Accurate keywords and titles make all the difference when you offer your images online. Here’s how to amp up your descriptions and get your images in front of the right audience.

Providing accurate keywords and titles on your images, illustrations, and videos is just as important as submitting quality images. As artists, you put a lot of work and time into producing creative imagery that’s a perfect fit for potential customers. The last thing you want is to waste that time when customers can’t find your image collection. In Shutterstock’s digital marketplace, there are thousands of beautiful creative images, illustrations, and videos. If a customer can’t find you, they can’t purchase your work. Metadata, including keywords and accurate titles, eliminates that risk.

Here’s our guide for creating the right keywords and titles that accurately describe your photos. We want to always ensure that your imagery gets the visibility it deserves here at Shutterstock.

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — The Importance of Keywords
Artist: Aila Images
Title: Piggyback happy tourist friends having fun on summer travel adventure vacation while laughing
Sample keywords: Travel, vacation, happy, tourist, fun, adventure, lifestyle, friendship

Create Accurate Titles

Think of your title as the news headline for your imagery. Who, what, when, where and why. Those are the questions that your title needs to answer, nothing more and nothing less. Be as specific to the image as possible, and refrain from copy and pasting the same title to similar images. You have a better chance of connecting with a customer looking for that specific image if you are accurate and clear.

Keywording - Woman in Art Gallery
Artist: Africa Studio
Title: Young woman looking at a picture of tropical foliage in an art gallery

Include Unique Information

When you add words to your keywords and titles, include any unique information that sets your image apart from the rest. Mention any specific technologic components of the image that are unique, including perspective, angle, or treatment. For example, if you are shooting an aerial image, include that in the description of your title.

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — Include Unique Information
Artist: Joshua Resnick
Title: Three mexican pork carnitas taco flat lay top-down composition
Sample Keywords: Taco, food, mexican, street, top, view, pork, flat, carnitas, overhead

Be Descriptive

Being descriptive sets keywords and titles apart from the rest. For example, say you have an image of two kids playing in the park. Instead of a title such as “Two kids,” consider adding a more descriptive element that will allow the right customers to find your work. “Two kids playing in the park in the sun” is a better example of being descriptive, which helps a customer to find the right image they are looking for.

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — Be Descriptive
Artist: KimSongsak
Title: Tourists riding on elephants trekking in Thailand

Think Like a Customer

Sometimes, you need to put your customer hat on. Take a look at the image you’re going to upload. If you were searching for that exact image, what would you search for? Use that as your title. A great starting point often comes from evaluating your own imagery, and thinking about how you would find that image.

Images by Yuri Gurevich and Mr.Note19

Let’s say a customer is looking for a young violinist playing in a concert hall. If a customer was to search “Person playing violin,” they may be able to find this image…in a massive collection of other ones. However, if a customer searched “Young person playing violin in a concert,” chances are because it’s more specific, they can find the right image easier because your image is titled correctly.


Remember, Not Everyone is a Photographer

While you may know that the reason an image is blurred is because it has a low depth of field, not every potential customer will. Consider using terms such as “blur” for an unfocused background instead of getting technologically specific. Include keywords that may be more searchable for customers, and then include their counterpart that’s more understandable from a visual background. “Streak” and “light rays” are other good examples of those search terms.

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — Use Non-Technical Terms
Artist: kittinit
Title: Closeup cactus plants or astrophytum asterias with blurred background at cactus farm
Sample Keywords: Asterias, astrophytum, background, blurred, botanical, cactus, cacti, cactus flower

Describe Diversity in Models

Use as many accurate keywords and titles as possible to describe your models’ ages, races, and genders. And be specific! Our customers are searching for different ethnicities and age ranges around the world. Don’t label a model inaccurately, and if you aren’t sure, ask them!

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — Describe Diversity in Models
Artist: Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko
Title: Beautiful Indian woman wearing traditional kurta teaching her daughter to play Tabla
Sample Keywords: Indian, mother, child, mom, daughter, tabla, happy, family, playing, talking, teaching

Include References to Tone

What is the goal of your imagery? Is it to inspire? Is it to be funny? Maybe “Instagram-worthy?” Consider that customers may be searching for these terms too, so consider including them in your titles and keywords.

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — What is Your Tone
Artist: Jacob Lund
Title: Young people sitting around a cafe table and drinking coffee.

If you have a stunning image of people sitting at a cafe having a coffee in a beautiful, hipster environment, don’t just say “People having coffee.” Instead, consider being more aspirational. Highlight the image with a description that says “Young people enjoying coffee in a beautiful cafe.” Think about the difference between ordering coffee at a chain restaurant with your family, and ordering a latte at a bricked hole-in-the-wall cafe you happened to discover on your walk home.


Use 20 to 40 Precise Keywords

Keywords allow you to show up in various search results. However, if you aren’t precise or accurate to your image, it could get lost in a sea of keywords. If you put the time to write accurate keywords for each image, you’ll see better results than if you paste a general set of keywords onto an image.

Take this image of a florist doing her work in a floral shop. Our top tip is to always keep specific to keywords that can be directly found within the image.

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — Use 20 to 40 Keywords
Artist: UfaBizPhoto
Sample Keywords: Florist, peonies, greenery, brick, apron, white, green, plants, flora, craft, bouquet

Use Our Keyword Suggestion Tool

We developed a keyword suggestion tool within the Content Editor to help you choose the most accurate and appropriate keywords based on your subject matter. Use the tool when you’re struggling to find keywords and titles to accurately describe your imagery.


Never Spam or Use Inaccurate Keywords

You may think that uploading as many keywords as possible is good because you’ll be seen in more places. However, you’d be wrong. By putting irrelevant keywords on your images, you won’t be seen by the right customers. Therefore, your work won’t be found or purchased by the right people. In addition, Shutterstock reserves the right to ban contributors who use spam keywords, so it’s better to just avoid doing this.

10 Tips on Creating Great Keywords and Titles for Your Images — Use Accurate Keywords
Artist: Iryna Inshyna
Title: Young freelancer woman using laptop computer sitting at cafe table
Sample keywords: Coffee, computer, work, online, girl, cafe, business

We hope these tips help you with the keywords and titles you select for your next image, illustration, or video. We can’t wait to see the content you create the next time we go looking for the perfect image.

Featured image by Kate Aedon.


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