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Keywording your Photos - A Picfair Guide

Tips and Inspiration

09 May 2018

Posted by Philip Mowbray

Standard keywording

Using the right keywords is one of the most important factors to consider when making a photograph available for license. 

Keywords (or tags) are the predominant tool that image buyers use to source pictures from libraries. And successfully keywording (or tagging) an image can make all the difference when it comes to a buyer finding and licensing your images: certainly not to be overlooked.

To give you a helping-hand in successfully keywording your images, we’ve put together our handy guide to keywording, featuring specific case-studies that can be applied across a multitude of image subjects and scenarios, and we hope this will help you when tagging your uploaded pics!

Standard keywording banner 1

1.)  Put Yourself in an Image Buyer's Shoes

One of the simplest ways to get your head around how to keyword your images put yourself in the shoes of an image researcher or picture buyer... 

Think like them. For example, if you were looking for images to illustrate a travel feature on Morocco, what keywords would you use to find a suitable image? 

A buyer may use keywords based on the following...


It is a must to keyword a location-specific image with that particular area, city, region, and country.  Ask yourself also, does the image show a noteworthy street, famous landmark or building? 

All of this information is important and should be included in the keywords.

Noteworthy Features of the Scene

Does the picture depict any traditional ways of life or typical scenes, or does the pic show something unusual or alternative? Does the image include a person, multiple people, a crowd or show anything noteworthy taking place? Include this in your keywording.

Formal Elements

Does the image feature any patterns, architectural highlights, designs or obvious formal elements? Or are there any particularly dominant colours in the scene? These should be tagged and included in the keywords.

Background & Concept Keywords

As important as highlighting any visible features in the photo, other keywords describing relevant, but 'unseen' elements of the picture can be paramount to the image buyer. 

For example, is a particular landmark in the photo famous or lesser-known? Are there any socio-geographic factors linked to the photograph? I.e. was the image taken in a working-class or affluent area? Or did a noteworthy event happen at that place? Does the scene depict a typical travel scenario or adventure?

Include keywords to cover any important background elements to the story behind the image...

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Standard picfair 0465298 jemaa el fna marrakech 1120u preview only

Keywords: Marrakesh, Morocco, North Africa, Main, Square, Jemaa, el, Fnaa, Tourist, Crowd, Dusk, Popular

Standard picfair 05755823 moroccan people playing street games in place djemaa el fna the famous sm preview only

Keywords: Morocco, Traditional, Scene, People, Game, Sport, Working Class, Lens Flare

Standard picfair 06323165 beautiful courtyard in bahia palace morocco 1120u preview only

Keywords: Famous, Tilework, Architecture, Moorish, Indoor, Courtyard, Bahia Palace, Pattern

Standard picfair 05543760 chefchaouen morocco april 10 2016 moroccan man walking in a narrow street in the town of chefchaouen in morocco north africa 1120u preview only

Keywords: Developing Countries, Local People, Moroccan Culture, Real People

2.) Editorial Photography - The Important Role of 'Copy Space' as a Keyword for Images

Buyers are often looking for images where they can overlay editorial content to an image - just think of when you sift through a magazine and there is a stunning opening image with a text overlay or a front cover where the image really ‘pops out’, despite the multitude of text around the image.

Often buyers are looking for images where there is a ‘clean’ area to place copy: this is usually in the form of the sky or large blocks of a single colour in an image. Buyers use keywords to find these sorts of images, especially when it comes to searching for prominent cover pics. The keywords and tags used across the board are copy space, or copyspace - include both.

Here are some examples of images in the Picfair collection that include the keywords copy space and/or copyspace. ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️

Standard copy space 2

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3.) Specifics are Important

As we have previously touched on; if you are photographing in a particular location, a specific building, person or covering an event. It is of vital importance to ensure that the specific names or events, people, and places are included as keywords. Image buyers and our in-house researchers will always use these keywords.

As a rule of thumb, although we only require a minimum of 5 keywords when uploading a pic, we recommend between 
20 to 50 keywords per image.

Standard keywording banner 2


  • Keyword your images with specifics when it comes to place, location, and event. Also if the image includes well-known work, such as a building designed by a famous architect – include this information.

  • Include seasons and weather, many image buyers work on features and campaigns based on particular seasons, and if this is particularly obvious in your photo – make sure that it is keyworded as such.

  • Include Latin names for any flora and fauna shots wherever possible. When a buyer is looking for an extremely specific species, the Latin name is extremely important for buyers.

  • Photography of people: make sure you are as specific as possible when it comes to keywording an image of a person. Keywords describing gender, race, age, and appearance are all of importance and are used regularly by buyers.

  • Think of variations - does a particular place in your photograph have two different, but very prominent names? For example Holland and Netherlands.

  • Check spelling: a very simple, but a sure way to make mistakes on keywording.

  • Variants - for common words that appear in image keywords such as harbour/ harbor, and center/ centre. Include both the US and UK spellings - we have buyers all around the world who may search using either spelling.

  • Make sure your caption is relevant to your keywords. A few relevant words should be included as keywords. Your caption should also be concise, and clear on what the image is showing (more to follow).


  • Do not be tempted to keyword a generic landscape or scene as multiple places or countries. This becomes extremely confusing to picture researchers and buyers, who will not be able to trust the provenance of the image and therefore will be less likely to select the picture.

  • Don’t keyword animals or flowers as different species even if they look very similar as above, this is unhelpful to the buyer.

  • SPAM: do not overload an image with irrelevant keywords that have no connection to the image: this becomes very distracting and unhelpful to researchers and buyers when they need to trawl through inappropriate content when sourcing images.
Standard test
Standard new tags
Standard picfair 06238979 portrait of a north korean woman ryanggang province samjiyon north korea 1120u preview only

Keywords: Asian Ethnicity, Woman, North Korean, Headshot, Black Hair

Standard picfair 01702533 toronto skyline 1120u preview only

Keywords: CN Tower, Skyline, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Standard picfair 03876394 a religious offering on day of the dead halloween in mexico sm preview only

Keywords: Day of the Dead, Mexico City, Religion, Tradition

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