Everything you have to know about the perfect title / caption for your stock photos. Good and bad examples to avoid common mistakes.
It really matters what title you give your stock photos
Experienced stock photographers are well aware of the role of the appropriate titles (sometimes called captions) in selling images. My detailed guide on keywording shows that keywords basically determine if your images are discoverable, that is, whether customers find your great photos at all.
Well, the title or caption of the photos will help you get to the first page of the search result pages. This is because the search algorithm of the stock photography sites considers the title as the most important factor.
What you include (or forget to include) in the title will determine the future life of your image.
The captions and tags checklist of the British stock photo company Alamy is definitely a very useful help.
The length of your titles
Each stock photo agency determines the length of the title in a different number of characters. At Alamy, you need to summarize the content of your image in 150 characters.
What you should include in your titles is detailed below.
Many buyers search for stock photos not only on stock photo sites, but also on Google’s image search pages
Since the title will also appear to visitors on Google searches, and the search engine will determine the content of the image based on the title, always make sure that the title of your photo is a whole, meaningful sentence. Keyword stuffing or spamming does not work.
What should be included in the title of your stock photo?
The list below provides a commonly used formula for compiling titles. Of course, the rule is true here as well (as with keywording) that only relevant data should be included in the title. Focus on the subject of your photo because your customers will also look for it.
You have to enter the title in English, so always look for the language and words that native English photographers use in a particular subject. On the site of Alamy, if you type the keyword 'UK' in the search bar after the phrase that matches your topic, chances are you’ll find native English titles that you can analyze.
- Who is in the photo? Age, gender, origin? e.g. Caucasian toddler boy;
- What is s/he doing? e.g. standing
- What is in the photo? Common English name (also Latin name for animals or plants), material, style? e.g. Baroque stone window frame;
- When was the photo taken? Season, time of day, date (only if relevant, e.g. event)? e.g. at sunset in summer;
- Where was the photo taken? Country (state), town, street, event name, location? e.g. at the beach, Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, England;
A title compiled based on the above: A Caucasian toddler boy standing at the beach at sunset in summer, Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, England.
Titles that should never be given to stock photos
Mostly beginner stock photographers make the mistake of using abstract titles (e.g. Get Set Go!). That contains virtually no specific information about the image, making it impossible to find. Always imagine what words you would use to look for your own images.
In the list below, I have summarized the bad examples of titles / captions.
- Listing keywords. Keywords have their own place, the title is not for (listing) them.
- Poetic, artistic title. The title is the most important factor when searching, so it is extremely important that it be objective and descriptive.
- Too short title. Use the available number of characters as much as you can. The two-word title doesn't say enough about your image.
- General description of the subject, not specific to that photo. Always be specific: what we see in the picture?
- Same title for multiple photos or session. When you upload a photo session, there should always be enough differences between the images so that you can indicate it in the title. If the difference is minimal, select and upload only 2-3 images from that session (e.g. landscape, portrait, close-up).
- Clickbait title. The so-called clickbait titles on stock photo sites do not work. Avoid words that are not specific to the subject of your image (e.g. wonderful, fantastic, etc.).
The title (or caption) of a stock photo is the most valuable piece of data that, if you use it skillfully, you can experience a significant increase in sales. Be specific, unique and build this important sentence according to the basic questions: who, what, when, where?