ab-use autopopulate with care....otherwise you won't be able to wear your t-shirt out in public :P. It will look hilariously spotted. Ellen talks about this in her articles as well!!!! Not about doing the laundry but about using the autopopulate with care. Read it please and you will look smashingly trendy and most importantly, clean :). Or at least your images.

Common mistake – bad thief caught red-handed. Nobody loves it, nobody says it, we surely do not encourage it but most of us do it. Shhhhh, it's a hush hush thing. It works about the same way as the autopopulate function. We see an image. Wonderful, and look, even better, it is wonderfully keyworded. And guess what.....ain't that lucky or what?...I have one that is absolutely similar. Dilemma: should I copy the keywords? Copy paste? I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it, besides, it is immoral and illegal. Do not really know what happens between the beginning and the end but the point is that in the end the images are online. Suddenly, when someone finds your image has the unpleasant shock of finding many irrelevant keywords.......I have once found seven different users, with seven different images on the same topic more or less and with the same set of keywords. I could not track down the originating genius who came up with the keywords in the first place unfortunately. I would have truly liked to send him/her my best regards for being such an inspiration to so many others.

I refrain from providing a clear example. I fear those in question will not have as much fun as I have when finding that out.

Why should you stop doing this? Well, not to sound depressing but if Dreamstime editors find you, they are nice enough to give you one warning...After that, they suspend your account and bye bye sales up until you revise your portfolio image for image. Does this sound like torture? While you get lucky to get away with some irrelevant keywords – I know tens who do – those caught seriously spamming and cheating are “kindly” asked to review every tiny bitzy detail. Our patience never runs out...ha ha (evil laughter).

When I wanted to learn about keywording I spent hours and hours looking at all sort of images. I do not expect you to do that although it is an interesting exercise and it gives you a unique, advanced insight into the matter. I found out that there are people who have a very good way with words and who obviously use advanced dictionaries and have a lot of keywords, most of them relevant and objective, to which of course they added subjective ones. I was envious I admit – especially on some I know to find tons of relevant keywords.

I suppose the vast majority of my knowledge in this came with looking at other users' images and keywording. I have come up with one fundamental conclusion. Two similar images will most likely never be 100 % that similar for you to keep the same set of keywords.

So, even if you choose to let yourselves inspired by someone wiser and more knowledgeable, remember that there is a huge difference between getting inspired and copying. The first is understandable the second is unforgivable. Dreamstime leaves keywords visible and available, meaning that we expect people to get inspired. This is the point sometimes. Contributors come from various corners of the world. Some may master English language, others may know it pretty well while there's a handful of others who barely know it. Community based is exactly what is says. Consider that keywords are visible to help each other and not only to add transparency. Therefore, if someone has its keywords visible, copying them word for word would only mean abusing their trust and confidence that we all share and help not steal and cheat.

Few photographers mind about the topic but imagine that we have lots of buyers complaining about this! Not to mention that we may occasionally come across your portfolio and know what may happen :P :). And this is not a threat, nor does it sound like one ;). And remember, we're watching :).

Photo credits: , Dejan Savic, Studio Dream.

Your article must be written in English

June 04, 2016


So I am new two stock photography I would have had my account for a year now in July. I just now started getting more and more photos approved. I take photos of pets mostly dogs and cats at the moment as well as nature photos. I am not sure how to tell if I am "spamming" with key words. I try to use what is relevant to the photo. I try to keep it sweet and simple especially in the description since it auto populates your key words for you. would you recommend using a thesaurus to come up with alternative key words from cat and dog, puppy or kitten? or rescue, volunteer, vet ect. I am just asking encase I need to go back and start editing my key words for my photos. I try to stay original wit my photos and try to put in simple most common key words in hopes to be discovered. I hope you dont mind me asking I hope I am commenting to the right place to find out more about this. I try to keep my key words and descriptions simple as much as possible but still leave it to the buyer to use it for whatever purpose they are wanting my image for.

February 13, 2014


very useful,thanks

March 23, 2009


English is my second (or maybe third) language.

