Keywording: New Shutterstock Resource

Posted on 9/1/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Shutterstock has produced a new resource called The Shot List that may be helpful to anyone trying to keyword images.

It includes some very broad general guidelines on the kind of imagery customers are looking for when searching for: Landmarks, People, Interiors and Religion and Holidays.

It has information about the Best Practices in the use of Keywords and Titles to maximize the visibility of your images. In addition there is a list of Known Restriction of the use of images of certain building and brands. Finally it provides information on the need for Release and how to attach them to your submissions.

Keywording Do’s and Don’ts

In the digital-image marketplace, a perfect image alone does not guarantee success. Accurate and precise metadata — your titles and keywords — are just as important as the quality of your images, because they are the bridge that connects a customer’s needs with your product. Here are some useful Do’s and Don’ts that will help you connect buyers with your images.

DO: Create accurate and descriptive titles. Think of your title as a news headline and try to answer the main questions of: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Of course, not every image encompasses people or time, but you should be as specific as possible.

DON’T: Avoid using the exact same title (or same set of keywords) for a series of images that have similar subject matter. This might seem like a sensible timesaver, but it could actually hurt your sales potential. For example, if you shoot a series of images of bouquets of different flowers and you simply title your images “Flowers,” they will not be easy to find for a buyer who is looking for something more specific. Your images will also compete with thousands of others in the search results. If you differentiate them with titles like “Bouquet of fresh red roses” and “Bouquet of hydrangeas,” however, you increase your chances of connecting with a customer looking for that specific image.

DO: Include any specific or unique information. Be sure to mention any specific technique, look, or angle that differentiates your image from another with the same subject matter. You may shoot a fairly common business-meeting scene, but if you shoot it from an aerial perspective, that would be a key angle to mention. If you create images using the popular look of Instagram filters, you can include the word “Instagram” in the keywords and title.

DON’T: Avoid trademarked brands in your titles or keywords for commercial images (other than the two instances mentioned above). Although there is no specific list of restricted keywords, you can infer which words are restricted by familiarizing yourself with the “Objects and Subjects” section in our Known Image Restrictions list. For example, you can create a commercial illustration of a generic smartphone that resembles, but does not directly copy, a phone that is currently on the market, but you can’t use the words “iPhone” or “Apple” in the keywords. (However, you can use trademarks in titles and keywords for editorial and illustrative editorial images.)

DO: Think conceptually. Include words that describe feelings or emotions for images that depict models. For illustrations of a computer, you can include conceptual words like “technology” and “communication.”

DON’T: Do not spam or use inappropriate keywords. You may not use words that are discriminatory, offensive, or sexually explicit. You also cannot use certain words that are acceptable on their own, but in combination have an inappropriate implication, like “teen” and “sexy,” in the description of one image. We regularly audit our collection for keyword spamming (the use of irrelevant keywords) and use of inappropriate or restricted keywords.

If you find that keywords have been removed by the reviewer or by a Shutterstock administrator after your image has been accepted, do not just add them back in. In such instances, you should always contact contributor support first at fhozvg@fuhggrefgbpx.pbz and inquire about the reason keywords were removed. Adding keywords that were previously removed may result in a warning, account suspension, or even closure.

DO: Use our keyword suggestion tool, which was developed to help you choose the most appropriate keywords based on your subject matter.

DON’T: Never copy other contributors’ titles and keywords word for word. Although this is technically not plagiarism, this is not a practice that we allow.


We are now permitting the use of the word “logo” in titles and keywords of designs that can be potentially used as logos. Although the standard and enhanced licenses do not allow the use of images for company logos, we do provide our customers with the ability to purchase additional licenses for these uses.

Remember, if you want your image to be the final choice for customers, take the time to create the shortest path for them to follow.

Copyright © 2017 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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