SEO for Photographers: Mastering Image Descriptions from IMAGO Experts

In the digital age, the visibility of your photographs online can be as crucial as the images’ quality. As a photographer, especially if you're partnering with platforms like IMAGO, understanding how to craft effective image descriptions is essential. These descriptions enhance discoverability through the site’s internal search and play a pivotal role in attracting traffic through SEO. Whether your focus is on editorial images, sport, archive, or creative stock photos, mastering the art of writing image descriptions and the IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) standards not only enhances the organization and accessibility of image data but also elevates your visibility.

Our team would like to give you some recommendations on how to write an accurate image description. Whether you focus on editorial, sport, archive, or creative stock photos, intending to guide you and ensure the best practices.

Writing Descriptions for Editorial and Sports Images:

Editorial images typically accompany articles and are used in news media. They are factual, timely, and context-specific, aimed at providing a visual representation of current events. On the other hand, Sports photography captures moments from sports events and games. For these type of photos, keep in mind:

  1. Contextual Relevance: Ensure the description aligns with the accompanying story to enhance the image's relevance, explaining the scene and its importance to the narrative.

  2. Clarity and Accuracy: Focus on including precise details like names, locations, and dates, using specific terms for clearer understanding.
  3. Conciseness: Keep descriptions brief, avoiding unnecessary repetition and focusing on essential information.
  4. Objective Tone: Maintain a neutral tone, avoiding bias to ensure the description remains factual and unbiased.
  5. Incorporate Keywords: Identify the keywords related to the event or the person, integrate them naturally into the description, and use them in the tags. 

Editorial Example:

Politics image

Description: President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron receives Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia, at the Palais de Elysee in Paris NEWS 03 05 2024

Keywords: News, Politics, 2024, Macron, France, President, Kallas, Estonia, Prime Minister. 


Sports Examples:

Lando Morris Formula 1 image

Description: 04 NORRIS Lando, McLaren F1 Team MCL38, in action during the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix 2024, 6th round of the 2024 Formula One World Championship, WM, from May 3 to 5, 2024 on the Miami International Autodrome, in Miami, United States of America.

Keywords: Motorsport, F1, Formula 1, Gand Prix, GP, Miami, USA, United States of America, Action 



Description: Manchester, England, 5th May 2024. Lauren Hemp of Manchester City (L) is challenged by Emily Fox of Arsenal during the FA Women s Super League match at the Academy Stadium, Manchester.

Keywords: Soccer, Football, Women, Manchester City Women v Arsenal Women, Super League, The FA Women, Action


Writing Descriptions for Creative Images:
Creative images are used across various media, from advertising to art galleries, where the primary goal is to evoke emotions or promote products. Unlike editorial images, creative photographs are less about factual reporting and more about conveying a message or feeling.

  1. Use Descriptive Language: Employ vivid language, highlighting key visual elements like colours, mood, and significant details.

  2. Describe Actions: If the image shows action, describe what's happening to convey the scene's dynamics.

  3. Detail Visual Elements: Focus on major visual components such as the subject, setting, and any noteworthy attributes like lighting or unique features.

  4. SEO Considerations: Integrate relevant keywords naturally into your description to improve search engine visibility.
  5. Potential Uses and Audience: Mention how the image can be utilised (e.g., marketing, editorial content) and consider the target audience to tailor the description appropriately.

Creative Example:

Stock image description

Description: Young girl covers face with hands while sitting on bus seat Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Keywords: Model released, window school bus America, person trip to sit school girl smart back elementary fall american childhood girl young small hand seat transport kindergarten, back to school, face anxious, window, Herbst, autumn, school bus, rest,  America, person, Kinder, children, Reise, trip, Personen, people, to sit, Reisen, travel, schoolgirl, first, smart, Autobus, bus, back, camp, elementary, inside, fall, female, American, concept, childhood, preschool, education, young, time, small, little, hand,  transport, ride, back to school, school, blonde, hands, play, hide, face, scared, anxious, sit, nervous, sitting, US, summer, Tag, day, back-to-school


Writing Descriptions for Archive Images:

Archive images are historical photographs that serve as a visual record of past times. These images are crucial for educational purposes, documentaries, and publications that aim to reflect on history.

1. Identify the Basics

  • Who: Identify any notable individuals and their roles.
  • What: Summarize the main action or event in the image.
  • Where: State the location, as specific as possible.
  • When: Mention the date or the historical period.

2. Provide Historical Context

  • Event Context: Give a brief background on whether the image is tied to a historical event.
  • Cultural or Social Significance: Describe any relevant cultural, social, or political contexts.

3. Use Appropriate Terminology

  • Respectful Language: Employ accurate and respectful language.

Archive Example

Archive image description

Description: West Berliners gathered near war ruins in Berlin to watch a U.S. Air Force transport plane. The Berlin Airlift supplied the city with food and fuel for a year during the Soviet blockade of all land routes to West Berlin from June 1948 to May 1949. 

Keywords: History, Historical,20th century, 1940s, Germans, Germany, European, West Berlin, American, United States, USA, Candids, Politics, Cold War, Blockades, Airlifts, Aviation, Crisis, Geschichte, Historisches, 20 Jahrhundert, 1940er Jahre, Deutsche, Deutschland, Europa, West-Berlin, Amerikaner, Vereinigte Staaten, USA, Candids, Politik, Kalter Krieg, Blockaden, Luftbrücken, Luftfahrt, Krise


Best Practices for All Image Types

Use Relevant Keywords: Choose keywords that describe the image clearly and that potential buyers might use. Integrate these naturally into the description and avoid overloading; reserve excess keywords for tags.

Informative Captions: Ensure captions are clear, direct, and contain only necessary details. They should be objective and neutral, focusing solely on what is visible.

Tagging for Precision: Use both keywords and related terms to enhance searchability.

Include Technical Details: Provide information about the image's resolution, format, and any licenses.

Spell Check: Ensure accurate spelling, especially for names of important people, places, or events.


IPTC Standards and Their Importance

The International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) sets standards that help organize and transmit information effectively via metadata. As a photographer, and especially if you are an IMAGO partner, these are the important categories you should keep in mind:

  • Byline-Credit: The photographer's name.
  • Caption: An accurate description of what the image depicts.
  • Keywords: Relevant search terms and tags.
  • Date Created: The correct date when the picture was taken.
  • Special Instructions: Any necessary information about Model or Property Releases.
  • Original Transmission Reference: Original picture ID if needed.


By mastering these techniques and understanding the importance of IPTC metadata, you, as a photographer, can ensure your images are not only seen but also effectively communicated. Whether capturing a fleeting moment on the sports field, creating a visually stunning advertisement, or preserving a historical event, the right description can make a significant difference in the impact and reach of your imagery.

If you are interested in becoming one of our Partner Photographers, fill out this form, and our Content Partner Team will contact you. We are always happy to welcome new photographers and bring your images to our clients all over the globe. 

Carsten Brandes, Sven Pehrs and Amadeja Plankl



Component 7-Jan-16-2024-01-51-47-3639-PM


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