Keywording for Stock Photography


Today’s Question: What special considerations (content, workflow, etc.) apply when creating keywords for images that will be submitted to stock agencies such as Getty Images or iStock?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To me, when keywording photos that will be submitted to a stock photography agency, there are several key considerations. First, you want to ensure that the keywords are accurate. You also want to be thorough, in line with the submission guidelines of the agency you’ll submit the photos to. You also want to try to make sure the keywords will help the photo be found by a client who may be interested in using the image.

More Detail: Each stock photography agency has their own guidelines for keywording photos. You’ll typically find that it will be recommended that a photo include at least five keywords (which I consider a very low number) and as many as around fifty keywords (which I think is probably a better target for many images).

The whole point of adding keywords to images that will be featured in a stock photography library is to ensure that customers can actually find a photo that will suit their needs. It is important, however, that the keywords be accurate, so that a photo will only be included in a search result if it is likely to fit the needs of the client.

The first step is to add keywords that describe the actual content of the photo, such as the name of the location where the photo was captured. Next, I recommend adding any keywords that might describe concepts the photo helps illustrate. For example, for a photo of a fast-moving subject incorporating a motion blur effect you could add keywords such as “speed” and “fast”.

I think it can be helpful to imagine all of the various ways a given photo might be used. In other words, consider what sorts of emotions does the photo evoke, and try to keyword based on those concepts. When in doubt, it is generally best to have more keywords rather than fewer when the intent is to submit images to a stock photography agency.

But again, be sure to review the submission guidelines for each stock agency you intend to submit photos to, so you can be sure to follow those guidelines carefully.