Friday, October 14, 2016

How To Unravel the Mysteries of a Keyword Search

Providing the ultimate 'shopping' experience for our customers has always been important at Vital Imagery Ltd. To that end we've recently added LiveChat to our websites so that people who have a quick question while browsing clipart can reach out immediately.

It's been an interesting exercise, of course — people using the feature for play time for example.  However, when someone is seriously interested in an answer to a legitimate query, there is great satisfaction for the support staff in being able to respond in a timely manner. 

One of the most frequent requests has been for assistance in finding a particular image or photo. The quandary for us is to determine if laziness or intimidation are at heart.  If it's the former, and people just can't be bothered, we're happy to help as much as we can. If it's the latter, however, we need to find a way to help people feel less overwhelmed by the incredible amount of content.

For this reason, I've decided to come back once again to the topic of keywords. In my years at a community newspaper, finding graphics was a part of the job that could be frustratingly time-consuming. Particularly before the introduction of online graphics services.  Way back in the good old days, with deadlines looming, searching for a visual element to accompany a story or advertisement involved leafing through the enormous clipart tome. Hundreds of pages of multiple images, sorted in various categories, were perused before the appropriate one was discovered.

Now, however, with a few simple words and a couple of clicks, the number of results should be minimized. In a perfect world anyway.

Ensuring that the hunt for the perfect image is as efficient as possible means attaching 'keywords' to it. While it might seem a simple task, those who do it conscientiously have  much to consider before putting fingers to keyboard. When first looking at an image, keyworders should consider its potential — how might it be used, who might be interested in it and what steps are required so a diverse group of clients can find it easily.

Of course, since no one sees the world the same as any other person, even the most basic images can be open to interpretation. For example, when searching for 'rat' it would be likely to find hassled, harried businesspeople as well, since the word would be added for the purpose of those looking for an image to depict 'rat race'. 

Ultimately, because there are many variables and variations to be considered when keywording, people taking the time to search should keep in mind that what narrows a search for one might broaden it for others. For instance, in the above example, putting 'rats' rather than 'rat' into the search box should get rid of the dudes in suits.

It's beneficial then to use all of the tools at your disposal, too. On sites such as iCLIPART.com, iPHOTOS.com and Clipart.com every effort is made to provide options to help customers separate the boys from the girls so to speak. For instance the first link shows the results from a simple keyword search for boys. As you will see there will be women and girls in this as well.

iPHOTOS Results for Boys

After using the Advanced Search 'Exclude' option to take away girls and females from the results this is what you get:

iPHOTOS.com Advanced Search for Boys

You can also search for black and white only or colour, segregate by specific categories or by orientations.

The important thing to remember is that keywording is a human science. Also with thousands of images being added to the sites weekly,  to ensure content is always fresh and exciting, it can take time for staff to get them properly keyworded.  I guarantee though that with patience and the right tools finding your clipart shouldn't take too much effort.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fantastically Spooky Photoshop Tutorials for Halloween

It was Thanksgiving Monday — one of those glorious Canadian autumn days. Temperatures were just cool enough to freshen the air, but not so much that folks wanted to hide indoors. It's what we routinely call sweater weather.

The colourful collage of changing foliage, the sky's pretty azure blue and the brilliant blaze of the sun were the perfect combination to celebrate a day intended for gratitude and counting one's blessings.

Our large family gathering had been held Sunday, so this day found my husband and me with some hours of down time, a few of which we decided to spend in the company of our younger daughter, her husband and their charming two-year-old. Bean, as she has been affectionately named since her in utero days, is our free spirit. Prone to breaking out her dance moves in public places and displaying her version of fashionista in tutus and rubber boots, she is a constant source of amusement.

Monday was no exception as she was only too happy to show off yet another nifty outfit. In this case something brown, woolly, clawed and spiked. A casual comment about Halloween found her happily fetching her new costume for Mama to put on. Within minutes the "scary dinosaur" (her words not mine) made her appearance, and with dimpled grin and giggling snarl she did her best to terrify us.

There are still plenty of days before she gets to take her act on the road, yet signs of the imminent arrival of other dinosaurs, not to mention ghouls and goblins, witches and warlocks are all around. These will only increase now that Thanksgiving's behind us.

Halloween really is a visual event. The creepy countenances of carved jack-o-lanterns, wispy tendrils of ghostly apparitions,  creepy skeletons suspended from invisible strings create eerie vignettes on porches as they await the visits of tiny trick-or-treaters.  There are the terrifying masks and assorted costumes depicting everything from pooches to princess, that are displayed in retail outlets.

From decorated homes and storefront windows, to promotional materials and classroom activities, ghostly themes and spooky designs are in the the minds of parents, merchants, teachers and tiny tots.

These are the images that inspire the occasion. And for folks who like to play in Photoshop there are always a variety of fun tutorials out there that will inspire some Halloween magic. Whether it's a graphic element to serve as a starting point, a photo alteration or a creepy background to which you can add text for ads, flyers or posters,  there are many ideas online.

With the holiday being so visual parties are among the activities that are enjoyed so invitations and decorative elements can also be created with a little help from Photoshop. There's absolutely no reason to fear you won't be able to find something to raise the bar on scary.

Here's a one-stop shopping guide to some terrific tutorials to help you dress up your Halloween projects:

Design a Halloween Invitation in Photoshop

Creepy Halloween Tutorials

16 Halloween Photoshop Tutorials

17 Photoshop Tutorials

20 Creepy Halloween Photoshop Tutorials

Design a Halloween Poster in Photoshop