Keywords, what a nuisance!

It is time to look deeply into our hearts and admit the truth: we have not done our homework properly. Honesty is the best policy and we need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to something some of us tend to overlook when uploading images: keywords, title and description. Sensitive issue, right? I do not know how much you study other people's words but when I get bored, and being a words' fanatic, I browse the site looking at titles, descriptions and keywords. Now, throughout my browsing on the site, I have encountered – and God is my witness – titles, descriptions and keywords that range from excellent, relevant and appropriate to irrelevant, hilarious and even ridiculous. Stop giggling and raising your eyebrows, you know I am right....we all did it at some point. Slip, carelessness, disinterest?

Well, it has been fun, I admit, reading whatever you chose there to keyword your images with but then I thought: what are those people thinking? Don't they wanna sell their images? Or they just throw the image, cross their fingers and pray to God someone will want apples and type strawberries by accident to find their apple images? That is a serious “disease” trust me: to write all fruits and vegetables when you have only one or two, to write all animals on earth when you have one poor lion – if I am lucky, I will find only the feline class :) - to write all surrounding cities or islands when there is one specific city and one specific island.

I am aware that there are people who do not know English well enough to keyword themselves, I am sure however that 90% of the contributors know enough English to provide a 10 words minimum for their images. Yes, it may be time-consuming and daunting especially when you have tons of images. I do not know about you but I would definitely not want something of mine go live or online until it has been satisfactorily keyworded. It would surely not be me – I am very strict when delivering pieces of writing! and also because my interest would be to sell. And yes, because I am such a nice person :P and do not want other users to feel frustrated or calling me names when finding let's say my summer in the winter images section. This does not mean I called you names when I found cans instead of eggs :P.

I would like to appeal to your poor "conscience" and that little being living somewhere inside your tiny heads and consider this logically: You all respect and admire your own “creations,” you know how much you have worked for them, your efforts and time invested so why ruin it at the end, only one step away from the coastline? We have a saying here: “you drown five feet from shoreline”.

Enough with the preamble and scolding and let's get to business. I will start outlining certain facts which have drawn my attention and which can be used by you when keywording:

First and foremost, I for one warmly recommend Ellen's articles on keywording must read this and this and this as they are excellent guidelines. You really need to be aware that there are differences in keywording among agencies and what works for one may not be good for the other. Read them and stop whining because learning has never harmed anyone. Stop pouting and start learning! Take it as an assignment: This is what it takes for your business! It will do favors to no one but you........and I will lose my source of entertainment, sure, but won't regret it much!

Second, do not think of copying or cheating. It is not nice........okay that is irrelevant :P! Or at least if you copy, make sure that you keep only what is relevant. A minimum itsty bitsy tiny effort to go quickly through what you have taken and decide what works for you or not. It may reduce the number of your keywords but who told you that you need hundreds and hundreds of keywords to accompany your image? Your image's chances of being found increase with good title, good description and relevant keywords, not hundreds of irrelevancies. There are nevertheless images which allow lots of keywords – expressions, people see link. Make sure the “delirium” does not go astray! Your lined up glasses are not a business deal concept they are at the most a party, celebration, wedding, gathering. Same goes for concepts and metaphors.

Third, make sure there is a correlation among title, description and keywords. What you write in title should be present in description and keywords.I have seen "Woman's smile" as title but no woman in description or keywords. When you are in the grips of tapping and creating, double check not to skip the essential.

The title should be short, attractive, catchy or purely descriptive, depending on where you want people to find your image. I have a colleague with whom I had a heated debate on whether to name his image “Spring diva” or “Woman's green eyes behind leaves”. Of course the first title sounds more attractive and interesting but then I asked him where would you like people to find your image or how? He finally kept his version of Spring Diva. I am for more descriptive titles but I am also sure that there are searches on metaphors not to mention conceptual titles. Regarding concepts and metaphors, I know that you usually tend to see there more than it is. Remember that you do not frame the image and hang it on your wall and tell your guests : “This is a woman's shape” when you actually have an orange. You upload your image on a stock site and hope to sell. Make sure if your title is metaphorical or conceptual it has relevancy for what is actually in the image.

