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By Tim Grey | Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why You Should Add Keywords and Metadata to Your Photos


One of the real advantages of digital photography over film photography is metadata. As soon as we capture a photograph digitally, we have a tremendous amount of information available about that photo. This information is generated automatically by the camera, so it relates primarily to the equipment and camera settings used to capture it.

For example, you can easily review which camera and lens were used, as well as the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO setting. These details can be helpful when evaluating images later or searching for a particular photo. They can even help you improve your photography by letting you identify the settings that worked best for a particular situation.

I’m also a strong advocate for spending time adding metadata information to your photos. In some situations, like when submitting images to a stock photography agency, this additional information may be required. But even when it’s not, it can prove tremendously helpful.

There are two basic scenarios when you’ll find it beneficial to have additional metadata details on an image. The first is when you’re trying to find a particular photo; for example, you’re looking for a picture you took of the Eiffel Tower and you can simply search for images with “Eiffel Tower” as keywords?

The second scenario is when you need to know key details about the subject of a photo. The name of the Eiffel Tower may never escape you—but would you know the name of the building in Paris where all the plumbing is on the outside? (It’s the Georges Pompidou building). Adding metadatawith broaderdetails of your shotcan prove invaluable when searching your archives for theimagelater.

Other metadata fields can also prove handy, such as perhaps the Headline, Description, and Location information used as a standard by the IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) for press photos. For especially notable shots, it might be worthwhile to add more detailsto help separate them from the rest when searching later.

Of course, most of us would prefer to spend extra time behind the camera capturing new images, not in front of a computer doing data entry. So if you want to minimize your metadata, I recommend at least adding basic keywords for your best or most representative photos from a given photo shoot. If you’re a Lightroom 5 user, spend a few minutes watching this video on using keywords in Lightroom. Aperture 3 users can watch this free video on adding keywords.

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