Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thoughts on keywording

Keywords, the most important element of stock photography

Do you place enough importance on your keywords? If you do your own key wording do you spend enough time on the task? If your agency handles it do you check on them? I recently had an image go up on Getty’s site; An image of an impossible golfing green. In the picture is a small grassy area perched atop a steep rock formation on the jagged California coastline. It is hard to spot in the image at a thumbnail size, but as with any golfing green, a flag hangs from the pole that protrudes up from the hole.

Searching for golf, Chakras, and the Internet

If you do a search for golf on Getty’s site, you won’t find the image. Not yet, anyway, because that keyword was omitted. This is hardly the first time an important keyword has been omitted by an agency, and I am certainly not the only one it happens to. Another example of an egregious keyword omission happened with an image of Chakras. I even submitted the file with the name of jl_Chakra_001. But it took me weeks to get them to finally add that keyword! In yet another example, an image I created to symbolize communication and the Internet does not include either of those keywords, and Getty maintains that neither keyword is appropriate for the image. Oh well, I guess you can’t win every battle.

Mistakes are going to happen

If you made the most perfect stock photo ever, and it nobody ever saw it because of missing or inappropriate keywords, it would not sell as well as a mediocre image that was will key worded. In a sense, the keywords are more important than the image. People perform key wording; mistakes are going to happen. But its extremely important for all of us photographers to make sure that our keywords are done as well as possible whether we do them ourselves, or whether it is a matter of checking on the key wording of our agencies.

My strategy, the best and most appropriate keywords

As I write this I have just finished spending hours key wording the images on my own website. I still have hundreds to go, too. My strategy is not to load as many key words as possible with any given image, but rather to do as clear and concise a job as possible. I want people who search my site to find just what they are looking for and have as good an experience as possible. I don’t want them to have to wade through a lot of images that are not what they are looking for. Further, we have all heard it said that it isn’t nice to fool Mother Nature…and it isn’t nice to try and fool Google either! So when you do your key wording, think about the person who might be looking to find that image, and help them find it by providing the best and most appropriate key words you can.

Now and the future

I firmly believe that one of the best things you or any of us can do to help our stock photography businesses, both now and for the future, is to make sure the images are thoroughly and properly key worded. It might even be more important than the making of the images themselves.

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