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

4. Caption. Here’s where I really start to drop the ball. My Lightroom workflow allows me, actually encourages me, to add captions to image files as they’re imported. I can apply a broad descriptive caption such as, "May day celebration at Forest Park" or "Aboriginal Artists work on sand paintings in the Australian Outback." The point is to apply a broadly descriptive caption that applies to an entire group of images, because it can be done in one fell swoop. You can always go in later and add specific captions to specific images, but at least this broad descriptor is a great start.

5. Keyword. Keywording works in much the same way as captioning. In fact, many of the keywords will be duplicated in captions. The best part about keywords and captions is that they can often be added during import, or during image editing and organization, via a batch process. Then you can go back to add specific keywords to smaller groups of images or even individual files. This is where a photographer like Frans Lanting shines, because he can go back later to an archive containing hundreds of thousands of images and simply search for "desert" to find images made in several different years in several different locations, or "Gobi" to narrow the search to a specific location, or 2010 to find only those images from his most recent trip. I do almost none of this, and I’m vowing to start adding these keywords and captions first to my most favorite images from my archive.

6. Copyright. Adding copyright and contact information to image file metadata is increasingly important in our wired world. Image files can take off and spread like wildfire across the globe. Even if an image doesn’t go viral, it can go from one desk to another in an instant, leaving behind any corresponding contact information or creator’s attribution. While registering the copyright of an image is crucial protection against illicit publication, embedding copyright and contact information in metadata allows savvy users who want to find the photographer to do so. I have created a preset that embeds my name, email, phone, web site and a basic copyright information into every digital image file I import. Another option is to create a Photoshop Action and corresponding speedkey shortcut to embed metadata information into files opened in Photoshop with a single click.

7. Backup. While it’s not technically about metadata, backing up files into a stable archiving system is crucial if you ever want to put that metadata to good use. All of the information you fill into your files is useless if the files themselves aren’t taken care of. Be sure your files exist down the road in a way that lets you find them and spend as much time on archiving them as you do on tagging them. I use a system of duplicate drives that backup my image files on import, and then a third-string drive where I move files on a monthly basis. To augment that is a Blu-Ray burner that can copy lots and lots of files onto a single optical disk. So far so good, but I should really get those optical disks farther from the hard drives than across the studio or out of the building. Getting them offsite would ensure that a natural disaster would be less likely to wipe out drives and disks simultaneously. I also augment that approach by sending the best of the best selects to a hard drive that lives in the Internet cloud. That way I let a world-class server farm worry about backing up those backups. And since I’ve at least partially mastered my metadata, I should be able to find those photos in cyberspace even far off in the future.

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