Keywording, what's it all about?

By: Gary

Keywording or tagging is important for 2 reasons:

Firstly if you have thousands of images on your computer and someone wants an image of a child in a sunhat, how do you find it? You remember you had a photo of one of your children in a hat on the beach one day and it was an excellent photo, but you can't recall where it is. You may eventually find it of course but you may waste a lot of time searching. I would find it because all of my images are tagged or keyworded.


I use Lightroom but there are very many 'tagging' programs around, some free of cost so there is no excuse not to use one. My workflow goes like this:

I import the images from the camera and set generic keywords if I've been on a shoot. These may be something like "Wales, Rhyl, beach, coast, seaside, summer, 2015, UK, sea, sand" It takes seconds to enter these into the box, and all images during import are assigned these keywords. 

Now, if ever I want an image of a beach, in summer, in Wales, all of these will show up in my search and I've not even done any work yet. I'd easily find them in a general search and sometimes that's enough.


So once they're imported I start culling them and of the ones I am keeping I start tagging individually. So the first one has a child in the foreground with a very blue stripey sunhat. She's with her family playing in the sand so I might add "children playing, sun hat, blue stripes, blue hat, family, sand castle, bucket, spade, siblings, parents" You can see where these tags fit into the scene. It takes me about a minute to scan the scene and think "if I was looking for this image, what might I be looking for?"


Well if someone said show me your images of families playing on a beach, there you go, I've nailed it. What about a blue hat? Yes I can find it easily. What about children playing with a bucket and spade on the beach? Again, I'd find it easily. 

This is a very brief overview as some images have dozens of keywords all designed to be able to bring up that photo when required, for any element in it. 


It is possible that you can now add what I call extended tags and I do this at a later stage, usually with images that I actually export for upload. Apart from the obvious scene, you might add something like "British holidays, pebbly beach, clear blue sky, wide angle, afternoon sun, happy, waves." Now we're being specific about things that aren't necessarily what the original image was of, the original was simply a child playing on the beach. But what if you want a photo that has a clear blue sky, or a specific image of a pebbly beach instead of a sandy one? Perhaps you're simply looking to see how many images you used your wide angle lens on? Try and think what you may want to find this photo for and add words. It sounds a long process but once you're used to it it really isn't. You get used to seeing individual elements of a scene and adding them as a searchable keyword.


And this brings us to the second important reason for tagging. The first is so you can find your own images, but the second is so other people can find your images too. 

Once you upload your files to Photo4me their keywords go with them but you can alter them after upload at any time. When they are displaying on the site the only way people can find them if they don't specifically trawl through your entire portfolio is to use the keyword search. 


So let's say someone has come to the site and wants to find a specific image of Stonehenge during a sunset. You took that picture, and you should have tagged it with "UK, Wiltshire, Stonehenge, monument, ancient, history, attraction, Druids, solstice, stones, stone circle, English heritage, sunset, tourists" 

So they type in Stonehenge and/or sunset and along with other images, yours will be included in the results. However what if they are fairly new to the area and type in Wiltshire, attractions? Or just Druids, they might even type in Wiltshire to see what pretty, local pictures come up that they can hang in their shop.

Given this scenario, what else might you be able to tag a photo of Stonehenge at sunset with? What about crowds, tourists, gathering, superstition, culture? Are there any more words to add to enable someone to find that image? Have a think and make a list and see how many you can get.


This is important because the addition of only one word may mean the difference between you earning £money from an image, or of that image gathering dust. You may look at an image and not see any more things you can tag but what about other people? I've tagged some of my images with "emotional scene" and "inspiring" because sometimes people look for images that fit a mindset rather than a subject. Add "happy, sad, party, exciting" and other such descriptive emotional words to your images. 


So, keywording or tagging helps you find your own images and it also helps other people find your images. But if it's not done right you are missing out and that all important sale goes to someone else. When you find yourself complaining that "I never seem to sell anything..." is it your own fault? 10 minutes of careful thought spent on one image might mean £30 in commission from one sale, that's an hourly rate of £180. That's worth it to me.