Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Keyword Smart Software Review

One of the benefits of having a solid social media presence is being able to test and review photography-related products and services. Recently on Twitter, I was introduced to Keyword Smart, so in exchange for being able to use their product, I agreed to provide them with a review. In the past I’ve written about photo keywording strategy so that would be a good primer into how I approach keywording. So without further ado, let’s get into the review.


The goal of Keyword Smart and other photo keywording software is generally to help ensure that all of your important bases are covered in an efficient manner. Keywording images is a laborious task that many photographers do not enjoy but it is a necessary task if you expect to sell your photography effectively. Keywording not only allows clients to search through your images on their own, but also to help you as the photographer find your own images for urgent photo requests. Maybe if you are first starting off, you can remember the content within all of your images off the top of your head and be able to find them, but once you are more than a few years into your photography career, this will not be possible nor advised.

Keyword Smart is a web-based tool with an innovative approach to streamlining this process. It allows you to enter in your existing keywords into the bulk keyword box then it auto-populates those keywords into keyword taxonomy categories where it generates a master list of synonym and plural terms. You can then use the drop-down menus to drill further down into each keyword category and select additional keywords. These keyword categories are meant to ensure you have entered in keywords for all the types of terms you might not be aware that photo editors typically use such as “no people” or “action shot” for instance.

Keyword Smart for Photographers

Keyword Smart /

Cognizant that many photographers enter in their photo meta data within Adobe Lightroom, there is a plugin available that integrates with Lightroom. My workflow doesn’t currently involve keywording within Lightroom so I haven’t tried this feature but I think it sounds like a great feature for those who keyword within Lightroom.

Since Keyword Smart operates as a subscription, web-based tool, their keyword catalog is constantly being updated based on industry feedback and user-behavior. I think this is great method to eventually building up a very accurate, up-to-date keyword catalog. As is, they already claim to have over 130,000 keywords within their system at the time of this review. As the keyword catalog grows, I see this further speeding up the keyword process for photography industry professionals.

Now let’s take a look at the keywords I was able to produce. I chose three images of different genres in order to highlight diversity within the keyword sets.

Grizzly Bear Cub Standing in Meadow at Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Grizzly Bear Cub Standing in Meadow at Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Original Keywords: grizzly bear, bears, cub, cubs, baby, babies, alaskan brown bear, lake clark national park, cook inlet, alaska, usa, wildlife, nature, animal, ursus arctos horribilis, grass, meadow, grizzly bear, ursus americanus, bear, grizzly, grizzly bears, grizzlies, united states of america, cute, cuteness, standing, stands, stand, curious, curiousity, awareness, silver salmon creek, water

Keyword Smart Keywords: 1 animal, alaska, carnivora, lake clark national park and preserve, north america, summer, summertime, u.s, u.s.a, us, usa, united states of america, ursidae, ursus arctos, adorable, animals, baby, brown bear, brown bears, burly, coast, coastal, color image, colour image, cook inlet, cub, cubs, curiosity inquisitive, curious inquisitive, cute, cuteness, day, daylight, daytime, endearing, eye level shot, eye level view, field, grasses, grizzly bear, inquisitive, inquisitively, inquisitiveness, looking, lovable, loveable, mammal, mammals, meadow, natural light, nature, nature photography, no people, no person, nobody, one animal, outdoor shot, outdoors, outside, posture, remote, seaside, silver salmon creek, straight-on shot, upright, vertical, vertical format, wilderness, wildlife, wildlife photography

My grizzly bear cub image had 51 keywords when I originally keyworded the image. For the purposes of this review, I started from scratch when building the new keyword list from Keyword Smart, which ended up producing the 105 keywords listed above. Going through the keywording process via Keyword Smart, helped me to come up keywords that I had never considered previously. It’s impossible to know if having these additional keywords will lead to increased revenue at this point, but this will potentially give me more chances to sell my work which is all we can hope for with great keywording technique.

Cowboy Running from Bull at 2011 Frank Bogert Memorial Rodeo, Palm Springs, California

Cowboy Running from Bull at 2011 Frank Bogert Memorial Rodeo, Palm Springs, California

Original Keywords: bull rider; bullriding; danger; fear; dangerous; extreme sports; rodeo; 2011 frank bogert memorial rodeo; palm springs; southern california; usa; united states of america; inland empire; outdoor; running; san bernardino county; americana; culture; entertainment; rodeos; safety; prca; pro rodeo; palm springs convention center; arena; cowboy; cowboys; westfest

