Can Keywording Your Images Make You a Better Photographer?

If you’re having a hard time deciding which things in your image are “worth” keywording, then maybe you should reassess why they are in the photo at all.

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As I’ve helped photographers to learn how to keyword their images, one common question has arisen:  Which things in the image should be keyworded, and which shouldn’t.

I have covered in previous blog posts, and will again in future posts, how to determine if something is “worth” keywording.

This post, on the other hand, is not about whether to keyword or not, but to instead take a step back in the process, and ask, “Why is that object in the photograph, in the first place.”  If you have something in the image, that is not worth keywording, then maybe you should have done something different when you took the shot.

I’m referring primarily to both stock and art photography. Obviously photographers taking editorial, and celebrity content, usually have no control over the setting or situations and must work with what they are given.

To successfully keyword, you must look at the images, with fresh eyes, trying to see everything in the frame, not just what you meant as your subject.  This means looking again at what is behind, in front, to the side, the shadows, the sky, the earth, the grass, as well as all the details of your subject.

If these parts of the image are, in your eyes, not worth keywording, then why are they there at all?  Should you have used a shallower depth of focus, to completely blur the background beyond recognition?  Should you have used a higher angle of view? Lower?  Or should you have shifted to one side?  Should you even be Photoshopping these things right out of the image (gasp).  For stock, this is certainly acceptable.

Can you move the subject to a better position?  Should you be bringing a white, black or colored sheet with you to create a drop out wherever you are shooting?

Now, I’m the last person to be suggesting that it’s your skills in framing a shot that are in question. So, if after reading this, you still think everything in your image is essential to the image and is part of the story or is creating the context, then, from my perspective, you really should be keywording it.

Buyers are not only searching for the subject content.  They are looking for the context, setting, or background for a lot of the images they buy.  Buyers are rarely looking for a photo of a “boy”, for instance, they want an image of a boy playing outside with a dog.  So they search for:

  • boy + playing + pet + outdoors
  • boy + fun + dog + yard
  • boy + play + pet + outside
  • boy + playing + dog + lawn

Or, if they are looking for a blooming flower in the desert, they will search for:

  • flower + plant + desert + blooming
  • bloom + desert + rocky
  • bloom + rocks + sand
  • flower + barren + desert + contrast
  • flower + blooming + plant + dry + desert

And so on.  Each of these searches is done by a buyer, who knows what they want, and are much more likely to purchase a photo if they find what they are looking for.  These are the searches you want you images to be found in, for two reasons.  One, you are competing with fewer images for the buyer’s attention, and Two, your image is much more specifically what the buyer is looking for.

In summary, if it’s in the image, but you don’t think it’s worth keywording, then maybe you should ask yourself why it’s in the image in the first place.  If it it doesn’t really belong or matter, lesson learned, but if it is essential to the story of the image, then you really do need to keyword it, because you want anyone looking for this image to find it.


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  • Guide to Keywording Images – Part 4: by Jody Apap :: | Photography Blog, Photography Tips, Photography How To

    [...] This of course leads to the question of if it’s not part of the story, why is it in the image at all? I recently wrote a post about this, Can Keywording Your Images Make You a Better Photographer? [...]

  • Paulames

    I am considering putting up a travel photo blog, to bring traffic into my other business. How easy or difficult is it to keyword my travel photos in bulk, and is it effective in SEO? I haven’t tried your software. Keep up the good work, and thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Paul,
    You should try our software, keywording in bulk is pretty easy, and overall will make your keywording a lot easier.

    SEO is a different ball of wax. The keywords you create in KS are designed for the search engines inside your stock house, or your own website.

    If you are hoping to get you images found and sold via searched on Google Images, good luck. Buyers use stock houses, Google Images is for people who want truly free images.