Photography: Keywords to Success

October 03, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

     A few weeks ago, I responded to a request for photos from Image Brief. Image Brief is a service that puts photographers together with clients who are seeking very specific photographs on very short notice. The idea is that somewhere in the world, there must be a photographer who has that photograph of a red-haired woman standing on a Tahitian beach with a starfish in her hand, while wearing an Indian sarong. Or something along those lines.

     This particular request was a bit more mundane - the client was seeking an image of a man in his sixties, pensively looking off into the distance. I had a few photographs I thought came close to this description, and I sent them off. Alas, none was selected.

     But this week, as I was doing some portfolio clean-up, I came across the photo below. Good grief. It came far closer to meeting the requested brief than anything I had sent - why hadn't I upped my chances by including it?

     The simple and embarrassing answer is that I hadn't found it because it wasn't properly keyworded. In fact, the only keyword on the file until yesterday was "Mendocino". I had thought of this as a family photo, and really hadn't considered that it might be right for any other use. Silly me.

     I've talked before about the vital importance of editing photos - by which I mean rigorously deleting images you know are not top quality, or potentially usable in some way.

     But the second step in this workflow is even more important, and that is keywording your photographs. Keywording is the first, and perhaps most essential step in ensuring you can quickly access photos that meet a specific need or criteria.

     Read my lips on this: you can't make use of your images if you can't find them.

     No matter how rigorously you edit, it's amazing how quickly a catalog builds up into the many thousands of images. And no matter how memorable a shooting session may be, in a few weeks, or a few months, or a couple of years from now, other memories will crowd it out.

     And, of course, you are not the only one who will use your keywords to find your photos. If you've got a Search Engine Optimization strategy, or you're selling to stock agencies, or you have your own website - you'll want others to easily be able to locate images of interest. And they are most likely to do that with a keyword search.

     Proper keywording is an art that I admit I am still developing. And yes, there are keywording software programs, but these are a bit controversial. Many can insert keywords that are not precise. Your clients may well be quite annoyed to search for "wine bottle" and come up with a photo that only shows broken glass.

     But while keywording should be accurate, remember that it can also refer to the mood or impact of the photo, its shape, and such elements as predominant colors.  How many keywords should each photo be assigned? Many professionals consider ten a minimum number, others think of twenty as the ground floor, and it's not uncommon to find images with dozens of keywords.

     How did I ultimately keyword the photo below? Here's my starting list:

     Don, watching, older man, seated man, binoculars, thoughtful, pensive, watching, Mendocino, wooden stairs, senior, birdwatching, concern, California, deck, steps, jeans, casual, vertical

     I'm still thinking on additional words to add. If you have ideas - let me know!

 

Don Watches


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