The same goes for the description. Here you are allowed to write more indeed but please do not write encyclopedias. Stick to the descriptive: What exactly do I see in the image and is large enough to be visible or to strike the eye? How is it related to the title? Locations allow for extra information such as very brief history, if you really want to. I have encountered one page descriptions of places in which I was introduced to the whole history of the place.......OK, educating, but how does this help? My description needs to contain exactly the words i want people to search for: Empty/Deserted coastline of Baltic Sea bathed by warm sunset light.

That's it, I think. Why would I perform a search: “person who died on the Baltic coastline in 1743” to find a mere sunset on the beach? And examples could continue forever but I would not want to get you too bored. As piece of advice, if you want your description very long, make it usefully long – write all the metaphors that apply on the respective image, concepts that you feel the image should be used for. Give a “noble” purpose if you are going to write extensive descriptions.

And enough for today! I do have dozens of such examples, adapted and invented of course but with a true basis......I would not dare to invent too much, nor lie about my inspirational sources.

Photo credits: Aurinko, Dennis Cox, Nikonite.

Your article must be written in English

September 29, 2012


This article is very useful.
Congratulations and thank you!

May 14, 2012


Let me a headache to the key words!
Due to the cultural differences, plus my English level is poor, every time the upload photos title, description and key words to fill out and spend a great deal of effort and time (or even a few hours to 10 hours). But upload photos not review recognition, until the shot, a great shock to me, sometimes even thought of give up this website!
My photography level in the country or more of the results, in the field of photography, other also is popularity, can be in this website is not going to work.
Who is there to tell me how to do! Thank you!

April 05, 2012


Thanks very much!

January 25, 2008


Nice article Carmen..thanks for the tips!

November 30, 2007


Hello again Carmen!

I have noticed that your system has deleted some keywords like "papai" "noel", etc in my Christmas Collection. As I am a brazilian photographer and illustrator I use to insert some portuguese keywords for those brazilian Dreamstime's customers, I understand that it is usefull and make things easier in a search for images to people who don't know english very well.

Sincerely yours,
Marcio Goldzweig

October 11, 2007


Hi Carmen, I'm also romanian and i would be interested in talking to you. My name is Roxana and Adi is my boyfriend. We are from Constanta and we have as a passion photography. If you are interested in keeping touch, pls let me know.

September 30, 2007


Thanks for this blog. You answered several questions I was about to litter the message boards with.

September 20, 2007


Clearly there have been many many misunderstandings about keywords. I also do think a lot when I see very popular images with only few keywords... And I've recently got sales of images that have 11-12 keywords. But that only makes me happy that I've somehow managed to keep 'em precise. Tangie, you're a writer! :) Thanks also for reminding us all of the relevance of keywords.

September 20, 2007


Point taken. Didn't thought it was a joke. Good advice, thanks!

September 20, 2007


Dear Icyimage, you need to correlate the three elements - title, description and keywords. Sometimes it is not important how many keywords you have - many or few. It is important to keep relevancy for all three elements. And downloads do not depend on keywording entirely.The best we can do is to help our image in searches with correct keywording.

September 20, 2007


My point Maigi was to make users aware of the importance they need to give to keywords in order for images to be found and also in order to avoid situations such as bad keywords reporting or flagging. Of course I tried to be as funny as possible - as this matter is sometimes funny, I mean I could tell you stories of "outstanding" keywords found, but I take it quite seriously. If we do not try to give a "professionally" looking "business card" - linguistic support to ourselves - our images, why expect to be taken seriously? And moreover, our images will not be found pr worse, will be found in the wrong place leading to frustration and maybe flagging.

September 20, 2007


I know that keywords are very important in uploading images, and I try as could I can to write correct keywords, but sometimes I feel hopeless when I see many, many downloads from image that has only few keywords, and sometimes I don't know what to think...

September 20, 2007


LOL. Good one! Why you woke up that little creature, called conscience?! Now, I have to go... to look up my keywords... what a long night it gonna be...
But thank you for the amusing awakening! ;)

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