by ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq

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What tagging system do you use for your photo collection?
I ask because tagging is the only way I can make sense of my large photo collection and I am trying to improve the effectiveness of my photo tagging.

For example, do you simply tag on the fly, creating tags to fit the photo? Do you have a well defined set of tags? Do you have a hierarchical tagging system? Do you have rules for the way you create or assign tags? Is there a better way of organising my photos than using tags?

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Can I upvote this question twice? :) – Reid Jan 20 '11 at 1:35
Tags are always a difficult thing to master. I always find it's best to ask yourself, "What would someone be searching for if they wanted to find this picture?", and then add the appropriate tags accordingly. – qJake Jan 20 '11 at 22:44
up vote 16 down vote accepted

I sometimes do a little bit of stock photography, where tagging is extremely important to get your images appearing in sales correctly.

I aim to tag all of my stock photos by thinking about the following:

  • People - who is in the shot?
  • Places - where was this taken? Include significant places, streets, towns, cities, countries, regions. Alternatively, use geotagging for this
  • Subject - what is the subject of the photo? For a ham sandwich, we could use tags of "bread", "sandwich", "meat", "ham", "food" and so forth
  • Photo type - is it portrait, landscape, macro, black & white, sport, street, abstract, or something else?
  • Adjectives - for example, the colour of the subject, size, movement, etc
  • Concepts - does the photo represent a particular concept? Examples include success, happiness, environmentally friendly, businesslike, and so forth

I should arrange these in hierarchies but I've fallen out of the habit.

Ultimately, though, tags serve the user. If the user is you (i.e. you want to be able to find photos later on), think about how you might search and what kind of things you would need to find.

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This what I want to do but lack the discipline ;) At least I do the first 3 with a few extra keywords for odd thinks like Abstract, Textures, Panoramas and Sources (for panoramas or HDR). – Itai Jan 19 '11 at 14:56
It takes a lot of time; I generally only tag really seriously for stuff that will be on sale or which is particularly good. But I am trying to geotag and person-tag everything, as those are what I tend to search for most often. – Maynard Case Jan 19 '11 at 15:30
I think this is a great answer, a good start. – BBischof Jan 19 '11 at 15:54

I wrote mine up here; it's gotten really nice feedback and been pointed to by a good number of bloggers, and it works really well for me.

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+1, most impressive – labnut Jan 19 '11 at 19:49
My first six months of photography (late 2010) are in a separate catalog but for this new 2011 catalog file, I'm inspired to go back while it's early in the year and do this. Thanks! – Nick Bedford Jan 19 '11 at 23:10
@chuqui - any chance you could add a brief summary of your blog post to this answer? – Philip Kendall Aug 15 '15 at 21:18

Maynard's answer gives a lot of specific information he uses for tagging and I agree with it, but for me it all boils down to this:

Try to think of every possible term someone might use when searching for which you think your image would be an appropriate result.

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I have a hierarchical set of tags. I try not to create many new tags. I use one hierarchy for the year, another for the place, another for people,... This way, my tags are more organized (I think). I use Adobe Lightroom 3.

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I use Picasa.

I import my images into a folder called "YYYY-MM-DD ". I don't usually use the actual date when the photo was taken, but use the date they're imported.

After I've done selecting the images I want to keep, I tag them with the lens used, person name, place, object etc.

These tags are then carried over when I upload to Flickr. Here's my tagcloud on Flickr.

I find tags great to use as you can be as descriptive as you like. I shoot a lot of manual lenses, so I find it interesting to keep that info in a tag. If I shoot a portrait, the most interesting thing there is the subject's name. I usually use a common tag across images if they're part of a "set" (holiday, birthday etc).

If you only use one tag, let that be a name or place.

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a very good service was until this summer: ProStockMaster . It was a very good service. You may found it at You could just type a word and the software was generating a cloud of words and so far. It was good. But now they ask for money :)

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