Guide to Keywording Images – Part 3: by Jody Apap

How Do I Keyword the People in My Images II

In my last post I covered the major elements to keywording people:

  • Number of People that are the subject of the image.
  • “Industry standard” age/gender groups such as male adult and female senior adult.
  • Family relationship portrayed in the image.
  • Ethnicities or races of the people in the image.

This post will cover a lot of the other keywords you should be adding to your images of people.

Angle of View and Body Length

These two are much more important that you might think.  Editors often know what kind of shot they are looking for and these are two qualities that they are often looking for.

There are three basic angles of view:

  • front view
  • side view (profile is a type of side view)
  • back view

Every person has one of these angles to the viewer, so you might as well keyword it.  A few other searches at gave me these results:

  • woman: 2,580,483 results
  • woman front view:  282,273 results
  • woman side view:  158,651 results
  • woman back view:  54,448 results

Less than 20% of images with women in them have any angle of view keywords with them.  A rough extrapolation indicates that there are about 1,000,000 images of women that are front views that would not be shown to buyers looking for women front view.

There are four basic body lengths:

  • full length
  • three quarter length
  • waist up
  • head and shoulders (head shot is a type of head and shoulders)

Again, every subject in your picture has one, so keyword it, because buyers will be searching for them.

Body Pose

This is a category that partly falls into “actions,” but I believe they are important enough to warrant a special category, because they are common, yet often aren’t thought of when keywording actions.  This list is by no means definitive, just an initial list of the more common ones.

  • arm outstretched
  • arms crossed
  • cross legged
  • hand in pocket
  • hand on hip
  • hand in pocket
  • hands clasped
  • interlaced fingers
  • waving
  • legs crossed
  • sitting
  • standing
  • lying down

Body Build

Body build should only be used for the main subjects of the photo, an only if their body build is relevant to the story of the image. For instance, a shot of a chubby guy exercising.  A short list of “body build” keywords would include:

  • burly
  • chubby
  • obese
  • muscular
  • toned
  • skinny
  • stocky

Like body build, face and head details should only be keyworded for the subjects of the image, and only if they are prominent.

Eye color should be keyworded if it is very prominent. Other terms related to the eyes should always be considered, such as cross-eyed, wide eyed and eyes closed.

One keyword that should always be used if it applies is looking at camera (and also looking at viewer).  Anytime any subject is looking right into the camera, you better keyword it, because editors will be searching for these phrases.

Facial expressions are important to keyword if obvious. Some examples are, crying, finger to lips, frowning, pursed lips and smiling.

Facial hair, hair color and hair style, also should be keyworded sparingly.  Only when they are central to the story of the image.  Don’t keyword mustache because some guy in the background has a mustache, but if the central subject has one, then keyword it.

Specific People Groups

These keywords have their origins with but are seen at most sites now, both in contributor’s keywords and in the searches being done by buyers.

  • adults only
  • female adults only
  • one female adult only
  • male adults only
  • one male adult only

I’m not going to write out the complete list, just replace adult, female adult or male adult with whatever age/gender group you need.

Proper Names

Pretty self-explanatory, if you know their name, write it as a keyword.


Pretty obvious, any profession that is portrayed should be keyworded. And, I would say this is another spot where creative liberties can be taken.  If it’s a businessman in front of a bank, and he looks like he could be a banker, then keyword banker.

I think I’ve pretty well covered all the aspects of keywording the people in your images.  While some of the suggestions might seem insignificant, if you have a good system for keywording, it shouldn’t take much more time to add a few “less important” keywords, and these less important keywords will lead to sales for you.

Next week I will explain how to keyword the objects and animals in your images.

I’ve been working as a keywording specialist for years, keywording images for publishers and photographers. From this experience, I have developed KeywordSmart, a web-based image keywording tool.

In KeywordSmart we have created the easiest and quickest process to guide our photographers through every aspect of the image, while supplying synonyms, variant spellings, as well as teaching our users the industry standard keywords and phrases.

Company: KeywordSmart
Phone: 914-388-5202
Twitter: @KeywordSmart

Image Keywording Tip of the Day

© 2011 Jody Apap

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