Contributor Guidebook

4.1 Best Practices and Strategies on Describing and Keywording Photos & Illustrations

1.0 Introduction

No matter how talented you are, your masterpieces won't get sold if clients can't find them. To date, keywords are still the only reliable method that are used to locate content. Now, you've shot and produced your masterpiece, what next? You need the help of a keywording program that will help you edit the IPTC data for the image. IPTC is one of the ways that you can quickly embed keywords and descriptions into a JPG file.

2.0 A Little Bit on IPTC

Let's understand a bit about IPTC. What is IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council)? The IPTC system can be thought of as a cataloging standard that helps us to organize image content as it stores all sorts of information such as the photographer's name, copyright, licensing information and keywords. IPTC embeds itself directly into the image and allows programs that support IPTC to easily search and organize photographs based on its IPTC information.

You may use programs that support editing of the IPTC tags to help you keyword your images before submission to Here are some applications that supports IPTC editing (in no order of preference):

  1. Extensis Portfolio
  2. Adobe Photoshop
  3. Adobe Photoshop LightRoom
  4. Microsoft Windows Explorer (able to edit Title, Keywords directly and save them)

The part that you should pay particular attention to is the IPTC keywords component for your JPGs. We recommend that you use any of the tools above to help you keyword your images before you upload them to 123RF. This is because 123RF's engine supports IPTC data and will detect and extract the keywords of a JPG for you. However, if you do not have any applications that can edit IPTC data, you may opt to upload your photographs to 123RF and then keyword it using 123RF's easy to use web interface.

You need to describe and keyword your content to complete the submission process. Accurate description and keywords are important because of the following reasons:

  1.     our search engine searches by keywords for content results
  2.     to indicate what your content is about
  3.     to enhance searchability on site

3.0 Describing and Keywording Photos & Illustrations

After you have uploaded your content, you will have to describe and keyword the content accordingly before they are reviewed by our team. Writing a clear, concise but detailed description of what you see in the image is best for your Royalty Free content. You may give out the exact location name and what you know to be factual as long as you're very confident about it. However, do take note that trademarked words should not be included.

3.1 How to Describe and Keyword Your Content

For your convenience, once you have uploaded your images or illustrations to 123RF, here's how you can keyword them quickly and painlessly.

  1. You have to login to
  2. Access the Contributor's Dashboard.

  3. Click on 'History'.
  4. You will see your latest Uploads for the month.
  5. Look towards the bottom right of the screen, you'll find a summary statistic that shows:

    • The number of Uploaded content
    • The number of Accepted content
    • The number of Pending content
    • The number of Rejected content

  6. 123RF's review policy dictates that if an image is NOT keyworded or described adequately and accurately, our reviewers will not review them.
  7. If you have pending images, do click on the Pending images number in the summary to view all your pending images.
  8. You should see your pending images as below. If your images have not been keyworded or described, you will see red text above the relevant text fields instructing you on what you should do.

  9. In our example, an apt description should be :
    Sun shining against orange sky.

    In this example, appropriate keywords could be :
    sun, shining, rock, water, ripples, sea, sky, cloud, beauty in nature, serene, tranquility, moon, background.

  10. If you have other pending images that are missing descriptions and keywords, work right through them as well.
  11. Modification of description and/or keywords of an image/illustration will send it back to the pending queue.
  12. When you're done, click on the 'Save' button.

3.2 Guidelines to Describe and Keyword Your Content

Here are a few guidelines that you should follow when you keyword:

  1. Enter a minimum of 7 keywords for each image.
  2. Keywords should be separated by commas, everything between commas is treated as a keyword or a key phrase.
  3. Prioritize more on most relevant keywords by putting them in front of the list.
  4. Describe the image as accurately as possible.
  5. Provide keywords ONLY in English.
  6. If your keywords are in another language other than English, please click on 'Translate to English' button before saving your keywords and our system will help you translate all foreign words into English. [ Note : this feature is not available for all languages. ]
  7. Provide more keywords so that your image matches more searches and can be easily found.
  8. Refrain from adding unrelated keywords (spamdexing) in order to have your images appear more often in any search.
  9. Do not put in dates of the event in the keyword list.
  10. Copyrighted keywords of famous brands and names like Audi, McDonalds, Michael Jackson and Teflon should NOT to be included into the keyword list.
  11. Be a little more meticulous when filling in the keywords to avoid any errors as it's not possible for you to edit once the images have been accepted.
  12. Bad keywording example - McDonald's fast food restaurant, consumers enjoying, New York City United States.
    Good keywording example - food and drink, fast food, restaurant, consumers, enjoying, New York City, United States.

