Tagging your images with the right keywords will increase their visibility by ensuring they appear in relevant search results. The wrong keywords—or worse—too few keywords could be detrimental to your sales. Although it can seem tedious and tempting to skip it altogether, effective keywording is a critical step in preparing your images to be licensed. By keeping it simple and sticking to the facts, keywording can (and should) be a painless part of your workflow.


The DOs:

Describe what you see
Stick to the facts
Use conceptual keywords
Know when to stop
Check for spelling errors
Be careful when batch keywording

The DON’Ts:

Describe your camera equipment with keywords
Keyword brand names
List your business name
“Spam” your images


Describe what you see by asking yourself: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Who or what is the subject of your image? Start by describing your subject in the most basic terms e.g. Skyscraper, Tower, City. Keywording is most effective when you describe the relevant attributes of your image, the ones that really stand out. Stick to what you immediately see and resist the urge to fill your keywords with less valuable information by describing the less significant details. This is true of any image whether its a landscape, still life, or portrait.

When was the picture taken? Tagging “day” or “night” is good but it’s also a great idea to be more specific about the time of day using descriptors like morning, sunrise, dawn, etc. Or if the season is prominent in the picture include the tags that apply, e.g. a scenic image of colourful trees in autumn could be tagged with the words Autumn, Fall, Colourful, Seasonal. However, keep in mind that seasons vary in different parts of the world so if it is not obvious in the photo there is no benefit in tagging it.

Where was your photo taken? The question of geographical location is geared towards landscapes, cityscapes, or any image taken outdoors where this information lends obvious context to the photo. With landscapes, the location and setting are the sole subject of the photo making this information even more vital.

Asking yourself “Why?” refers to what is happening in the photo. Describe the action you see: are your models interacting? What are they doing? Is your picture illustrating a particular event? This information should be reflected in your keywords too, although it must be evident to the viewer and not a vague or subtle suggestion of what is taking place.


Using conceptual keywords

Many buyers will know exactly what they are looking for, but many will also be seeking inspiration for their projects and may choose to search by a concept or theme. These tags are not literal, they are words or phrases that convey a clear concept like “the road less travelled” or “thinking ahead”. Buyers will search for the most commonly used phrases so be sure your concept is a familiar (and relevant!) one and not something obscure that only you would know.

No need to separate each word with a comma, as the search engine will pick up exact matches only. The following is a good example, if you were describing a dirt road in the countryside you might use keywords like “road, countryside, rural, the road less traveled, field” etc.


Know when to stop

In general, 10 – 25 keywords would be ideal to describe most images. Just as having too few keywords can be harmful to your sales, so can having too many. Too many excess keywords can dilute the search resulting in your images being pushed further down the page.


Check for spelling errors

Double check your spelling! If English isn’t your first language consider using a translation tool such as Word Reference or similar to ensure you have the right words and correct spelling. The desire to keyword your image in your native language is natural but, unfortunately, our search engine recognizes English words only. Words that are accented have a tendency to become truncated meaning the search engine cannot read them.


Keywording Examples

(Add example of superyacht photo with relevant tags)