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36 Responses to “The most important part of a photograph”

  1. Chris says:

    I’d be interesting in volunteering… it’s in all our interests that the library looks as professional as possible, and when I have my hat on as a buyer for some projects, if a library throws up lots of poorly keyworded or low quality images, I judge the library as a whole, close the window and move on to the next library. If FotoLibra could create a volunteer admin access where images could easily be flagged via a drop down that then suspended and emailed the owner I’d certainly be happy to put some time in moderating.

  2. I can quite understand his frustration. AND,
    just look at the totally irrelevant images in the Wild Animal Picture Call!

    Come on photographers I think we need to pull our socks up all round.

  3. Barry Hitchcox says:

    Exactly. How long have I been saying this? But even Colin is not perfect!

  4. Ric says:

    God! After Jacqui built up the outrage-factor in the Newsletter, I was expecting something really outrageous. Colin echoes my own thoughts on some of the image titles and half- 8rsed keywording. Not that mine are perfect, I don’t think for a moment they are, but some people just don’t make the effort, and would probably be happier on Flickr. And that’s not to dismiss Flickr. I have an account or two there too.

  5. Michaela says:

    Interested in the description – perhaps this could be clarified more, as I give a description about the subject – do you mean you want here in the description how the photo is taken; lens speed etc? More confused now.

    Happy to volunteer to help on flowers wherever I can.

  6. David Williams says:

    Totally agree with Colin’s comments. Many images that I have seen are very badly keyworded – indeed to be honest many images are just BAD – full stop. As Fotolibra is ‘self-policing’ with regard to quality of images submitted and keywording – do some people have no pride atall in their work.

    I am an amateur photographer training to be a professional – but right from the word go have studied keywording and how to do it correctly and thoroughly. I’m sure others can do the same if they want to.

    Is it not possible for Fotolibra to introduce say a minimum of 25 keywords per image and to start ‘policing’ keywording and image quality?

    • Colin Pearson says:

      With respect David, I’m darned sure that any limits on keywords-per-picture would be self-defeating and illogical – in this context. On your ‘policing’ proposal however, perhaps we’ve got the beginnings here in this dialogue of a feasible scheme for ‘mutual nudging’ on our metadata. (I’d hope ‘nudging’ would be all that’s needed! “Policing” implies some reluctance to ‘conform’, and that’s not where we’re at here I think!)

      I would relish the chance to ‘nudge’ some of fotoLibra’s (FL’s) fine photographers, although I’d _strongly_ recommend that all ‘nudging exchanges’ be relayed indirectly through the FL team, to be at least implicitly endorsed by them, and even perhaps to be ‘UN-nudged’ on appeal.

      Let’s promote the entirely credible idea of ‘teamwork’ among FL photographers!

      • Gwyn Headley says:

        We do have a minimum of 4 keywords per image which is absurdly low, but was imposed when some people were attempting to upload images without any keywords at all.
        I’m afraid the BAD images were largely my own work when starting the picture library. One day I will get around to removing them.

  7. Len Sparrow says:

    Surely the description is just describing what you can SEE in the image. eg young woman in a white bikini sunbathing on a deserted beach NOT is this a future page 3 girl?

  8. Nicolas says:

    Sure, would Love to Volunteer!

    Underwater Photography, Engineering, Computers and IT as well as Medical Instrumentation and BioMedical Engineering, and of course my favorite subject: AVIATION.

  9. Ade Davis says:

    I try to keep keywords small, sharp and to the point, and I have noticed some of my aviation pieces being renamed or keywords added (is this an auto update?). However, I have ended up with some photos in the wrong category, planes in insects etc, and I believe this largely due to the category tabs not resetting and placing the photo in the category of the last one I processed. I know I should check, and now I do, but others may not be aware. Is a prompt possible, advising us on our chosen category? It may a small fix that makes large difference. Ade Davis

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Hello Ade — you’ve been Smedlied. Colin is our aviation expert and is charged with enhancing our aviation imagery keywording to increase the chances of the image being found, and therefore the possibility of a sale being made.

      Category tabs are designed to remember the last category you placed an image in, and offer you that same category — even after you log out and log in again. Please let Support know precisely what you see. We’ve heard no other instance of this.

