You have taken the perfect shot, uploaded it to your 500px account, and now you are ready to license it on 500px. But how can you be sure your image will be seen by buyers? Keywords!

Tagging your images with the right keywords will increase their visibility by ensuring they appear in relevant search results. The wrong keywords—or worse—too few keywords could be detrimental to your sales. Although it can seem tedious and tempting to skip it altogether, effective keywording is a critical step in preparing your images to be licensed. By keeping it simple and sticking to the facts, keywording can (and should) be a painless part of your workflow.

The DOs:

  • Describe what you see
  • Stick to the facts
  • Use conceptual keywords
  • Know when to stop
  • Check for spelling errors
  • Be careful when batch keywording

The DON’Ts:

  • Describe your camera equipment with keywords
  • Keyword brand names
  • List your business name
  • “Spam” your images

Describe what you see by asking yourself: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Who or what is the subject of your image? Start by describing your subject in the most basic terms e.g. Skyscraper, Tower, City. Keywording is most effective when you describe the relevant attributes of your image, the ones that really stand out. Stick to what you immediately see and resist the urge to fill your keywords with less valuable information by describing the less significant details. This is true of any image whether its a landscape, still life, or portrait.

When was the picture taken? Tagging “day” or “night” is good but it’s also a great idea to be more specific about the time of day using descriptors like morning, sunrise, dawn, etc. Or if the season is prominent in the picture include the tags that apply, e.g. a scenic image of colourful trees in autumn could be tagged with the words Autumn, Fall, Colourful, Seasonal. However, keep in mind that seasons vary in different parts of the world so if it is not obvious in the photo there is no benefit in tagging it.

Where was your photo taken? The question of geographical location is geared towards landscapes, cityscapes, or any image taken outdoors where this information lends obvious context to the photo. With landscapes, the location and setting are the sole subject of the photo making this information even more vital.

Asking yourself “Why?” refers to what is happening in the photo. Describe the action you see: are your models interacting? What are they doing? Is your picture illustrating a particular event? This information should be reflected in your keywords too, although it must be evident to the viewer and not a vague or subtle suggestion of what is taking place.

Using conceptual keywords
Many buyers will know exactly what they are looking for, but many will also be seeking inspiration for their projects and may choose to search by a concept or theme. These tags are not literal, they are words or phrases that convey a clear concept like “the road less travelled” or “thinking ahead”. Buyers will search for the most commonly used phrases so be sure your concept is a familiar (and relevant!) one and not something obscure that only you would know.

No need to separate each word with a comma, as the search engine will pick up exact matches only. The following is a good example, if you were describing a dirt road in the countryside you might use keywords like “road, countryside, rural, the road less traveled, field” etc.

Know when to stop
In general, 10 – 25 keywords would be ideal to describe most images. Just as having too few keywords can be harmful to your sales, so can having too many. Too many excess keywords can dilute the search resulting in your images being pushed further down the page.

Check for spelling errors
Double check your spelling! If English isn’t your first language consider using a translation tool such as Word Reference or similar to ensure you have the right words and correct spelling. The desire to keyword your image in your native language is natural but, unfortunately, our search engine recognizes English words only. Words that are accented have a tendency to become truncated meaning the search engine cannot read them.

Keywording Examples
Below, we have provided several visual references with corresponding DOs and DON’Ts underneath to better illustrate the points mentioned above.

DO: Woman, Mother, Mom, Mum, Parent, Adult, Child, Baby, Family, Happy, Happiness, Bonding, Closeness, Togetherness, Embrace, Hug, Love, Smile, Smiling, Summer, Sunset, Sunshine, Golden, Warm Light, Backlit, Outside,
DON’T: Trees, Road, Street, Hair, Sock, Hood, Stripes, Pacifier

DO: Woman, Female, Adult, Young Adult, 20-29 years, One Person, Model, Portrait, Studio, African, Black Hair, Curly Hair, Brown Eyes, Makeup, Make-up, South Africa, Confident, Confidence, Individuality, Simplicity, Beauty, Casual Clothing, T-Shirt, Head and Shoulders, Front View, Looking at Camera, Black and White, B&W, Monochrome, White Background,
DON’T: Ethnicity, Ethnic, Daughter, Friend, Glamour, Bored

