Last time we ended talking about metadata, the information embedded within every digital photograph. You remember the EXIF and IPTC data. We learned that the camera supplies some of this when the photo is taken. Other information can be added and modified later using tools on your computer. This week we’re going to discuss how to put that information to good use in keeping your digital photo library organized.
Let’s start with the camera itself. When you first get your digital camera, read the owner’s manual cover-to-cover. I know that for some of you (particularly you guys out there although some gals suffer from the same malady) this will be radical departure from your usual “modus operandi” with any new digital toy. When reading the owner’s manual, pay close attention to the section on setting the correct date and time. You’d be surprised how many obvious sunset photos I see with metadata indicating the photo was taken at 4:25 AM. Although the Date/Time tag is not the only metadata you can use to help stay organized, it is a tag that cannot be modified later. Other non-modifiable tags include the exposure, aperture, ISO, and other camera settings, as well as image dimensions, file size and color profile used. Come to think of it, you wouldn’t really want to change any of these tags. Ain’t technology wonderful?
What tags can you change? Without listing them all, within the IPTC data you can attach your entire name, job title, address, phone, email address, and website. Remember that the IPTC tags have their roots in the newspaper business, so you can affix a headline, description, and location information. There’s even a tag for “intellectual genre”. Obviously, not every photographer has a need for all these tags, but now you know they’re available.
Head swimming from all this organization? Need something simpler, like an easy-to-use label like “beach” or “Fred” or (lucky you) “Bahamas”? You’re in luck, all right. There’s another piece of metadata available called a “keyword”. As I hinted above, a keyword can be specific, like a person’s name, or general, like “vacation”. The beauty is, you make up the keyword and assign it to your corresponding photos. Fast. Easy. Efficient.
Right about now you’re saying to yourself, “Wow, all this metadata stuff sounds great, but where do I look on my computer to find it?” As the immortal Bard would say, “Ah, there’s the rub”. Neither Windows nor the Mac OS at the moment provide access to full image metadata at the system level. You’ll need a “third party” application to get at and modify metadata. Chances are very good that your digital camera came bundled with either software developed by/for the camera company, or a version of Adobe Photoshop Elements, or some another commercial editing/management software.
However, while the Canon software bundled with our Digital Rebel could display EXIF metadata, it didn’t display (and therefore could not modify) any IPTC data, and had no means to, for example, specify a keyword, do a search, then display all the images bearing the keyword. One would have to “move up” to Photoshop Elements (thankfully included with the Digital Rebel as well) to gain this access and control.
In fact, I highly recommend Photoshop Elements even if it didn’t come bundled with your digital camera. Yes, it’s $90 (Amazon.com price), but it contains everything you’ll need as a fledgling digital photo editor and then some. The File Browser handles metadata and keywords superbly, and has powerful search and display capabilities.
Next time: your photo management plan.
© 2005 Peter F. Zimowski