  10. Nick Jenkins says:

    As Gwyn knows (and Jacqui) this is a bete noir for me too – to the point where I used to fire off individual emails – “who are you looking at” – what the hell is the submitting photographer thinking??? What researcher is likely to feed that in for a photo response?? Colin – you were too gentle.
    The deputy Furhrer (JN) has pointed this failing out so many times in Newsletters too…
    I am happy to pitch in when time allows and my areas are more location (UK) based than scientific.
    Surely to God, such utterly awful keywording is a photographer own goal?
    We need to really move on this for our and fotoLoibra’s benefit – COME ON!!!

    • Nick Jenkins says:

      Sorry for typos – only on second coffee…
      The sentiment is there though.
      I would like to think more guidelines might help, but somehow…

      • Nick Jenkins says:

        Just found one titled Garfield, with keywords:
        Cat; Cats; Ginger Cats
        Who is going to be likely to search on Garfield? WHY not also include keywords such as feline, cat, domestic cat, contentment, purring, pet, family pet, etc?
        The only words here for someone to search on are:
        Garfield – unlikely
        MAYBE someone somewhere produces keyword advice – Google?

        • Nick Jenkins says:

          I wrote this a while back and sent to fotoLibra – not sure what happened to it!

          Dear fellow contributors,

          Every so often I run through the pictures I have on fotoLibra just to remind myself what I have on sale. There are several reasons for this:

          is it a good image?
          are there other, better ones?
          is my keywording revelant?
          are my keywords spelled correctly
          is my keywording up to date
          do my keywords accurately reflect what the picture researcher will see when they find the shot?
          have I cut/pasted a chunk of words out of Wikipedia or similar?
          are there latin captions against any flora and fauna and if so are they correct/spelled correctly
          are my titles meaningful and relevant to the picture or me just trying to be funny?

          In other words I try to imagine I am the researcher and to understand how easy or difficult I am making it for them to find EXACTLY what they are looking for.

          For instance, there is an unbelievable number of images on fotoLibra with titles such as “Bad Hair Day”, “Who are you looking at?” etc etc. If YOU were a picture researcher how likely do YOU think it would be that you would search on these?

          There is plenty of advice available on fotoLibra and Heaven knows, Jacqui Norman frequently raises these issues in Newsletters, yet there are still SO many good, saleable pics there that will NEVER sell because of daft, careless or ill-thought through captioning and key wording! Why are our pictures on fotoLibra? To sell reproduction rights? Yes! So why do we then go and make it so difficult to get our work seen? It can be the best shot of an aardvark in the world, but if we caption it as “Armour Man”, and then mis-spell, inaccurately keyword, add irrelevant keywords and maybe the worst of all – copy a chunk of data about aardvarks off the internet, should we reasonably expect that image to be found?

          Just check out the list above every so often. If the answer to one or more is no, do you wonder why that great image has never sold?

          After all, if more researchers ENJOY looking for images on fotoLibra, they will keep coming back, fotoLibra will sell more and our main objective will have been met – our pictures will SELL!

          • Gwyn Headley says:

            Nick, you know I agree with everything that’s said here, but fotoLibra is not (yet) a Statutory Body so we cannot impose penalties on errant keyworders. Some people simply can’t spell, so we introduced the TypoChecker. Fine — until they override or ignore it.
            That for me is the cardinal crime. But even if we had statutory powers I hear they’ve now banned thumbscrews. Rats.

  11. Colin Pearson says:

    (See also my reply above to David Williams)
    I’d be glad to help in honing fotoLibra’s body of metadata, and I reckon that I could do so without needing to declare a particular specialisation in advance!

    Surely the majority of potential metadata fixes are in the curious, corny Descriptions, and in the flawed use of _non-specialist_ keywords?

    Are we likely to to find a ‘matching’ or ‘buddy’ specialist-volunteer for every one of the specialisations featured among fotoLibra’s pictures?

    Perhaps invert this pre-requisite, and insist instead that putative members of a ‘honing team’ must (absolutely must) avoid offering corrections on areas in which they have no (credible) specialisation? Then, where a correction _is_ proposed in a specialist area, it will carry a fairer assumption that the proposer ‘speaks’ with some justification and with at least some knowledge of that field?

