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The importance of Descriptions and Keywords by Mike Savad
If your new to selling art there are a few things you should be made aware of. First you have to have work that is presentable and looks professional. Second, you are responsible for advertising your own work. Third, you have to add descriptions and keywords to your images. Keywords are needed if you want to be in the search at all (on that note you have to have an avatar as well, or you won't be seen in the search). Descriptions are needed so the viewer knows what they are looking at, and google will index you as well.
Many people often give 1-3 keywords and think that is enough. That is not enough. You want to fill in with as many words that fit the image as possible. But I'll get into that later, first we talk about descriptions.
What are descriptions?
A description is a word passage that describes the image your trying to sell. There are no set rules on how to write one however. There are in fact many ways on how to do it and many on how not to do it.
Its hard to stress just how important these two items are. Many will argue that advertising in person is the best way to do it, I won't argue with that. Keywords and descriptions are needed if you want strangers to find your work.
Mostly you want to tell the viewer, what they are seeing, and why you made it the way you did. Google wants content, something that is in the form of a real sentence, something that answers a question, and it will rank you higher.
On the note of google, they have a thing called retention. They will rank a page higher, if a person stays on your site after doing a search. The system will assume you found what you were looking for, and it will reward that page. By adding a decent description, and a nice image, the user may stay longer, and the longer they stay, the better your chances of them wanting to look at the rest of your store.
Here are a few variants
1. The story
2. The dictionary informant
3. Just the facts mam
4. How you captured it, funny anecdote
5. The humorous up sell
6. The abstract
Tell a story about the piece. A total fabrication, about the events, something that connects the viewer emotionally with the piece. It can be funny, sad, unusual surreal, etc. You'll want one or two paragraphs and just be creative about how you write it.
You don't need to go into great detail about the image. Try to list the items in the image and list keywords you might have added. Don't make it too long, you don't want to bore the reader. Unless it important to the piece, don't list exact items. Like its usually not important to list the brand china someone is using.
I remember when I used to go to my auntie Anne's house and she would serve me tea when I arrived. Every time there would be a wonderful arrangement of flowers. She told me how well her garden does and she picks some just before I arrive because she knows how much I love seeing them there. She would go on and on, that it was a labor of love and even though her body is old and decrepit she did it just for me. Then she passed, and when I went to her house, I found out that the flowers were fake! She's been lying to me all these years, but I got a free tea set so it's not that bad.
I list a number of great aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers in a lot of my works. I really only had one, and she wasn't like that at all. I try to connect it to a family or a loved one, because chances are, the viewer will relate. And possibly buy it after I dug that memory out. I like using a bit of humor to catch people off guard. I think adding something funny brings it home a bit.
Located in New Orleans, in an old Victorian building, which has all the charm of an old country style barber. His hair cutting ability is fast, quick and clean. All his tools are right over head, he can grab them with ease. There are only a few chairs, but because of his speed, you won't stand around for long.
This is a colorized image I made. Normally I try to make it factual, but often many of these old images barely even have titles. So I try to make a story of some kind, trying to describe what I see in the image. Describe the image as if you are explaining a scene to a person who lost their eye sight. Paint the picture in their mind.
The machine shop really hasn't changed all that much over the years. The stuff you see here is pretty much what you would find in a modern day shop - that doesn't have computers. These machines however are driven by leather belts, which are ran from 2 large motors (one for each side of the room). Because of this, it was always wise not to wear anything loose.
Adding a story with general facts also works well. You don't need to be a Bard to tell a story about something. Just make it seem interesting.
The Dictionary Informant
Often its easy to be at a loss for words story wise for some things. Items like plants, flowers, landmarks and direct locations may not have that much info that you can turn into a story. So instead I will add facts. Like a little sign you see in a museum, list the history of a location, an interesting factoid about a place, the inventor of the item, and so on.
This is a Chinese Hibiscus, Hibiscus Rosa-Sinesis - This lively flower is sure to get attention from anyone at any time. Vivid, dynamic color, to match your dynamic personality. Colors that are practically blinding, match everything in your room and if it doesn't, use this opportunity to buy new things that do match.
This describes what your seeing, it identifies the type of flower and gives a general description of the type of colors. I could have gone on an described the specific colors as well. I added a small sales pitch on the end, I normally don't, but with a loss of words, I slip it in, and hope for the best. It doesn't hurt to try, but I wouldn't do it on all of them.