Keyword Smart Keywords: 1 animal, 2011 frank bogert memorial rodeo, americana, north america, u.s, u.s.a, us, usa, united states of america, action shot, action shots, afraid, animals, arena, bull, bull rider, bullriding, bulls, color image, colour image, cowboy, cowboys, culture, cultures, danger, dangerous, dangerously, entertainment, extreme sport, extreme sports, fear, fright, frightened, frightening, hazardous, horizontal, horizontal format, inland empire, one animal, outdoor, outdoor shot, palm springs, palm springs convention center, prca, pro rodeo, rodeo, rodeos, run, running, safe, safely, safety, san bernardino county, scared, scary, southern california, sports photography, terrified, terrifying, terror, unsafe, westfest

In the above rodeo image, I had 46 keywords when I originally keyworded this image last year. Through Keyword Smart, I generated a list of 91 keywords. Clearly this is helping me build a more comprehensive keyword list of important terms. These are not just filler keywords, there are some real descriptive terms that I’m getting out of this.

Pasadena City Hall at Sunset, California

Pasadena City Hall at Sunset, California

This photo of Pasadena City Hall is a new one that I don’t have existing keywords for but I did come up with 79 keywords for this example.

Keyword Smart Keywords: north america, u.s, u.s.a, us, usa, united states of america, architectural, architectural photography, architecture, building structure, building exterior, city hall, cityscape, clouds, color image, colour image, day, daylight, daytime, exterior shot, garfield avenue, government building, government buildings, historic landmark, horizontal, horizontal format, italian baroque dome, los angeles county, municipal building, natural light, no people, no person, nobody, outdoors, outside, partly cloudy, pasadena, renaissance architecture, road, roadway, san gabriel valley, sky, southern california, stormy, street, structure building, sunset, travel, urban

Overall: I have just scratched the surface of what can be done with Keyword Smart. In addition to the features I’ve already mentioned, there is the ability to edit your own taxonomy to fit your personal keywording style, which I like a lot. I intend to make heavy use of this feature which I believe will help take my workflow to the next level. I am frequently keywording images so any edge I can get on this, you can bet that I will take advantage of. Based on my communications with the owner, it’s clear that they are serious about building a quality product for photographers and art buyers, so I will wholeheartedly recommend trying out Keyword Smart.

Visit for more information.


April 10, 2012 Posted by | Digital Workflow, Product Reviews, software, stock photography | , , , , | 5 Comments

Photo Keywording Strategy

(Originally published at In the Field in September, 2007 and updated for this blog)

Stock photographers complain all the time about how dreadful keywording is and how it is the worst aspect of the profession. Well this article is not about that.

Proper keywording is essential to selling stock photography nowadays. Without good keywording skills you would be hard pressed to sell anything through stock photo agencies because the industry has gone mostly digital in the past several years. Keywords can also help make your life as a photographer easier because it would allow you to find your own images in a database easier. Keeping track of and finding all of your images is easy if you only have a few hundred marketable images but when you have thousands of images like most pros then it is easy to forget images when one is pressed for time if one doesn’t have an efficient filing system set up. In this article, I will describe what I was thinking about as I keyworded the following image and offer my opinion as to what is necessary in order to keyword a photo properly.

Louisville Bats versus Norfolk Tides AAA Minor League Baseball Game, Louisville, Kentucky Photo: Louisville Bats versus Norfolk Tides AAA Minor League Baseball Game, Louisville, Kentucky

The most obvious keywords for any location shoot image should be geographic location so here are a few that immediately come to mind for this photo: Slugger Field, Louisville, Kentucky, southern, south, USA, United States of America. Personally I tend to leave the United States keywords out because I only shoot U.S. locations and I shoot very location-specific subject matter. If a photo researcher doing were to do an online stock photo search for a Kentucky tourism article or brochure, they’d likely type in something like “Louisville minor league baseball” or “Louisville team sports”, which is more than sufficient to bring up the necessary images since the odds of a Hungarian photo researcher needing my images from Kentucky are highly unlikely. Secondly, minor league baseball is generally thought of as an American sport, so it is unlikely that anyone would do a search on stock site for, “USA minor league baseball teams”. Now if I were keywording for a location such as Niagara Falls or San Francisco, of which the country of origin could be of multiple countries, then the need for country identifying would be more necessary. In this case however, since baseball is an integral part of American culture and history I decided to include the country identifier keywords since the images could be used in a broader sense than just the sport of baseball.

