Shades Of The Departed

July 5

A Monthly - Weekend With Shades - Column

Remember the days when you picked up your photos at the drugstore and then sat down with a soft lead pencil to carefully document the details on each one before they were forgotten? Neither do I. Even though I’ve been pretty good at documenting my photos, there are many times that effort consisted of notes on the envelope the film-processor gave me - in ink no less.

Digital photos are revolutionary in many ways - and documenting their contents is one of them. The digital file that is your photograph actually contains a lot more than just the image. It also contains metadata. Huh? Wikipedia says it best: “The simplest definition of metadata is that it is data about data - more specifically information (data) about a particular content (data).” Your photo file contains information about the image as well as the image itself.

Adobe has been working on this for some time and has developed a metadata standard called XMP to support their digital imaging effort. If you use Adobe’s Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or Abobe Bridge, you are using XMP to add titles, descriptions and tags to your photos. Although it is not yet a universal standard, it is gaining steam. When you’re working in Adobe Bridge or the photo organizer in Photoshop Elements, you can quickly add titles, descriptions and keywords to your photos. I highly recommend doing this - and spending the few minutes it takes to learn how to batch edit your photos when you upload them to your computer.

Most digital cameras automatically add EXIF information as they take a picture. This includes things like camera model, date taken, shutter speed and other technical details. Unfortunately this only works for the JPEG and TIFF image formats. If you’re shooting using your camera’s raw format - or convert your image to another format in your photo-editing software - you’re out of luck.

One last standard - IPTC is mostly used by the press services. I mention it here because my favorite photo-sharing platform, Flickr, uses IPTC for its tags and other descriptive data attached to uploaded images.

At some point - hopefully soon - we will see one standard dominate digital imaging. I’m not waiting until then to digitally document my photos. When software like Adobe and iPhoto make it so easy to include this information, why would I ignore it?

Copyright © Denise Olson


Blogger Family Curator said...

Thank you, Denise, for the great reminder to identify those photos. Using metadata is like writing your name in permanent marker on the bottom of a pyrex casserole dish; it helps folks know who made the food and where to return the pan. I don't want to lose my photos anymore than I want to lose my best pie pan!

July 6, 2009 at 2:17 PM  

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