Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you caption and keyword your photographs:
Are there people in the image or is this an object or scenic?
If there are people, is the subject male or female, and do your caption or keywords convey this?
Is the person playing a role? (father/mother, doctor, leader, etc)
Have you mentioned the ages of subjects (specific ages and age-ranges as well as "labels" like generation X, youth, senior).
Is it appropriate to mention the subjects race or ethnicity (caucasian, black, hispanic)?
Who is the subject of this image? Is it a person? Actual names are good to include for news or documentary coverage. However names are usually not necessary for stock photography purposes, unless you are talking about celebrities, figureheads and historically noteworthy persons. If it's Donald Trump: yes, include the name. For Donald, your next-door neighbor who was your model in a lifestyle shot, no, do not add the name.
What do you see in the image?
What larger grouping does this subject belong to? (Example, a cat is also a mammal, a pet, and an animal) Consider the use of a Controlled Vocabulary.
What is the subject of the image doing? Is the subject motionless or is it engaged in some action or activity (running, jumping, bowling)?
What is the subject like? Is it tall, short, vivid, sharp, etc?
What, if any, accessories are visible?
-clothing items: suit, tie, sneaker, bathing suit
-business items: paperwork, cellular phone, laptop, datebook
-leisure items: toy, book, magazine
-food items: cup, dish, meat, vegetable
What is the "look" of the image (vivid, hazy)?
Is there a dominant color (colour)?
What is it like there? Describe the setting (type of room if inside, weather, etc.)
What is the mood or feeling or emotion being expressed (solitude, joy, mellow)?
Where is the subject located? (and is this important?)
Would a researcher use the Location/City/State/County field in order to find the image?
Is the area part of a larger Region?
Is the activity occurring inside or outside?
(Generally you want to provide location information for all images except for generic interiors, lifestyle, studio shots, etc. that happen to be taken in a certain city, state, country but in which the location is not pertinent to the content of the image).
When was the image taken?
You'll want to include the date if it's part of an "event" or is of a news/documentary nature. In general, dates on images that you intent to license as stock photographs may disqualify (rather than qualify) an image for a sale; so you may not wish to "date" timeless images. Exceptions would be historic events, dates pertaining to antique or historic subjects (e.g. printing press, circa 1885) and skylines or cityscapes, which may change dramatically over relatively short periods of time.
Is the time of day (morning, noon, night?) something important to note?
When in the year was the image taken (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall)?
Why is the action in this image happening?
Why was the image captured/created? (identify why the photograph is important).
Does this image evoke any Concepts? (include both positive and negative concepts).
see the "goodies" page for a sample list.
How is the action or scene important?
How many subjects are there (is this a scene with a single person, a couple, or crowd)?
How would you describe the subject using adjectives (loud, bright, cold, hidden)?
Be sure to include technical aspects of the image.
Is the image a horizontal or vertical format?
Is there something unique about the composition of the image?
Was the image taken from a unique or interesting perspective or viewpoint (close-up, aerial, silhouette)?
Were any special effects used in the creation of the image (intentional blurring, timed or long exposure, etc.)?
Is there something special about the light that's important (firelight, candlelight?)
When Writing Keywords
Limit keywords to those that express or describe the visual content of the image. Do keyword thoroughly, but be judicious. Keywords for minor details, such as those out of focus or in the distance, should not be included.
Apply attribute / concept words very selectively, but keep them in mind for images that illustrate a particular concept or concepts: Snowboarding is also an adventure sport and that is useful to know; a referee holding a yellow flag represents "Warning," etc. However, not every single landscape image represents beauty, tranquility, or inspiration. When terms like these are used over and over again, they become meaningless to buyers who are faced with having to wade through half your archive in their search for beauty.
Think Like a Buyer:
Buyers are looking for images that clearly represent the subject matter of the images without your interpretation or guesswork. For example, an image of a child at the beach eating a dripping ice cream cone clearly conveys summer. A studio food shot of an ice cream cone does not necessarily imply the same concept or meaning. A buyer who specifically has ice cream in mind to represent summer will use search terms to find "ice cream cone", not summer.
-Apply keywords consistently. If windsurfing should alternatively be keyworded as; wind surfing, then ALL of your windsurfing / wind surfing images should contain both versions of the word.
-Do not apply human attributes and emotions to images of animals; For example; love, smiling and happy are ok if used with images of humans, but "smiling dog" is likely to confuse a researcher.
Many thanks to Kathie Woods of Creative Eye / Mira.com for her input on this subject.
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