Keyword Health = Photo Library Health

If you want to know if a photo library is thriving, there's a very good way to find out without (fruitlessly) trying to get hold of sales figures and balance sheets - look at the keywording.

Whilst this is hardly a precise scientific measure of success, you can learn a lot from a company's keywords, like whether you should be contributing your images or videos to them, whether they have good cashflow, and whether they are as professional as they should be.

And here are three reasons why:

1.  Keywording is a habit shared by the successful - and they must know something . Getty Images, Splash News, Corbis, Frame Pool -  emphasis on good-quality keywording is just part of the game for such market leaders.  So if it's worthwhile for them, it should be worthwhile for any other successful and/or well-organised photo library.  They must have the figures to prove it, or they wouldn't be doing it.

2.   If you have the money for keywording, then you are likely to be putting money into other important areas such as advertising and sales.  A full-on marketing effort is likely to produce good sales and healthy cash flow.  Poor keywording, or rudimentary keywording is a sign that the library is struggling to free up staff, or purchase outsourced keywording for this basic function.  If they aren't doing that right, what else aren't they doing to market images and get sales?

3.   Big is beautiful in the image business, so if the library isn't big enough to need keywording, then perhaps the library isn't a substantial player.  It's easy to understand how a "mom and pop" operation would tend to be small and disorganised.  If there really aren't enough images or videos to make keywording necessary, then customers are likely to be going elsewhere.

So if you are planning to deal with a photo or video library, take some time to have a look at the keywording and if it isn't up to scratch, ask why.