Miryelle Resek | May 12, 2017

Adding Metadata to Your Digital Photos

This is the first of a two-part series exploring metadata. Read part two.

Have you ever looked through a box of photographs and found one that captured your attention only to find there was no information identifying who that person was or what their story may have been?

While we may wish that our ancestors would have written important information on the back of vintage photos, it’s important that we don’t make the same mistake with the digital pictures we take today. In her presentation at RootsTech, Allison Taylor, founder of Pictures and Stories, discussed how to use metadata to tag our digital photos.

What Is Metadata?

“Metadata is information about a photo that is embedded and becomes a part of the photo, and in the best-case scenario, travels with the photo when it’s stored, when it’s shared, and when it’s copied, or when it’s uploaded to a website,” said Taylor.

Before digital photography became the norm, descriptive information, or metadata, would be handwritten on the photo; usually on the back or in the margins.

Today, however, very few of us are using film cameras and printing out photo copies. Rather, the majority of photos that are taken today are coming from mobile devices and digital cameras. Because of this, it can be difficult to preserve the stories associated with our pictures.

“So now that everything is going digital, how do we write on the back of a digital photo?” asked Taylor.

One thing you don’t want to do is open up your photo in Photoshop and type the information on the image, said Taylor. If the photo is later compressed or expanded, it can make the text very difficult to read.

Different Types of Metadata

There are different kinds of metadata. Taylor focused on two:

  • Exchangeable Image File (EXIF)
  • International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC)

“EXIF data is what gets captured by your digital camera. It's got things like the date the photo was taken, the location, the shutter speed, and that kind of thing on your camera,” she said.

“IPTC is the data that you are going to be concerning yourself with,” said Taylor. “That is the user-editable data that you can go in and type into your photo.”

Benefits of Using Metadata

Once you’ve added the digital information to your photos, they stay tagged with that metadata—meaning that when you email the photo to your family members or upload the picture to data-friendly sites such as FamilySearch or Ancestry, your information stays connected with your photo.

Join us next week for part two of this series as we outline a step-by-step process for adding metadata to your digital photos.

Miryelle Resek

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