Once the location keywords have been determined, what next? Subject matter is another area in which one should explore for keywords. For sure, some images are more conducive to a high quantity of keywords than others say compare this baseball image with a general postcard scenic image of mountain such as Mount Shasta. There’s only a few relevant ways you can describe the Mount Shasta picture to be of any use to the photo researcher, whereas the baseball image can fit into multiple different image category genres such as lifestyle, travel, sports, inspirational, etc… For the baseball image for example here are just a few keywords to scratch the surface: hitter, hitters, hitting, batter, batters, bat, bats, batting, athlete, athletics, athletes. Knowing some historical information on your subject matter would be very helpful as well.

Synonyms: Every person has their own personal photo search style, so one should always include the singular and plural forms of the words in addition to synonyms of terminology that one might realistically use to find your image. One person might type in “Kentucky baseball pitching” whereas someone else might find my photo by typing in “minor leaguers tossing baseballs in the south”, so it would be to your best interest to include as many relevant forms of the terms as possible.

Vernacular: Be mindful of how your target market speaks because the terminology that they use might not be the same as yours. Slang to one person might be everyday speech to another. For example, my college roommate was from Idaho and never could understand what I was talking about when I said “soda” or “market” because he knew them as “pop” and “grocery store”. Knowing that linguistic insight, I would include those variations of the terms despite the fact that I would probably not use those same words myself in a conversation. Keywording strategy is all about covering the necessary bases.

Conceptual Descriptor keywords: This category of keywords describes the concept of your image. Advertising art directors are more likely to be searching for these types of keywords than an editorial buyer because advertising photography is typically used to illustrate a creative concept based off of a single message. While not absolutely mandatory for some of the images that I shoot, it could be beneficial to include these words anyway. To describe the baseball image, I could add keywords such as “determination, fortitude, reflexes, competition, competitors, etc…” For regular model-released lifestyle type stock imagery though, these sorts of keywords can make or break you financially. If you aren’t good at coming up with descriptory keywords for that type of imagery then chances are you will sell nothing because lifestyle images are all about illustrating a concept. If I were a “lifestyle” photographer specialist, then I’d probably pay a professional keyword specialist to keyword my images since this category of keywords is the most difficult to do effectively.

How many words are too much?: There has been a lot of debate over this since Alamy rolled out their new “Alamy Rank” image search engine prioritizing system a few months ago. Questions one must consider are: Are these keywords diluting the impact of my essential keywords? If so, is it worth leaving this keyword in at the potential risk of receiving a lower rank for a more important keyword? Does the stock agency put a cap on the amount of keywords that I can include per image, if so, then which words should I leave out?

There’s no way for anyone else to answer these questions for you because no one really knows the answers to these questions. My theory is that it’s best to know how your photos might be used and base your keyword strategy off of that assumption. For me, I’d rather just stay modest and not get too cute with every word in the dictionary if no one is likely to use those words. On the other hand, I see some photographers that will stuff 500 keywords into every image. I don’t know what other photographers are selling on Alamy, but my Alamy gross sales in the past year (2006 – 07) is almost $5 per number of images on average, which is higher than the commonly assumed standard of $1 per number of images annual average.

Keywording is not a rocket science so there’s no need to go Shakespeare to find keywords your images. All it takes is some common sense and a little understanding in how your images are used.

Photo Keywording Software: iView Media Pro, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, BreezeBrowser, FotoStation, IDimager, Image Info Toolkit, Photo Mechanic, Image Keyworder, StockView / METAmachine, fotoKeyword Harvester

The above listed software programs can help you batch keyword images in addition to allowing to create / purchase a controlled vocabulary catalog of keywords ensuring that you’ve got all your bases covered. I’ve tried to keyword images with trial versions of iView, Lightroom and Image Info Toolkit. These programs don’t really fit into my imaging workflow however at the moment so I do not use these programs. However, for many others it is well worth the investment. Eventually I will probably incorporate one of these into my workflow however.

Keywords: Louisville Bats; AAA Minor League Baseball; teams; team; sports; sport; sporting; America’s Favorite Pastime; Louisville; Kentucky; Kentuckiana; South; southern; USA; United States of America; Norfolk Tides; Slugger Field; pitcher; pitching; pitch; ball; balls; bat; batting; batter; batters; umpire; umpires; umpiring; catcher; catchers; catch; catching; infield; infield; field diamond; diamonds; grass; grass; backstop; back stop; stops; backstops; people; player; players; man; men; athlete; athletes; athletics; hand-eye coordination; compete; competitors; competitor; competition; competing; anticipate; anticipation; anticipating; reflex; reflexes; determined; determination; hitters; hitter; minor leaguer; minor leaguers; tossing; toss; tosses; flamethrower; flamethrowers; fireballers; fireballer; speed; fast; quick; speedy; quickly

Try to enjoy your next keyword session. 😉

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Digital Workflow, software, stock photography | , , | 8 Comments