Phalaenopsis rothschildiana schilleriana x amabilis - The Phalaenopsis species was first discovered over 300 years ago. Since then countless variations were made through cross breeding. Like this one, it has a name you can't say without breathing at least once, go ahead try it. It has a nice soft pink color and grows in a cluster.
You want to avoid taking quotes right from wiki sites. Google knows you do this and will penalize you if you do try it. However its a great place if you want to find out about particular things, Latin names, and so on. So you want to paraphrase some of it, and explain it in your own words. You can use a touch of humor as well.
If you know the exact name of the flower, be certain to use it in the description and the keywords. How do I know what kind of flower this is? Simple, read the sign. Flowers at flower shows, gardens, orchid shows etc, more often than not, will post a sign next to the flower. Take a picture of that sign, then look it up online and it will tell you all that you need to know. Just don't add too much information. Your talking to people that like orchids, not teaching a class in a college.
Just the facts mam
Very often an image simply doesn't lend itself to a story at all. Sometimes its better just to list the major facts about a location. Talk about something interesting, get them to look at the image in detail as you point out features. Making people hunt for those items will engage them with the piece more, and I think they will retain that image in their heads for longer as well.
Bold claims were everywhere in the past. For example, Peerless Dental Parlors, offered a combination of laughing gas and vitalized air, that's what they called chloroform in those days. It was made illegal later on. But I suppose if it stopped the pain, that's always good.
This building contained many businesses, one of those is the CH&D railroad excursion., there was a restaurant, and next door you can get some fountain pens. I do wonder what was going on at the end of the block, a number of people are looking in that direction.
By trade I'm a photographer, but I also colorize old images.
When it comes to just the facts, you can usually find them on the web. There are sites dedicated in explaining things in detail. Its up to you to find that info and rehash it for yourself. For the above image I had to do some homework and research each item. I found out about vitalized air on one site. Info about the railroad on another. Its hard to tell a story about a location you know nothing about. So research is important.
NOTE: I find though that if you can't think of a story, and you can't find facts, then the image may be so boring, it may not be worth posting at all. It's something to think about when your trying to figure out what to post. Like how many ways can you describe the same exact sunset taken only minutes apart?
The tale of a city, lost to history, partially missing, but not forgotten. This is the lost city of Amsterdam, a small town in New York. Its a town that is filled with old architecture, but in the center lies a large kind of ugly, mall. The mall removed a chunk of this town. People grew up here and walked these many blocks, but if you visit it today, all you would see is that mall, which is mostly empty.
Urban renewal destroyed much of this town. There is only a handful of these old buildings left.
Facts also include the history of a location. For example, I tell people about this lost city, those that may not know, might want to. In this case the city of Amsterdam NY, a small town, full of history, became a run down urban area. They decided to destroy all the old buildings and replace it with a giant mall. Today no one goes the mall, its an ugly mall, and it destroyed around 3-5 blocks of these fine buildings. The information above touches the hearts of people that used to live there. But it also answers a question, and google can use that as a reference.
This is what you call a multi-processor computer. In actual terms they are Arithmometer's, and this is the computing section. These machines are electric, or parts of it are. It creates a spreadsheet of sorts.
The operator inputs the data, either by hand or punch card. And the machine does the rest. The computations often take as long as 2 minutes to complete.
And they were as noisy as they appear to be. I don't know if it was deafening or not, but I would imagine it would be quite a bit louder than today's computer or calculator.
Makes you wonder what people will think of our modern offices a 100 years from now.
If your going to post an item, be sure you sounds like the authority in that item. I did a lot of research on these machines and found people that did even more research then me, and that info to help me to write a short passage of what those things are.
If you post only sunsets, list the cloud types you see. If you post animals, post the exact name of the breed (the dogs actual name, fido, is not important). Add Latin variants.
You want to be as informative as you can. You want people to stay on your page, read what you have and want to look at the next image to see what it says. For google, you want content, something that answers a question. Be concise, but don't say too much.
Typewriters in their early days took on all kinds of crazy shapes. This particular design made by the Oliver Typewriter Company was one of the first designs to allow you to see what it was typing. It seems older models hid it. It was an strike over design, where as the others were strike under. This design was mostly used at home.
The Oliver Typewriter company was established from 1895-1928. And despite selling over a million of these, they went bankrupt at the end, because they couldn't compete with better models.
This typewriter happened to have the name on it, so it was easy enough to look it up. The above description comes from wiki, but I didn't cut and paste it. I took out the good parts and just made two paragraphs about it. If someone was looking up Oliver typewriters they may come across my lovely image.
