The Practical Keyworder

The sea of information - and images - is vast. How is it possible to stand out from the crowd, to maximize views and downloads, and to make certain that your efforts are rewarded?

Proper keywording of course. Keywording, or *cataloging* has been the key to finding useful information - and images - for hundreds of years. Cataloging and classification is an old art that is slowly being rediscovered as sites like Dreamstime attract large numbers of contributors and as the number of images available grows exponentially.

A number of blogs on this site have addressed the issue of keywording and they have been very helpful. In this blog, I plan to address many of the issues and questions that have come up and give my own analysis.

My first topic - CONCEPTS! The most basic advice for the beginning stock photography is "shoot to concept". Here is an excellent recent blog post on that subject: want success? Start with a concept

Practical tip #1: Seems obvious, but when you shoot to concepts, you also need to keyword to concepts. I've seen many wonderful photographs that keyword every literal element of a photo, but miss many of the relevant concepts. Stretch you imagination and create a "concept hierarchy". For example, a photo of a businessman has the obvious concept of "business". But what are the associated concepts? Things associated with business might be: job, work, working, career, occupation, trade, vocation, corporation, corporate, office work, office life and so on.

Use every concept that is relevant to photo. Use every variation of a word that is relevant. A tip for finding associated concepts - use a THESAURUS. There are many online thesauri that you can use ( is one) and they are free.

In traditional cataloging, a thesaurus is actually built into the search engine. This means that when a user searches for "business", that user automatically gets all variations of that word and many of the concepts that go with it. On dreamstime, you have to create this effect yourself. Good luck!

Photo credits: Triggerjoy.

Your article must be written in English

April 06, 2010


Keywording is really very important. Thanks for recommending Works very nice.

April 06, 2010


Yes, you are absolutely right Rosedarc - but I would add that too many *irrelevant* keywords dilute a search. It is not the number of keywords, but the relevance of the keywords. We also need to define what "too conceptual" means. Concepts can be overly broad and/or not relevant to the image. But they cn also be specific and relevant.

I realize that many people over-keyword, and use overly broad terms, in the hope that this will improve their search results. This is a common misconception! RANDOM, hit or miss, over-keywording hurts search results. But SPECIFIC and RELEVANT ywording helps - it is not the number of keywords, but the quality. Good point Rosedarc!

April 06, 2010


You're right about concepts, but by using keywords that are too conceptual, you might actually get flagged. Also too many keywords on an image might "dilute" the search and send you at the back of the pages. It's all a question of balance.

April 06, 2010


Useful tip! Thesaurus is a good way to find associated concept... I'll try it! Thank you for sharing.

April 06, 2010


thanks for the tip! I really must get cracking in improving my keyword so anything is helping right now :)

April 05, 2010


yes, I agree with you that conceptual keywords actually increase the chances of more downloads.
I look forward to your future posts, for sure.

April 05, 2010


Yes, keywording is very confusing! Your blog posts, and similar blogs, can help new contributors a lot I think, since keywording is one of the most "non-intuitive" things that new photographers are required to do - it really needs to be learned in a systematic way.

One thing, I actually don't know of any sites that reject concept keywording outright. I've cataloged (keyworded) professionally for mainstream stock sites and they use concept keywording very heavily. Their search data shows that users search for concepts also. Maybe it depends on how you define "concepts" . "Business", the example that I used, is most definitely a concept and it is a very popular search term. It is however, a very broad term and keywords might possibly rejected for being too broad or general. I'll explain more about hierarchies, and broad and narrow terms, in my future posts...

April 05, 2010


an insightful helpful blog .as you noticed , i too wrote a similar topic.
keywording is definitely the secret to increased downloads. but also it is the most confusing . eg. studying the earning listing , i notice there is almost no buyer usage of conceptual keywords.
another complication is that since many buyers prefer to use google to search among a list of different stock sites, the most popular searched keywords are once again non conceptual.
worse, i know at least of two other of the top sites that actually reject images for using conceptual keywords.
for that reason, Dreamstime is the least restrictive re keywords
and that is why I am submitting more and more here than anything else :)

Related image searches
Engine related image searches