The Practical Keyworder - A Checklist Manifesto

The Practical Keyworder - A Checklist Manifesto

Many beautiful photos are missed in searches because of lack of consistency in keywording. With millions of images now available, it is crucial to be both comprehensive and consistent in how you keyword your images. Checklists are a great way to do this.

In order to develop an effective system, or checklist, for what to include in your keywords, it helps to ask the question - who is searching for images? Who is my ultimate end-user? Users and buyers of stock for the most part are advertisers and marketers. Advertisers and marketers are driven by three main things: Concepts (see the article "shoot to concept); demographics/time and place; and compositional/aesthetic qualities. Because of this, I divide my checklist into three parts and make sure I have included information for all three categories.

A checklist example:

Concepts: Include KEY concepts and be very specific - do not use too many overly broad terms as this will dilute your results. Concepts can be broad or narrow - 'business' is a broad concept; 'global business' is a narrower concept; 'outsourcing' is a very specific, narrow concept. (this issue will be discussed in more detail in a future post). This highly viewed and downloaded image

© Dana
includes many relevant concept words like FREEDOM, CHILDHOOD, FUN, HAPPINESS, LEISURE and RECREATION.

Demographic/time and place: Be specific about the people in your photograph, their general age, their role in life and any other relevant details. Advertisers target particular markets based on age, stages of life and ethnicity and these are vital to include in the keywords. This sample image includes the keywords ADULTS (I would actually be even more specific about an age range), GRANDPARENTS, CHILDREN and GENERATIONS. Time and place are necessary to include as well. I've seen many images that do not indicate whether the photo was taken outdoors, indoors, in natural daylight or in a studio. Include this information - it's vital! The sample image indicates an outdoor setting but omits the crucial time/place keywords BEACH and SUMMER. It also does not indicate the number of people, which can be important - many users look for groups or single subjects.

Compositional/aesthetic: The dominant colors and compositional aspects of an image are important qualities for end-users and so they must be included. Compositional aspects can include CANDIDS or PORTRAITS; subjects LOOKING AT CAMERA; ACTIVE; CLOSE-UPS; DAYLIGHT; SINGLE SUBJECT; COPY SPACE etc. The sample image here does NOT include many of these elements.

This sample photograph was successful, but how much more successful would it have been had it included more keywords in essential categories? Let's compare the keywords of the bestselling image of a family on a beach, very similar to the sample image, with the sample's keywords.

© Iofoto

There are fewer keywords overall, but they hit all the major categories! Concepts: yes - LEISURE, FAMILY, TRAVEL, VACATION


Compositional/aesthetic: yes - PORTRAIT, POSED, COLOR, SPACE (copy space), HORIZONTAL IMAGE

Good luck!

Photo credits: Daniela Spyropoulou, Iofoto.


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June 04, 2010


Concepts really help--it's so easy to look at a photo and keyword the obvious--taking that extra concept step helps with searches and also helps you think about what it is that you are trying to illustrate. When I shoot with a concept in mind rather than an object, it always sells better. Like this avatar photo--it's the ideas that it stands for that make it sell--no one's just looking for a photo of a sign and a corn field.

April 08, 2010


great tips! thanks for sharing!

April 06, 2010


Welcome to DT! I agree with you about these tips!
Good luck!

April 06, 2010


Thanks for the advice. I made quite a few changes to my people pics! Have a great day!

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