Metadata… what an intriguing, mysterious word, right? If you break it down into its parts, “meta” and “data,” you can figure out it has something to do with computers most likely. As for “meta,” that’s a bit trickier.
We have other “meta” words out there like metacarpal, which are bones in the hand, metabolism, which is a measurement of how our bodily processes are functioning, and metamorphosis, which is the reason science fiction movies are often so cool.
None of these leaves us with a clear idea of what “meta” really means. Well, a few weeks ago, I explored exactly what metadata is and how it works when it comes to photography and organizing your images. In case you missed that post, make sure you read it and then come back… don’t worry… I’ll wait.
Okay… so now that you know what metadata is and how it works, here are the top five reasons to start using it today if you aren’t already.
- Faster Searching
If I had to write a post about the single most important reason to use metadata to “tag” your photographs, it would be this: faster (and easier) searching. With the ability to add certain keywords to your images, and housing them in a central space, you can easily use Adobe Bridge or Lightroom to do a search for any type of image you want. For example, if I was wanting to see every photo I’ve taken of a brunette model, I could do a search for “brunette,” “portrait,” and “girl.”
- Copyright Info
Even if you aren’t a photographer, you probably still see complaints about copyright infringement and stealing photos all over Facebook and the web. While the argument over watermarking and copyrighting images on the Internet is always waging back and forth, it is important to be able to place copyright information embedded into the digital file. Metadata, and programs like Bridge and Lightroom, allow you to do this and do it easily. In fact, you can set these programs to tag every image with your information on import and export!
- Licensing Requests
This kind of ties in with the search reason at the top, but I felt it was important enough to mention in its own place as well. With the power that keyword searching for your images brings, it also opens up an easy way to offer images to those who need stock photography or commercial images for products, campaigns, advertisements, etc. In fact, a few years ago, the Peoria Area Convention & Visitors Bureau asked me to pull a few images from around Peoria to include in their tourism book. With a few keystrokes, I gathered 25-50 “Peoria” images, drew up the proper license, and even had one of them published in the tourism booklet. Without that search power, I would have spent hours digging through my files to see what I had.
- Tracking Clients
Piggybacking on the licensing requests, I’m often asked by clients to find specific images of them from earlier shoots. I’ve even had one friend who was paranoid about the photographs I had taken of him and wanted to see each one. While I would normally be upset to waste my time on such a weird request, he’s a friend and I knew I had metadata on my side; another few keystrokes of the search box for his name and I was able to run a CD within minutes of every image I’ve ever taken of him.
- Portfolio Building
The other side of metadata that I love is the ability to label, group, and rank your images. With the ability to rank your images, it forces you to actually rank them. In theory, this leads you to only choose a few images per shoot to include in your portfolio and online photo collections. This will push you to keep a better eye on your portfolio and create a stronger collection of images for potential clients and models to see.
Well, there they are… these are the five main reasons that I use metadata in my daily photography workflow.
If you’re a photographer, do you use metadata? If so, what are your reasons for using it? What’s your favorite thing about metadata? Share your thoughts in the comments below!