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Jessica Korman

A former photo editor herself, Jessica now crafts the blog The F Stops Here, explaining what photo editors do and sharing important photo news. She also offers her expertise to the photography community on RESOLVE, with helpful posts like this one with tips to help editors find your photos.
Images from a search for "Las Vegas, Atlantic City, luck, risk, chance, chances" on

Images from a search for “Las Vegas, Atlantic City, luck, risk, chance, chances” on

Detail Your Descriptors

Most photographers know that properly captioning and keywording their photographs is crucial if it’s going to show up in an image search, either on a stock site, on their own site, or, increasingly, on a Google Image search. What may come as a surprise is just how detailed those descriptors need to be — down to the color of the model’s shirt.

“For me, a good caption describes the scene exactly.”

For example: Smiling brown-haired Caucasian woman drinking coffee, sitting at the kitchen table. Now go even deeper for the keywords. The woman is smiling, so be sure to include “happy” as a keyword. What does the kitchen look like? Is it modern? Traditional? What is she wearing? If she is wearing a turtleneck, include that since it suggests a specific season. In fact, include the season. All of these details could be important to the person looking for the photo.

Think Like an Editor

Another concept to consider when keywording is atmosphere and mood. A lot of photo editors are looking for an image to illustrate a specific concept. In addition to describing the scene, imagine what ideas your photograph could be used to convey.

For example, if you have a close-up of a pair of dice, think about what that could represent — Las Vegas, Atlantic City, luck, risk, chance, chances, (include singular and plural; photo editors have different searching “styles”).  Or a road sign, those can also be used to illustrate other concepts such as “choice,” “fork in the road,” “decision.” All of these should be included in the keywords.

To help with this more conceptual keywording, look at magazines and see how images are used to illustrate different stories and concepts. Begin thinking like a photo editor, not only when shooting, but also when captioning and keywording.

Check and Copy Edit — Again

One thing you can do to help those photo editors looking for your images is to spell things correctly. There have been times when I purposely misspelled something in a search in order to find what I was looking for (after spending hours trying different keywords). Double, triple, even quadruple check your keywords and captions, then have someone else “copy edit” them. You never know what errors a fresh pair of eyes may find — and who might find your images because of your diligence.

I connected with Jessica after she wrote an intriguing post for Black Star Rising bemoaning the lack of respect for photo editors in Israel, where she recently moved. Taking maters into her own hands, Jessica created a blog, The F Stops Here, that explains what photo editors do and highlights their importance. She has also agreed to lend her expertise to the photography community on RESOLVE, with helpful posts like this one about giving photo editors what they want from stock photos.

Images from a search for "woman + scale" on

As a photo editor for a weekly women’s lifestyle magazine, I frequently had to find the same kind of image over and over again. One of the common ones was what we termed “woman on scale.” There is a weight-loss story in just about every issue of every women’s lifestyle magazine on the stands, so the need for this particular image (and ones like it), is almost endless.

Unfortunately, there never seems to be enough in the various stock coffers to keep up with demand. Especially considering that magazines will avoid using the same image twice or using the same image as another lifestyle magazine. For photographers this means — even though it’s counterintuitive — you should be shooting more of what you see the most of.

“You should be shooting more of what you see the most of.”

Do Your Research

As a photo editor, I would have loved to see more variety of these recurring images (like “woman on scale”). Photographers should first look through multiple issues of the magazines they expect will buy their images and notice which images are repeated. That will give you a few kinds of photos to focus on. Then get to know the editorial styles of each magazine and create different versions of those photos to cater to each style. Some magazines will want a very young woman, some a woman who looks more like a mother. Conservative magazines will want her legs and arms to be covered; others might want her to have the latest, tightest workout clothes.

Change Everything

Photographers often offer several images of the same model in the same clothes, changing only her the tilt of her head or the position of her hands. If you were an editor, would you use two of these as if they were “different” photos? Didn’t think so. If you are using the same model, change her clothes between photos, especially the color palette. Change her hairstyle, make-up, and expressions. Make her look like a different woman. Change the background and include a white background. Most importantly, shoot the same image with different models, especially ones from different ethnic backgrounds (although two from of the same ethnicity is still better than one). Think of it almost mathematically. Try to come up with as many permutations as possible for the same image.

Think Like an Editor

If you’re working in the women’s lifestyle genre, there are several other pictures that you’ll notice recur frequently: woman at a computer, woman performing various kitchen duties, woman in the car, woman with money, woman shopping. Remember, in addition to shooting each scenario in different locations, also shoot them on a white background to make a clean background for text. When possible, consider not only the content of the photograph but also the way the graphic designer may need to work around it when laying out a page. If you can do that, and keep supplying the images that editors have to keep going back to look for, you’ll quickly move to the top of their go-to list.


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