Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Master Your Metadata—02/21/11

DPMag Published in Tip Of The Week
Master Your Metadata—02/21/11

This Article Features Photo Zoom

I’ve worked with Frans Lanting on a handful of stories, profiling him for Digital Photo Pro and Outdoor Photographer magazines. The thing that always strikes me about Frans—aside from his obvious talent and blistering pace of production—is how much he is in complete control of his metadata. Frans and his team harness all the power that comes from digital imaging to organize, track, archive and find photographs from throughout his 30-year career.

Harnessing digital image info is all about two things: knowing what you have, and finding it. Every time I talk to Frans I’m reminded of how much I fail at this. I don’t keyword well, I don’t name files well and I definitely don’t put half the effort into organizing my database that he does. But I should. And I will. And I figure as long as I’m going to work to master my metadata, I should bring you along too. Join me as I work to master my metadata.

1. Standardize your workflow. This part I’ve got. From the moment a card comes out of my camera I have a plan for how images move through my possession and into the computer. It could be any approach—Lightroom or Aperture or Photo Mechanic or any number of other importing and organizing programs. It could even be done by simple folder naming without the help of any particular piece of software. The point is that you establish an approach and then stick with it. You can change it at a later date to upgrade to a better or more refined approach, but you’ve got to start somewhere and remain consistent for a while in order to develop a stable platform. It’s the foundation of your organizational system.

2. Standardize file naming. There’s not so much a right way and a wrong way to do this—so long as you’ve got a consistent approach. I’m good at standardizing, but I don’t particularly love the convention that I’ve chosen. What I think might be the ideal approach would be file naming that starts with the date and then includes a descriptor of client name or subject depending on the type of work you shoot. So an ideal file name for me would look something like 2011_01_15_Johnson-101.DNG. Then when it comes time to search, I can browse files by date or name.

3. Convert to DNG. If you shoot RAW, and in my opinion you should, you get files from your camera that aren’t standardized the way JPEGs and TIFFs are. These CR2 or NEF files, for example, are dependent on specific manufacturers to develop software to read and process the files. The danger being that someday in the future those formats could become obsolete and unsupported—effectively turning those files into unreadable garbage. To combat this Adobe has developed the Digital Negative standard, known as the DNG file type. This RAW image file format is effectively open source, meaning that developers are encouraged to write software to process the files. In an ideal future, a single format used across brands would be ideal—and it looks as if DNG has the best shot at becoming that vehicle. Programs like Lightroom actually allow conversion from other RAW image formats into DNG during the ingestion process. This is a great way to convert files to a single format without adding another step to your workflow.

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