    It’d be a delight to see such a scheme in place, and in just a few short weeks we’d see a “Notice of Redundancy” announced for the roles of ‘Temporary Honing Team Members’!

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Thank you as well, Colin. We particularly need experts in specialist subjects, which reminds me of the most crushing answer to a “What gives him the right to correct me keywords?” reponse.
      This is amazing and very funny, and I recommend everyone to read it!

  12. David Williams says:

    I believe ‘nudging’ is a great idea – but to be frank, maybe a little too ‘soft’ on guilty parties.

    Anyone that submits a badly blurred (seen quite a few!) image/s and then adds insult to injury by wrong or poor keywording – should not be here.
    Yes, they will suffer because their image/s will not sell BUT sadly it will also drag down the overall perception of Fotolibra’s standards. In other words it makes us all look bad.

    It is hardly rocket science after all!
    Fotolibra provides adequate info and the various boxes are (in my humble opinion) are very easy and straightforward to fill in.

    A look at keywording on various other sites (Istock is good for this) will provide a great lesson in how to do it properly and how it SHOULD be done. I had no prior or previous knowledge or experience of keywording – just taught myself by lots and lots of research.

    I think Nick’s checklist is a great idea and should stop any of us becoming complacent.

    It takes me 15 to 20 minutes per image on average – plus time spent on Wikipedia (researching history etc).
    If one can do it so can all.

  13. Gary says:

    Gwyn – you’re not seriously contemplating letting a series of selected volunteers actually tamper with other contributors’ keywords are you?

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Yes we are, but there’s no tampering done. If any improvements are made, we see them before they go live. We ourselves enhance and correct keywords on the site all the time.
      Once again, read and enjoy this little exchange:

      • Gary says:

        Sorry Gwyn but this development is of some concern to me.

        If what you’re intending is for a panel of volunteer contributors to point out to photographers potential errors or improvements to their keywords etc then that’s fine and to be welcomed.

        If however you are intending to give these volunteers the power to actually go in and alter things without telling the photographer concerned then that is not fine at all.

        I don’t claim to be perfect and I welcome it if someone points out to me an error in my keywording and descriptions.

        But I spend a lot of time preparing images and if we are now going to be in a situation where someone I don’t know is messing around with the metadata because they think they know better (I usually find they don’t) and then I don’t even get told then frankly I will probably close my Fotolibra account.

        My comments are not aimed at those who have posted here but who vets these “experts”? Are you just going to take their word that they know what they are talking about?

        Even if they know their subject it doesn’t make them an expert on keywording per se – some of the best specialist photographers I know are frankly crap at keywording their images. They get so obsessed with putting all sorts of impressive words in that they miss the obvious search words that are going to get their images seen by potential buyers.

        I discovered an aviation image I uploaded had been re-keyworded on Fotolibra a while back and the end result was poor – some useful additional words had been added but others had actually been ERASED which were the whole damn point of the image. End result – the image no longer shows up on the very searches it was OBVIOUSLY supposed to cater for. And no-one bothered to tell me.

        I’ve seen the orchid story but in this instance the photographer was consulted before a change. That’s fine, I’ve no problem with that, but you seem to be indicating more than that process is in the pipeline.

        On the other side of the coin I could give you the recent following example of the potential dangers of letting self-appointed “know it alls” loose on metadata.

        I was recently contacted directly by a contributor who rather patronisingly insisted that on some photos I had incorrectly indicated that Tunbridge Wells is in Kent.

        He swore it was in Sussex and that he should know as he grew up in south-east England and often travelled in Kent and Sussex.

        He persisted in his claim that I was wrong despite the fact I was born and raised in Tunbridge Wells, educated at a Kent County Council primary and secondary school in Tunbridge Wells and have a wife who works in the town for, you’ve guessed it, Kent County Council.

        I told him to **** off. My wife says I have a way with words!

        Imagine how happy I’d be if I’d discovered he had actually altered my keywords.


        • Gwyn Headley says:

          By the Shades of the Mount Ephraim! How can people be so dogmatic? And so wrong?

          But they are, and we have to deal with it.

