How To Save Time in Stock Photography With Upload CSV

This article details how to provide keywords, title and other metadata to stock photography platforms for uploaded stock photos or videos using the “Upload CSV” method.

This method is commonly accepted by major stock photo websites. Among them are Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Getty Images, Pond5 and Alamy and others. Doing so eliminates a lot of manual work of copying and pasting keywords and significantly speeds up your workflow.

How to Supply Metadata to Stock Photography Platforms

There are generally three approaches to provide your keywords, title, description and other metadata to stock photo websites.

1. Manual Copy and Paste

The first approach is to manually copy and paste titles, descriptions and keywords for each photo or video and for each stock photo platform. This is a highly inefficient and cumbersome method that should be avoided as much as possible.

2. Embed Metadata in Media Files

The second approach is to embed your metadata directly into your stock photo and video files before uploading. When you upload your media files with embedded metadata such as title, description and keywords, stock photo platforms will get hold of this metadata. By doing so, you won’t have to copy and paste anything.

We wrote a tutorial article on how to embed metadata into stock photos using Adobe Bridge. Using Adobe Bridge eliminates some of the duplicate work of the first approach. However, it is still a manual method that requires a lot of clicking, copying and pasting.

There is a much faster way to embed metadata with the free Exiftool program. This program writes metadata automatically into many video and image files at the same time. We wrote a tutorial about how to embed metadata into photos using Exiftool. This method is our personal choice and we highly recommend it.

3. Upload CSV Metadata File

However, there is a third approach to supply keywords, titles and descriptions to stock photo agencies. This approach involves uploading a CSV metadata file, which is the subject of this tutorial. Many, if not all, stock photo platforms accept CSV metadata files for both stock videos and stock photos.

Upload CSV Metadata Function

CSV is a spreadsheet format that can be edited by any spreadsheet software such as Excel or OpenOffice. Each stock photography platform requires specific names for each column in a CSV file. Instructions and even a sample CSV file are available.


For instance, on the picture below, you can find the Upload CSV function on Shutterstock.

Shutterstock upload CSV metadata file for embedding keywords, title, description into stock photos and stock videos for stock photography

Clicking on the “Upload CSV” link will take you to the webpage where you can study instructions as well as download a sample CSV metadata file from Shutterstock. This is how Shutterstock’s CSV metadata sample file looks.

Shutterstock upload CSV metadata file for embedding keywords, title, description into stock photos and stock videos for stock photography with instructions and sample download

There are specific names for each column that Shutterstock requires. The first column must contain your uploaded files’ names for which you want to provide metadata. Among things you can supply to Shutterstock are keywords separated by commas, description, categories. You can even indicate whether your media is considered Editorial or not.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock has a similar function accessible through its media upload page. Likewise, there is a sample CSV metadata file with instructions. It looks very similar to Shutterstock’s CSV file with a few differences. Note that Adobe Stock does not accept descriptions, but rather titles for uploaded images and videos.

Getty Images (iStock)

Getty Images and iStock also provide instructions and a sample CSV file for uploading your metadata on this webpage for DeepMeta. The CSV metadata file is very similar to those of other stock photo platforms with a few columns that are specific to Getty. These Getty-specific columns are Brief Code, Country and Created Date. We do not use qHero to submit our content to Getty. Therefore, we do not know if qHero accepts CSV metadata files.


Pond5 has a similar function of importing metadata from a CSV file. This function is accessible through their contributor portal in the Upload section. Pond5 probably has the most extensive selection of metadata columns.


It is less known that Alamy has an upload CSV metadata function available to contributors. However, you cannot do it yourself. Instead, you have to contact Alamy’s contributor support and they will email you their CSV template. Next, fill out the template and email it back to Alamy’s image management team. They will will apply your metadata to your uploaded images for you. Their template contains similar fields (file name, caption, tags) and certain Alamy-specific columns.

Comparison of CSV Metadata Columns

Here is a table that summarizes column names for Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Pond5, Getty Images or iStock and Alamy.

Stock photography platforms comparison of upload CSV metadata file columns for embedding keywords, title, description into stock photos and stock videos

As you can see, the names are very similar across the board with a few differences. When you submit your photos or videos, focus your attention on a few fields. These are file name, title or description and keywords columns. Everything else is different and may not be very important. However, if it is easy to fill out certain columns with identical values across all files, then have that column.

Example of Uploading a CSV Metadata File

Let’s go over an example of how you can use CSV files to upload metadata to stock photo websites. Suppose I want to submit these three images.

Example sample photos for stock photography platforms to upload CSV metadata file for embedding keywords, title, description

Step 1: Keep Track of Metadata for Stock Photography Content

First, start with a spreadsheet that keeps track of stock photos or videos with the following column names: File Name, Title, Description and Keywords. We personally use Google Sheets to keep track of all our stock content. These four columns are a bare minimum and you can have other columns as you deem necessary.

We also have other columns that keep track of rejections and acceptances for each image. You can download this spreadsheet template for your own use. This spreadsheet may look like this:

File name, title, description and keywords for sample stock photos to upload CSV metadata file for embedding data for stock photography platforms agencies

Step 2: Get Names for Stock Photos and Videos Files

Next, have your file names in the first column. There is an easy trick to get file names in Windows and MacOS.

In Windows, you can go to Explorer, select files and hit copy path button in Home tab. This will copy not only file names, but also paths that need to be removed. To do that, paste paths into an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. Then, hit Ctrl + H for the “Find and Replace” function. Paste the path you want to remove into the “Find” field. You should have nothing in the “Replace” field, and hit the replace all button.

In MacOS, it is even easier. Select your files in Finder and copy them. Open your TextEdit app in the Application folder. In the Format menu, choose the Make Plain Text option. Then paste your copied media files and TextEdit will have the names of your files without paths.

Step 3: Keywords, Title and Description for Stock Photos/Videos

Next, create title, description and keywords separated by commas for each stock video or photo as necessary. We wrote a tutorial article where we shared our top tips and strategies we personally use to correctly title and keyword stock photos and videos. Because most stock photo platforms have either title or description, we typically have identical values in both fields.

Step 4: Create Separate CSV Metadata for Stock Photography Content

The next step is to create separate CSV files for each stock photo website from the main tracking spreadsheet. You can do it manually and it does not take very long. You can have separate CSV files for each stock photography platform with required column names prepared in advance. Leave everything empty. Then, copy paste data from the main tracking sheet to CSV metadata files for each stock photo website.

Step 5: Upload Stock Content and CSV Metadata File

Next, upload your stock photo images or videos to each stock photography agency. We typically use Filezilla to upload our stock content. Filezilla is a simple file transfer protocol (FTP) program that lets you upload your files to many stock photo agencies. The program even lets you save login and password information for each stock photo agency.

Then, upload your prepared CSV files through “Upload CSV” link. This link may look different depending on the stock photography platform. For Getty Images (iStock), you need to add your photos or videos with the CSV metadata file concurrently in DeepMeta. As for Alamy, you would need to email your template to the their image management team.

After uploading your CSV metadata file, each stock photography platform will populate data for each stock photo or video file. All you need to do after that is to fill our any additional fields, such as categories, license type and other website-specific data. Then, hit the Submit button and you are done.

Concluding Remarks

The upload CSV metadata function is an efficient alternative to embedding metadata manually in Adobe Bridge. Moreover, the CSV metadata function is on par with using the free Exiftool to embed keywords and other metadata into media files.

We personally use the free Exiftool to embed metadata into stock photo images, while we use the upload CSV metadata function for our stock videos. This is because Shutterstock does not recognize metadata embedded in stock videos.

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