Footage of Shinto ceremonies, full-length red carpet shots, Siberian tigers running through snow – We want to ensure our customers can find what they’re interested in on Getty Images or our numerous sister sites, whether they speak English or Japanese, Portuguese or Swedish.

That means having the right keywords on our vast store of images, and having those keywords searchable in 19 languages (and counting).

So when the Search Data Strategy teams find out who made that outfit Nicki Minaj wore to the awards show, we need to quickly enable our customers to search for the show, the designer, Nicki Minaj or any combination or misspelling thereof, in any language.

Our challenge is to disentangle fishing nets from fishnet stockings. The keywords, anyway. We clarify whether the keyword a given image really needs is computer mouse, or the type that scares elephants. Whether editing individual keywords or building efficient processes to quickly automate keyword changes, our Search teams are constantly deciphering and creating keywords to improve our customers’ search results.

Our challenge is to know the Italian for ‘power walking’, the Dutch for ‘mermaid dress‘, or to point the Japanese word ‘Komorebi‘ to images of sunbeams streaming through foliage.

We work closely with partners to make it easy for customers to locate the remarkable images flowing into our Creative collections.

We scrutinise customer search logs, event bulletins and news sites to ensure new keywords — for anything from a rising star of politics to a hot new fashion label or breakthrough scientific research — are created in our ever-growing controlled vocabulary, which has 619,000 terms and synonyms in American English alone.

We scour our archives and original daybooks to discover the details behind long-hidden archival content, adding captions, dates and more to archival images that are topical, humorous or rich in history.

Every day, this hugely varied metadata work is done retroactively across our 65,000,000+ images, and in particular on the tens of thousands of brand-new images that enter our systems daily.

The Search Data Strategy team spans nine locations in three continents — from Japan to Calgary, Dublin to Seattle. Without the keywords we create and maintain, customers wouldn’t be able to find images of José Mourinho, 1941 photos of “Citizen Kane,” or videos of hummingbirds in super slow-mo.

Here are just a few of our more recent keyword additions:

Simple Living

Real body

Cloud computing

Hurricane Sandy


Augmented reality

Editor’s note: Patrick Carroll is a Senior Search Vocabulary Editor for Getty Images based in London.  

This article was originally published on the Getty Images Blog on January 4, 2013

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