It is advisable to put yourself into a designer's shoe. Ask yourself this question. If I wanted to find the image uploaded, what keywords would I put into the search box? The obvious should hit you, most designers would probably use: sun, sunset, sea.

Of course, this gets trickier when you get tempted to keyword concepts into the image. It often does not help to insert keywords that convey concepts/keywords which might not apply such as: alone, individuality, shape, round, circle.

It's not difficult to see where this is going and where we'll end up. What would happen is that this image/illustration would clutter up the search results performed by other customers and adds to the frustration level. So our advice to you is, don't! Do us all a favour and stick to the obvious.

For image/illustration that are supposed to convey some sort of concept, it would be prudent to keyword the obvious concepts only. We know it's hard to resist spamming every single thing that comes into your mind but it will only muddle up the search results for our customers. Keep things nice and simple.

When designing your logo, it is always good to have a clean design where there is no text input such as "your company name here" or "company name" or "sample text here"  or "your sample text here" (just to name a few). Therefore, please refrain from inserting text for ALL future logo design submissions. However, if you are interested to design logos exclusively, you may upload your designs following the instructions at Uploading Exclusive Logos.

3.3 Strategies to Describe and Keyword Your Photos & Illustrations

Now that you have gone through the procedures and guidelines on describing and keywording your content, here's a few strategies/tips to ensure that you have described and keyworded your content to its finest especially if this is your initial submission to 123RF.

3.3.1 Strategy for Describing Photos & Illustrations

We would recommend that the descriptions for your illustrations follow these simple criterias.

  1. Write a concise but detailed description of what you SEE in the image.

    GOOD: Three business people having a discussion
    NOT SO GOOD: Three young business people wearing light business outfit looking at document and smiling

    *You can always cover what specific items are there in the image within the keywords itself.

  2. Leave out on any terms that refer to a model's ethnicity or nation of origin.

    GOOD: Man drinking coffee
    NOT SO GOOD: African American man drinking coffee

    *The reason why ethnicity is left out is because you will add that information in the keywords section. In addition to that, if an image contains people with multi ethnic backgrounds it will be quite a task to fit everyone's ethnicity into the description.

  3. Trademarked words SHOULD NOT appear in the description.

    GOOD: Man playing wooden blocks
    NOT SO GOOD: Man playing Jenga

    *Your images and keyword list should never have brands such as Apple, or iPod or Dell, keep it generic such as, desktop computer, laptop computer or MP3 player. It must never endorse a certain brand.

  4. Give the exact name if the geographic location is an important aspect of the image.

    GOOD: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal park in Utah
    NOT SO GOOD: Monument Valley Navajo Tribal park in Utah which is a great valley boasts sandstone masterpieces that tower at heights of 400 to 1,000 feet

    *If you know exactly what you're photographing, it always helps to add it into the description, once again, not too long please!

  5. Describe what you know to be factual or are extremely confident of.

    GOOD: Cute little Yorkshire Terrier puppy
    NOT SO GOOD: A cute brown and white puppy with perky ears, short tailed, short fur and etc..

    *If you know exactly what you're photographing, it always helps to add it into the description BUT do keep it at a minimal.

  6. However, it is alright to describe food or objects using national terms.

    GOOD: Woman enjoying Japanese food
    NOT SO GOOD:Woman enjoying Japanese, Italian, Korean, and Western food

    *If it is just one food type, it is easier to specify it in the description. However, if there are several, you are advised to generalise the terms.

So, when you're describing illustrations, keep it clear, concise and accurate. You can give out the exact location name and what you know to be factual as long as you're very confident about it. Then again, trademarked words and model's ethnicity are a definite no-no.

And lastly do remember, don't copy the entire paragraphs from Wikipedia as your description!

3.3.2 Strategy for Keywording Photos & Illustrations

You should include keywords that are precise and accurate. These are a few fields in which you may want to ensure is available in your keyword list:

  1. Activity
    It is important that you add action/activity keywords that you see in the image/illustration. It should be described in a simple and straightforward manner. Highlight only what you see in focus. It helps boost your image/illustration at the top rank of our searches.

    Examples of activity keywords are:
    smiling, holding, sitting, reading, holding hands, looking away, standing, clapping, shouting, sleeping, using computer, on the phone, and etc.

  2. Age
    It is important that you add the age of models that you see in the image. This is because some clients already know what they are looking for and may use our advance search to narrow down the results on our site.

