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Metadata: Use It!

Entering descriptive metadata and keywords into Photoshop.



Each digital image generated by a digital camera contains file
information known as metadata. Whatever use the image will
ultimately have, whether it's being published on the Web, emailed,
or just stored in a database, metadata helps photographers
and anyone working with images in a variety of ways:

  • It provides specific camera data about how the image was
    taken, by what kind of camera, and how it was exposed.
  • It can be customized to add an image-specific title, copyright
    information, and who took the photo.
  • It can include certain keywords that help to identify and
    search for images.
  • Originally developed by
    the newspaper industry to
    track digital-file information
    and easily access the thousands
    of photos the media
    stocks, Photoshop began
    using the standard created
    by the Newspaper Association
    of America and International
    Press Telecommunications
    Council. Stock photo
    agencies, such as Corbis
    and Getty Images, require
    metadata on images to be
    able to search and identify them.

    Metadata includes a variety of types of information: image
    description, author, copyrights/credits, image origin, and keywords.
    Some metadata is alterable; some is not. For example,
    you cannot alter the information related to what type of camera
    took the photo, the exposure details, or whether or not the flash
    was fired. You can change information such as the author of the
    photo, the date, when and where it was shot, keywords, and
    copyright information.

    Crossing applications

    Each image-management program and most image-editing
    packages allow you to view image metadata and customize it, at
    least to a degree. Further, the better packages also allow you to
    attach common metadata to batches of images, create your own
    keywords, and sort images accordingly.

    Photoshop provides the most robust metadata manipulation
    and appending options, and I tend to use it the most frequently
    when working with batches of files. Photoshop segments image
    metadata into several pages of information, such as “Camera Data
    1,” one of the less technical metadata information categories.


    You can even add a URL for a copyright”?for example, I add to many of my fencing images. In
    Adobe Photoshop, you create a metadata template that contains
    the specifics you've added, and this can then be batchappended
    to groups of files in the Photoshop File Browser. Photoshop
    uses what's called XMP, or the extensible metadata platform,
    which allows you to carry information among various
    Adobe applications (for example, Illustrator) and what they call
    publishing workflows. The information you append to a file's
    metadata, such as copyright information or document name,
    then appears as metadata in other applications as well.

    Some information is proprietary to the application and won't
    cross applications. I find it frustrating, for example, that you can
    add a keyword into an image's metadata in Photoshop, but it
    won't appear in ACDSee, from ACD Systems; it does, however,
    appear in iView MediaPro from iView MultiMedia Ltd. So, this is
    something to check before you begin applying metadata keywords
    and then opening or working with images in multiple

    An expanding field

    Metadata is an area of image management that will continue to
    grow in importance and automation. Most digital files carry far
    more digital information than anyone really knows what to do
    with today. This is only sure to grow over time to be manipulated
    in a variety of archival, review, and management techniques for
    digital images as applications add metadata capabilities.

    For example, it would be great if applications could evaluate a
    series of images and compile a report showing information and
    statistics about how the images were shot overall, including percentage
    of flash images; average focal lengths, and exposures.
    These types of analytical data would help in teaching and understanding

    Serge Timacheff is a professional photographer who recently
    made the switch to a fully digital operation. David Karlins
    teaches graphic design at San Francisco State University.
    This information is excerpted from their new book, Total
    Digital Photography: The Shoot To Print Workflow Handbook (Wiley




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