The Do Nots of Successful Keywords


posted on 13th of march, 2007

Over the next week or so, I'll continue a short course in keywording the Dreamstime way. I can't promise that our guide will take all the tedium out of the job but if you follow it, the time you spend in adding data to your images should improve your downloads and the process made smoother.
Bored
Thinking
Ok, let's admit it. You don't love photography because you love keywording. Keywording can be a dull task and the rewards for good work elusive to document. But, for certain, you won't get many kicks or kudos from poorly keyworded images. Better keywords=more satisfied users=more downloads.
Emphasis on Success!
Upset girl
The point of good keywords is simple: eliminate user frustration and increase downloads. Proof: check out the message boards where Dreamstime contributors tell how their downloads increased once they "fixed" their keywords.
Business man on bank money
teacher
Dreamstime 'rules' and practices should take some of the guesswork out of entering the image information.
Let's get the ugly part over first. Below are all the Do Nots of creating image information for Dreamstime. The good thing about the Do Nots is that they are things NOT to do and will cut down the time you spend in adding needless information.
FIRST: Don't try to find ALL the words that describe every little thing in the image.
rooster 2
Piles of wood
The picture on the left is obviously of a rooster. It is not an image of lumber just because there are a few pieces of old wood in the far background. Ask yourself, "Would I be happy if I was looking for wood and the search returned a male chicken?" The second image would be closer to what I wanted. You may ask but what if someone wanted a picture of a male chicken with pieces of old wood in the background? I refer that question to Photoshop.
Don't spam. More about that later.
Cut and Paste: Yes. But make certain that the words you cut and paste belong with the subsequent images.
Example: The image on the left below has the keywords silver and belt. The belt is not shown in the next frame. Many of the same keywords will apply to both images but belt and silver will not. Careless cut and paste would include those words in the second image.
Teen girl smiling
Pretty Young Girl in Black Dress-2
Caution: the most common keywording error is to cut and paste words from one image to a similar one without making certain that the elements are present in the subsequent images.
Did I mention: Don't spam?
Too much information. Poor data can creep in even when you are not cutting and pasting or spamming.
Example: The image on the left below is titled Asian Tourist Taking Pictures. The photographer must have known that the man was Asian but the man's ethnicity is not obvious to the viewer. Leave out any information that you may know but that can't be seen in the image. The second image would be returned in a successful search for those terms. Perhaps the woman isn't a tourist but there is a cruise ship prominent in the background so the assumption is sound.
Asian tourist taking pictures
Don't use the same title for several images like Portrait (1), Portrait (2) etc. Example: Create unique titles for each image in a series in order to have your images scattered about a search. Rather then naming the images below: Brick wall 1, Brick wall 2 and Brick Wall 3 name them: Red Brick wall, Tan brick wall and Grey brick wall
Brick wall 4
Brick wall 2
Brick wall 3
Don't use keywords for something that COULD happen but is not in the image.
Wine and grapes
Wine glasses
Example: We often see still life images of bottles of wine with the keywords drinking and drunk. If someone drank the wine in the pictures above they might become drunk. But there is no drinking going on. Drinking and drunk are bad keywords for these images and will produce a less than optimum search result.
Don't use opposites as keywords.
A photo of ice crystals should not have the keyword hot. Molten lava should not have the keyword cold.
ICE CRYSTALS
Hot Molten Lava 5
Don't label each element of the face in a portrait. Eyes, ears, noses. We all have them. They are in all portraits. Don't use these keywords unless the particular part of the face is prominent in the image.
Example: The image on the left requires the keyword eyes but the one on the right does not.
Abstract eyes
Beautiful with Green Eyes
Don't name every article of clothing in a full-length shot. All full-length images of people will surely show feet and shoes. But unless the feet are up on a table or prominent in the image, don't use those words Example: In the image below, the keywords shoe and shoes are appropriate only in the image on the right.
Businessman #194
Bored at work
Don't try to guess a possible end usage and add that use to the title or to the keywords ever!
Beautiful peak Alpamayo
4 grunge hearts
The images here could be great greeting cards but should not have the keyword greeting or postcard. Leave it to the end user to find an image by searching on what it is a picture of-not of how it might be used. The above images should NOT be labeled with the keywords card or postcard.
Don't use model's name in title nor keywords. You need to protect their privacy.
Remember DON'T SPAM when keywording.
Example: For a tight in shot of a woman from the waist up on a massage table with only the back of the woman's head, her back and a towel covering her to the top of her legs with no one else in the image, the bad keywords were: asia, asian-image had no ethnic identifying characteristics, background-no background in the image and image would not be an appropriate background image, beach, sand-no beach in image, management and business-no business going on as even the business of a spa was not evident, businesslady-misspelled and no way to tell what the woman did as a business or job, businesswoman-ditto, de-stressed-not a word, destressed-mispelled word correct is distressed, experience-because the woman was simply resting there was no experience and nothing to experience, people-only one person in the image and people is covered in the categories, heel sole, sole, toe, toes-feet are not in the image thailand, travel, traveler, travelers, traveling, traveling, travelling-image could have been taken anywhere in the world or even in the woman's home. Not a travel image. The photographer might have traveled to take the image but that isn't information that is available in the image.
To be continued...
Comments (45)

Posted by Zokimaster on June 02, 2012
I'm very new here, so I'm not sure if my question is (not) already answered somewhere. For instance, if there would be a photo, taken by someone standing on the top of Mount Everest, showing the panoramic view from the top of this great mountain. Can be keywoard then "view from Mount Everest" or should be keywords "view" and "Mount Everest". Also, if someone is looking for excately this kind of image, then his search for "view from Mount Everest" would probably give a lot of results, all kind of photos with keywords "view" and "Mount Everest". So my question is, can be keywords in form of few words together (like description)? And how excately DT search works - if image has keyword "view from Mount Everest", would DT rate it higher if the search is for "view from Mount Everest" or it would rate it as same important as it rates other let's say 100 images which have also keywords "view" and "Mount Everest"? Can be keyword a whole phrase and how much it helps in search results, to list the...(More)
Posted by Stuartkey on July 13, 2008
One thing I have to wonder about is how much attention is really paid to keywords during the review process. I see images on the first page of the "Latest Additions" section that seem to have poor keywording, based on the rules outlined in your blogs. Since they're on the first page of that section and, therefore, are very recently approved, I can only assume that most went through the review process with those keywords. I know it's time consuming, but perhaps DT should review the keywords more closely when an image is first submitted.


Absolutely, 100% agree with that.


Posted by Adpower99 on July 12, 2008
Thanks, Ellen. Having used the site as both a designer and a photographer, I can see both sides of this. It's very frustrating as a designer to run what seems to be a straigh-forward, simple search and get largely unexpected results because of bad keywording. On the other hand, I understand the desire to make sure your image is described as completely as possible. The balance is delicate and sometimes difficult to achieve.

One thing I have to wonder about is how much attention is really paid to keywords during the review process. I see images on the first page of the "Latest Additions" section that seem to have poor keywording, based on the rules outlined in your blogs. Since they're on the first page of that section and, therefore, are very recently approved, I can only assume that most went through the review process with those keywords. I know it's time consuming, but perhaps DT should review the keywords more closely when an image is first submitted....(More)
Posted by Jaboardm on July 10, 2008
Learning still hasn't come to an end... Thanks, you are covering some of the errors I have been making...
Posted by Linqong on July 06, 2008
Very good article, very helpful to me!
Posted by Titania1980 on July 04, 2008
thank you!! It's very useful
I'm re checking my pics and fixing keywords mistakes, bad keywords, etc