DO: Toronto, Ontario, Canada, North America, City, Cityscape, Skyline, Architecture, Building, Skyscraper, Office Tower, High Rise, Dusk, Dawn, Twilight, Modern, Contemporary, Design, Business, Finance, Illuminated, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Travel Destination, City Life, Urban, Sprawling, Elevated View, High Angle View, Blue, Blue Hour
DON’T: Traffic, Windows, Glass, Winter, Cold, Lake Ontario, People

DO: NYC, New York City, New York, USA, United States, America, North America, City, Capital City, Manhattan, Empire State Building, One World Trade Centre, Freedom Tower, Skyscraper, Buildings, Office Tower, High Rise, Skyline, Cityscape, Sky, Clouds, Morning, Dawn, Sunrise, Bird, Seagull, Bird’s Eye View, Elevated View, Freedom, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Travel Destination, Famous Place, Tourist Attraction, International Landmark,
DON’T: Avian, Feathers, Rockefeller Centre, Hudson River, States

DO: Abu Dhabi, UAE, United Arab Emirates, Middle East, Gulf Country, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Mosque, Building, Architecture, Architectural Feature, Dome, Minaret, Gold, Ornate, Traditional, Detail, Sunrise, Morning, Holy Place, Place of Worship, Faith, Religious, Religion, Spirituality, Islam, Peace, Tranquility, Sacred, Landmark,
DON’T: Landscape, Prayer, Praying, Pilgrimage, Quiet, Sky, Clouds, Blue

DO: Haew Narok Waterfall, Khao Yai National Park, Prachinburi, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Asia, Khao Yai, National Park, Waterfall, Water, Cascade, Flowing, Cliff, Ravine, Mist, Forest, Trees, Jungle, Rainforest, Tropical, Lush, Mountain, Hill, Hillside, Landscape, Rock, Nature, Scenic, Exploration, Adventure, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Travel Destination, UNESCO, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Natural Landmark, Green, Vibrant, Rainbow, Elevated View, High Angle View
DON’T: Amazing, Summer, Hot, Vacation, Bangkok

DO: Bagan, Myanmar, Burma, Mandalay, Asia, Southeast Asia, Hot Air Balloon, Field, Trees, Sunset, Sunrise, Pagoda, Temple, Buddhist Temple, Building, Architecture, Traditional, Ancient, Historic, Historical, Heritage, Buddhism, Sacred, Holy Place, Spiritual, Religious, Atmospheric, Backlit, Silhouette, Fog, Haze, Warm Tone, Golden Hour, Golden, Scenic, Landscape, View, Vista, Breathtaking, Tranquil, Tranquility, Serene, Serenity, Elevated View, Adventure, Freedom, Travel, Tourism, Travel Destination
DON’T: Grass, People, Transportation, Cityscape, Nature

DO: Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA, United States, North America, Antelope Canyon, Slot Canyon, Navajo, Sandstone, Erosion, Geology, Sand, Rock, Rock Formation, Sunlight, Long Exposure, Orange, Red, Vibrant, Natural Landmark, Travel, Tourism, Travel Destination, Tranquil, Serene, Arid
DON’T: Religious, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Summer, Sunset

DO: Elephant, Animal, Wildlife, Baby Animal, Trunk, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Asia, Southeast Asia, Happy, Smiling, Bonding, Togetherness, Connection, Friendship, Playful, Cute, Pair, Close-up, Grey
DON’T: Ground, Leaf, Toes, Herd, Family, Babies

DO: Polar Bear, Bear, Animal, Wildlife, Nature, Water, Underwater, Submerged, Swim, Swimming, Dive, Bubbles, White, Blue, Predator, Powerful, Aquatic, Refreshing, Cold,
DON’T: Iceberg, Ear, Nose, Fur, Environmental Issues, freezing

DO: Dandelion, Taraxacum, Weed, Plant, Seed, Uncultivated, Nature, Growth, Texture, Softness, Fragility, Delicate, Simplicity, Close-up,
DON’T: Beautiful, Beauty, Garden, Toronto, Canada

DO: Muesli, Granola, Cereal, Milk, Dairy, Blueberry, Berry, Fruit, Breakfast, Healthy, Food, Snack, Spoon, Nutrition, Nutritious, Spoon, Spoonful, Close-up
DON’T: Bowl, yogurt, white, diet, vegetarian, table

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