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The Importance of Good Keywords

Back in the day, a photographer submitting his photo to a stock agency would rely on them to keyword their files for them. But today, with the advance of "online” stock photo sites, the industry has pushed much of the responsibility for keywording onto the photographers.

Keywording has arguably become the most essential part of licensing images on-line, after image quality, of course. Poor keywording can cause people looking for photographs to never find the perfect image - your image.

Think of it as anticipating the majority of ways a person would describe an image while looking for it. Use all relevant keywords (including all singulars and plurals that might apply) and do not use words that do not apply (just because lambs have wool does not mean you use wool as a keyword for the image on the right).

It is also important for list the most popular search items first as some site put different weights on keywords depending on where they lie in your keyword list. You want the first few words on your list to be the most likely terms for searching a particular file - see the Lamb picture to the right for an example of this.

Don't just describe the image physically but also give action words (Eat) and the intangable (hungry).

Also group keywords in brackets. Don just have rack, of, lamb but also "rack of Lamb". People will be searching for that string of words so give them that as one keyword.

Several companies provide keywording services in various forms. Some have staff who personally keyword images, others sell software that does it for you.

  • A2Zkeywording: A2Z uses a combination of their own in-house software as well as their own experienced keyworders. Prices range from $2.75 to $3.50 per image, depending on volume. A2Z also sells their thesaurus software for $299 plus $52 for one year of support.
  • Adnet Infosystems: This company provides affordable keywording and many other technical services to the stock photo industry.
  • JaincoTech: A service provider for all technical aspects of the stock photo industry. Jainco charges $0.75 to $1.50 depending on quantity and turn-around time required. They also offer keywording in French and Spanish and likely will add German and Japanese in the near future.
  • KeywordCompiler: This NYC-based company provides a free basic version of their keywording software, called KeywordCompiler. Users can purchase more robust versions of the software, with more sophisticated features: $99 for single user licenses and up to $999 for multi-seat licenses. The company also provides keywording services for $2.00 per image ($1.50 per image for batches of over 5,000 images.)
  • They charge approximately $3.00 per image depending on quantity and depth of keywording required.
  • Keywords-To-Go: Part of StockAnswers, a stock photo consulting firm managed by industry veteran, Paul Henning. Charges $3.00 to $4.50 per image, depending on quantity. The Keywords-To-Go homepage also has an excellent overview of importance of kewording.

  • OnAsia Digital Services: A service provider for all technical aspects of the stock photo industry. Prices for keywording begin at US$1.50 per image and are negotiable for high volume orders. They plan to offer keywords in French by the end of 2006. They will also offer their keywording software package for licensing later this year.

  • Keywords for this Photo:

    • Food
    • Meat
    • Lamb
    • rack
    • "rack of lamb"
    • entree
    • dinner
    • meal
    • restaurant
    • fireplace
    • romantic
    • wine
    • eat
    • hungry
    • vegetables
    • potatoes
    • carrots
    • bones
    • knife
    • fork
    • utensils
    • table
    • lamp
    • napkin
    • gourmet
    • night
    • mutton
    • sheep
    • plate
    • dine
    • fire
    • expensive
    • pink
    • garnish
    • yummy
    • glass
    • red
    • tassels
    • "New Zealand"

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    Trevor Allen is a Family & Wedding Photographer in Halifax, Nova Scotia
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