Photo Metadata Tips

Preserve Information in Your Digital Photo Files

What is Photo Metadata?
I'm providing these photo metadata tips to help you organize your own photo collections. Photo Metadata is digital information about your photos. The metadata is part of the digital file, but many people don't know how to view it or edit it. Metadata includes dates, keywords, and more. Keywords are words you choose to assign to your digital files. Photo metadata can be added and edited using software that's already on your PC or Mac computer.

Metadata is searchable. Use a word or a date in the search box of your computer's file browser software , or one of many free or inexpensive photo management programs available. You'll see all the photos that match your search.

Adding and Editing Photo Metadata
You can add and edit photo metadata. It can be a slow process, but the more metadata is added, the more searchable and enjoyable your photo collection will be. The tips provided here are not complete instructions. Explore and learn about the software you are using.

As a Certified Photo Organizer, I use preparation, processes, software and experience to edit and/or apply metadata to thousands of images at a time. If you need help with even just one step of your photo organizing project, please contact me for a free consultation.

About Photo 'Date Taken'

File Date Terminology
There are several different terms used in digital photo dating. The only way to know for sure what term is being used in your software, is to compare known facts with the name of the field or column displaying the date.

Date Taken is the most common term for when a photo was taken.
Date Created is sometimes used as the term for when a photo was taken. It can also be used to mean then a digital file was first created. Depending on the software, a scanned photo could have a 'Date Taken' and a 'Date Created'.
Date could mean the date taken or the date created depending on the software you are using.
Date Modified is when a change was made to a digital file.
'Date Taken' of Scanned Photos
When a photo is scanned and a digital file is created, the 'Date Taken' is the date the photo was scanned.

Editing the Date Taken to reflect when the photo was really taken (or your best guess), is very helpful for keeping your digital photos organized.
'Date Taken' Errors
There are 3 main reasons a photo taken with a digital device might have the wrong 'Date Taken':

1: The time setting on a digital camera was not properly set. On early digital cameras, the time often reset to a default if the battery died or was removed for recharging.
2: The time setting on a digital camera was not adjusted for time zone change while travelling.
3: The time setting on a mobile phone had not yet been updated after during or after the phone was in 'airplane mode' during travel.

Viewing Photo Metadata On a Windows PC

Using File Explorer
File Explorer is the name for where you view your folders and files. In Windows 10, File Explorer has 4 tabs: File, Home, Share, and View.

The settings of File Explorer must be changed to view the metadata that is important for photo files.
Columns in File Explorer
The visible columns in File Explorer can be changed to show many different photo metadata items. I suggest changing the settings to show at least the following columns:
'Name', 'Date Taken', and 'Tags' (Tags are the same as keywords).
To change visible columns:

1: In the View tab, select 'Details' view. This will show file details in list form.
2: Click on 'Add Columns'. Check and un-check the columns you choose.
Details Pane in File Explorer
File and folder details can be viewed in the 'Details Pane'. I find the details pane useful when photos are viewed as 'Extra Large icons', 'Large icons' or 'Medium icons'.

To enable the Details Pane:
1: In the 'View' tab, click on 'Details Pane'. This will open a section of the screen on the right to show folder and file details. You can adjust the size of this pane.
2: There are set details visible that are automatically determined by the type of file being viewed. For a photo file, the most important details are shown. Some of these details are editable.
File Properties in File Explorer
A great amount of file detail can be viewed when a single image file is selected.

To view File Properties:
1: Right-click on a single file. A long list of options will be displayed.
2: Click on 'Properties', found at the bottom of the list. the File Properties window will open.
3: View the information in the 4 tabs of the File properties Window: General, Security, Details, and Previous Version. Most of the metadata is visible in the Details tab.

Editing and Adding Photo Metadata

Using File Explorer on a Windows PC
In File Explorer, some metadata fields can be edited within the Details Pane or in the File Properties window.

Be sure to click 'OK', or 'Save' when done.
Using Adobe Bridge FREE Software
Adobe Bridge is free software for photo viewing. Metadata can be viewed and changed using Adobe Bridge.

Features include: Adjust the size for viewing the photo, choose what what file information you want to see. Add and edit keywords. Correct photo dates. Rate photos. Various sorting options.

In Adobe Bridge, the term 'Date Created' is used to represent the date the photo was taken.

Available for PC and Mac.

Your Keywords List

What is a Keyword?
A keyword (also called a tag) is a word added to the keyword field of a digital file. Two or more words can form a single keyword. Example: Birthday party.

A person's name can be a keyword. Anything you want to identify and be searchable in your digital photo files can be added as a keyword.

Adding words (keywords) to the digital photo file (metadata) makes your collection very searchable. The more keywords you add, the more searchable your collection will be.
Choosing Keywords
Keywords for your own personal photo collection would include words that matter to you. Words that represent the activities you enjoy, your hobbies, the places you go, and anything else relevant.

Make a list of keywords. As you go through your photos, you can add keywords. Be consistent. I do a lot of cycling. I have chosen to use the keyword 'biking'. Not 'bicycling" or 'cycling'. Make a list of the words you will use and stick to that list.
Keyword Categories and Examples
Some suggestions to help you start to create a keyword list:

Group (People) Keywords: team, club, class, party...
Event/Celebration Keywords: birthday, reunion, wedding, race, event name, exhibit name, picnic, concert, visit, vacation...
Location Keywords: name of a place, name of a school, destination/resort name, your home (find a unique identifying word), cottage...
Activity Keywords: name of a sport, camping, gardening, renovation, dance, choir...

Don't Lose Your Metadata!

Sharing Photos by Email
If you've added metadata to your photos, you probably want it to make sure it stays with your photos.

When photos are sent by email, it is important to send photos as attachments. The person receiving the email will have to open the attachment. If the photo is then saved on that person's device, the metadata will still be there.

If a photo is sent as inline, the photo will be visible to the recipient when the email is opened. When a photo sent this way is saved, the metadata is no longer attached to the photo file!

There are many different email service. Do some testing with copy of a digital photo. Email it to yourself using different methods to see what metadata remains attached.
Sharing Photos via Online Services
Many people use online photo storage services. Be aware of what happens to metadata you add to photos while using these online services. Be especially aware of the free services.

If you add metadata to your photos before uploading them to online storage, that metadata usually remains with the file when the photo is downloaded or shared through the service.

If you add metadata to your photos after uploading to the service (within the online service's app or by direct access through a browser), that metadata is often removed from the file when the photo is downloaded or shared shared through the service.

Do some testing with copies of of your photos to determine what happens to your photos with whatever service you might be using.

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