Best practice/method for photo metadata?
March 14, 2012 11:54 AM   Subscribe

What is the best method/practice for metadata in digital photos (scanned slides, photos, etc)?

Recently, I have been scanning/archiving old photographs/slides/negatives, etc. Some have great comments on them explaining where they are/subject matter, etc. I could like to import this data into the metadata of the photos, so this is not lost. Additionally, while a lot of my family members are still around, I'd love to add comments/stories about the photos into the metadata.

I also like how Picasa can tag people, but this metadata isn't really 'in' the picture (from my understanding). Adobe Lightroom seems to have metadata more focused on copyright, but I don't have enough knowledge to know if it can fit my needs.

Is there a way to edit metadata (and add my own fields?), and have this searchable? Furthermore, when sending photos and uploading to different sites, what is preserved, and how can I be sure this metadata (and rich history/information provided with it) won't be lost?
posted by Huck to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: PS: I primarily use Windows 7, Windows XP, or Ubuntu, but I would like to share with family who are using Macs, if that makes any difference.
posted by Huck at 12:34 PM on March 14, 2012

There is no short answer to your question. Each piece of software seems to read, write, search, and generally deal with embedded metadata differently.

Adobe Bridge handles it relatively straightforward - the metadata pane allows you to read and write metadata in several schemes. You can also search on this data in Bridge.

Lightroom does not handle this data as well - Lightroom is built on the premise of non-destructive editing, so it saves the metadata you add to a database and exports it as a sidecar file when you export images from Lightroom.

Many online photo sites/services/networks strip out embedded metadata when you upload and/or download to or from them.

As for where to fit what information, the IPTC scheme (intended for press photographs) is pretty universal. My archive writes both IPTC and VRA Core (for which we have a custom xmp schema loaded into Bridge) metadata. It's not a straightforward or "safe" way of preserving this data though, because it's hard to predict how different software will treat the data.

An in-depth exploration of embedded metadata can be found at Metadatadeluxe which explores this from a library-ish point of view.

I hope this approaches a useful answer for your question - like I said, it's a huge topic...
posted by gyusan at 1:21 PM on March 14, 2012

Plain vanilla Windows installations don't really handle photo metadata well. I had a bad experience with a relative forwarding a meticulously tagged image through Outlook, which resized it and stripped all the tags.

A human-readable document with thumbnails and key metadata fields will survive all future random acts of software.
posted by scruss at 5:26 PM on March 14, 2012

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