Keywording of Images

Good caption and keywording of images is essential when selling images through any online marketplace. If you do this right, you will have an advantage over competitors and your images will, on average, sell better. However, if you don’t know how to do this in a professional matter, you will establish a negative reputation and professional image buyers won’t return to spend their revenues. On top, “false positives” are to be avoided. So, being a professional photographer also means that you have good knowledge of metadata, of which Titles, Captions & Keywords are a huge part. This is a short introduction to the subject. 

False Positives are  images that turn up in search results without having a relation to the actual search-terms, as entered by the image buyer. For example: an image of a colorful bird turning up, when customers search for a: “caucasian woman sitting behind her office desk working on her computer”. Naturally false positives need to be avoided, since they are not relevant and will not be bought by the above mentioned image buyer. Besides this, it may annoy customers, who will leave for images agencies that do things right. 

1st of all: Metadata

Metadata are all data, embedded in an image, that describe that specific image. Camara data, Copyright data, descriptive data and many other ‘chapters of data’ are there to provide valuable information to archives, image buyers and others. If you want to read more about it in debt: https://iptc.org/standards/photo-metadata/ 

2nd of all: Information about maker, including copyright

I always use a template in Adobe Bridge to automatically enter basic information about me as a maker (author) and copyright holder of my images. Besides name and address, a website, an e-mail address, a phone number and all what’s needed for people to reach me as “the author” of that particular image.When you’re at it, don’t forget to enter Location Information to the Metadata. Especially when you’re traveling regularly, it’s a tol to find back images in your own image archive that have been made on a specific location or in that city you travelled to a couple of times. 

3rd of all: Titles

Woman and Red Background

Titles need to be entered to name an image and to provide first, basic information about what’s on it. Keep titles short: “Portrait Young Adult Caucasian Female”. 

 4th of all: Captions

Captions are very important, since they’re indexed by Google. And since images are first found through the Googel Indexing Mechanism, you need to adjust your methodology to this. I always start with location information (Town & Country) followed by a precise and detailed description of what’s in the image. Als for the image here: “Tilburg, Netherlands. Young adult, blonde woman drinking a cup of tea while having a brunch inside her living room on a  sunny, Sunday morning.” 

5th of all: The keywording

For Keywording of Images there’s several systems that can be uses best. They all come down to a good analysis the image, what’s in it, what happens in it, and the techniques used. Keywords are devised therefor is separate groups or chapters and it’s a good idea to systematically follow these.

  • Location: Town, Country, SupraNational Entity, Location of Interest. The location of interest is especially important for travel destinations or locations relating to the specific event. The Vatican in Rome, for example, or The Capitol in Washington DC.
  • If People: describe gender, ethnicity, age and the number of people, nationality. If there are people visible in the background, name them as such.
  • If No People: describe that “no people” are in the image.
  • If Objects: describe the number of objects in the image. And an object can be many things.
  • Actions: otherwise behavior, especially people. Or what someone is doing.
  • Settings (indoors, outdoors, under water, airborne, space)
  • Time of day: daytime, night, at night, morning, evening, dusk, dawn
  • Techniques Used (Copy Space, Depth of Field, View Point)
  • Orientation of the image (Vertical, Horizontal)
  • Special Keywords describing a situation

As for the image above, of the young woman drinking a cup of tea; 

  • (Location) Tilburg, The Netherlands, Holland, Europe, European Union, European Community, Dutch, European, home, at home, domestic, living room, room, saloon, lounge, domestic
  • (People) woman, female, one woman, one female, one woman only, one female only, one person, one person only, caucasian, young adult, blond, blonde, waist up
  • (Objects) object, several objects, plate, cup, cup of tea, table, living room table
  • (actions) sitting down, holding, holding a coop of tea, drinking, drinking a cup of tea, having breakfast, having lunch, having brunch, lunch, brunch, breakfast
  • (Settings) indoor, indoor, inside
  • (Time of Day): morning, daytime
  • (Techniques Used) daylight, front view
  • (Orientation) Horizontal 
  • (Special Keywords) privacy, eating, food, tea, liquid, domestic, at home, home, residence, lounge, saloon

Special Remarks

  • Flowers, Animals (actually anything biological or medical) use their common names and their scientific, Latin names. Use both, otherwise an image isn’t found. If an image isn’t found, it won’t be sold.
  • If you used any other technique then digital, like polaroid or analog photography: name it as such.

Which Software or App to use?

I have been using Adobe Bridge for years now, to enter all my metadata and do the keywording. Lightroom is also an option, for people who feel comfortable using the application. There are others, though. Slow, but an option would be Adobe Photoshop itself, through menu: “File Info”. Fast Photo Tagger is another. And there are many others, of you search the Internet a bit. Most important thing is: make it work for you!

About the Author. 

Guido Koppes is a freelance photographer and photo journalist, working from Tilburg, The Netherlands on (international) projects and assignments. Part of his time he works as a Photographers Liaison of Photochain, a blockchain based marketplace for photography where photographers can set their own prices and receive an 80% share on their royalties.