Keywording your photos! It’s a chore we would all prefer not to do; but I highly recommend you get in early and start keywording your photos.
In the world of digital photography, an overlooked aspect of the processing of images is the humble keyword or tag assigned to your images. Keywords are essential metadata, as your collection of images continues to grow it becomes more important in finding your photos. When you have a couple of hundred photos you can probably locate a particular single image but what happens when you have thousands of photos? This is where keywords will enable you to pinpoint a photo out of thousands. Also if you upload images to the Internet, properly keyworded images are more likely to be indexed by the search engines commonly use to scan the Internet to locate your photos.
Keywords (or Tags) are words or short phrases used to describe the content of the image. Keywords are different to a description or title for an image. Keywords are normally never seen by the viewer of the image; they are embedded into the metadata and are read by different software to describe and identify a particular image. In many Internet protocols it is also referred to as an “Alt tag”.
When you apply keywords to images it is a good strategy not to use single words but short phrases separated by commas. This practice is best done early in your processing as it can be time consuming and in all likelihood if it is left to another day it will never be done. Obviously, there would be little gained by assigning keywords to images you will never use but it’s hard to determine how you might use that image in the future.
In years from now, locating your images may depend on the richness and diversity of how you keyword your images today.
Choosing which words to use can be difficult, for example if you have a Landscape image taken at sunrise depicting the golden rays of the sun over a mountain at Lamington National Park, how would you add keywords that made sense? Would you use words like; mountain, sunrise, golden, Lamington, national, park, or would you use something else? Don’t limit yourself to single words, think of how the viewer may want to search for your image e.g. Sunrise over mountains, golden light at sunrise, sunrise landscape, daybreak over mountains etc. You could use the word “mountain” as a separate keyword.
As nature photographers, don’t forget to add the common and scientific names of any creature or plant in the image. Don’t forget it is common to have variants of common names used in different locations, these should be added also perhaps as Synonyms. With locations (use phrases again, instead of saying Lamington, use something more descriptive such as Lamington National Park Queensland, or Lamington NP Queensland. By using the single word “Lamington” it could describe everything from Lord Lamington, Lamington the cake, or anything else but by the use of phrases it is very clear what you are describing.
I would recommend you use words in English first and you could add other keywords in a different language or dialect, if they are words which people might use to search for your image. These “extra” words are best used as synonyms. Synonyms are words which describe the same thing as the keyword; it’s up to you whether you want to use a keyword or a synonym. An example of this would be “autumn” as a keyword and using “fall” as a Synonym, or “river” as the keyword and “waterway” as the Synonym.
Adding phrases which describe both the general and specific elements of the content of your images will aid people in finding your image. As another example of how this is beneficial, say you work in a business or have others helping in the office, use words and phrase they may also use to locate you images.
There is no need to go over the top with your keywords, using about 10 descriptive phrases or words is normally a good average.
You may think that all this keywording your photos is too time consuming and has little benefit, keep in mind that the work you do early will pay off in the future so stick with it, taking control of your keywording will become much easier for you over time and it will enrich the quality of your presentation of images and assist in finding the images you want to share.