By Jim Wise
What could be more exciting than metadata? Okay, so pretty much everything else. If you need to find an image later however, to win that big photo contest or finish that assignment, metadata could be invaluable.
What is metadata?
Simply put it is; data that describes other data. Meta is a prefix that in most information technology usages means “an underlying definition or description”. Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier.
Data such as keywords like; blue sky, airplane, interior, flight deck, etc. It could also be a title, description, tags, photographer information, copyright information, and you can even list your website in the metadata of each image file. That way the important information that you want to stay with that image is embedded in the file itself. It is searchable, so it makes it much easier to find your image of, for example, “Godzilla in front of snow covered mountains” (see image above). Without this searchable information it might take quite awhile for you to find your prized photo, if you find it at all before the deadline.
By taking a few minutes to add some metadata after you’ve downloaded the image, could make your life a whole lot easier later.
How do you add metadata?
There are different ways to add metadata depending on your image editing software. In this example we will be using Adobe Bridge.
- Capture the RAW image files (or they could be jpegs). Then download and open them in Bridge.
- To add metadata to your photos, do a Select All images. By adding this metadata now to all of the original files, it will remain with all subsequent files that are created after you’ve color corrected, cropped, downsized, etc. So now is the best time to do it. Metadata can always be added later at any time, but it becomes more labor intensive to add to all files after the fact.
- Click Tools> Append Metadata and use a template for your overall information. You can create a template at this time with the basic information that you would like to add to all of your photography. Note that you want to Append (and not Replace) to your existing metadata so that the original information stays intact. A template has already been created in this example.
- For Individual images you can add more specific keywords in the metadata panel by clicking the pencil icon and adding your text to just those specific images.
- Click Apply (or the checkmark icon) to save the metadata to your image files.
Metadata for Godzilla
The keywords that have been added to this image are: Godzilla, Utah, snow, and mountains. Many other keywords could have been added also. It is up to you as to how descriptive you would like to be. Type a comma or separator between each word to ensure search success. This example also shows the headline: ‘Godzilla!’ and a description that explains that this ‘Jumbo Godzilla inflatable appears to be coming down from the snow covered mountains.’ Including a website like we have done in this example might encourage a potential customer to look at more of your work.
It’s really that easy and doesn’t take much time, but it is a discipline that takes a little getting used to.
Now that you’ve added your additional information to the images, you can save your edited versions, and all of that metadata will still be in there.
But beware of the dreaded Save for Web option in Photoshop. In its efforts to make your files as small as possible, it sees all metadata as “useless stuff” and it removes every bit (pun intended) of it from your downsized image files. So it’s not fool proof. If you are taking photos for an agency such as AP, Getty Images, Wireimage, etc., they might have specifics on what metadata they would like for you to provide with your photos, so check with them before adding metadata. If you are submitting images for a photo contest, it’s a great idea to have additional metadata information embedded in your image files as well. It takes a little extra time initially, but metadata can be your friend. Never spend hours searching for a specific photograph again.
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