Where do we start with keywording our images? I've had stops and starts and wasted a lot of time and effort trying to become a keyword ninja. I'm not certain what status I've attained but I have learned a lot in the effort. So, I present here some criteria on creating an effective and useful set of keywords:

  1. Simplicity: Don't try to create a comprehensive keyword list all at once. You're going to learn, with time, which keywords are important. Start with the obvious keywords, ones that you know you'll use.
  2. Organization: How might you want to sort and find and organize your images? You're not adding keywords just for the sake of making work for yourself. You are tagging your images with words or phrases that are pertinent to the way you think about photography.
  3. Interests: Are you a bird lover? If so, your bird keywords might be detailed and organized in a meticulous hierarchy. Perhaps you love food or travel (or both). Think of how keywords might help you organize your photos according to things you love in life.
  4. Projects: I use this criterion more than any other. If I'm working on a show or a book or a web gallery I will create a keyword for the project and assign it to any photos that might belong in it.
  5. Hierarchy: Most asset-management software will allow you to nest your keywords. That way you can create broad keywords with more specific and pertinent keywords within these categories. "Birds" might contain species. "Projects" would contain specific shows that you've done. "People" would have names of your friends and family. And so on. I love being able to organize my keywords this way. It gives me a sense of peace and organization to my myriad images.
  6. Production: Sometimes I make a new image that serves a particular production need or that is part of a greater whole. Maybe a specific image will be used as a textural overly in a composite image. Another might be used as a background for text on a web page. It's helpful for me to have keywords such as "Texture" and "Print" and "Background" for such images.

Okay, that should get you started. Start slowly and let your keyword list evolve with time. Remember that each keyword you create becomes a responsibility. You then have to be aware of that keyword every time you look at a photo. This is not to discourage you but to urge you to be thoughtful as you create your list. Your keywords will become incredibly valuable to you so create them with care.