Keywording Stock Photos

Last week, on my Facebook business page, I asked readers to submit questions – “Ask a Stock Photographer”.  So, we start today with a workflow question …

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For our first topic, Steve Alejandro asked “How do you manage key wording and uploading?” .  To start, my answers to these questions will just be based on my experiences and techniques.  For example, I know many people use Adobe Lightroom or Photomechanic   to do keywording.   Since I don’t use those tools, I won’t be going into them.

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Straight off, let me tell you to do your keywording on the image itself.  Do NOT upload an image to an agency and then manually do the keywording there.  Allowing the agency to control your meta-data leaves you in the lurch if you ever need to leave that agency and upload elsewhere.  You’ll be doing twice the work.  At least.

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Quickly through the workflow.  I use Adobe Bridge to select an image from a shoot to work on.  I open the image into Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).  I check focus, adjust the white balance and other settings as needed.  Then I open that in Adobe Photoshop and do my edits.  I save the resulting  .psd file into a separate directory, just for edited files.  When I have completed editing the entire shoot, I use Bridge to browse into that edited directory full of .psd files.  I then select all the images, and use the “file info” tool.  I have a “generic” template that fills in the meta-data fields:

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I then go in and modify the title, description and keywords with something appropriate to the session.  However, the keywords will be as broad as possible.  For example, for a session at an airport, I will keyword what is in essentially every image, like “airport, interior, inside, travel, passenger, … ” etc.    Here, I have a small series about July 4th sparklers.

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Then this is applied to all the images.  Once Bridge is done processing them, I see if there are any sets within the shoot that could get an additional group of keywords applied to them.  So, for the airport shoot example, I would select the group of images of someone using a laptop and then, in the Bridge interface, I will add “laptop, computer, working, …” to that set, in addition to the broader terms.  Here, I’ve got several sparkler images that have a girl in them.  So, I’m selecting those and adding the girl terms.

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Eventually, all the “sub” sets that can have broad terms applied are done, and I start visiting each image, one by one, modifying and adding terms as needed, using the Bridge interface as shown above.  Doing it this way allows me to avoid the copy and pasting problem, because I know I’ve applied the terms to only the images that require them.

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What would make life a little easier in Bridge would be if you could add a keyword to a group of images that have existing dissimilar keywords.  Unfortunately this isn’t how Bridge works.  If, say, you are done doing all your individual keywording, and you think “Hey, I forgot to add ‘business’ to all those”, selecting them all in Bridge and typing “business” into the keywords field will erase all your hard work.  So you’d have to add that one by one.  One of the things I wish they would fix/add in Bridge.

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Now, all my images are keyworded on my hard drive in the edited .psd files.  So any .jpegs I output from those to upload will have the correct meta-data.  I try to keyword in a way that fits as many agencies as possible.  Stocksy, for example, doesn’t require ethnicity keywords, since it derives those from the model release information, but I will usually add it anyways, in case one day I have to upload the content somewhere else that doesn’t do that.

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Hope that answers the question!  I think I’ll save the “uploading” part of the question for another day.  Thanks!

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3 thoughts on Keywording Stock Photos

  1. Hi Sean,

    Thanks for the article.
    If it will be interesting for you, the problem of ‘non- destructive’ addition of keywords to the set of selected images is solved in Adobe Lightroom. That’s why I switched from Bridge to LR some time ago. But currently I lack the keyword counter there ) It seems there is no magic tool for all stock purposes )


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