A funny anecdote
The funny anecdote is something I don't usually do. The idea is, you want to tell the viewer what you did to capture it, if the story is interesting or funny. Sometimes a viewer will connect better with the artist, if they knew what kind of hardship you went through. But don't over explain and don't bother explaining small things like your car breaking down, unless its an interesting part of how you captured the image.
I would stay away from stories that are gross, like slipping on dog doo and seeing an interesting cloud over head. But if you mentioned you got this by jumping out of a plane, and your shoe fell off while shooting it, go on and tell people that. But be truthful about it. Like it might be funny to find out that when you went on safari, you took a long lens to shoot toucans, only you couldn't find any, but one landed right on your lens, and you couldn't do anything about it. Or you did capture it, and you shot it with a phone instead. That kind of thing is amusing.
I don't have too many funny stories, but I do talk about the piece itself, when I'm comparing side by side images.
This building doesn't exist today, they probably took it down due to age. Even in this image, I saw fine cracks in spots. I'm not totally certain why they took a picture of this. It seems to highlight the building in relation to that electric car (its a street car by the way).
However I liked it mostly for that pie wagon. You just don't see pie wagons any more.
I cloned out the ghost in front walking (running?) by, it was just a foot over and over. And had a time working out the contrast on that building.
In an image like the above, I think its a good idea to drop the stories, and just stick to the facts, but tell it from my point of view.
Generally I find that a viewer will have no idea what we went through to capture, edit or present the piece, and I think sometimes its a good idea to talk about it. Mentioning you got up 4am to get the sunset could be interesting, hiding in a photo blind with a 1200mm lens, might get the viewer to appreciate all you can do, and outline what they can't do themselves.
For the above example, I like pointing out things I had to clone out, that I repaired the contrast and so on. It does actually interest some people.
A lucky shot is when you were in the right place, with the right stuff, and you got lucky when you shot it. Its the first time you remembered to focus, or you this is the only one you ever get right.
Don't ever, ever tell anyone you got lucky on a shot. Present like your an ace photographer. Never show your bad ones either.
Don't mention you came across this while walking the dog. It doesn't sound professional, and if a viewer thinks they can do it themselves, they won't get it from you.
Never sound like you impressed yourself, again, this makes you sound like an idiot.
The humorous up sell
You always want to avoid the up sell. Artists in general are not salespeople, and its annoying to have a pitch tossed into your face, especially when people shop online to avoid that. Telling someone that something will look good in their house, on every description gets old, tired and desperate sounding. And they may not want it in their house. Don't tell them it will make a great gift, or suggest locations, it just looks tacky... looks great in a little girls bedroom... don't say that. When I first started I would say things like that, because I wasn't sure what to say. But those images never sold, until I started changing the descriptions.
But sometimes you can pitch things that are a bit over the top. Kind of like how an infomercial works, where they go way out of their way to sell you the idea. Generally I don't do these either, but will when I advertise it.
The abstract description used to describe abstracts. Which are very hard to describe because they are abstracts. However you can really say anything about these things. Many abstracts have to do with emotional pain, be sure to describe that pain as fully as you can. Your pulling on heart strings here, and only you know why you made things the way you made things.
Not all abstract have emotions though
Time is so complicated, every time you think you figured it out, you don't, your back where you started from. Time doesn't seem to have a start or an end. Time spirals out of control, it goes too fast, too slow, it seems to stop. If time stopped, would we live forever? Would it be life at all? Or do you keep aging and time doesn't have anything to do with that part of life. Perhaps time is only an observable event, and it just happens to coincide with things moving forward.
Some abstracts aren't random, so they are easier to explain then others. But because its an abstract, the description can be written as an abstract too.
Art doesn't have to be hard to understand, it doesn't have to match and it doesn't have to go with the drapes. Sometimes you just want something simple, yet shocking to the eyes. This kind of looks like an empty cannoli, The filling was eaten by me. So I am happy. Let this zebra like abstract brighten up your dull home.It also makes a neat gift for an eye doctor - it's hard to miss this and easy to focus on - for a while.
AVOID – Clinical descriptions (stock only)
A clinical description is when you list all the items in an image, in such a way, it sounds more like you cataloged it. Popular on stock sites, because it lists things, but its dead on boring when describing art.
If I were to explain this in long hand, I could describe it like this: A mortar and pestle, sits on a cabinet containing drawers. Behind that, stands a series of tall jars known as shop furniture. Everything located in an old town apothecary.
