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Saturday, March 17, 2018
Article written by Rohn Engh

Photos Are Words

We look at keywords and keyphrases from a perspective different than most. Subjectively, rather than objectively. The old school way to identify an image was by a “caption.” The present school is by a keyword(s). And since the Digital Age is telling us the future is here, the new school is by ‘keyphrases.’
Once users (both suppliers and buyers) of the new search world on the Net realize they can look for very specific image content the same way they can search out a specific ethnic restaurant in a distant city, with a phrase, keywording will advance to a new level.
Speaking of levels, buyers are soon going to know they can please their clients because target their searches down to more specific layers (levels) than what was accessible by the old library science way of single-word searching. We’ve all experienced the amazing speed and near-precision of today’s search engines. And if you don’t find it on Google, you can try an assortment of other search engines. And now comes the method of typing in those keyphrases. Spellchecker software is fostering a situation where people pay less attention to spelling correctly, the same way hand-held calculators made the previous generation less able to multiply and divide. To catch buyers, photographers would do well in many cases to identify their images on the Internet by using several spelling variations. How do you spell Ariondack Mountains? Or is it Aridondac? Because keywords may be misspelled by both buyer and seller, here are my suggestions for keyword/keyphrasing your images:

Rule #1. Use many words and phrases to identify each image, including various spellings of some key words, you never know how a buyer will spell them, and you want to be sure to catch the variation that they might enter. And don’t rely on Google to ask you if you meant “Adirondack.” You might miss a sale.
Rule #2 Be subjective. If you are using keywords from a thesaurus, dictionary, or keywording software, you can be sure that others are doing the same. The result will be over-use of the same standard keywords. Yes, have your keywords and keyphrases include standard emotions, identifications, nuances, but also include highly specific info about that image that only you are aware of because you snapped the shutter. Although it sounds impractical, it’s valuable to ask a friend, neighbor, or relative, to suggest additional words to your photo’s description from his/her subjective point of view. It’ll give you new perspective on how to get into the mindset of a photobuyer.
Rule #3 Words are cheap. They are 1’s and 0’s –and they don’t take up much space on the Internet. Or in your hard drive. Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer. What words would he or she probably use to pinpoint a needed photo?
Rule #4 Keyphrases, along the principle of on-line payments to the bank, and credits to a merchant, are in reality, money. Just like on-line payments to the bank, and credits to a merchant, they are, in reality, money. Treat keyphrases and words the same accurate, thoughtful, precise way you treat on-line exchange of funds. Keywords and keyphrases might be tedious to input today, but think of results for tomorrow. With a good volume of the right keyphrases, you’ll see more inquiries. Even if you don’t make a sale of a particular image, the inquiring you receive may turn out to be important contacts who may become long-term buyers of your kind of photos.
Rule#5 Your images can be a retirement annuity for you and an inheritance for your heirs. As you’re probably aware, there have been many a wonderful collection of images gathering dust and mold in the basements of museums and universities. The famous photographer willed his excellent collection to the charity but it remains stagnant because no one can identify (keyword) the pictures well enough so that they can be useful. The daughter or son of the photographer can’t appropriately identify the images, and in addition, the institution doesn’t have the funds to do the job. To avoid this fate for your images, if you assign keyphrases to all of your important pictures, they will not only benefit you today, but also in your retirement, and even when your daughter or grandchildren assume control of your collection in the future. Get your family involved in helping to keyword your images.

Many photographers have had 95% of their slides returned from former stock agencies now taken over by Corbis, Getty, Jupiter, et al. How important are these historical images? Unhappily, too often photographers will retire their large collection and forget about it as a lost cause. You’ll get an idea of what a mistake that is by taking a glance at what Corbis has bought collections for in the past. The Bettmann Collection (an historical file that includes pre-Nazi Germany), 11,000,000 pictures, was bought for $1.23 an image. The Turnley brothers’ collection (documentary photos of the recent past), 600,000 images, was bought for $3.83 per image. If you figure $2.53 average per average image, with your own collection of, say, 100,000 edited and keyworded images, the math says these ‘remainder’ images could be bought for $253,000.
The images in your present-day editorial files may not sell briskly immediately, but your images have a good chance of selling in the future when they are included collectively on the new largest-in-the-world database of photos, the Internet.

Thanks to extensive keywording and keyphrasing on your part, you will become a valuable part of that large database of images.
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