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JD Grimes

3 Years Ago

Keywording Tutorial

I am not a keyword expert, but over the last few weeks I have been doing some research to try to improve my keywording on FAA. I know that many others will find these tips helpful, so here they are. Feel free to comment or add your own tips below.

Did you know that some keywords are redundant? FAA automatically adds certain keywords, and if you add them too, you are actually just wasting space. Some redundant words include:

greeting cards

FAA adds all of these words automatically where they are applicable. In other words, FAA automatically describes the type of work it is. It knows whether it is a photo or a painting. You do not need to describe the medium of your work with these words. FAA does that for you. The only thing you need to describe is the contents of your work.

I was surprised to see that in fact these are popularly used keywords, as can be seen on the Popular Keywords page. By the way, this can be a great resource for keyword ideas. Remember though, that these are not the most searched kewords, these are the words most used by artists in tagging their work.

Just to prove my point about the above keywords being redundant, I will give you a few examples of what happens when you use them to search. If you type “j.d. grimes photos” in the search on FAA, you will get the following page. It displays all of my work, because they are all photographs, even though I have not added this word to my recent uploads. It automatically selects the medium “photographs” because I included “photos” in the search words.

Now let me show you what would happen if I search for “paintings” I get the message Page Not Found .

Some notes on the popular keywords page: Remember that this is the most used tags, not the most searched. So although many of them are good tags to use, you also want to use other similar tags that are not so popular with the artists but which people may search for. One way to find other similar words to use is to use a site like this one. This one apparently does not do nouns, so it really won’t be much help for me.

Each word only needs to be used once!
This can be a good think to remember if you are running out of space. Each word needs to be used only once for your image to come up in a search for that word. You do not need to use the same word twice in different phrases. Each word is stored as just a word in the database. The only purpose of the commas is to separate the words for making the keyword search links that appear under your image on the page for that image. They have no other purpose, and do not affect the search. So save space by using each word only once. This is straight from Sean (FAA’s creator) somewhere in the discussions, and if you doubt it you can test it yourself, as I already have. I think using a word multiple times may actually cause your image to be sent to the back of the search results on an external engine. (I don’t remember whether external engines have access to the keywords or not, but I think they do. I will find out for sure soon).

Another thing that is good to remember is that some things are treated as synonyms on both the internal and external search engines. By using only one of the phrases, you save space for other keywords. An example of two synonyms are “close-up” and “close up”. You only need to add “close up” in your keywords in order to come up in a search for “close-up” too. Here is an example. I did not add “close-up” to these images, only “close up”.

Search for j.d. grimes crocus close-up

In other words, you do not need to add the hyphenated versions of phrases for your image to be found. Also, “u.s.a.” is synonymous with “u s a”.

No Spaces
Another way to save space is to omit spaces between your phrases. Example:

flower, flowers, wildflower


In this way you save spaces when you need them. Many of you may have no fear of using up the entire 500 character limit in the keywords. But your aim should be to use every single character. Add every keyword that you can think of to describe your image. That is the only way that people will find you on the internal search.

Themed Lists
Keywording can take time, and remembering all of the appropriate words to add can be difficult. A good way to save time and ensure that all of the proper words are added to your image is to create themed keyword lists that you can simply copy and paste into the keyword box.

Here is how to build keyword lists:

What you need to include:

-Your name. Including your name is not always necessary, but is usually a good idea. Some people realize that if you search for your name on FAA, all of your images will be displayed whether you have added it to your keywords or not. But this is only true when you search for you full name. But if someone only remembers your last name, they will not find you through the artwork search on FAA unless it is in your keywords. (They can through the artist search if they now how). Also, I always include my name “j.d. grimes” in the keywords, because otherwise you will not find my unless you search for “jd grimes”. By adding “j.d. grimes” you will now find me by searching for “jd grimes” (even though I don’t have “jd” in my keywords) “j.d. grimes” or “j d grimes” or just “grimes”. You would not find me on the latter three searches on FAA unless I had “j.d. grimes” in my keywords.

-Words describing the contents of the image. For a photo of a flower, I have this list: j.d. grimes,flower,flowers,flora,floral,bloom,blooms, blossom,blossoms,blooming,blossoming,flowering,plant,plants,botanical,nature,natural beauty,. Other words would be applicable given various different situations. Where was the flower growing? You could add “garden”, or “woods”, etc. Don’t forget to include plurals. Don’t just put “flower” for a photo of a flower. Add the word “flowers” too. If someone is searching for images of flowers, they are likely to type in “flowers” even if they want an image with only one flower in it.