I tend to put a lot of keywords because I use to feel that pics won't be found fith few keywords :S can you tell me if this is true?? thanks!!
Posted by J0yce on July 03, 2008
Some good things to check out in my older images before I knew what the heck I was doing. :D Thanks for the reminder.
Posted by Showpup on July 03, 2008
Thank you for taking the time to list and demonstrate all these for us. It is very much appreciated. I'm just now getting ready to begin uploading my first photography submissions.
Posted by Agathabrown on January 23, 2008
what a great article. im only new to stock photography so its really good to see "real life" examples in front of me, even for the "do-nots"... now on to the "do's"
Posted by Amydunn on December 19, 2007
Keywording's the most difficult part of microstock, that's for sure. Thanks for this helpful article. I'll certainly use the concepts here moving forward.
Posted by Wlablack on October 28, 2007
Thank you, Ellen. I read carefully. and i understand the concept of re-keywording the image. i also know the relevancy of keywording and i know that keywording is an important part of our job
Posted by Asthedreamers on October 20, 2007
This gives me a little more motivation for keywords. But man it's still so hard. I always rush the process and probably mess up a couple.
Posted by 0tvalo on August 31, 2007
I think most of us are guilty of rushing the keywording process - especially with cutting and pasting. The article is a great reminder of how important it is. It's nicely written with good examples. Thanks!
Posted by Ellenboughn on August 18, 2007
that's certain
Posted by Ellenboughn on August 17, 2007
It's a very useful article, thank you! When I only begun working with stocks, I had some problems with keywording. I hope I've improved my skills in writing keywords by now. I'll be waiting for your new articles!
Be ceertain to read all three of the keywording articles...
Posted by Natie on August 17, 2007
It's a very useful article, thank you! When I only begun working with stocks, I had some problems with keywording. I hope I've improved my skills in writing keywords by now. I'll be waiting for your new articles!
Posted by Kuanchong on August 16, 2007
good article! worth of time to read.

Thank you very much..
Posted by Kenneystudios on August 16, 2007
Very helpful! Thank you! I look forward to many more articles about keywords! While I can take hundreds of photographs in a day, it can take me days just to property keyword one image, or a series of similar images! The more hints and tips, the better! Keep'em comin'!
Posted by Ellenboughn on July 26, 2007

thanks for this useful description of correct keywording, as dreamstime likes it. Unfortunately, the rules for proper keywording are quite different from one stock agency to the other. Some explicitly want useful usage-information for the buyer (like described with the greeting cards). Esp. with this example I do disagree.

I do have a big problem, with title, keywords and the field description.
Can you please explain, what is the description for and how to use it?

I do agree with spamming of keywords and really useless keywords that cannot be seen in the image. On the other way, when does spamming start?
Spamming is using any words that do not describe an image. For example, to use "drinking" as a keyword for a still life of a bottle of wine is incorrect. There is no 'drinking' going on in the image.

Is it better to give 5 keywords or 20 when they apply ? I


Using "greeting card" as a keyword: Following this reason, keywords should list...(More)
Posted by Richards_pix on July 26, 2007
Hey Ellen,

thanks for this useful description of correct keywording, as dreamstime likes it. Unfortunately, the rules for proper keywording are quite different from one stock agency to the other. Some explicitly want useful usage-information for the buyer (like described with the greeting cards). Esp. with this example I do disagree.

Some prof. and non-prof. buyers probably look for greeting cards, and these are quite suitable examples, esp. the right one.

I do have a big problem, with title, keywords and the field description.
Can you please explain, what is the description for and how to use it?

I do agree with spamming of keywords and really useless keywords that cannot be seen in the image. On the other way, when does spamming start?

Is it better to give 5 keywords or 20 when they apply ?

