How Shall I Tag Thee
February 28, 2010 5:25 PM   Subscribe

I need to create some order for a few thousand images (mostly non-photo images)-- what method/program should I use to tag them?

Here's the overview: I'm working on a project that entails creating some order to about 2,000 images-- most of which are scans of text-based images (notes, letters, etc.) that I can't just scan thumbnails and know what they are. Grouping the images will be a challenge since most of the images could fit in multiple places (i.e., a letter from a daughter to her mother about how much she hates camp could fit with 'family,' 'mother,' 'daughter,' 'summer,' 'unhappy,' 'youth,' etc.). I'm looking for a program/website that allows me to add a ton of tags to these images, then be able to browse the images by their tag groups.

The workflow I'm looking for: go through the images, adding tags to either the metadata of the files themselves, or tagging a copy of the files using an online service like Flickr or Picasa. Once the images are tagged, I'd like to be able to click on a tag and quickly work with the images (i.e., click on the 'unhappy' tag and be able to easily view and manipulate the results). Then, out of the 100 images tagged 'unhappy,' I could easily browse through them, pick the ones I like most, and begin optimizing them in Photoshop.

What programs/websites might work well? I figured that maybe Lightroom or Bridge would be the right choice, but from what I can figure (haven't spent much time w/ either), it doesn't seem like I can use their tagging systems the way I'd like. I thought a good work-around would be to upload everything to Flickr, but those few extra clicks to get to the "original size" view adds up after thousands of images; plus, it seems like not having the tags in the file's metadata is a recipe for headaches down the line.

Suggestions? Will be happy to clarify (noticing my basic description sounds a little confusing). I'm on a Mac, have a Flickr Pro account but wouldn't mind paying for an upgraded Picasa/whatever account, and I use Chrome/Firefox (so if there's some magic extension that will make this process easier, I'm all ears!).
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
iPhoto seems to have tagging down in a way that should work. What's not working about it?
posted by CharlesV42 at 5:49 PM on February 28, 2010

Tagging that many files means you're probably going to want to stick to something desktop-based, since keyboard shortcuts will be your friend. Both Lightroom and Aperture have great keyboard-only tagging workflows. I'm partial to Aperture's UI (and Aperture 3 has been good for me so far), but I have friends that are just as happy with Lightroom. With Aperture in particular, I've gotten pretty good at typing the first few letters of a keyword, waiting for autocompletion, hitting Enter, and then hitting Command-right arrow to go to the next image without ever leaving the Keywords text box.

Both Lightroom and Aperture offer hierarchical keywords, meaning you can set "grandma" as a sub-tag of "family" as a sub-tag of "people", and so on. Both programs can write the metadata to the files themselves on export if desired. I know there's a plugin for Aperture (not sure about Lightroom, but probably) that will also write the "parent" keywords to the file, so even if you tag a photo "grandma," when you export it it will also have the keywords "family" and "people."

As far as the tags to actually use, I read a web site (can't remember where) a while back that uses a "5-W's" system for tagging photos--Who, What, Where, When and Why. As I'm going through a set of images, I ask the following questions, answering them with tags:

1) Who's in it... any people I care about by name?
2) What is it? Are there any objects or colors or textures I care about?
3) Where is it? If it's not already geotagged, I'll add a location as a tag.
4) When? Usually taken care of by the image date, but if it's tied to a holiday or a season I'll add a tag.
5) Why? If there's a particular photographic technique I'll add that tag. (In your case, it could be "why it was written" or something similar.)
posted by cebailey at 6:42 PM on February 28, 2010

Adobe Bridge lets you create metadata in a variety of standards. The data is attached to the file, not to Bridge and you can search on keywords, your personal ratings, etc.
posted by trinity8-director at 7:27 PM on February 28, 2010

Response by poster: Huh, I hadn't noticed that iPhoto had that capacity, CharlesV42. After testing it out though, the ordering-by-keyword options seem kind of blah, although maybe I just need to root around for the right viewing/searching option.

It sounds like Bridge and Aperture are the programs I want to spend a little more time with-- I'll play around with those until I feel comfortable with them and see how it goes. Thanks!
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 2:27 AM on March 1, 2010

Uh, I really like Evernote for this kind of filing (and for a ton of other stuff too). It has a mac and windows clients and is also web-accessible (with private and public options). Tagging support is great.

Also, if you have a pro account, the images are OCR'd automagically by the cloud and you can run full text searches against the images. I think all you'll need to do is drag the images into the window. Ding, the documents are created. You do have to wait a minute or so for the OCR to complete btw, so don't start searching right away. But all in all, this is a great piece of "everything bucket" software.
posted by zpousman at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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