-The names of the objects contained in the image. If you have a photo of a car, don’t just put car, put the type of car. For the example of the flower above, I would add the common and Latin names. Many times a species may be known by multiple common names, so try to add as many of these as possible.

-The colors in the image. If your flower is yellow, add yellow to the keywords. Add all prominent colors in the image, especially those of the subject.

-Where. Add where a photo was taken. Add the country, provence, and also the city especially when some aspect of the image is recognizable as from a certain place, such that someone who lived there would recognize it. Some people like to have photos taken in their state or near their city.

-The color format of the image. Is it in color or black and white? Note that in the keywords. Don’t forget to always add both the American and International (British) spellings of color: color, colour.

-Other. Among other things, you should always add the words “close ups,closeups,closeup,close up” to your close-up images. Add “extreme” and “macro” when appropriate. Another thing that you may want to add to your keywords is the physical format of the image. Is it vertical format, horizontal format, square, panoramic, etc. Adding appropriate words like these can be useful. I always tack these words on the end, because although there is a way to have the internal search filter according to whether an image is square, vertical, or horizontal, without using keywords, people may not know to use that. So I add these on the end in case I run out of space.

Making your lists.
If you take a lot of wildflower photos like I do, you will want a list that would apply to any wildflower image that you would upload. Remember to always title your keyword lists so that you will know what list applies to what sort of image. Never put words in a themed list that would not apply to every image that you would upload which would fit that theme.

Here is the order that I do my lists in:

1. my name
2. image contents
3. names of objects contained in the image
4. colors
5. where
6. color format of the image
7. close-up
8. physical format of the image

1, 2. Here is how I do my lists. First, I have my themed lists that describe the contents of the image. Like the example I gave for a flower image above. I always simply include my name on the beginning of these lists for convenience.

3. I am going to make separate lists to add after these with the common and Latin names of the species in my nature photos.

4. Next I manually add in the colors.

5. I have separate “where” lists that I paste in next.

6, 7, 8. Next I copy and paste from other separate lists for different combinations of color, physical, and close-up format. Examples:

vertical,color,colour,close ups,closeups,closeup,close up,sepia,vertical

horizontal,color,colour,close ups,closeups,closeup,close up,sepia, horizontal

I do not copy the entire list, only the applicable part of it. Obviously I have some other combinations, these two are just examples.

Note that unfortunately you cannot see how many characters you have used up when copying and pasting into the keyword box. That is why you should add things in order of importance.

Also, don’t forget to add detailed descriptions, because the external search engines search your description too.

Here is the Tutorial on Keywording and Descriptions for FAA. It is not as detailed as this, but I thought some might find it helpful.

If you have any tips to share, please do below!!

Reply Order

Post Reply

Very nice article JD! Thank you!


Wow, JD! Thank you for taking the time to put this together. It is so helpful. We'll be going back to work to refine our tags!! Thanks again!


Valerie Bruno

3 Years Ago

Thank you so much JD. Fantastic tutorial.


JD Grimes

3 Years Ago

Thank you all for your kind words! I'm glad that I could share something of help.



3 Years Ago

Thank you for your counsels, JD! They're very helpful and I'll surely use them from now on.


Douglas Wilks

3 Years Ago

I also try to include the following in my keywords; if it is a specific style; landscape, still life, wildlife, or night photography. Yes, I do know that will cause one redundancy when it come up with photograph twice. Although, when FAA adds canvas or acrylic that redundancy is not there.
I also think it is important to mention the main object in the keywords; Pine tree, marbles, cat, etc. Keywords (or tags) are a challenge at times. The more often you think about how those words help in searches for your art, the better you become at using the keywords.


JD Grimes

3 Years Ago

Great advice, Douglas!

A member from one of the groups that I administrate shared this site:

It is a really great tagging tool, and I will certainly be using it in future!

It is simple to use. Simply put in a word or two that describe your image, and it will show you a page of various images from microstock agencies that have that in their keywords. Simply select all of the ones similar to your own, and then it will show you a page listing all of the keywords for those images. You simply select all of the ones that apply to your image, and it add them to a box that you can copy and paste from. Simple and easy. I think it is a really great tool!!!


Patricia Overmoyer

3 Years Ago

Very helpful! Thank you!!


Really useful info, JD! I'm never satisfied with my keywords -- this will serve as a great guide when I get around to revising them. Thank you!


