It seems that these days, the main difference between a pro and and talented photographer is the quality of the keywording. Having no experience, and certainly no coaching from an agency, the amateur can find some relief and help in microstock sites. But if you look at the photo sharing sites and their tagging, you will see a couple of trends: Either few or no keywords, or completely irrelevant keywords introduced to artificially make the image more visible.
And so I read here and there, on-line manuals of how to be the best “keyworder” in the world, completely contradicting the famous adage, ‘ a picture is worth a thousand words” . Seems that these days, if you believe these self proclaimed keyword prophets, salvation is in a well captioned image . This completely defy the purpose of photography. Because , if there is anything where amateur can compete with professionals is how well an image is captioned. Furthermore, it is not because an image is seen that it will sell.
So, this new school of photographers, ( let’s call them the keyworders), assume that all their images are excellent and all they need to do to make then go over the top is to add some judicially found keywords, if possible a lot of them. And these master of linguistics then proceed in telling everyone that hope resides in the text attached in the image, forgetting the images themselves. They have become slaves to technology.
Poor sorry things. They spend more time on their computers torturing themselves with thesauri and dictionaries, controlled vocabularies and other scrabbles rather then taking more compelling images. Image buyers don’t buy keywords. Image buyers are not stupid, nor lazy. And, if anything, a photo agency is not Google. Professional image buyers go much deeper than the first 2 pages of results to find the right image. much deeper. Don’t forget, unlike the people that search Google, finding is a job for them.
But it is clear what is going on. The medium to untalented photographers who used to make a good income before microstock by selling images of apples for $300 are retreating to what might be their last defense line. They are desperately trying to fight a loosing battle on a field where they do not have the edge, leaving as a legacy, extremely well keyworded images that nobody wants. At least for that price.
There is no salvation in keywording. While it is important, it is the not magic wand that will save your collection. Amateurs are right behind and if anything, becoming everyday much better at keywording. And, although it feels like a lot of work, it doesn’t bring the rewards expected. The good old days of the professional stock photographers who chose that profession because no one would hire them on assignment is slowly coming to an end.
Commercial stock photographer shooting to fill an image bank of images is a dying breed. They are being hit with an extremely bitter price war that suddenly cracked open their nasty little secret. A photograph of an apple on a table should not be worth $300. Neither a long straight road ending in the horizon. Editorial photographers have been fighting the equivalent price war for many years and it has harden the competition for quality images. So they took upon themsleves to compete with relevant quality images, not keywords.
It is not enough to have the image anymore, you have to have the best image.
Finally, the future of image search is not textual. It is ridiculous to believe that, in order to be found, an image needs to be explains with words. Companies are working on adapting the way we think to the way we search and soon you will see the results. And the “science” of keywording will look as amusing as the tools left behind by the cavemen.