Oh come on, most Dutch are quite fluent in English ;-)

If you can't come up with the right English words, try to find more in your mother tongue (Dutch is mine too) and then submit them to an online translation tool.
Good old Babelfish does the job rather badly, but the new Google Translation API handles translation quite well, with autodetect language and translate into English.

An example for one of your windmills:
In Dutch: windmolen oever vijver poel beek stroom wind molen schoepen draaien energie alternatief ecologie berm oever gebouw opwekken genereren kracht waterkant

and translated: shore windmill pond pool river flow wind mill blades rotate alternative energy ecology roadside bank building generate generate power waterfront

which is perfect.

March 22, 2009


Great article. All new contributors should read it before they start uploading.
We won't miss Ellen so much if you keep writing articles like this. :)

March 22, 2009


As I get deeper into stock photos and Dreamstime, I find myself searching out other photographers who seem to share my passion for photographing particular subjects. The particular subject of late is wild birds. So I am searching for other's work to compare to my own and see where I need to improve. Maybe I'm just fussy, or maybe I just like to know specifically what kind of bird I'm looking at. When the photo title reads "cute white bird" when it is actually not one cute white bird but two flamingos with noticeable traces of pink feathers, I find myself getting annoyed that the photographer couldn't take the time to indicate as much in the title. Question 1: Are flamingos cute? Not generally speaking. Beautiful, exotic, spectacular, maybe, but cute? I don't think so. Then there's the dozens of wild bird photos all captioned "wild bird". When I'm searching for birds, I search for a particular species, but even when I recognize the bird, I skip past it if it simply says "bird" in the title. To me, it implies that the photographer doesn't know what kind of bird it is, or he/she was too lazy to provide a sufficiently descriptive title. For instance, "Mallards in Flight" or "Flock of Pigeons" would seem simple and descriptive enough, instead of "Birds Flying." Am I nitpicking? Some would say "yes." Nevertheless, put yourself in the position of someone looking for a picture of, let's say, a Golden Eagle to download. Is he/she going to select the excellent photo of the Golden Eagle labeled "Big Bird", or the just-as-nice photo labeled "Golden Eagle"? "Well that all depends," you might say, but why take chances? I say, "Title your photos appropriately, specifically, and descriptively. It makes them stand out more from the crowd.

March 02, 2009


This is obviously a useful note for me. English is my second (or maybe third) language. Getting relevant keywords is a daunting task after hours of preparing a photo. I'd usually put keywords myself, get as many as I can and of course the relevant ones. After that, I googled and new words usually came up. And then the last thing I did is to get inspired from other photos, but hey I'm not copy-pasting. I chose some keywords that I missed to think about, but that isn't illegal, is it? And oh, I hate autopopulate. I'm a computer scientist by profession, so I don't trust computer to do human thinking for me. ;-)

March 01, 2009


I hope a lot of people read this. I get soooo tired of looking for "illustrations", which are, in fact, things that are DRAWN and getting photos that don't have anything at all to do with illustrations! I think that is my #1 pet peeve. And I can tell you, even if I came across an OUTSTANDING photo if was improperly categorized or keyworded I would think that either a) the submitter was lazy and used auto-populate or b) they weren't smart enough to figure out where to put the photo. In either case I wouldn't be buying. Just sayin'.

September 18, 2008


one of the very useful article in dreamstime.

May 09, 2008


Keywording is obviously a black art. I struggle to find 10 words for a lot of my shots. Maybe I should read others for inspiration. For me a door is a door,colour, material,location.

February 14, 2008


Hi Fleyeing. :) It happens that I spend 15 min too thinking about possible keywords for an image. I do have the itch to provide conceptual words but as far as I could see, people have different visions about the same image. My vision may not coincide with theirs. And as I once put it, you do not want to hang the image in your dining room, you want to sell it. No point overloading it with words you feel only you could think of. I am referring to interpretative, highly subjective words. Writing what the image could be used for should happen somewhere in the description. Exotic and tropical locations can bear the keywords tourism, touristic if you think of association such as "exotic touristic location". If I designed a brochure for a traveling agency, I guess I would look for such a combination and pray to find a calm beach with crystal blue water, bordered by palm trees. But this is my opinion of course.
I suppose one of my puzzling examples would be: image with houses and words such as mortgage, loan, finances, savings. I am sure I have many others more but can't remember right now. It would be very interesting to have a designer's glimpse into how they search exactly the images. I for one know that I use obvious combinations but also strange ones.

