SEO keywords for photographers – my learning curve

I normally put in quite a bit of effort in the SEO keywording of my images, but submitting a recent photo to Getty Images, I realized I still have much to learn about professional keywording.

Using keywords helps my clients find the images they are looking for on my website, and also helps  my own searching for images on my network.

Adding keywords to my images is an integral part of processing my images in Adobe Lightroom.

Starting out a few years ago, I tried to populate my keywords off the top of head, but soon realized I was missing a lot of possible words.

KeyWord Lists

After reading about controlled vocabulary software in 2008 from David Rieick’s website controlledvocabulary.com , I purchased a copy of his CVKC keyword list with 11,000 keywords. (See my previous posts Lightroom2 keywording and CVKC for Bridge and Lightroom.

This has been a big help as the keyword list was designed in a nested hierarchical structure.

adobe lightroom keyword structureKeywords structure in Adobe Lightroom

When I search for a keyword, it also displays all the keywords further up the hieracy that are associated with my search entry.

In my underwater photography, I have been entering the fish species manually and populating my own list of marine life keywords. This has had limited success, having to spend signifcant time searching books and the internet to find the correct name and any associated keywords.

I recently come across the Marine Keywords list developed by Marty Snyderman, Barry Guimbellot and Eric Cheng.  It contains keywords for over 12,000 species of marine life and includes not only common names, but also genus and species names, and full taxonomic structure.

Like the CVKC keyword list, the Marine Keywords list will help me improve my keyword selections and be more efficient in my workflow.

Keywords Online

Another keyword resource I find really useful is stock sites (such as iStockphoto) that have great keyword systems.

istockphoto keywordingiStockphoto keyword list

If I upload an image and enter several keywords, the iStock system will suggest other possible keywords which, if I have do not already have them, I can add to my collection by entering them back into Lightroom.

Putting my keywording to the test

Using the strategies above, I thought I was doing quite well, until one of my images was recently selected by Getty for inclusion in their Flickr Collection.

I had applied several keywords to the image above on my website, but it is quite generic in nature, and I found it difficult to think of other keywords that could describe it.

I went through the process of submitting the image to the Getty Flickr collection using my selection of keywords.

After the image had been  approved by Getty, I inspected the final product and was blown away by the extra keywording they had used.

Getty’s Keyword selection

It is interesting to study what they have done, using keywords that I would never have thought of such as “no people” or “vertical”…… When you think about it, it’s obivious that buyer might use these terms when searching from an image, and I am suprised I hadn’t thought about this earlier. (Some of the other worlds such as “abundance” and are little more exotic.)

Lessons learned

As photographers, we can all improve the SEO ratings and searchability of our images by:-

  1. Thinking carefully about the terms the buyer might use to refine their search.
  2. Studying the keywording professionals such Getty and other stock sites to see how they describe an image.

Other Resources for Keywording Photographs

Carl Chapman

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