          We select the vetters. They work to improve the site for all members. You may not know that every single image uploaded to fotoLibra has been vetted by both machine and human. Many don’t make it through.

          Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? We do. The vetters work with our approval. We will enhance keywords in house ourselves when we see room for improvement, or actual mistakes. Manhatten is popular.

          That simply gets corrected. However if a member keywords her photograph Aimophila ruficeps and a vetting expert says it’s actually Spizella passerina, then we ask the member what she thinks before any changes are made.

          If your keywords are already perfect, it won’t affect you.

          • Gary says:

            I see you have some knowledge of Tunbridge Wells Gwyn – and, it would seem, you are a fan of the Roman poet Juvenal (or, as I like to keyword him, Decimus lunius luvenalis).

            Personally I find the American philosopher and Nobel Laureate Nicholas M Butler more to my taste – “An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less.”

            Seriously though you have tip-toed around my concerns a bit.

            Your “vetting” is essentially going to be you trust them to be the “experts” they claim to be – hardly foolproof.

            And you’ve skirted around my most pertinent and specific question:

            Will these “experts” be able to actually alter keywords / captions themselves and if so will the photographer affected be notified.

            (As opposed to just making suggestions on which the photographer is consulted).

            My keywording may not be perfect (as Thomas Fuller opined: “A good garden may have some weeds”) but I’d back it against so-called experts I’ve not met and of whom I know little or nothing.

            I’m not investing time and, let’s not forget, money (We pay Fotolibra) in submitting images if volunteers are fiddling about with my images without my knowledge.


          • David Williams says:

            This is something I feel strongly about – as it seems on most sites there are a number of ‘lazy’ keyworders. As I mentioned in my earlier post poor keyworders could learn a lot from Istocks keywording. Yes, a bit too ‘American’ but in majority of cases very thorough. The keywords on there are not hidden – so it is an excellent source of study!

            I wouldn’t mind being informed that keywords needed improving or altering, but, apart from spelling mistakes, wouldn’t be happy my words being changed without permission.

            In my opinion poor keywording is just laziness – as on Fotolibra it is very straightforward and the system coughs up any words it doesn’t know and asks you to confirm or otherwise. So no excuse.

            Surely an email to ALL Fotolibra photpgraphers – outlining the keywording concerns we are discussing would do the trick – or at least help wake people up. Incorporating Nick’s list would be even better. As soon as it is pointed out to sellers that poorly keyworded images won’t sell – I’m sure many will ‘get their fingers out’!!

            On a slightly different but related point – Gwyn you say all images have been vetted anyway by human or machine and some not allowed through. That being the case, why are there a number of badly blurred images? Composition is I believe a matter of personal taste – but poorly technically shot/blurred images should not be allowed.

            In the end everybody only wants one thing – more sales – meaning more money for Fotolibra and for photographers.

  14. Paul says:

    I’d be happy to volunteer to help out with improving the site, I hestitate to call myself an expert at anything (pretentious, moi?) but I have a decent knowledge of British history.

  15. Thank you everybody for your ongoing comments, I find myself in agreement with about 98% of them.

    Yes, I do delete some keywords I find mainly because they are not applicable to the image they have been applied to or because they are simply meaningless from a photographic point of view. One author, for instance, uploads his pictures about 40 at a time, not all of them to do with aviation. Before uploading he apparently works out some keywords for each image and then adds them all together into one mass which he copies and pastes into each picture’s profile. Sometimes he gives them all the same title, too!

    Another submits a lot of historic images and his write-ups label every biplane in British military markings as a WW1 Sopwith Camel of the RAF! This ignores the facts that there were a great many other types of biplane apart from the Camel, that the RAF was not in existence for 90% of WW1 or that the Camel was largely replaced by the Snipe, SE5A and other types by the end of that conflict.

    I submit that a lack of knowledge of aviation is best served by supplying only a few keywords that the author positively knows to be accurate rather than 40 that have little or no relevence. If you only upload one keyword make it the registration or serial number of the craft as so much extra information can be obtained from this type of reference.

    It should be no surprise that large numbers of single engined aicraft are identified as “Spitfires”
    or that many light aeroplanes are considered to be “Tiger Moths”. Some authors may not appreciate that seaplanes, floatplanes and flying boats are not the same things and that some aircraft that these are applied to are none of them or landplanes as well. Amphibians and triphibians for example. Hovercraft, so long a subject of confusion, these days are usually classified as boats.

