Image SEO for Photographers and Other Visual Artists

A female photographer looking into the camera with one eye and looking at us with the other.

Photographers and other visual artists have a magnificent tool to show off their work these days, the Internet.

Everybody loves great photos and artworks so they spread basically by themselves.

Still there is a big difference between being successful on the Web as a photographer or visual artist and having your images scattered randomly over the Web. Let me explain it in more detail!

Own Your Images Online

Image SEO is a great tool to decide yourself how your work spreads on the Web.

Most good images get stolen and used without your permission

to generate ad revenue for the content thieves while you not only earn nothing financially but don’t getting any publicity either due to lack of proper credits. The best way to become successful is to

use your images as free advertising

for your name while earning money with professional services or premium products, selling your images for print purposes for instance.

Practice Image Optimization for Search and Social Media

In this post I want to focus on the ways of promoting your work over the Web to get links and publicity while at the same time curbing image theft of your works.

Add your email address to your social profiles. Put it on top where everybody can see it. The same advice applies to

  • Behance
  • Deviant Art
  • Flickr
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest

I often want to seek permission for use of images but do not find a way to contact the photographer or artist.

Where there is no way to ask or buy people will just take images without permission or ignore you.

I do the latter and search for other images instead. Also add “more at” links below each of your images on Flickr.

Do not use LinkedIn as the only way to contact you, only premium members can send you messages!

People relying solely on LinkedIn to get messages will get just get a tiny part of them.

Unless you don’t care provide an email address or at least let strangers send you a direct message on Twitter.

Use Behance and similar portfolio community sites and make sure to use you real name.

Also – as mentioned above – add your email and homepage address there so that people can contact you directly!

Another great showcase site you can share your photographs in your portfolio is Coroflot.

Add your website address or name to images. Add a text layer in Photoshop or using another tool saying something like or copyright by People who steal images tend to add their web address.

In the best case scenario you make sure that people understand the image is yours by saying something like your name, photography.

Share your images on image bookmarking sites like Pinterest and socialize with like minded users there.

In case you don’t submit them others will, without your permission and proper credits at worst.

Thus make sure you are the first and foremost who shares them with the proper credits and source.

Cut out the middleman e.g. Getty Images. Why? I’ve contacted Getty Images once and waited a week to seek permission to publish an image. I didn’t get a response beyond an automated “we get back to you” reply.

Also their payment structure is by now not really lucrative for content creators now.

You can also retain ownership of your images and decide on a case to case basis how much to charge.

On the flip side you can give away some images completely for free on sites like Instagram or Unsplash to get publicity and fame and finally some paid work through that.

Use “Search by Image” on Google to find out who uses and steals your images. TinEye is another “reverse image search engine” that allows you to search for an image just by uploading it or linking it. You don’t use keywords but only the image itself.

Use social media sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter etc. to spread your images yourself. Do not just limit yourself to Instagram and Facebook.

Reprimand users who steal your images. Smaller or lesser known social media sites Tumblr or Twitter are notorious for wide spread image theft.

Content thieves take images from Instagram or Facebook and share them as “theirs” on lesser used social media.

Most people who submit your images don’t care for copyright on earn money by stealing them and showing them along their ads. Take a closer look at

  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter

These sites are full of stolen images to rip off photographers and artists.

Use a CC license to control the use of your images. Creative Commons licenses are not about giving away your copyrights, they are about deciding yourself what copyrights you grant others. This is far better than letting people steal your images.

Let the people use the images with your permission and you get plenty of links, especially with those licenses requiring attribution.

Build your own homepage and display your images there. While many photographers aren’t web designers or can not afford expensive web design there are many services where you can set up a homepage easily.

Some of them are even specialized on image content. Without a homepage you will always depend on third parties like

  • Flickr
  • 500px
  • Behance

Flickr might ban you or delete your images. They did once they moved to a new business model after an acquisition.

Many images also simply get censored because they show parts of the human body. Flickr, 500px etc. are good to spread the word but not to represent you.

Don’t let Google Images steal your images. Add your website address to your photos so that whenever people “search” on Google and see them they remember that Google is not the source.

Most users just copy and paste from Google. On Pinterest you will often find images shared directly from Google.

Apply basic image SEO best practices on site to make people find your images on your website.

It’s not rocket science to add some human readable alternative text. Blind people only see that description.

Update: Use image specific link building techniques. You can even offer your works as stock photography in exchange for links.

Optimize for Search – No Matter How You Call it

These simple and often quite obvious measures will already provide you with plenty of links and publicity. It takes time to use all these tools.

Even adding your website address to your images can be quite tedious but you also can automate it. There are even WordPress plugins that do it by themselves.

Some people may not call these techniques image SEO at all but at the end of the day it is optimization for search.

In the age of social media image optimization about

  • visibility
  • findability
  • shareability

You want people to find, see and share your photos. No matter what you call it you want to reach as many people as possible with your work.