How to Keyword Stock Photos

Shooting good quality images with a strong theme is only half of the success formula in stock photography. You also need to keyword your images well, so that buyers can find them. I work with photographers helping them to build their stock photography portfolios. The process of keywording is often overlooked, and is not intuitive to everyone. So, let’s look into how to keyword stock photos.

Below I’ve outlined a simple process to go through, and provided examples of how to keyword stock photos.

Step 1. What is the main subject of the image? Ok, this step is pretty easy. What is the main subject? In this sample image it’s not the plant, it’s the bird. Start simply. Use these keywords – animal, bird, wildlife, wren, fairy wren, one animal

Step 2. Is there anything else about the subject? In this case, with a little research you will find this is a female fairy wren. So you might add the additional keywords – female, female animal, nature, brown


Simple images with clear subjects are straightforward to keyword

Step 3. Where was the shot taken? If you are up to step three and you are thinking this is pretty easy – please be assured that it is. This shot was taken at a place called Healesville, not far from where I live in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Add keywords like – Healesville, Victoria, Australia, outdoor, day, animals in the wild

Step 4. When was the shot taken? In this case the shot was taken during the middle of the day on a lovely overcast day. I have already added the keyword day, so there is nothing extra to add here. If you shot a beach scene at sunrise you might add specific keywords like sunrise, twlight, and dawn.

Step 5. How does the image make you feel? What emotions could be connected with the image. In this case, the image does not generate a strong emotional reaction. If you have an image that does, add keywords which are relevant.

Step 6. Is there anything else significant about this image? In the case of this image the strong green color is dominant. For this image I would also add the word – green.

Let’s look at another image as we practice how to keyword stock images.


Follow the same process to determine appropriate keywords

For this image, we follow the same steps.

Step 1. Main subject? Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, map, location

Step 2. Anything else? Flag, Australian flag, national flag, nobody, close up, macro

Step 3. Where? Studio shot, indoor

Step 4. When? There is nothing in this image which identifies a time of day or season of the year so we won’t add any extra keywords here

Step 5. How does it make you feel? This image also doesn’t evoke a strong feeling, so no need to add more keywords here

Step 6. Anything else? Nothing else for this one.

Let’s look at a third example.


Images with sunrises and sunsets need to have keywords which reflect that

Step 1. Main subject? Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, cityscape

Step 2. Anything else? For this image I’d add – nobody, backlit, silhouette

Step 3. Where? outdoor, day

Step 4. When? This image was shot in the winter time in the early evening as the sun was setting. I would add – sunset, dusk, twilight, winter

Step 5. How does it make you feel? This is a simple image which evokes feelings of calmness at the end of the day. I would add the keywords – tranquil scene

Step 6. Anything else? The colors feature prominently in this image – I would add – gold, yellow

Keywording is very important so that buyers can find your images. I hope this simple 6 steps process gives you a structure to work through as you learn to keyword your images well. Thanks for reading how to keyword stock photos.

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