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Metadata: What's embedded in your files?

Added on Monday 27th of February 2006 05:33 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Photoshop, Metadata, File Browser, Bridge, File Info, Keywords


When you’ve toiled countless hours over an image, it’s certainly understandable that you’d want to protect its integrity. But a simple digital watermark isn’t enough if you want to copyright your image and keep track of your image being tampered with. If you aren’t using metadata, you’re missing out on an easy way to do all that, and more.


To bring you up to speed on the benefits of metadata, we’ll:

       Briefly describe metadata and point out some of the benefits it can provide.

       Explain how to access metadata from different versions of Photoshop and add keyword and copyright info to your images.

       Show you how to set up metadata templates to streamline the process.

       Use the File Browser to add keyword metadata and do a quick keyword search for easy file retrieval.

       Describe how to enable the History log so you can track any unwanted changes to your files with embedded metadata.


Digital watermarks are a great way to copyright your image, but don’t you want more? How about a way to copyright your image, secretly document any future changes, and while you’re at it, tag your images so you can easily organize and retrieve them in the future? We know what you’re thinking: there can’t possibly be a feature that does all this. Metadata is just the tool for the job, though, and it’s a resource many users don’t even know exist. It can be a valuable asset to your workflow if you know how to use it.


What’s metadata?

The literal translation of the word metadata is data about data. In Photoshop terms, metadata is information about your image that’s embedded when the file is saved, and stays with the file wherever it goes. Information includes, but is not limited to, creation date, a copyright, keywords, and information on the camera that shot the image, if applicable. Some metadata is editable, and some of it is embedded by either the application, another user, or a digital camera.



Metadata is embedded in your files via the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) framework. XMP was created by Adobe, but it’s open source, so it’s available free to developers. XMP is extensible, which basically means it’s customizable. XMP is compatible with XML (Extensible Markup Language), and complies to W3C standards. Another added benefit is that all Adobe Creative Suite applications support XMP metadata. So the metadata that’s in an image stays with the image and you can view it at any point in your Adobe workflow, from any of the Creative Suite applications.


The benefits of metadata

There are a number of ways you can benefit from using metadata. Every workflow is different, but here are a few ways we find metadata beneficial.

        Keywords. Adding keywords to images is a great way to tag them. If your image library is large and your filenames tend to be obscure, keywords such as landscape or cars will come in handy when you want to locate images with similar content.

        Copyright. While digital watermarks can protect your images, metadata is more robust. You can add contact information in conjunction to embedding your ownership in the file.

        History Log. You can keep track of changes to your images by applying the history log to your metadata. This can be useful if you need to prove for legal reasons that the image was, or wasn’t altered in any way. The result of this is a log of any changes applied to the image since you activated the history log in your metadata.



IPTC and metadata

Founded in 1965, the International Press and Telecommunications Council (IPTC) identified the need for file information to be tracked with images in Photoshop. The IPTC is a consortium of news related industries around the world, and they work to maintain standards for the newspaper industry in much the same way the W3C does for the web. The original purpose of the IPTC metadata fields in Photoshop is to aid the newspaper publishing industry with a means to organize and maintain the integrity of their images.



Different types of metadata

There are different types of metadata available in Photoshop. Some of the metadata you can edit, and some of it is embedded in the file by either a digital camera or the application that the file was created and first saved in. We’ll cover a few of the more common types of metadata in the File Info dialog box.


        IPTC. IPTC metadata consists of, but isn’t limited to, artist’s contact information, copyright and usage terms, headlines, descriptions, and keywords for the file. This information is completely editable.

        EXIF. Listed in the File Info dialog box as Camera Data 1 and Camera Data 2, EXIF (Exchangable Image File Format) metadata is information that’s embedded by the digital camera that the image was shot from. This includes, but isn’t limited to, make and model of the camera, shutter speed, and even the GPS location of where the photo was shot, if the camera is GPS enabled.


Access your metadata

Photoshop has changed some of the ways to access metadata between versions 7, CS, and CS2. Version 7 allowed access strictly through the File Info dialog box. Version CS and CS2 have the same File Info dialog box, but also provide enhanced metadata support through the File Browser and Adobe Bridge, respectfully. For the purpose of this article we’ll focus on CS. For more on the Bridge, see our companion article “The Bridge to Metadata” in this issue.


To view the metadata in your file:

1.       Launch Photoshop and open an image.

2.      Choose File > File Info to display the File Info dialog box shown in Figure A.




To point out just how in-depth the file info goes, our original file is an InDesign document, which we exported as a PDF for press. We opened the PDF in Photoshop and, as you can see in Figure A, the Document title displays an .indd extension which is an InDesign native file format. We haven’t added any metadata to the file at any point in the workflow; Indesign embedded the data when we saved the file.

While we have the image open in Photoshop, we’ll go ahead and add some metadata to it now. For our example, we’ll add some keywords, and a copyright notice.


To add keyword metadata to your file:

1.       Choose File > File Info to display the File Info dialog box with the Description tab active.

2.      Enter descriptive words in the Keywords text box in the middle of the dialog box, and separate each keyword with a comma.


To add copyright metadata to your file:

1.       Choose Copyrighted from the Copyright Status pop-up menu.

2.      Enter the string of text you want for your copyright notice, such as ©2005 your name or company.

3.      Enter a URL for your website in the Copyright Info URL text box, if applicable.

4.      Click OK.


Streamline the process with templates

If you have a lot of images that you wish to apply the same copyright information to, a template is the way to go to streamline the process. You can do this from the File Info dialog box.


To create a metadata template:

1.       Select a category from the left pane of the File Info dialog box that provides editable information.



Note: Panels such as Camera Data 1, Camera Data 2, History, and Adobe Stock Photos are not editable, so the text boxes are grayed out....


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