How to Title your Photos, Writing Descriptions that Sell!

Microstock by its very 'public' nature a highly competitive place to be. While great images are most important, choosing the right site and keywording vital, having the right title and description should also be high on your list of priorities.

Images should be titled and described with catchy but not too cheesy descriptions and titles. Do keep in mind that the title tag is not a place for 'over zealous marketing speak' or clever puns. Titles in many cases should be literal. The description can be a little more conceptual, and is the place where you can be somewhat more 'artistic' about the image content and its potential uses.

In travel writing one of the most important lessons is not to use superlatives (greatest, best) and descriptions like beautiful, amazing etc, let the reader make their mind up is one of the golden rules. But when giving photos a description for microstock selling I think it's important to add some subtle sparkle, even if the phrase is a little clinched like "crystal blue waters of the..." so long as those waters really do look crystal blue in your photo.

sunset beach stock photo

beginners guides Case Study:

Title: Mexico
Description: Sunset over a beach,

That's a pretty dull way to title your photos, what about adding a little zap...

Title: Caribbean Sunrise palm tree silhouette
Description: A Beautiful daybreak over the golden sands of Punta Allen beach, Mexico.

Obviously the description must be 100% true, the sand must the golden, it must be a sunrise not a sunset etc. Admittedly this is an easy example, it's more difficult to come up with a description for something like a pencil and blank paper, perhaps go for a description: "pencil and note pad - ready to remember some important ideas".

I would steer clear of the subjective superlatives and avoid titles 'greatest marketplace in the world' or over emphasis like "a very professional looking office worker using the latest expensive mobile phone". I would also add the caveat that this is very much a matter of personal taste, and some photographers like to keep their descriptions exactly that, descriptive and not emotional. I recommend that your description should include at least one word related to abstract keywords like 'beauty, moody, sad, colourful, futuristic, homely, professional, future etc. to emphasise and reinforce the main concept of the image.


Why is this Important?

The right title and description allows your image to paint an idea is the buyers mind. Microstock or fine art the technique is very similar: clinch a sale with an emotion once a buyer is looking at the image.

More importantly this is also good for helping people to find your images, perhaps not on a microstock site search but in an internet search engine leading to your image at a microstock agency. Google likes nice literal image titles, it's what people search for on-line. A potential image buyer is likely to search for "photo man on beach", and a lot less likely to look for "Punta Allen Beach", literal is better. The above example could be titled "6am tropical daybreak", while that's true it says nothing more about the image, who would Google for "6am tropical daybreak" if they wanted a beautiful sunset or sunrise image of a beach?

Use the description and title fields varies by agnecy, they are used not only perform their own searches but also to create page titles relevant to how your images will appear in (internet) search engines.


You can read more about the related subject of image keywords and strategies for keywording in keyword your images efficiently.


mike121's picture

Useful article, I would not

mike121 (not verified) on Mon, 2008-05-26 11:40
Useful article, I would not spend too much time over thinking of a description and a title, but i'll see how things go writing titles that are little more descriptive in my next batch of uploads. I guess other images on microstock sites with clever description have caught my eye before now and I just never thought too much about. Keep the tips comming - Mike.
dsphoto's picture


dsphoto (not verified) on Tue, 2008-05-27 18:08
Do you actually have any evidence that people even care about your titles? You don't see them until they have searched and clicked on the picture?
Steve Gibson's picture

I don't have statistics

Steve Gibson on Wed, 2008-05-28 00:48
I don't have statistics compiled from photos with plain titles and photos with creative ones, no. If anyone can prove one way or the other then write your comments here. I do know for a fact that with a fine art photos a bland title like "Wiskey Beach at Sunrise" will sell less than something more emotive like "Wiskey Bay Dreaming" sure there are those who hate that sort of title, and its often used so that you can give different titles of the same images to different things - and it is a different marked for sure.Steve Gibson Editor

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