    Some words are best avoided in aviation keywords. “Plane” is a good example. By definition it means a flat surface, a two-dimensional object or a wood-working tool. Much better to use the more descriptive “aeroplane, airplane, monoplane, biplane, triplane, multiplane, sesquiplane, floatplane or seaplane”. For similar reasons it’s best to avoid “chopper” and “egg-beater” when referencing helicopters. It needs to be pointed out to some uploaders that keywords such as “terrific, amazing, lovely, daredevil, wow!” or similar are mostly meaningless to researchers and only serve to slow down search engines.

    Although the world-wide web can be extremely useful in identifying subjects it is not helpful to cut and paste paragraphs or whole development and history pages from Wikipedia into the keyword or description boxes when a description such as ” An Airbus A321 of Air France pictured being turned round on a sunny day at Gatwick Airport” would do the job admirably. fotoLibra is an image library not an encyclopaedia! Remember that if you can find information on the web so can others, including the researchers that are looking for your picture.

    I will be the first to admit that I am not infallable! I do make mistakes! I have changed the data on some of my own photos several times as these come to light. But…………… I am always happy to explain why I make changes, although to do so in every case would slow down the moderation process so much that it would be pointless taking any action at all.

    • Gary says:

      Good evening Colin.

      Firstly I would like to applaud your willingness to bring your aviation expertise to the table to improve keywording etc on the site.

      Much of what you say make sense, but not all – and this is why I take strong issue with this idea that volunteers – including yourself – are apparently to be allowed to mess around with other contributors’ images without that contributor being told.

      Someone who calls an aircraft a spitfire when it clearly is not is clearly an idiot / lazy / both. But a good example of where someone with your expertise can rectify an error.

      But you go on to give further advice which, with respect, I find ridiculous.

      For example “plane” is best avoided. Come on – this is a common search term and it should be included in the keywords. If you doubt this just go and look at Alamy measures – at least 38 searches for plane and another 18 for plane taking off in the last 12 months.

      Similarly chopper – another common search term which should be on any helicopter image.

      It doesn’t matter that the definition may strictly be more accurately applied to something else – the fact is that buyers use these terms even in contexts you may think, and which may indeed be, wrong.

      As for your suggestion that if only one keyword be used (I imagine this is slightly tongue in cheek) it should be the serial / reg number that’s just ridiculous.

      Seriously, how often is a potential buyer going to enter a specific serial / reg number compare to a more generic “plane” or similar search?

      My point is this – I disagree with you on such issues and we can argue the toss but I strongly object that your opinions on keywording (as opposed to actual spitfire type errors) mean you can tamper with my, or others’, keywords.

      Particularly when apparently I will not be told it has happened.

      Your expertise in aviation does not qualify you as an expert in all aspects of keywording – again, with all due respect.

      Another point, this time for Gwyn – the issue of bad spelling.

      Sometimes it pays to include a mispelt keyword and the Manhattan / Manhatten example is a good one.

      The fact is that buyers are often p**s poor at spelling – it makes sense to include the wrong version as well as the right one.

      I’m not in business to educate buyers – I’m in business to sell them pictures.

      Removing the wrong spelling of Manhattan (if the correct spelling is in there as well) is bad business.


      • I have taken on board what you say Gary, and a lot of it makes sense. I value comments like this although I may not agree 100% I shall be thinking along slightly different lines in future.
        My comment about serials was meant to say that when an author really has no idea what the picture is of, if the serial or registration marks are uploaded as keywords then I (or any one of many others, I imagine) will be able to identify the subject more precisely and supply some appropriate additional keywords. The registration/serial is often visible on an original photo but not on the smaller images available on the site and is often obliterated by the fotoLibra watermark.

        • Gary says:

          Hi Colin.

          The world would be a dull place if we all agreed all of the time.

          With respect to the reg/ serial it makes perfect sense to have it as one of the keywords. I’m not disputing that.

          Best wishes,


          • Gary says:

            Ps “sesquiplane” – great word, I’d never come across that one before so I’ve learnt something!