Photo Tripping America

Add Metadata to Images

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Well, you’ve learned what camera settings to shoot stock photography, you’ve gotten tons of suggestions on what to shoot that will catch the attention of stock photo agencies, and you’ve prepared your images for submission.  What’s next?  It’s the last and most important step of all…adding metadata to each picture.


Metadata – What’s That?

Metadata is a mouth full.  It’s the technical word used to describe all of the information digitally attached to each of your images…from camera and lens information to how big the image file is. Luckily for us, our DSLR cameras automatically record what lens we are using, its aperature and shutter speed at the time the image was captured, and even the date and time we took the picture.  When you download your images to your computer, those items travel with the image. What isn’t captured are the descriptions of what is happening in the picture – keywords.


Photoshop has a useful place where all of this information can be found, amended or deleted.  It resides under the “File” tab when the image is open in Photoshop.  The fourth item from the bottom under that tab is listed as “File Info.”  Open it and you should see several tabs, starting with “Description” and “Origin.”  Those are the two with which we will concern ourselves.



Writing keywords and descriptions can be extremely time consuming.  So I’d like to give you a few suggestions that should cut down the amount of effort you put into each image’s metadata. First and foremost, create a generic template. Here’s an example:

  • Open up the “File Info” and go to “Description” tab.  Under that section you will find several fields that will always be the same.  For instance, the “Author” should be you.  Put your name in that field if you will be writing your own descriptions.
  • Then in the “Author Title” field put Photographer or Photojournalist, etc.
  • Go down to the “Description Writer” field and put your name in there, as well.
  • Click the arrow next to “Copyright Status” and select “Copyrighted”.
  • In the open area below that write a copyright notice like “Copyright 2016 by Shelley L. Dennis.  All rights reserved.”
  • Now click on the “Origins” tab and go to “Credit.”  Put your name in there, too.
  • Finally at the bottom of that box, click the arrow on the second button over, next to “Export” or it might say “Import.” Search for Export and a new box opens, asking what you would like to call this exported file description.  Call it “2016 Template.”  Then every time you open a new image and want to fill out the metadata information, click on that button at the bottom of the box and find “2016 Template.”  It will fill in the areas we just filled out.


***You can also use this template-creating process to make templates for a certain country, city or event.  For instance, I recently prepared over 100 images from a single town I visited in Italy.  I created a template for Cortona, Italy by filling out not only the copyright and author information, but the city, province and country info.


I also create templates when I have a series of images that will use the same keywords and description, so keep that in mind as we go through this next section.


Keywords Open the Door to Sales

Ski Chairs Vail Style - Photo Tripping AmericaKeywords are those used to describe what is seen in your image.  They are the words buyers use to search for images on stock photography sites, so your selection needs to be specific and spot on.  For instance, the image to the left is pretty self-explanatory. It involves three Adirondack chairs made from snow skis.  In the description area of my file info box I might write “Three adirondack deck chairs made from snow skis sit outside a Vail, Colorado sports shop, just waiting for some tired skiers to lite upon them.”  HINT:  the more descriptive you are, the better the search results will be for your prospective buyers.


Under “Keywords” on the Description tab I put my most relevant and important keywords and phrases first.  Think about what your buyer might search for:  Ski; Chair; Adirondack; Deck Chair; Snow Skis; Sports Equipment; Unusual; Colorful;  Notice that the words and short phrases are separated by a semi-colon.


Now I might add where the chairs are located and how they look:  Vail; Colorado; Ski Resort; Resort; Winter; Outdoors; Shop; Retail; Empty; Three Objects; Handmade; Unique; Rossignol; K2; Volkl;  Notice that I did not say anything about skiers…yes, it’s likely skiers will sit in these chairs as they come down the mountain into town.  But because skiers are not pictured in this image, I don’t list them.  In other words, be literal when listing keywords.  What do you see?


I finish off all of my keywording with descriptive words like:  Color Image; Copy Space; Photography; Horizontal; Editorial;  Sometimes stock agencies also suggest that you list any common mis-spellings of words like Vale in addition to its true spelling of Vail.  I usually aim to have around 50 keywords for each image.


Where Is That?

Recently stock agencies have asked their photographers to go into existing images on file to label where the pictures were taken.  As a travel photographer, I didn’t have that problem.  I label every image with its city, state, province and country on the “Origin” tab of the File Info box. Even if you shoot exclusively in the studio, put the location of that studio in the metadata, as well.  As you will see, every piece of information you can add to your images will help you find more buyers for them.



Last, but certainly not least is the need for a title for your image.  Let me caution you before one is created…come up with a numbering system that works for you.  I’ve been creating stock images for over 20 years and in that amount of time, a vast number of files can accumulate. When I sell an image, I track the sales so that I know how much money that single image has generated over its lifetime.  To do that, I must know where to find that image on my computer. Hence I created a filing system for slides, digital creative files and digital editorial files.  Think long and hard how you want to access your image files in the future.  Don’t count on your memory alone!


I started with D1000 for my first digital file.  Since I take a lot of travel photos, I number my files by trips and put the images from one trip in some semblance of order before I hand out numbers. So a trip to Tucson in 2012 might include digital creative files from D3600 to D3750 and digital editorial files from E3600 to E3625 (I don’t create as many editorial files).  Find a system that works for your shooting and filing style.


Once you have a number to assign your first keyworded image, put the number in the “Document Title” at the top of the Description tab in the File Info box.  After the number put a short, but descriptive title.  For instance, in regard to the deck chairs image above, I may have “E1494 Snow Ski Chairs in Vail Colorado.”  I also put the title (minus the file number) under “Headline” on the “Origin” tab.


Congratulations! You’ve just readied your first picture for submission! Follow this process on several of your images until you have at least 10 great pictures to submit to your first stock photo agency.  Now the fun will really begin!


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