How to keyword your photography portfolio

I’ll assume that you’re like me and have recently decided to try your hand at stock photography.  I’ll also assume that you’re like me and you don’t have an endless amount of time to dedicate to it.  You’ve got a ‘real job’, a family, a house to clean etc.

You like photography, you always have, but you’ve never had the time (or, let’s face it, motivation) to dedicate yourself to it properly.  Sounding familiar???

Well, if you’re anything like me these are some of the things you feel or have experienced.

We all say it’s not about the money, but probably we only say that because there is none.  Yes, if you’re independently wealthy you can give all your time to your hobby, but for the rest of us, it’s a pipe dream to do something you love for a living.

The first few questions you’ll ask yourself are probably:

1.  What agency should I go with?
2.  Should I submit to lots of agencies, or go exclusive with 1?
3.  What can I do to make this keywording easier?

Let me explain my choices, and maybe it’ll help you to make yours.

What agency should I go with?
I chose Dreamstime.  Why?  For a few reasons.  It’s one of the bigger agencies (24+ million photos as of today).  Which means there is lots of competition but that it is established.  What you don’t want to do, is put a lot of effort into this, only for your agency to disappear.

I thought it had plenty of content that suited my style of photography.  Hang on Fraser, I hear you say, you’ve only been doing this 5 minutes and already you have a ‘style’.  You’re right, I don’t have a style, but what I do have are subjects I like to photograph more than others.  My thought process was, if there are other people already doing my ‘style’ of photographs and achieving sales, then it shouldn’t be a complete waste of time.  Yes, there is competition (and very good competition at that) but there are also buyers to compete for.

Should I submit to lots of agencies, or go exclusive with 1?
The answer here probably depends on the time you’ve got.  I simply don’t have the time to upload my photos, title, keyword etc. to multiple sites.  So I chose 1.

I’m not here to promote Dreamstime.  There are other good stock sites out there.  I just liked their setup.

The benefit of being exclusive, is that you only have to submit to one site, you get $0.20 per accepted image (on Dreamstime) and you get more prominent placement of your photos (allegedly…I have no proof of this yet) so that buyers can find your photos.  You also get a greater % of any sale you make.

If you have all the time in the world, upload your photos to any site you can find.  If you have 200 photos on 20 websites, logic would say that you are much more likely to get more sales than someone with 200 photos on 1 website.

What can I do to make this keywording easier?
Keywording sucks!  It won’t take you long to figure that one out for yourself, but here’s a tip to make it slightly less painful.

On Dreamstime (again, I reference them because that’s what I use) you are required to put in at least 8 keywords and no more than 80.  A keyword is just something that helps a user find you photos (and then potentially part with their cash).

So let’s take this photo of Eilean Musdile Lighthouse off the west coast of Scotland.  What words could you use to describe it?

Eilean Musdile Lighthouse


Lighthouse, White, Water, Warning, Treacherous, Island, Grey…I’m starting to struggle already, and I’m only at 7!  You get my point.

You could scratch you head for the next half an hour trying to come up with 10/20 more keywords, or you could use this free keywording tool on Yuri Arcurs website.

Yuri’s site explains how to use the tool, so I’ll not attempt to try to do that better.  I’ll just say…

  • you type in a couple of your keywords
  • click search
  • select photos that look like yours
  • select the keywords they have used that also apply to your image
  • click show a list of keywords
  • then copy/paste to your stock site
It won’t make keywording go away…but it will save you hours and hours!  Make sure you deselect words that have no relevance to your photo…that’ll only annoy buyers and your agency.
If you made it this far…have a great day.

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