    Examples of age keywords are:
    0-1 months, 10-11 years, 20-24 years, 35-39 years, 60-64 years, and etc.

  3. Composition
    It is important that you add the composition of the image/illustration. Customers who know what they are looking for will indicate their preferrence in our advance search and if you have included the composition of the image/illustration, your content will turn up among the top pages of the search result.

    Examples of composition keywords are:
    front view, rear view, waist up, close-up, portrait, high angle view, full length, side view, low angle view, and etc.

  4. Conceptual
    Conceptual keywords are rather tricky but is very helpful in describing what the image/illustration implies. However, it is advisable to include only relevant concepts whether positive/negative.

    Examples of conceptual keywords are:
    absence, stressed, happiness, contentment, beauty, celebration, friendship, togetherness, romance, worried, frustration, and etc.

  5. Ethnicity
    Ethnicity keywords should be based on fact as stated in the Model Release. It is not good to make assumptions of one's ethnicity.

    Examples of ethnicity keywords are:
    Caucasian Ethnicity, Chinese Ethnicity, African Ethnicity, Mixed Raced Person, Latin American and Hispanic Ethnicity, Multiracial Group, and etc.

  6. Gender
    You are also required to include the gender of the models used in your image/illustration. It enables clients and customers to have a better search result while browsing our collection.

    Examples of gender keywords are:
    baby boy, girls, teenage boys, young woman, mid adult man, mature woman, senior men, senior women, and etc.

  7. Location
    You should add in the location for which the production took place as this information is relevant and helpful to a global base industry. It is recommended to include the city, state, province and country. Some city locations have similar names therefore if the state/country is mentioned, it will help searchability on our site. It is not required if your image/illustration is of generic objects or scenes that are shot in the studio. Areas of a house or property can also be added.

    Examples of location keywords are:
    Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States, Universal Studios, Singapore, living room, bedroom, office, corridor, walkway, and etc.

  8. Number of people
    It is important that you include how many people are in the image/illustration. This will be useful when potential clients uses our advanced search tool and are specifically looking for one person, two people or a crowd. If your image/illustration does not have anybody in it, you can just state 'nobody'.

    Examples of number of people keywords are:
    nobody, one person, two people, crowd, and etc.

  9. Objects
    It is important that you add keywords that you see in the image/illustration. Highlight only what you see in focus and not the other items which are smaller and are far in the background. You may describe what the models are wearing in your image.

    Examples of object keywords are:
    table, chair, cellphone, laptop, book, shopping bag, formal clothing, uniform, skateboard, and etc.

  10. Role
    You may include the occupation and family role into your list of keywords to make your illustration standout more in this field. This is optional if the models in the image is in a casual setting for instance if the model is in jeans and tshirt smiling for the camera.

    Examples of role keywords are:
    businesswoman, sales assistant, student, baker, teacher, engineer, father, mother, sister, grandmother, and etc.

  11. Settings
    In this field, you should state what is visible in the image/illustration as clients rely on the accuracy of your keywords.

    Examples of setting keywords are:
    indoors, outdoors, studio shot, day, night, sunset, dawn, summer, white background, black background and etc.

  12. Technique Keywords
    For photography, there are a few techniques involve to enhance your image/illustration. You should include these terms into your keywords.

    Examples of technique keywords are:
    backlit, sepia toned, copyspace, selective focus, focus on background, digital composite, and etc.

Be specific in highlighting the model/object that is in focus. Keyword appropriately and as accurately as possible to enhance searchability on the site.

Happy Keywording!

Quick Jump to:

1.0 Introduction

2.0 A Little Bit on IPTC

3.0 Describing and Keywording Photos & Illustrations

3.1 How to Describe and Keyword Your Content

3.2 Guidelines to Describe and Keyword Your Content

3.3 Strategies to Describe and Keyword Your Photos & Illustrations

3.3.1 Strategy for Describing Photos & Illustrations

3.3.2 Strategy for Keywording Photos & Illustrations

Other Articles within this Chapter

» Chapter: 4 Section: 1

Best Practices and Strategies on Describing and Keywording Photos & Illustrations

Chapter: 4 Section: 2

Best Practices and Strategies on Describing and Keywording Editorial Photos

Chapter: 4 Section: 3

Best Practices and Strategies on Describing and Keywording Audio

Chapter: 4 Section: 4

Best Practices and Strategies on Describing and Keywording Footage

Chapter: 4 Section: 5

Best Practices and Strategies on Describing and Keywording Exclusive Logos