DonSmith / Alamy Stock Photo

Tagging images on Alamy – best practice

Want some advice for tagging images on Alamy? Read on!

Alamy is more popular with photographers than ever before and as a result we’re receiving record numbers of images. This means that we need to work hard to ensure that our customers get to see the best search results when looking for images and to help make that work it’s important that you tag your images thoroughly and relevantly.

We’re constantly refining the way our search engine delivers results to customers but we don’t want you to overthink this. You should be concentrating on producing strong, on-trend imagery that is annotated in a way to make sure the right customers see your images. With the new Alamy Image Manager now being rolled out to contributors, there has never been an easier time to ensure you’re getting the best out of your annotation.

Here are some tips on the best way to tag your images on Alamy.

Chalk drawing - concept of right or wrong
CNCCRAY / Alamy Stock Photo

Tags and Multi-tag phrases

The most important thing you can do is tag naturally. Think about the image, the message it delivers and what someone may be searching for to find it. This is a much more successful approach than trying to add tags to an image in a way that pleases a search engine algorithm that can be potentially tweaked and modified over time!

But what does ‘tag naturally’ mean? Well, it means that if something is a multi-word single entity then you should tag it as such e.g. “Taylor Swift”, “South East Asian”, “Bible Belt”, “Red Leicester”, “The Rolling Stones”, or “Homer Simpson”. If you’re still using the older version of our image management tool you can enter a phrase by adding a comma or ” ” around the phrase. If you’re using the new Alamy Image Manager (rolling out across the site now) then you can just type in each word before submitting them as a phrase.

What we wouldn’t advise is putting multiple entities/concepts into a single tag e.g. “Paris Eiffel Tower”. As things currently stand this will not have any particular effect on the search engine one way or the other but in future iterations of the search engine it may do. It would be more natural (and hence better as a longer term tag strategy) to go for “Paris”,”Eiffel Tower”.

Our tagging system does not exclude constituent words of a tag from being searched for e.g. “Banff National Park” will still show up for “banff”,”national park” and “park” searches. This also means that “Rhinoceros Beetle” will show up in “Rhinoceros” searches, but the search engine tries to make sure that the beetle image does not appear too high up.

Try to avoid adding alphabetical lists of tags. Proximity of one tag compared to another used in a multi-word search can have an effect on where it appears in the sort order, which is why we’d recommend adding phrases / multi-word tags where appropriate.

Plurals and stemming

The Alamy search engine doesn’t “stem” search words. This means that if a customer searches for “Cat” the search engine does not extend this to “Cats”. We’ve done extensive testing around this and have found that the search results are often better and more relevant with stemming turned off, which is why we’ve set things up in this way.

This means that if the plural is important to the image then you should add it as an additional tag. Consider this carefully though – adding a plural implies that there are multiples of something in the image and if there isn’t, then you are potentially giving the customer irrelevant results which can harm your ranking in the future. If you have a lifestyle shot of a child playing on a swing, “Child” is a perfectly acceptable tag but “Children” is less so – a customer searching for “Children” will likely want to see just that: more than one child.


With the new Alamy Image Manager we have introduced the concept of “supertags”. You can add up to 10 supertags per image and these are the tags that you feel are the most relevant to the image. The search engine will place extra priority to these supertags so make sure you select the most relevant words only. For help on adding tags and supertags in the Alamy Image Manager then watch our overview help video or read through the relevant section (page 16) in the PDF instructions. Supertags work similarly to the “Essential Keywords” that were part of our previous contributor toolset.

The importance of captions

The search engine also looks in the caption when finding images so make sure you describe the image well and include background information if it’s important. You should always try and fill in the “date taken” field and if the date of the image is especially important, for example in a historical image, then you should also add that to the caption. The same goes for the location field, but only add it to the caption if it truly is important to the image.

We can’t go into too much detail as to how our search technology works now or in the future but if you follow the rules above, we will do our best to make sure the search engine puts the appropriate images to the top.

The most important thing to remember when tagging is to keep things relevant and add words that you are sure a customer will search for. To get some solid data on what customers are searching for be sure to check out Alamy Measures.

A photographer, digital media degree holder and part of the Alamy Content team for 15 years. James has a strong interest in all things visual and is our Head of Content.