Now that was descriptive, and it was informative, and it will probably index in google well, but its also dead boring. Its like someone talking in a monotone voice.
Ironically my first description is a lot like the example above, but it works if you keep it simple:
The usual collection of items to make the most basic of drugs. The mortal and pestle, a few colorful bottles and drawers full of natural ingredients
In the past, I didn't get into the stories as much as I do now.
Do's and Dont's
1. Do spell things correctly. You don't want to look illiterate use google if your not sure, pay attention to that little red line under words. That line indicates you spelled it wrong. But don't assume the dictionary knows how to spell it, not all words are listed.
2. Do capitalize where needed, and don't use all caps either. On that same note don't use aLT cAPS. Its very hard to read and it makes you look kind of dumb.
3. Do add paragraph breaks where needed. No one wants to read through a massive block of text
4. Do mention the location of where you shot it, as long as there is a landmark in that location, suggesting where its located. A horse eating grass, I wouldn't bother with a location. But if there was a certain mountain range behind them, then go ahead, same with keywords.
5. Do try to make the information interesting and write it the best you can.
6. Do write it ahead of time, you can add things in Photoshop and the like, under file info, adding descriptions and keywords ahead of time will save time down the line. Proof read it again after you post it.
7. Do be the authority on the things you make, and describe them as if you are professor of that subject.
1. Don't advertise your other stores in the description, it looks tacky, and the links don't work anyway.
2. Don't push for friends on facebook in there.
3. Don't complain about medical ailments, like don't say, I have weak legs, so I couldn't get a better view of that object.
4. Don't make excuses why the image is as perfect as it should be. Like if you had a smudge on the lens, were stung by a bee, it rained the whole time etc... it doesn't matter, no one cares. People only see the final thing.
5. Don't bother adding contest wins (the viewer is not impressed), or features from groups. There are many group leaders who desperately seek attention, and many have a god complex, and they tell you that you have to list their group or have particular keywords. Ignore them. Or don't belong to a group that requires you to change things. You don't need the clutter. And chances are, those same groups will vanish in 6 months time anyway.
6. Don't add copyright death threats, in other words, don't blab on and on how you own the images and no one should steal it. Because I'm watching you. So help me if I see you ever take any of my stuff, I will hunt you down with dogs, make a citizen arrest, and see you in court, sue you for all your worth, and you'll hang your head in shame, because the judge will require you to do so.... and by the way, I hope you enjoy my work. Don't do that. If you must mention the copyright, do it in the Bio, and only keep it to the basics.
7. Don't list your camera and all your equipment in the description, no one cares about it. No one can relate, they don't know about your camera, and in the end it just makes you look like a show off.
8. Don't start listing tons of keywords hoping to game google – it knows better, and it will probably send you to the very back.
9. Don't copy from wiki directly. Use it as a guide
10. Don't ramble on about a subject and don't make the description so long that it makes a person scroll to read the rest. Not if you can help it anyway.
11. Don't tell people the watermark won't be there. It only adds needles clutter, and it distracts people from your real description. Chances are, if you have to explain that it won't be there when sold, don't have the watermark at all.
12. Don't list your name every time. I've seen people add their name at the top of every description, don't bother, it looks silly there, your name is at the top, they can find it there. You will get your recognition, I swear you will.
13. Don't bother listing shutter speeds or ISO info, don't explain it like your talking to a photo club. Just talk about the location. This is a store, keep it that way
14. Don't say it was a lucky shot, or a miracle shot. Simply assume your a genius photographer.
15. Don't sound like your a beginner, and start saying things like, please leave comments, or I really need sales, or I really hope you like my work. Its sounds pathetic. And those are real examples of things I've seen.
Nothing is trickier then the keywords. They are your little salespeople when your not advertising things directly. And while it seems like a simple subject, its actually fairly complicated. Your basically listing everything you see in a scene, words people may type in, and who the image is for, all under 500 characters. You'll want to look up stock sites to see what they used, there are word generators, but you have to use those carefully and use common sense. Look up things in a thesaurus as well.
To list keywords put it in this format: word,word,word,this phrase,word no spaces, unless its a phrase, separate with comma's. Spaces count as a character so don't have them. You do need comma's, or it will count as one big phrase. You don't need plurals, but it may help you get a slight edge if the viewer types it in with plurals.
When listing keywords, list all the major elements first, then move on to the minor ones that you can easily see. Then move on to color, location, and so on.
So what do we have here? We have a farm in the country. What words can we think of for this?