Thanks and regards,

richard
Posted by Starfotograf on March 23, 2007
Thank you, Ellen. I read carefully. We all should know, keywording is an important part of our job. I guess, everyone ties his best, but you have to get some experience, to be able to use good keywords. So evrey hint is very useful. And we are all learning alll the time.
Posted by Mpalis on March 20, 2007
Great article. I think we all need to refresh our keywording and help each other in order to help byers and increase our sales
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 19, 2007
ellen you have me re-thinking mine as well.

not to take this thread off track but.. in a blog at sometime, could you also comment on the angles at which the shots are taken? i see images straight on and shot at very odd angles. i tend to shoot straight on unless it is an architectural shot, but only because it seems weird not to take a person shot that way. thanks for all your help
A few years ago the "Dutch tilt" angle in which the camera is canted at a 5 to 25 degree angle when shooting was very popular. It has now fallen out of favor for portrait shooting. But it can be useful in other shots. Hope this helps.
Posted by Denisebeverly on March 19, 2007
ellen you have me re-thinking mine as well.

not to take this thread off track but.. in a blog at sometime, could you also comment on the angles at which the shots are taken? i see images straight on and shot at very odd angles. i tend to shoot straight on unless it is an architectural shot, but only because it seems weird not to take a person shot that way. thanks for all your help
Posted by Sergiu on March 18, 2007
Thanks, Some of my picture have the same keywords, time to rewiev them.

Thanks
Posted by Hotduckz on March 16, 2007
Thank you.
Posted by Jerryl5 on March 15, 2007
Thank you, and I am glad there will be more chapters on keywords.
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 15, 2007
A problem I sometimes have is getting the minimum number of keywords for DT to accept the image.
The image of the face with not much more than eyes, for example. How would you get 10 or more suitable keywords in that situation?

Thank you for the insightful articles.
I would have to see an image to suggest the keywords but first is the age of the person. In the third installment of these articles on keywording, I give some descriptions of different ages of people and various words to use to describe their age. Next is ethnicty. Then facial expressions: is the person laughing? And then gender: a man, woman, a boy, a girl? And concept: is the facial expression something that can be described in concept words? Anger? Happy? Answer all these and I bet you'll have the 10 words you need and even more.
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 15, 2007
You sure did clarify a lot of the gray areas for me; however, I think where my confusion of keywording comes to play is having to keyword like "close up", "close-up", "closeup", and like "labor" and "labour" and like "color" and "colour" because we don't know how the photobuyer is going to type in a word and we want all our bases covered. Is this a good think or not? LOL
In one of upcoming blogs, I discuss the importance of entering both the UK and US versions of English and I give you a link in the Dreamstime Utilities section that will help you to find those words. And yes you should use all of the words that you mentioned.
Posted by Ellenboughn on March 15, 2007
One from me again... I went to look over my keywords and I suddenly remembered a microstock forum post or something where somebody said that the more keywords you have the more searches are provided with your photos. Isn't that 'spamming'? Actually I see a point in his/her story - the buyer was maybe looking for a photo of lumber but when seeing the rooster (as an example from your article) he thought "maybe I'll need that, too" :)
There's no doubt I'm against keyword spamming but could it be true that photographers who 'spam' get more downloads?
I don't think they will get more downloads. What does happen is that people searching for images become frustrated. For example, I was looking for images of a baker for the blog on Shooting Small. The most of the images are of baked bread. It was very frustrating.
As for the person who wants a businessman in a light jacket and black shoes: searching on "business suit and man" returns a man in a light jacket and black shoes on the...(More)

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This article has been read 78967 times. 19 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Christopher Ewing, Darren Baker, Falko Matte, Sean Nel, Stefanie Van Der Vinden, Jannetav, Galyna Andrushko, Kessu1, Kineticimagery, Vasiliy Koval, Milan Ljubisavljevic, Msphotographic, Thomas Perkins, Pierrette Guertin, Isabel Poulin, Rainer, Roxana González, Franz Pfluegl, Steveluker, Dreamstime Studio, Ximagination, Zimmytws.

About me

I have written a about microstock photography released in 2010. I was the Director of Content at Dreamstime for two years ending in Feb, 2009. You can order my book from amazon via my website at www.ellenboughn.com/blog.

(Ellenboughn)
Bainbridge Island, US

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