Metadata, That’s What!
Other terms you’ll hear in the industry would be caption, IPTC and File Info (relating to Photoshop only).
So, what’s all this nonsense then? Surely all we should care about is the picture and how we process the picture, right? Erm, wrong actually!
If you’d like people to be able to find your images, you really need to fill in the IPTC or metadata properly. The longer you spend on this, the higher the chance of your pictures being found are. Also, it will help you track down your own pictures too; the larger our digital archives become, the harder it is for us to remember where certain images might be. A quick search in your imaging program (I favour Apple’s Aperture, but Lightroom, Expression Media and even Apple’s OS X Spotlight search will do) can find images almost instantly if they have been done correctly. On top of this, you will make sure that any published images are credited correctly.
Even if all you do is put your images on Flickr, by spending a little time filling in the caption, keywords and various credit fields, will save you time having to do it online using their interface. We all know that advertising agencies and newspapers look at Flickr these days, so by filling in the metadata correctly will mean that your images can be found and if they’re good enough, you could easily make some money. The good news is that most programs let you batch caption in one go, so similar images can all be selected at once and captioned in one swift movement.
I’ve chosen a nice image of a couple I photographed for the Lottery project I did last year. The art to a good caption is why, what, where, when and by whom:
“A collection of photographs to mark the 15th anniversary of the National Lottery (in November 2009) highlighting some of the more unusual purchases made by lottery jackpot winners over the years. Paul & Karen Richards, originally from Southampton won £2,209,089 in November 2002 and decided to start a new life in British Colombia, Canada, for their family, costing $1,000,000. April 4, 2009. Photo: Edmond Terakopian”
Also, when it comes to keywords, you need to address both the factual and the emotional or mood in the image:
“couple, log, lotto, love, marriage, natural, outdoor, rich, river, serene, tree, water, wealth, wilderness, winner”
Various programs work slightly differently and their captioning commands are in different places, but the good news is that it’s an industry standard, so once you’ve found how your software does it, the fields will be similar no matter what you use.
You can see how Aperture, Photo Mechanic and Photoshop handle metadata.
Often images are searched for to illustrate moods. A good example would be book jacket covers, so look at the content when keywording, but also concentrate on the mood too. Once you get used to doing this, it becomes second nature, so get cracking!