That's the base, but we can get more detailed here
Idyllic,bovine,cow pasture,dairy,farmer (there doesn't have to be a farmer, its for a farmer), landscape,summer,warm,cow smell,pleasant,home,house,grass
You can go more advanced and look up alternate names for things as well, breaking out the thesaurus.
We could get more detailed, like naming trees, but there is little point. Pointing out colors is relevant, but only point out the major ones. Like I pointed to the green, but not the blue or red because they don't make up the bulk of the image.
Basically your just listing what your seeing. Is it summer? Where is this place located? Is it important to the scene? Be specific, its not just a horse, but a particular breed of horse. Add Latin names, add misspellings of words, if you spell it wrong as your typing, leave it there, and try again, correct the second one. There is a good chance that a viewer will make the same mistake.
Keyword spamming is a problem.
Spamming is when you add a word to get more attention to yourself, when you don't have that item in the image. Sometimes its an honest mistake of being lazy, cut and pasting them all up, isn't something you want to do. On this site the moderator will take away all your keywords and you have to start over.
If your scene has a mountain, and there is no water, you can't list ocean. And if your scene is clearly from the summer, you can't list Autumn. If your scene has a cat in it, you can't list dog.
However there is sort of an exception to the rule and that's the – looks like spam, but isn't spam rule.
I was talking to someone and they said that people are typing in Outback when they were looking for images of Australia. I'm an American, and I don't know any better, and most viewers don't know better, so when I think of Outback, I do think of Australia.
But a local thinks otherwise, they know there is a difference between the two, and he wanted everyone that marked it Outback to have that removed because to him its spam. But it isn't really spam, but it is, but it isn't. Because while it may not be accurate, people do associate those two locations, and interchange them. And by removing it, you could actually lose sales. While on the other hand, his argument was that we could lose sales, because when an Aussie types in Outback, they are thinking about something very specific. The reality is, it doesn't really matter, since people will isolate exactly what they want. And probably list it by location and town name, which is why its important to label such things.
The locals know the difference, everyone does not.
This is New York City, the water is the Hudson River, while I know its a river, I can list it as ocean as well. Because it looks like the ocean, and probably tastes like the ocean, not that I'm comparing samples or anything you really shouldn't drink from the Hudson River.
Adding the word ocean won't help me to sell this though, because when people think ocean, they think a wide open expanse. But it wouldn't be spam either because it is a part of the ocean, and it looks like it could be an ocean.
There is also a boat in here. To someone who is picky, they would call that a ship, and to them, calling it a boat, may be considered spam. Not only do I list it as a boat but a baot because that's how I spelled it the first time when typing too fast. Also adding clipper and such may get others to look at it.
List as many buildings as you can in the background. This can be tricky, but if you use google maps, its easier, and if you traced your route with a GPS, even easier.
It would be spamming if I listed random cities in here, and it would also be spamming if I rattled off a number of famous sky scrapers. On that note, spell it both ways – sky scrapers and skyscrapers.
Trains can be tricky, a locomotive is called an Iron Horse, I can't say how many call it by that name though. Adding those words, anyone typing in horse, will get a train. But its not spam, but it is confusing. Same with a Cow Catcher, there is no Cow or Catcher (in this scene there in none of that anyway, but you'll see them on old trains). Its confusing to get a train when your looking for a cow.
There are minor things in this scene, such as the lamps, I wouldn't bother listing those because they aren't prominent. I've seen this done in many pieces, they list dog, but it only has a tiny dog in it. Or a tiny bird, don't list the small stuff.
Also very important – DO NOT LIST YOUR HOME TOWN.
This is spam, and its very confusing. People do this because they think that people in their town will want to shop locally and get something from a person in their own home town. But the thing is, it doesn't work like that. If you want someone shopping locally, advertise locally.
If I type Paris, I don't want pictures of New York, because that's where that person lived.
However, you also can have something that looks like spam, but also isn't spam. Some words have the same meaning. Turkey can be a bird or a location. Georgia is a place in the US, but its also in Russia. And then it gets more confusing when the photographer lists their own home town into the mix, pictures of Paris, might have a Turkey reference, and it becomes a mind trip when you look for it in the search.
If you enjoyed this dialog we had, a great way to thank me is by purchasing some of my work. I know you'll enjoy anything you get from my store, its all made with my two hands. Each image is lovingly made, and should match anything in your house. If your having trouble matching things, use the mat and the frame to match items in your room, and not the image.