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How to search on Alamy – tips for image buyers and photographers

Flat line search concept
Maria Kazanova / Alamy Stock Vector

Earlier this week we asked our community of image buyers and photographers what they wanted to know about Alamy, and one of the most resounding answers was “How do people search?”.

There’s no easy answer to this question as everyone will have their own, slightly unique, way of searching but there are some key themes I can share with you to help you understand both how to search for images if you’re struggling to find what you need but also how to annotate your images to get them found by our customers.

Firstly (and I’m sure this isn’t news to many) – keywords are key!
Whether you’re tagging your images for sale or doing a search you need to make sure your keywords are accurate. This might seem obvious but always check the spelling and make sure the information you’re using is correct e.g. people’s names, animal species or dates. Photographers, please make sure the date set on your camera is up to date (excuse the pun) dates set in the future don’t work with our algorithm!

Make it specific – image buyers will often have very specific requirements which not only include what’s in the image but also the perspective from which it has been taken, the aesthetics, the style and even the mood portrayed by the image. When you’re keywording, you need to think about it from a customer perspective and when you’re searching you need to think about it from a contributor perspective.

Here are some example keywords to show you what I mean:
Perspective: “over shoulder” ‘above and below water’ ‘pov’
Aesthetics: “naturally lit” “authentic” ‘timelapse’ ‘tiltshift’ ‘macro’
Style: “candid” ‘cross section’ ‘reportage’
Composition: “copy space” ‘portraiture’

It’s important to remember people use keywords differently.
We have such a huge variety of people searching on Alamy it won’t come as a surprise that there are a lot of different ways of doing it. One of the key differences is how specific the search will be, so when you’re keywording your images you need to take the advice above and make your keywords as specific as possible so they return in both the short and broad and long and detailed search strings:

For example, one person might search for: Black cat crossing the road and then search through the broad set of results

But our (expert) research teams would search for: black cat (walk or walking or cross or crossing) (road or street or sidewalk or path or intersection) not lion not tiger and be able to find the exact image they need in the first couple of pages of search results.

And then there is where they search…
Some people will search directly on Alamy, but more and more people are using Google images as an aggregator of imagery and starting their search on there. As with the Alamy search engine the key to getting your images in Google is to make your keywording on Alamy accurate, specific and relevant.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to how people search but hopefully these insights give you a little more direction when you’re keywording or searching for images.

If you have any specific questions about keywording or searching for images then tweet us @alamy.

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