Three Things to Help People Find Your Photos in Searches
By Tim Farmer
You’ve been out shooting and building a great portfolio of images. You have your web site up and running and you’re posting to Pinterest and have a Facebook page where you’re active in building a community of people who enjoy your work. So why aren’t more people seeing your photos?
Whether you want to sell your photos, build awareness around a cause you’re promoting, or just want to share your passion for great photography with friends and family, you want people to be able to find your photos.
You have to make sure these three areas are addressed: You need to make sure your title is suitable and searchable, find the right keywords to add in the tags and use any other asset fields your platform has to help your audience find your photographs.
There are a lot of articles on keywords and SEO (search engine optimization) out there. Read a few to get a better understanding on why they’re important. They usually talk about seeding keywords into your text, but the same principles apply to the title, tagging, and descriptions of your photos. First, we’ll focus on how you can title your images better to increase the likelihood that more people will find them.
Using the right keywords when titling your photos is the best way to help people to find them!
First a quick list of Do’s and Dont’s to keep in mind:
• Be precise and accurate
• Describe what you see in general terms
• Stick to only what you see
• Use conceptual terms
• Stop when you’ve described the subjects—don’t get wordy
• Spelling counts—double check and check again
• “Spam”—stick to the facts
• Describe the equipment you used
• Use brand names (unless you’re selling that brand), including model names and even your studio/personal name (watermark your photos with your info)
• Don’t repeat words (e.g., “Flower, Flowers, Lots of Flowers”)
Here’s an example of a good vs bad title for this image
Devils Tower Under the Milky Way
Rock at Night
Describe what you see in general terms: What? Who? When? Where? Why?
What is the focus of your photo? Keep it simple: mountains, lake, city, tower, Milky Way. Stick to what you see first—that’s probably the focus of your photo, which is what people are looking for. There are often lots of other smaller, less important subjects in your image—resist listing them. It will only distract from the focus point and is “spamming” an image (more later on spam). You don’t need to answer each of the who, what, when, where and why of the image. Focus on what’s important. If you have a photo of a landscape taken on a fall morning, the fact it was taken in the morning is probably less important than fall colors (unless the focus is sunrise colors).
Location can be vital to getting search results. If I’m going to a location to shoot, I’ll often look up images from that location so I can get a feel for it. If I’m writing a blog or working on an ad, I’ll often do a general search of the location to find stock photos to consider buying.
Not everyone knows exactly what they’re looking for. Often they’re looking for inspiring photos to get a project going. Art directors will often have a concept in mind like “the road less traveled” or “friendship” and they’ll search for images like this. I sometimes do this in post production. Coming up with conceptual terms will get me thinking about new ideas for shooting in the future. This even happens when I’m shooting. I’ll take a shot and when reviewing it and thinking about “conceptual keywords”, I’ll come up with new framing as I’m shooting.
More or Fewer Keywords
I’ve read some who say 10-25 keywords is ideal. I’m not sure if 25 well-qualified keywords is all that realistic for most photos, but 10 as a minimum is a good starting place. Having too many keywords may dilute the search results and move your photos lower on the page. You really want to be on top. Most people will only scroll down a little at best. If your photo is below the fold, it won’t be viewed as often, so you really want the best words without a lot of less relevant terms that will lower the search ranking and move you down the page.
If you’re writing a blog with images, you’ll want to use the same keyword on your photo and in the content of your blog. Devils Tower. But don’t just drop the terms in where it doesn’t make sense like I just did. Doctor. You want people to be able to read your blog so they’ll want to come back.
When the term “spam” is used, it refers to deliberately adding keywords that have no meaning or only a tenuous connection to the content. Spamming is not good. You may think anything that draws people to your site and photos is good, but this is not the case. It can negatively affect the Google ranking and people will not have a positive response to your photo if they feel they were misled by keywords that have no relevance to the photo.
Including everything that it might be
The woman on the left is a doctor, but there’s nothing in the image to denote a specialty of any kind. So “Obstetrician” or “Cardiologist” are not good keywords for this image. In the image on the right, it’s clear that she is now portrayed as a “Pediatrician”, so that would be a good keyword for the image.
Beyond Titles and Keywords
If you’re using something like WordPress for your website, they’ll often have a description field. This is a great place to give more information about the image than the title and keywords alone. The title and keywords often fail to encompass the whole of the photograph. The description field lets you tell more of the story of the image, like where, when, and how the photo was made. If there’s an interesting backstory to the photo, or something that may add to the enjoyment of the view that’s not in the photo. then add it in. Once, after taking a shot at Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois, my camera fell down a cliff. Is it relevant to the photo? No, but it’s funny and it may help people remember the image. You can also add links to other photos that may be of interest to the client/viewer. If you’re supporting a cause, add a link to the organization where people can get involved. One last point on a legal point. If your photo has someone else’s artwork or copyrighted subjects, be sure to give proper credit here.
This all seems like a lot of work, and it can be, especially when you first start doing it and you have to work through photos you’ve already posted. But as you go forward, it becomes second nature and the process will help you when you’re shooting by getting you to think about these things. Slowing down and thinking about what you’re shooting I have found helps me in my photography and enjoyment of what I’m doing.