Why Was My Image Rejected for Keywords?

In this month’s Rejection Reasons, we’ll take a look at a topic that applies to nearly every Shutterstock submitter, whether you’re a photographer or illustrator: Keywording. You may have noticed recently that Shutterstock has been implementing a pair of new Keyword rejection reasons, formerly a single reason.

The original rejection reason for Keywords read:

Your keywords must be in English and/or Your keywords must directly relate to the image (relevancy). Please edit your keyword choices and resubmit.

As you can see, this former rejection reason is actually two. The new keyword rejection reasons read:

English Keywords. Your keywords must be in English. Please edit your keyword choices and resubmit.

Keywords. Your keywords must directly relate to the image (relevancy). Please edit your keyword choices and resubmit.

Let’s examine this pair respectively.

“English Keywords” is self-explanatory. Shutterstock uses a language algorithm that automatically translates an image’s description and keywords into every other language in which the web site is offered (Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish). One of the rare exceptions to this rule is using the scientific names for animals or plants (especially flowers), which tend to be in Latin. It should be noted that this is a rare case due to the subject matter’s specificity, and if you are going to do this, it may also be a good idea to include a brief note to the reviewer to point this out. Other possible, albeit rare, exceptions: Names of specific places, events or people.

Bear in mind, while the English language often borrows words from other languages, such as “amigo” or “hors d’oeuvres,” it will always be in your best interest to use the English language counterparts “friend” or “appetizer.” There will always be cases where you must use your best judgment, so again, keep in mind that Shutterstock provides its own translations when you’re deciding whether to use “fiesta” or “party.” (Hint: use the word “party.”)

As to the Keyword relevancy issue, Shutterstock has addressed this topic ad nauseam in past newsletters, but the issue still bears mention, no matter how redundant, for one simple reason:

Keywords sell. It seems so simple, perhaps even misleading (“What, not just the quality of my image?”), but it’s true. Put simply, a well-chosen keyword should solely describe what is seen in the image, not what you want the image to express. This does not mean that you cannot keyword “freedom” for a photo of the American flag, for example, but you definitely should favor the simple and concrete to the complex and abstract.

Shutterstock does routinely audit its collection and submitters who include irrelevant keywords will receive warnings (and if you’re caught keyword-spamming, your account will be disabled outright). Think of it this way: If it’s a picture of a dog, don’t keyword “cat.”

For further in-depth examination of Keywording issues, please refer to Improve Your Sales with Keywording, parts

One, Two, and Three. After reading these articles, you may just find yourself a newfound Keywording expert and have one, nay, two less rejection reasons to worry about!