By Cradoc Bagshaw
Recently I talked with photographer Ron Watts about his stock shooting and his image keywording problems. Ron and I have known each other since the 1980’s. We met in Los Angeles at the Westlight photo agency, while we were both in town on agency business. We have been friends ever since.
A prolific stock and assignment shooter, Ron travels the world shooting stock and magazine assignments; one of his latest trips was to China and Mongolia, before that Chile and Argentina. He is also a co-founder of the Canadian stock agency, First Light. Ron knows his business, and he knows stock.
He told me that he joined PhotoShelter quite a while ago and he receives emails from them saying that although he has an account, they noticed that he hasn’t submitted any pictures to them. He laughed and said to me:
“It’s the keywording. I’m currently facing a huge backlog of digital images that I want to submit to Photoshelter and other agencies, but the images sit on my hard drive for lack of the keywording necessary to complete the final step. Previously keywording was always handled by my stock agencies. Now with my increased workload I lack the time, the expertise and confidence to deal with this myself.Ron has the fotoKeyword Harvester, and I asked him what he expected of it. He said, “Your new software addresses the two major issues facing the freelance photographer today. First, anything that helps to streamline my digital workflow and save me time is worth its wait in gold. Second, with the proliferation of images online the need for effective keywording is essential to assure that my best work will not only see the light of day, but may even rise to the top of a picture buyer’s selects.”
I saw PhotoShelter as a way to get images that I have good coverage of to the market, but I just haven’t had time to keyword them. I’ve been too busy shooting. And I hate keywording.”
Get Images Seen OnlineRon is convinced the fotoKeyword Harvester is the answer to his first issue; saving time keywording his images. I told him about something I had discovered while I researched and developed the method that the Harvester uses that would address his second issue, getting his images seen. It concerns two of my own images.
The first is a picture that I have with a major agency. It is an editor’s pick which should move the image into the group of other editor’s picks at the front of a search. It is also one of the best pictures in the category on the site.
After I keyworded the image and did a search on the main subject word, my image was originally put on page thirteen of the search. Not even my mother, if she was alive, would have the patience to look for it there. It wasn’t even with the other editor’s picks.
I began experimenting with the keywords that described it, focusing on the most important words and taking out words that weren’t critical. My image moved up to page two. I took out more words and reordered some of the words. My image is now on the first line of page one.
The second image is the shot on PhotoShelter that I used as an example in the tutorial video on harvesting keywords. I couldn’t even find it using different search phrases. I cleaned up the keywords, and it now it shows up on page one of various searches using different terms that apply to the subject based on the research I conducted.
What happened? In the process of seeing how keywords describe images, and how the use, placement, and order of those words affected my search results, I was learning the language of keywording. I was getting a sense of the balance between the number of words to use, fewer words would move my image forward in a simple search, but I also needed enough words to let my image show up during a more complex search using multiple keywords. I was learning to make the judgment calls needed to have my images seen.
Keep in mind that different search engines respond differently. Be sure to experiment a bit if you have multiple agencies.
From the research that I did, the current state of keywording is terrible on a whole. It won’t always be that way as the market gets more competitive and searchers start demanding better results. Keyword your images well now so that you won’t have to do it again in the future.