Metadata is the new term for the descriptive information that accompanies any digital file. With digital music recordings, for example, the metadata contains the name of the song, the artist, the album, and the genre of music. For photographers, metadata makes it easy to search through a huge library of images using tools like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Searching for a picture based on its metadata terms is far more efficient than scrolling along and looking at each and every picture in your computer until you find the right one.
The UPDIG Working Group, which was formed in 2004 as a joint effort by all of photography’s leading trade organizations, has this to say about metadata:
“A good photograph of an interesting subject has value. You multiply that intrinsic value by including within the file highly descriptive metadata that:
- makes the image easy to find in image databases;
- describes the context of the image — its location, time, etc;
- links the image to its creator, rights holder and, where applicable, licensor;
- describes the allowed usages of the image.”
Most photographers will see the most immediate benefits from the metadata field called keywords. I believe that meaningful keywords are the most essential ingredient in a well-organized image library and that they dramatically increase the market value of a good photograph. Think of keywords like the terms that you would use to search for a book at the library or a bookstore.
Before you begin creating hundreds of keywords, though, I suggest that you take out a piece of scrap paper and write down a brief description of your photographic work. Strategic thinking here will help you create a meaningful system of hierarchical terms. The idea is to limit your vocabulary to keywords that are truly useful.
I believe that every image needs at least two keywords. I suggest that you give each image at least one broad category type keyword and at least one far more specific descriptive term. Broad categories are things like “landscape, macro, portrait, or sports.” Specific terms are things like people’s proper names or the scientific name for a plant or flower.
I suggest visiting these websites for more information on the importance of good keywords:
- Metadata from the ASMP’s dpBestflow.org project
- Timothy Armes on What Metadata is All About
- Controlled Vocabulary.com: Keywording
- iStockphoto- Stock Photographer Training Manual: 6.0- Title, Descriptions, & Keywords
- Selection Secrets in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
- Searching with Metadata in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
- Using the Map Module In Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
- Using Keyword Sets To Quickly Tag Family Photos in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom