A photo agency has sued clothing mogul and former pop singer Jessica Simpson for copyright infringement and, of more interest to the readers of this blog, removal of copyright management information (CMI). Photo agency Splash News alleges in a lawsuit filed in federal court in the central district of California on January 23 of this year that Simpson posted on Instagram, and later Twitter, a photo owned by the agency.
This post is Part 2 of our HOW-TO for keywording in Photo Mechanic. (See Part 1 here.) In this installment, we explore hierarchical keywording, or "Structured Keywording" as Photo Mechanic calls it. Hierarchical keywording allows us to add all the keywords along a hierarchical path by double-clicking on a single keyword, which we will find in a, yes, hierarchical organization.
Not only does hierarchical/Structured keywording allow us to quickly apply keywords, it also allows those of us who need giant keyword vocabularies to manage big keyword lists without any major loss of sanity.
Photo Mechanic is a powerful keywording tool; we’ll learn how in two HOW-Tos
Now that we have a plan in place for our keywording strategy (see this post), we can dive in and actually keyword some pictures. This post is the first of two HOW-TOs on keywording in Photo Mechanic. (I’ll look at keywording in other software in future posts.) There are nearly a dozen ways to apply keywords in Photo Mechanic. In this post, we’ll look at the “flat” methods. In Part 2, we’ll tackle hierarchical, or, in Photo Mechanic terms, “structured” keywording.
With a photo selected in Photo Mechanic, simply call the IPTC Editor dialog with the “i” button or the “I” key on your keyboard.
Go to the Keywords field and type in a keyword, then a comma, a space, and another keyword. And so forth. EXCEPT DON’T DO THAT! Remember that we should avoid – if at all possible – typing keywords. We need keywords to be consistent – no typos, no variations, no misspellings. We want to choose keywords.
So, go to the triangle to the right of the keywords field and click. With some luck, you’ll see a flyout with keywords listed, and you can choose one, open the flyout again, choose another, and so on. Your chosen keywords will appear in the Keywords field, neatly separated with commas.
But we’ve probably gotten ahead of ourselves. How do your keywords find their way into that flyout? Read on.
The Edit Keywords dialog
From the flyout, choose “Edit Keywords”. That will open the Edit Keywords dialog. (Photo Mechanic’s legend on the dialog says “IPTC Keywords”, but we’re going to call it “Edit Keywords” because that’s what it does and that’s how we called it.)
The Edit Keywords dialog has two panes. The pane on the right is called the “Master Keywords List”. The keywords in this list are the keywords that appear in the flyout in the IPTC editor. Put keywords in this list, OK the dialog and those keywords will be your flyout keywords.
Don’t read too much into “Master Keywords List”. This isn’t your for-real master list of keywords, your controlled vocabulary that you’ve been working on since your visit to my last post. This list of keywords can’t be much longer than a dozen or two items. This is a topical keyword list. You’ll want to have separate “Master Keywords Lists” for different subjects or situations, like portraits or landscapes, or for certain clients, or even for specific assignments.
That brings us to…..Snapshots
Look below the Master Keywords List. You’ll see editing functions. Their use is obvious. They work the same way in all the Photo Mechanic dialogs that work with lists.
Just below that, you’ll find two – Two! – Snapshot buttons. (Lightning bolt icons) As far as I know, this is the only dialog in Photo Mechanic that has two Snapshot buttons. The one on the right saves and calls Snapshots for the Master Keywords List. So, if you save subsets of your keyword vocabulary as Snapshots here, you can simply switch snapshots to bring up the correct set of keywords for your flyout(s).
At this point, you may be feeling a little uncomfortable about all your work that you’ll be saving as Snapshots. You don’t need to worry.
Option-click (Alt-click on Windows) on any snapshot. (I sometimes have to do this twice. Just a glitch, maybe.) Photo Mechanic will open a file manager window at the folder for Snapshots for whatever dialog you may be using. You’ll see that the Snapshots are stored on disk as .SNAP files. You can copy, backup, migrate or share the .SNAP files to your heart’s content.
You can also simply navigate to the folder in your operating system’s file manager. If a Snapshot flyout gets crowded, you can temporarily move Snapshots and store them elsewhere on your hard drive. (Snapshots can be exported and imported through the settings Import/Export function in Photo Mechanic’s preferences, too.)
And on the left
Take a look at the pane on the left of the dialog, the “Current Keywords List”. This pane will populate with the keywords on the selected image. You can select keywords in the right pane and copy them over to the left pane. Then, when you OK the dialog, those keywords will be applied to the picture you’re working on. In this way, you can apply a bunch of keywords, even from different Snapshots, to a picture, in a heartbeat.
The Snapshot button on the left controls Snapshots for the Current Keywords List. With it, you can make Snapshots of complicated sets of keywords to apply to specific pictures.
Now let’s put this all together
Knowing what we now know, we can work our way back to the beginning to make our flyout list work the way we want it to. But we should go a few steps further to ensure we abide by our controlled vocabulary.
There are Import and Export buttons in the Edit Keywords dialog. These will export your Master Keywords List to a text file, and import a text file into the Master Keywords List (replacing whatever is in it).
If you export and look at the file, you’ll see that it’s just a flat text file with a list of keywords, each on its own line. You can easily make up such a list and import it to the Master Keywords List and, in turn, make that into a Snapshot.
If you import a large-ish list, you can then select some keywords from it in the right pane, copy them to the left pane in the dialog (which you may have to clear for the occasion), then clear the right pane and copy the keywords back. Make a Snapshot. You’ve just made a ready-to-use keywords set for your flyout out. It’s a subset of the list you started with. That list you started with would be…. your controlled vocabulary! So, the flyout list you just made conforms to your controlled vocabulary!
Format your list
It’s quite likely that your controlled vocabulary will be in the form of a hierarchical keyword list. Such a list, if it’s formatted for Photo Mechanic, will be formatted with tabs and the occasional bracket. It’s logical that you would have to use a text editor to edit (a copy of) the list to match the simple format of the Edit Keywords dialog. But wait! You can automate some of the text-editing work and Photo Mechanic will automate most of the rest.
Open your hierarchical list in a text editor. Don’t worry about the tabs. Photo Mechanic will take care of those. You’ll see some keywords in curly brackets. Those are synonyms in the hierarchical list. You can use the Find and Replace function in your text editor to remove the brakets. First, zap the left curly bracket. The do the right one. Poof! That’s done.
I would go ahead and save the file and import it into the dialog at this point. Now, in your Master Keywords List pane, you might see some items in regular brackets. Those are categories, or labels. They show in the Structured Keywords dialog, but they aren’t applied to images. You might want to turn them into keywords, or you might want to delete them. Either way, it’s easy to do using the edit function in the Master Keywords pane.
You might see duplicate items in your list. If so, Multi-select the entire list and copy it over to the left pane. Zap! The dupes are gone. Clear the right-hand pane, multi-select everything in the left pane and copy back to the right. Now you have a perfectly clean list, ready to work with.
(I demonstrate all this in the video version of this post. It might be easier to follow watching, instead of reading.)
Apply with the Stationery Pad
Now, open your Stationery Pad. (CMD+I/CTL+I, or use Image > Stationery Pad from the main menu) In the keywords field, you’ll see that you have the same tools that you have in the IPTC editor. That means you can apply anything you can do with the flyout or Edit Keywords to a Stationery template.
Adding keywords to a template and then applying the template is pretty straightforward. But what if you want to work with keywords on a batch of pictures after you’re done with your other metadata work?
Click “Clear” to clear your Stationery pad. Now tick the tickbox next to the keywords field. That will turn the Keywords field “on” and every other field “off” Now you can apply keywords to selected pictures without affecting any other fields.
Notice the little plus sign by the keywords field. There’s a tickbox next to it. This little gizmo turns append on and off for the keywords field. Usually, when you work with keywords, you’ll want to append. You’ll want to be able to add keywords to any that already exist in the Keywords field. Generally, you want to make sure the append tickbox is ticked.
But if you want a do-over, you can clear the keywords field on images by simply leaving it blank in the Stationery pad, and overwriting whatever might be in the field on the pictures. In which case, unticking the append tickbox will do the trick.
And yet another powerful method
What if you just want to apply some keywords to a bunch of selected images directly, without fussing with the Stationery pad at all?
CMD+K/CTL+K will open something called the Keywords Panel. (You can also find this panel in the Image menu.) The Keywords Panel looks sort of like the Edit Keywords dialog, except it is arranged vertically instead of horizontally. The top of the panel is a pane that looks like the Master Keywords List pane in the Edit Keywords dialog. It will, in fact, display the selected Master Keywords List. There is the same editing functionality. And a Snapshot button. This Snapshot button accesses the same set of Snapshots that the one in Edit Keywords does.
So, you just choose the subset of your controlled vocabulary that you want and you’re good to go in this panel.
Multi-select keywords from the top pane and they will appear in the “Applying:” field at the bottom. “Apply to selected photos” does just that. (You can also type directly in the “Applying:” field. But don’t 🙂 )
There is also a setting pulldown that allows you to choose between append and overwrite behavior for this panel.
These are the “flat” methods for applying keywords in Photo Mechanic. I doubt any given user will use all of them, and I suspect that most readers of this blog will be more interested in the fancier and more powerful Structured Keywords functionality. But most of us will pick and choose one or two of these methods to use when the situation seems right.
Next time, we’ll fire up the Structured Keywords panel, load it with our controlled vocabulary, and have at it.
A few posts along, we’ll explore keywording in Adobe Lightroom. In the meantime, please reach out in the comments.
What are keywords? Why do you want them? Why is there air? Keywording is probably the trickiest wicket in the whole metadata game. Your keywording regime requires more forethought than most any other component of your workflow.
A good keywording approach depends heavily on a specific understanding of your collection, your searching needs, and the capabilities of your archive system.
There are lots of shades of gray here. Keywording can be controversial.
OK. So what, exactly, is it that I want you to do about this metadata thing?
- If you give birth to photographs – label them properly with a caption, copyright notice, and some contact information before you send them out into the world.
- If you operate the means of publishing or distributing pictures, or if you’re just a cog in a great machine that does that, read the label to be sure you know what’s what and that you have rights to publish whatever it is before you publish.
- If you run a website, make sure your server doesn’t strip the metadata labels, also known as Copyright Management Information, off of works that are published or distributed on your site.
What do I (you) get out of it?
If you’re a photographer, you get the warm and fuzzy of knowing that your work has a fighting chance of surviving. Maybe, years from now, somebody will look at that picture, understand what it is about, and who you are. Maybe that somebody calls you up to buy a license instead of stealing your work. (Or to ask your permission to use it, even.) Heavens to legacy.
In your own life, it means that when you have 50,000, or 500,000, or a million photos in your collection, you’ll be able to find the one you’re thinking of without spending hours or days looking for it.
If you’re licensing your work to the future through Creative Commons or some similar means, it means that, well, that will actually work. Your work won’t just go in the dustbin after one use. Your name, the license information, and supporting data will be right there in the metadata and your work can be used again and again.
If you’re a publisher, metadata on a photo gives you the opportunity to be an honest person. (Without having to break your back about it.) That doesn’t suck. You know that you really do have rights to use that photo. You know for sure who’s in the photo.
You’re preserving culture
By not removing that copyright information, you’ll be following the law. The new, disruptive, novel, one-weird-trick way to not get sued in the intellectual property biz is to follow the copyright law. (A bold strategy if there ever was one. We should make up an acronym for it.) It’s an easy warm and fuzzy. Taking one more threat that might destroy your business, even if it isn’t a statistically huge threat, off the table is a good thing in my book any day. See this post.
And, if you have zillions of assets, you’ll be able to find the one you want, too.
How do you accomplish all this goodness?
Labeling your work with metadata is usually a two-step process.
Your copyright and contact information goes on your pictures automatically (All, or just the ones you might publish, or some that will serve as “signposts” when you are searching through your collection. It depends.) Depending on what software you use, templated information like that goes on your picture when you download them from your camera cards all by itself, or it might take a couple clicks and a few seconds for each batch of photos. (Look around this site for software recommendations and instructions, metadata explainers, and even downloadable starter templates. )
Then, it will take (a little) effort to caption and keyword your final selections. Maybe a minute for each published photo.
(Read what the copyright office has to say about registering copyrights. It’s not really a metadata thing, but since we’re here…)
Website operators, or agencies, or publications:
When a photo comes to you, look at it. Are the rights OK? Does the caption seem to be accurate? It only takes a second (literally) to look.
Insist/encourage photographers, clients and whoever might supply pictures to you to label them properly in the metadata. If – excuse me, when – they don’t, (and some always won’t) mark up the picture yourself. Trust me, you’ll save more time, money and lawsuits than you invest.
Software to do this? Pretty much every creative on the planet has the Adobe suite. Adobe Bridge will get the job done. Not pretty, but done. XnView works great and it’s so cheap it’s ridiculous. One way or the other, you’ve got to look at the picture. It doesn’t really take any extra work to see what the metadata says. See my software articles for specifics.
If you run the backend of a website, make sure your server doesn’t strip away IPTC metadata where all that culturally and legally important information lives. (See this post and this one for more information on how metadata is structured within an image file.)
In the interest of full disclosure: You will pay a small – insignificant, really – price in page load time for the 8 KB or so of metadata that you’re preserving. We’re talking about a millisecond and a half per picture for fixed broadband in the US (2017), and about four milliseconds for mobile devices. By way of comparison, it takes 300 to 400 milliseconds to blink your eye. So – not too bad a bargain.
If your website runs on WordPress, all you need to do is make sure your server is using ImageMagick (instead of GD) as its imaging library and important metadata will be preserved by default. Most hosting providers support ImageMagick, and many enable it by default. In the latter case, you don’t have to do a darn thing – except choose one of those providers. (In an upcoming post, I’ll publish the first edition of a chart listing providers who support or enable ImageMagick.)
If the provider supports ImageMagick but doesn’t enable it by default, it’s usually just a matter of contacting customer support (it’s chat, usually) and the deed is done in a couple minutes.
And tell your friends to do the same
If your site is on a different CMS, it’s more or less the same idea. You might have to specify a different imaging library or change the configuration of the one you have. Most big-time industrial CMSes already use ImageMagick as their imaging library. In those cases, we’re probably talking about updating a config file.
Hold the phone
I hear someone in the shadows calling out “What about social media? What about phones? Aren’t those things dominating the media landscape now?”
Sort of. We’re not really talking about throw-away content here. That’s the whole point.
But throw away or not, professional content has to be, well, professional. It’s critically important for facts to be right. We can’t afford to accidentally use the wrong photo, or the photo the social media user didn’t authorize. And the quantities of content in the omnichannel world are staggering. Great metadata, great digital asset management and care and attention to rights and attribution help make the difference between living and dying for people working in a social media world.
Social media tends to strip away metadata. But you still need to keep track your assets. You should make sure every picture you put out there has metadata, regardless. If nothing else, you’ll be better able to keep track of the asset later. That stripped-off-by-the media-company metadata may or may not carry the day in some future legal hassle, but it sure isn’t going to hurt. See this post for more on what metadata needs to be on a photo you release and what metadata shouldn’t be.
By the way, your copyright and byline will survive a round trip through Facebook. Everything else ends up on the cutting room floor.
Social media companies may seem like such behemoths that we can never change their behavior. A little pressure won’t hurt, though.
Make metadata on mobile
As for phones – tons of photos are made with phones today. More and more each day. While most pictures that find their way to publication pass through a computer-based workflow on their way there, some don’t.
Not to worry! There are good metadata authoring apps available for both Android and iPhone. I’ll be writing about the best for each platform soon.
Will doing this really help? Will it make a dent?
Yes. It will help you. It will make the environment around you better. Your life will be better and easier.
I just suggested that publishers and agency people insist that photos they pay for be properly marked up. Poof! In one stroke, most of the pictures on your plate will be find-able and easier to use. You’ll save time and money. Life will be good. (Or better, at least. Your health, your family life – those things metadata probably won’t help.)
Photographers will save back the time and effort of marking up their stuff and then some. And just how many calls offering reuse fees does it take to make your day brighter?
If push one day comes to shove and one day you need to sue a copyright infringer, and that CMI in the metadata makes the difference between a lawyer taking the case and getting a judgment or not, that investment in metadata will make for a happy day.
Good works can go viral
There are trillions of photos floating around out there. In terms of that giant pile, good efforts by you and your friends might not make a statistical dent. But the balance of karma around you will improve. Your life will be a little better. The business environment in your segment will be a little better. That’s better than a dent.
And communities are interconnected. Trends take hold. The content creation and publishing communities are big, no mistake. But if the players in your niche start doing a good thing, it will spread to ever wider and wider circles of influence. Good ideas can spread through whole industries in no time at all.
Have you done something with metadata that we all should feel good about? Dive into the comments. Brighten our day!
What is the Embedded Metadata Manifesto?
EmbeddedMetadata.org is an effort of the IPTC.
I used to have an icon in my footer that linked to their manifesto, at http://www.embeddedmetadata.org/embedded-metatdata-manifesto.php (It’s not a link. Copy and paste it into a browser.)
I upgraded this site to secure all its traffic with SSL. The link to their still-non-SSL site was causing web browsers to issue security warnings to my visitors. I want you to be comfortable here, so that wasn’t good.
I should point out that neither their site nor mine (before the upgrade) is/was a danger. The old thinking was that SSL was only needed for sites that dealt with confidential information, like credit card data. Now, the feeling is that everybody should do SSL, and Google is making it a requirement for ranking in search results. Every website operator is somewhere in the process of switching over. The IPTC’s main site is already SSL-friendly, for example.
I’m a manifesto kind of guy, so for the time being, I’ll just quote the manifesto in its entirety for you right here.
Embedded Metadata Manifesto
How metadata should be embedded and preserved in digital media files
Photographers, film makers, videographers, illustrators, publishers, advertisers, designers, art directors, picture editors, librarians and curators all share the same problem: struggling to track rapidly expanding collections of digital media assets such as photos and video/film clips. With that in mind we propose five guiding principles as our “Embedded Metadata Manifesto”:
- Metadata is essential to describe, identify and track digital media and should be applied to all media items which are exchanged as files or by other means such as data streams.
- Media file formats should provide the means to embed metadata in ways that can be read and handled by different software systems.
- Metadata fields, their semantics (including labels on the user interface) and values, should not be changed across metadata formats.
- Copyright management information metadata must never be removed from the files.
- Other metadata should only be removed from files by agreement with their copyright holders.
More details about these principles:
1: All people handling digital media need to recognize the crucial role of metadata for business. This involves more than just sticking labels on a media item. The knowledge which is required to describe the content comprehensively and concisely and the clear assertion of the intellectual ownership increase the value of the asset. Adding metadata to media items is an imperative for each and every professional workflow.
2: Exchanging media items is still done to a large extent by transmitting files containing the media content and in many cases this is the only (technical) way of communicating between the supplier and the consumer. To support the exchange of metadata with content it is a business requirement that file formats embed metadata within the digital file. Other methods like sidecar files are potentially exposed to metadata loss.
3: The type of content information carried in a metadata field, and the values assigned, should not depend on the technology used to embed metadata into a file. If multiple technologies are available for embedding the same field the software vendors must guarantee that the values are synchronized across the technologies without causing a loss of data or ambiguity.
4: Ownership metadata is the only way to save digital content from being considered orphaned work. Removal of such metadata impacts on the ability to assert ownership rights and is therefore forbidden by law in many countries.
5: Properly selected and applied metadata fields add value to media assets. For most collections of digital media content descriptive metadata is essential for retrieval and for understanding. Removing this valuable information devalues the asset.
There’s good content on the Embedded Metadata site. Mostly, it tells you the same stuff I’ve been telling you. Which means you’ve been getting the straight dope here. I take that as a good sign. I encourage you to take a look around.
Captions connect pictures to the world. That connection between an image and its subjects, time and place (and its author, too) gives a photo the power to endure. Join your Aunt Louise as we explore the power of the caption.
Which IPTC fields are we really concerned about? And what do the fields mean? If you peruse the photo at the top of this page, you’ll see that some of the field labels are pretty opaque. We’ll see which ones we will need to fuss with picture-by-picture, which ones we fill in our template just once, and which we can safely ignore.