Advice from a Leading Keywording and Search Specialist – Clemency Wright Consulting

I’ve recently had the pleasure of interviewing Clemency Wright, Director of Clemency Wright Consultancy, the UK’s leading provider of keywording services and consultancy.

Keywording is something that many stock photographers struggle with (myself included) since it’s much more complex than simply describing “what you see in the image”. I trust that by following the advice below you’ll be one giant step closer to ensuring your images are seen and hopefully subsequently licensed by potential buyers.

Should you have any specific questions on keywording as well as how Stock Agency’s search engines function, please ask below and Clemency will be happy to answer them.

1. How important are captions / keywording for Microstock contributors and why?

It is common knowledge that the online search process relies on keywords, and Microstock is no exception. Due to the highly competitive and saturated market, Microstock photographers rely on keywords to provide access and visibility to their work. However there is conflicting advice and confusion when it comes to what constitutes “quality” keywording. Over-keywording, under-keywording, and inconsistent/inferred keywords lead to confusion and frustration, and customers do not have the time or inclination to filter out irrelevant images or wade through multiple pages of content that does not meet their search expectations.

In order to delight customers and convert searches into sales, it is necessary to create a methodology for “quality” keywording. This will include (but is not limited to) a vocabulary, taxonomical and hierarchical structure (or set of rules), a clear road map for the distribution processes, user experience, user interface and appreciation for each customer persona.

In summary, keywording is not a case of simply ’saying what you see’. It is about presenting the exact results your customers expect to see, and doing so consistently, so they get relevant results quickly and easily without having to spend time thinking about what keywords to use.

2. What tips / advice would you offer Microstock contributors to ensure that their images rank high in the search engines?

This is dependent upon the particular site/platform used and the distribution network in place. Find out about technical aspects such as stemming, US/UK English search, synonym backup. Use this information to construct a relevant keywording methodology. Broader SEO (via Google image search for example) is also a factor. As above, always add relevant keywords and never add irrelevant keyword, otherwise the algorithms may pick up on the fact your images are appearing in Search Page Results but are not being previewed, a common consequence of this being relegation to a lower position within the Search Page Results (as is the case on Alamy).

More about Search Page Results: For example, if you keyword your image “tourism”, but the image is simply an empty beach with the sea and horizon, then the image will appear in the SPRs for ‘tourism’, but customers most likely will overlook this and not click to enlarge/see the preview as it does not depict ’tourism’. On Alamy, as you probably know, this tells the system to relegate the image lower in the results for ’tourism’ so the best thing is not to add it in the first place unless it is accurate.

Relaxing empty beach
According to Clemency, it’s best to use fewer words and more accurate words to describe the image to avoid the image being relegated to a lower position in some search engines such as Alamy

3. Some contributors have complained that their image rank changes dramatically from one day to the other. Do you have any insight as to why?

This could be to do with the page edits taking place behind the scenes within the agency (either manually or automatically), or, it could be to do with the algorithms (as outlined above).

4. Would you be able to shed some light on which keywords are currently trending or will be trending in the near future?

There are some great resources available providing insight into this fascinating and ever-changing subject such as and Within my business, we keep an eye on creative, cultural, political and economic events, as well as social media, to track trends and anticipate where these may impact on visual media. There are also some specialist agencies focused on predicting trends such as (based out of Newcastle Upon Tyne, where I am also based) providing trends workshops and written reports.

In terms of how these trends filter down through to the keywording process, we advise our clients to mediate between Creators, Art Directors and Keywording Managers to ensure new ideas, themes or trends are properly captured within the keyword metadata.

Currently, we are seeing a rise in gender reversal imagery, women in sport / work, men as primary care providers, transgender/LGBT portraiture and Digital Natives as well as a general trend towards Hygge (Danish/Norwegian obsession with “feeling cozy”) and Minimalism.

“We are seeing a rise in gender reversal imagery, women in sport…” – Clemency Wright

5. How do you envision the future of keywording in the coming 5-10 years?

There are some compelling advances within the AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine learning) fields that I am currently researching, and looking to partner on.

To me the future of keywording will involve a supervised (human-led) approach to AI/ML. The aim being to increase efficiency whilst maintaining accuracy and relevancy, something AI/ML simply cannot claim in its current state.

There is some very interesting work being done by and  that I feel will converge with the keywording methodologies we already employ in-house at

About Clemency Wright Consulting:

Clemency Wright Consulting are the UK’s leading provider of keywording services and consultancy.

Clemency Wright Consulting works with leading media and retail clients to increase the visibility of digital content and online revenue by at least 50%.

Using unique technology and methodology, they work with the world’s leading collections of travel, science and lifestyle content to:

  • Keyword images and video to dramatically increase visibility and revenue
  • Significantly increase the number of digital assets available for sale
  • Increase the retention of online business through the assurance of relevant and accurate search results
  • Create and implement bespoke keywording strategies that allow you to maintain growth


About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted five years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography

Check out my new photo review service, where I’ll help take your images to the next level and get them sold regularly!


    • Getting the balance between what to retain, and what to omit, can be tricky but if you consider the end user (how they search, what terms they use), and how a certain image might be used, then the process takes on far more weight. If you have an image of a boy holding a red balloon, wearing a green jumper, then you must decide whether to add ‘red’ or ‘green’ or both depending on what is most significant and whether you feel adding a colour keyword is likely to help, or hinder, customer search. Glad you enjoyed the interview, thanks for your comments.

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