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Huh! Ok lets try that again. Cat or cats? Back to our favourite subject of keywording. If you have a photo of a cat, ie. one solitary feline friend. Do you just enter the singular of the word or the plural also? Or are you reading this thinking, whatever, i’m a superstar and my cat images sell even if i put in cucumber.

I read a very interesting blog on Dreamstime called Oops! Keywording Mistakes to Avoid, written by Ellen Boughn, who has many informative blogs on the site on how to become a Keyword Master successful Microstock photographer. In further follow up comments about the blog http://www.dreamstime.com/thread_11480, Ellen says “an image with one child should not be keyworded ‘children’ as there is only one child in the image. When there are more than one child, the keyword ‘children’ is appropriate as is ‘child’ as each individual in the image of two children is a child.” Aha, so now that I understand that, can you explain this to me? Billy Button bought a buttered biscuit, did Billy Button buy a buttered biscuit? If Billy Button bought a buttered biscuit, Where’s the buttered biscuit Billy Button bought?

An astute Dreamstime activist points out, “If I have a collection of images, all of one man wearing a suit, it would be perfectly correct to describe my collection as “images of men wearing suits” regardless of the fact that each shot may include only one man. I think it’s wrong to frustrate buyers on a purely literal interpretation of the image contents. The plural in this case is actually describing that the searcher is looking for more than one image, not the exact content of each image. I think you have to take this into account when keywording.”

Ellen fights back valiantly, “The searcher expects that no matter whether the keyword is the singular or plural that the search will return a multiple of images. The keywords relate to the contents of the image not a group of images.” Well put Ellen. So now that you’ve explained everything, we can put into practice our new keyword mastering skill.

But wait, it’s that guy again, he just won’t give up! “Maybe there should be some instruction provided to buyers in that case, because I’ve watched several different designers in different agencies use plural search terms even when searching for single items/subjects. It’s just a fact of how some people write and use language.”

I’m sure I can see the smile on Ellen’s profile pic. starting to fade. With one final gasp she replies, “I think it could be one of those…what came first: the chicken or the egg? Designers may use the plural to find images of a single because so many images of single items or persons alone in an image continue to be keyworded with the plural!” Definition of chicken and egg situation.

Anyway, what do you think and what do you do? Please take part in the poll so we can get a picture. The poll should really be for people who submit photos to agencies. Just to add, Bigstockphoto does not differentiate between singulars or plurals and submitting either version will show the same results in search. Plus, when I was looking for a photo for the post “What? Keywording? I thought I was a photographer!“. I wanted a picture of a man stressed and subconsciously I typed in “men stressed”.

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Here’s a word of warning for all you keyword spammer masters out there, from a media buyer and the owner of a design firm. “As a media buyer and the owner of a design firm, I would hope that Ellen’s comments would be taken to heart by the photographers because I am tired of the keyword spammers and the nonsensical keywords for a photo. It only makes me more frustrated and consumes more of my time in trying to find the right images for a design. Sure there is a way I can make my thoughts known about the keywords to a photo, but that just adds to my frustration and I don’t have time for it. In recent years I have adopted a philosophy that I will boycott photographers who keyword spam or use nonsensical keywords. I can’t be the only media buyer/designer who is adopting this philosophy. The microstock model has been around for years now, and it is time for the photographs (think he means photographers) and Dreamstime to start cleaning up their acts. I believe Dreamstime if they truly want to be a good stock library they need to start demanding that keywording be done with in the rules or else your photos won’t be accepted and if you spam too much your gone. Just my two cents.”

You tell it to ’em Mr. but better still tell the Microstock agencies to do the keywording themselves, so photographers can take more photos, media buyers and owners of design firms can find photos they search for and agencies are better able to justify why they give such small commissions. Just my two pence.

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2 thoughts on “Sheep or Sheeps?

  1. ‘Cat’ or ‘cats’ isn’t that interesting for me, but ‘smile’ or ‘smiling’? I mean a portrait of a smiling girl for example. Both are appropriate because she has ‘smile’ on her face while she is ‘smiling’.

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