February 13, 2008


You really made me scared ;-) I almost never look for "inspiration" but sometimes I wonder how far the gray zone goes as to conceptual and intention keywords. You can be very strict and limit yourself to what's there is to see on the shot, but often you have to think designer, and imagine how he can use the shot. I really have a problem with tourism, travel, and the like... Obviously, a tropical nature shot has been taken while traveling, and it might do well in a travel brochure. But does it mean that you can included the tag "tourism" and "travel"?
Sometimes I spend 15 minutes tagging a shot... wondering how far to stretch the "conceptual", "maybe" or "good for".

February 06, 2008


I don't just sell photos. I buy them as well to place in our brochures, etc. I hate it when I'm looking for something like Blue Heron and instead I get a man in a blue suit. Or when I was searching for Water Drops and came up with a chicken... Sometimes in the case of keywords less is more.

February 05, 2008


Where did that last comment go, what made me write my previous post? I guess I overreacted a bit. Sorry.

February 02, 2008


In opposite of common viewpoint (I'm referring to all keyword copyright discussions on different stocksites), I think it helps buyers, if we have same keywords for same type of images. I think it's frustrating for buyer to think out all kind of synonyms to find all good images on the subject. So, if we are thinking from buyers side, the more unity we have in keywords, the better it is (so it's not bad at all to copy keywords, but they have to be right, relevant keywords). But of course if we are thinking like sellers, who hate competition and want only OUR images for search results, then we protect jealously our rights on words. But I think it's pretty selfish. But business has to be selfish, right? Oops, it sounds very angry, but I'm not. I just don't understand that fuss about keywords. Only problem is when somebody copies keywords he/she don't understand, so then that's confusing when they don't match to subject on image. And I hate to see giraffes in search results when I'm looking for elephants or something. :)

January 22, 2008


Hi Emi :). You may find this surprising but many do not care about keywording...:) Why is it important? Because we sell images on a site...And buyers cannot find our images without proper keywording. Simple enough :) There are lots of things to consider: relevancy, accuracy, targeted buyers, topic of the image......a whole book. I hope someone will finally write one such complete guide or book :).

January 22, 2008


Important part of selling a photo is that this image have to be find by users. So ... keywording is one of important things to do.

January 17, 2008


Interesting article. I had few laughs. But this article make me to recognise other/my mistakes and to think and not make same mistakes. Thnx for advise.

January 10, 2008


Maigi, thanks, you have always nice commentaries for my articles. Undeserved sometimes :P. So, I guess you remain with the smiles caused by 1. others mistakes and 2. my mistakes. To my defense, I seem to get insomniac these days. No more coffee for you young lady!

January 10, 2008


1) smile -> 2) amusing recognition of others mistakes -> 3) humbling recognition of my mistakes -> 4) smile. I guess that was the order in my case. ;)

January 10, 2008


Other than some mistakes found when reading my article carefully afterwards.......I guess it achieved its aim.....make you smile (first of all) and advise (first or second? I never make up my mind about this). Oh well, all is well when it ends well..and see you at the next article. I hope this time I will have something not everyone knows :P.
The above published article mentions things we all know but many tend to overlook. Laughing? :) :P

January 10, 2008


Good article! Thanks, Tangie.

January 09, 2008


I appreciate any information that I can get on keywording - it is truly an art!

January 09, 2008


I carefully read your article, although some sentence is not too understand, because my mother tongue is not English.Thank you for your comments, let me understand how to add keywords in the correct methods.

January 09, 2008


I LOVE your sense of humor! Although I know it is serious, too. Good advice. Thanks for "helping" us see things from the reviewers point of view. :-)

Related image searches
Autopopulate related image searches