A good first lesson as A Buyer of stock photography

My first introduction to the world of stock photography was as a buyer. And as such, I made some early and important realizations about keywording before I became a contributor.

Understand how keyword entry works for buyers

The computer algorithm needed to sort through almost 100 million images based on only a few key words, has to be quite powerful. Finding the perfect image in a sea of millions may seem impossible, but the better your understanding of what you seek, and the better your choice of keywords and phrases, the more likely the hits will be pertinent.

This in part depends upon us, the contributors, too. Remember that the algorithm is not matching the buyers keyword entry to our image or illustration, rather the algorithm is matching the potential buyers’ keyword search to our keyword entries for those images and illustrations.

As a first-time buyer, I was looking for images of everyday things – that is, items that students would recognize from their daily lives. This keyword entry yielded way too many hits (2,288) for me to peruse – I had to narrow it down. I kept these first terms but added some different qualifiers – everyday items yellow (197 hits), then everyday items multiple (8 hits). With fewer hits, I was able to navigate the works of many contributors, and better identify what I was searching for.

Vintage keys

Young man plays notes on saxophone with bare hand

Select a creative synonym to narrow your search

The English language has about a million words. That’s a lot of verbiage we can use to communicate our meaning to one another – and through the DreamsTime algorithm. A lesser used term to mean everyday things? Synonyms, and infrequently used words, can be rather helpful. Bing.com defines quotidian as ‘ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane’. With ‘ quotidian’, there were many fewer hits (114) but with enough selection to have some quality choices for what I was looking for.

Retro electronic sound system

Tortoiseshell glasses on open contract

Try to think like a buyer

Now speaking as a photo Contributor, I want my keywords to be specific and pertinent to what my photograph portrays – as well as the keywords and phrases that a buyer might input. However, choosing more unusual words that have the same meaning could propel your image to the front of the queue. I'll do an online synonym search to come up with a quality alternate term to add - so instead of only using a term like 'things' I'll be sure to add the word 'paraphernalia'. The result: paraphernalia things (59 hits) whereas just'things' (107,143 hits). Temporal time (660 hits) instead of just time (1,952,158 hits); or even farmstead agriculture (3,021 hits) instead of farm (2,178,566 hits). Best of luck!

Spooky owl silhouettes in dark attic

Gold pocketwatch double hunter case with coins

Photo credits: Heather Mcardle.

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April 14, 2019


Excellent article. I will definitely look for synonyms next time I upload.Thanks for sharing. Your images are gorgeous.

April 05, 2019


Interesting to hear the buyers side Heather, useful info thanks.

April 02, 2019


A very interesting and useful article. Thanks.

April 02, 2019


Thanks for reading and for your comment, William! I would also do some 'test' runs with terms that I was thinking of using for photo's that I was going to upload.

April 02, 2019


Great insight, thanks for sharing it! When I first started, I picked every related and unrelated keyword under the sun just hoping someone would find and buy a photograph. But I was dismayed once when I tried to search for an old photograph in my portfolio but the search word brought up 30 other unrelated photos. That must be the frustration buyers feel when they search "dog" and a bunch of images of cows and hambugers pop up! William

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Unusual related image searches