JD Grimes

3 Years Ago

You are welcome!! Now if we only had a way to bulk edit key words, we could update them much more easily. Maybe Sean will do that one day. I'm know it would take a lot of coding...


If FAA allowed bulk editing it could open the way to even more misuse of the tagging system :|


JD Grimes

3 Years Ago

I know that Beth, that's why I realize that it will probably never happen. It's a shame. :(


Cindy Nunn

3 Years Ago

Excellent tutorial, J.D.!


Amber Stubbs

3 Years Ago

most informative, thank you


Carla Parris

3 Years Ago

What a helpful, informative post! Thanks so much. This will help us all be much smarter with our tagging!!


Clare Bambers

3 Years Ago

Thank you for this. Particularly like the microstock tagging link. :)


Lee Craig

3 Years Ago

Thank you for taking the time to help!


Madalena Lobao-Tello

3 Years Ago

Thanks to share!!


Susan Crossman Buscho

3 Years Ago

Excellent summary. Will use it!


June Pryor

3 Years Ago

Thank-you J.D. for your great help with learning how to manage with key-words, there are a lot of newbie's that need this advice. I am one of them! Thanks again!


JD Grimes

3 Years Ago

Thank you all, I am glad that it helps!


Robin Konarz

3 Years Ago

Thank you. This has been helpful!


Gregory Scott

3 Years Ago

I'll add that a thesaurus or a good vocabulary helps a lot. Those rocks in your photo, are they hoodoos or gargoyles or gravel, or sandstone or granite or concretions or masonry or cliffs or escarpments or tufas or monoliths, etc etc.
In addition, use google maps, find locations near where you did your image, and be sure to add village, town, city, and state and state abbreviation to your photos.


Diane Stresing

3 Years Ago

Thanks JD! Informative and helpful. I was surprised to learn about adding colors to keyword - I just assumed the FAA color swatches took care of that. I'll revise my keywords now. Thanks again!


JD Grimes

3 Years Ago

Another tip: If you aren't sure if you have gone over the limit on the number of characters, then submit the image and then go back and edit it. You can see a live character count when you are editing the keywords on an existing image.

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Blanche Knake

2 Years Ago

Thank you for the wonderful advice!


Dawn J Benko

2 Years Ago

Thanks for this JD


Kristy Jeppson

2 Years Ago

Thanks. This is helpful and very informative. I never realized so many things could be used as keywords.


Cheryl McDonald

2 Years Ago

very very helpful, thank you J.D.


Katie Wing Vigil

2 Years Ago

Great article J.D. I learned something new today :)


Thank you J.D


Margaret Harmon

2 Years Ago

Well I stumbled across this and what a find. Thank you! I have been wasting time on some of my key words. Hope I get a sale based on this information.


bumping this up for the Keywording Curious!


Michael Swanson

2 Years Ago

Thanks a bunch!!!


Chrisann Ellis

2 Years Ago

Thank you sooooooooooo much!!... Outstanding information :)


Bumping this up!


Thanks all for information.....


Great info... of course, now i have even MORE behind the scenes work to do... ;)


Dewey Farmer

2 Years Ago

JD, thank you so such a detailed explanation on how to tag your photos. This is really very helpful and I will be using this tool as I move forward. THANK YOU!!!


John Malone

2 Years Ago



Victor Montgomery

2 Years Ago

This is the best article I have read on FAA...thanks so much for the advice and info!


Jon Burch Photography

2 Years Ago


Just stumbled on to this. WOW! Thankyou,ThankYou,THANKyou,thankYOU etc...




2 Years Ago

Useful info.. THANK YOU!!!


Mary Carol Story

2 Years Ago

Thanks JD. Huge help!


Loriental Photography

2 Years Ago

Great article, thank you so much !


Dee Flouton

2 Years Ago

Thank you for sharing this detailed and valued explanation. An excellent guide to listing keywords!


Nola Lee Kelsey

2 Years Ago

Great information. Thank you so much.


Giovanni Chianese

2 Years Ago

Very interesting thank you!


Christine Smart

2 Years Ago

As a new member to FAA, I found this extremely useful and although I thought my 'keyword' list was fairly comprehensive before, I have now realised that there is a lot more that can be done.
Thank you very much, very useful article.


HEVi FineArt

2 Years Ago

Excellent article and supporting comments.

thanks so much.


Michael Hoard

1 Year Ago

great I can sure use all that information....


Cindy Nunn

1 Year Ago


Keeping this one near the top.


This discussion is closed.