You would never put your art on display somewhere and then never tell anyone it was there right? If you have a website with your art on it, you just might be doing that.
Many artists are under the false assumption that simply by putting their art online that people will see it. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have to let people know about it.
One of the easiest ways to help people find your images is to make sure the search engines pick them up. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and all the others don’t read images very well (though they are getting better). It’s pretty tough for a computer to look at an image and know what it’s about, what kind of emotion it evokes, or even what kind of canvas it’s on. You can make it easier for them, however.
Here are three ways to help your images be found by the search engines, and by extension, the people who might buy your work. The images are all courtesy fans of TheAbundantArtist Facebook page, Facebook.com/TheAbundantArtist. You may also want to check out How to Photograph and Edit Your Images for Your Website.
Better Image Titles
When you take pictures or scan images, digital cameras and scanners default to numbers when saving the images with a title. Then you get file names like Picture 0778698u. When you upload an image to a website that image gets its own digital address (the URL). This one might be http://theabundantartist.com/Picture_0778698u if I left it as the default name.
The problem with this is that search engines read image URLs to get a clue as to what the image is about. So what I did was change the image name to Hand Thrown Porcelain Teapot. Now the Search Engine Sees http://theabundantartist.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Hand-Thrown-Porcelain-Teapot.jpg. There is descriptive text in that URL that the search engine can now read. Thanks to Lori Buff for the teapot image.
Alt attributes were developed as a way to help web browsers like Firefox or Internet Explorer display text substitutes for images when they couldn’t display the image. Search engines now use Alt Attributes as a another way to find out what the image is about and how relevant the image is to a search.
Your Alt Attributes should be simple and descriptive. For the image to the left here, I labeled the Alt Attributes as “Grateful Oil Painting on Canvas.” You can view Alt Attributes by right clicking on an image and choosing Image Properties.
Common website systems like WordPress or Blogger allow you edit Alt Attributes easily. If you are using something else, then the html tags are:
Thanks to Paula Manning Lewis for sharing her painting titled Grateful.
On Page Descriptions
Search Engines like Google have also indicated that they are using on-page elements to find out what an image is about. This is a bonus to you, because it means that telling the story of your painting, sculpture, or whatever actually helps you sell it.
You can put a paragraph-long story on the page where your art appears, talking about your inspiration for the image, what it means, and how it was made. Michael Cullen’s scary tree might have some text like this (note: I’m totally making this up and Michael should feel free to correct me here):
“Shot into the setting sun, then turned dark and menacing as I worked on it on the computer. The image was shot at Hyde Park in Chicago in Spring. I manipulated the shadows using Photoshop, deepening the blacks and dimming the colors. I wanted to evoke a Sleepy Hollow-esque feel from the tree, and the setting sun brings a strong sense of doom.”
All of the bolded words are things that people might search when looking for a picture of a scary tree (don’t actually bold your paragraphs – it’ll look as dumb as it does here). That first sentence was taken directly from Cullen’s page, and then I expanded on it.
You can’t just place your images on the web and hope that people will find your work. If you are serious about selling your work online then you have to put some more work into it. There are lots of things you can do in addition to what I’ve talked about here, but this is a good start.
Thoughts, questions, and additional tips welcome in the comments.