Keywording Strategies

Keywords are words or phrases that describe your content. They can range from the literal (e.g. "desk") to the more abstract (e.g. "success"). A good keywording strategy ensures that your content is easy to find.

What's a keyword?

A keyword can describe a word that describes your content or it can refer to a specific metadata field known as IPTC keyword. Understanding the difference is important because different programs allow you to search images in different ways.

For example, an image might have location data specifying "London," but if that keyword doesn't appear in the IPTC keyword field, the image might not be found. Conversely, using the appropriate single-purpose field avoids keyword pollution and potential collisions in the future.

Metadata is sometimes needed for private use only. The IPTC keyword field is not an appropriate place for this information.

Hierarchical keywords

A flat set of keywords can be very descriptive and useful, but it can lose some utility as a Collection grows. A hierarchical keywording scheme creates a parent-child relationship between terms (e.g. animal -> dog -> poodle), making it easy to traverse a tree of terms and find specific or more broad groupings of images.

Adobe Lightroom supports hierarchical keywords, but these keywords are not imported into Libris.

Controlled vocabulary

A controlled vocabulary is a preset dictionary of terms that you and your Library Staff can use to keyword an image. The advantage of this restrictive approach is that it eliminates the use of synonyms, giving you consistency within your terms.

You can create or purchase a controlled vocabulary. Controlledvocabulary.com and keyword-catalog.com are two popular options. Purchased lists tend to be skewed toward selling stock photography and may not be appropriate for your organization.

Outsourcing keywording

A number of companies provide image keywording services for about $1/image. These services are largely aimed towards stock photography, and you can expect to get approximately 100+ keywords per image. This is an expensive proposition for most companies, unless you are looking to directly monetize each keyworded image.

When should I keyword?

Organizations typically deal with images that are both

  1. created in-house, and
  2. licensed from external sources.

Your organization should consider a keyword policy for both scenarios.

In-house Images

Images are typically photographed and ingested onto a desktop computer in logical groups. While the images are sitting on the desktop is a great time to apply bulk entry data, even if you don't know which images will receive final approval for use. 

If you're using Adobe Lightroom in conjunction with the PhotoShelter plug-in, we recommend that all keywording originate in Lightroom (including subsequent changes) so that there is a one-way propagation of data.

External Images

Images licensed from stock photo companies will often come with embedded keywords. When a photographer is hired to shoot for a company, you could contractually require the photographer to keyword the images before delivering the files to you.

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