What Metadata Is and Why You Should Care

This post was co-authored by Kayla Lamoreaux and Steph. Kayla is the owner of Digiscrap101 (now KaylaLamoreaux.com) and has a vast knowledge of everything to do with organizing digi supplies and photos. She has worked with and/or explored almost every program that can be used for organizing digital supplies and photos. We recommend Kayla’s tutorials and classes for anyone wanting to learn more.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my photos – I LOVE making them pretty.

I recently finished our family fall photo shoot and I couldn’t wait to process the images. As I processed the photos with my favorite Lightroom presets, I was in heaven.

And yet, after processing that entire photo shoot, I still spent a good portion of time adding metadata to my images.

Why would I do that?

To some, metadata isn’t fun, pretty or desirable.

To others, metadata is that geeky thing they would never tell their friends they are into.

Actually metadata is that really cool & shiny gadget you never really knew you needed until you enjoy the benefits – then, you’re hooked.

To put it very simply, it is the modern version of writing on the back of your photos. If you’ve ever inherited boxes and boxes of photos, you know first hand the importance of doing that.

The great thing about today is that we have the technology to embed those writings along with other information directly into the files of our photos. This information goes with that file or photo everywhere and can be accessed in many different programs and sites (more on that below).

Automatically metadata is added when you snap the shutter on your camera. Most cameras embed the camera make, date, time, model, serial no. and even the lens you used and the settings. This is called EXIF data.

Some cameras even come with GPS capability which automatically embeds the GPS coordinates where you took your images into the photo file.

What this means is that because of technology, future generations will know a LOT more about our images and lives than we knew about those who went before us.

However, it still isn’t enough. Digital photography means that we are now taking more photos than ever before. Which is translating into a lifetime photo collection that can easily number into five to six figures of individual images.

With this plethora of photos, I believe that adding metadata to our images becomes a necessity if we want them to be relevant to future generations.

So let’s review: Automatically your photos tell a story about the camera you used, your lens, camera settings and maybe where you were when you took the image, but what about the things that will connect future generations to your story? Metadata is one of the most powerful tools you have to preserve your story for future generations. Today we’ll talk about three pieces: keywords, ratings and captions.

Keywords are the hints to the story of your photos. Think who, what, where, when.
Ratings are the guide to importance and/or quality of your photos – they help to distinguish your most important images.
Captions are the stories behind your photos.

If you are interested in looking at or adding some metadata, here’s how:

In Windows: Right click any photo or file and select Properties. You can see a lot of information under the General tab. You can also add more details such as a rating and captions under the details tab.

In Photoshop or Photoshop Elements: go to File> File Info. You can enter a lot of information right there and it will stay with the file in each format you save it in.

In Lightroom: all text, tags, descriptions, etc. are automatically added to metadata.

In Flickr: Flickr keeps metadata intact and when you add tags, comments, descriptions, etc. in Flickr it is added to the metadata. Katie will often have her extended family add information to photos from events through Flickr.

Be careful, some programs advertise that they write keywords, ratings, and captions to the metadata, but they often don’t. The best way to know for sure is to add some tags and captions with the program in question, save it, and pull the file into another program to see if the information is there. If you are backing up online, you will want to make sure that the site you are using supports metadata in the backup and restore process.

The best part about metadata? Metadata isn’t just for the future, it also helps you now. Imagine having a library of 30,000 images. Because of the metadata you added, you are able to narrow down exactly what you want in seconds. Can you imagine how much easier it would be to create when you can find what you need in seconds?

So yes, metadata is geeky. It is also one of the most powerful tools available to us as we endeavor to manage our photo libraries and preserve memories for future generations. I hope you’ll take advantage of it!

P.S. Jan in Alberta was the random winner from the comments on yesterday’s feature post about Anna. She won $10 in product from Anna.

P.S.S. Be sure to grab our free Playbook from DSD if you haven’t already!