Keywords and Metadata are personal

We haven’t talked about this for a while.  I’ve been helping a friend get started in both photography and in managing her images with Adobe Lightroom ®, and the question of “What is the right way?” came up.  What I tried to highlight is that there is no such thing as a right way, if it doesn’t reflect the way you think, or how you intend to use your work.  The ability to add useful information about your pictures is one of the most powerful features of photo organizing software.  Instead of having to make folders and stick multiple copies of the same images in each one, you can “tag” or “keyword” them, with multiple, almost infinite descriptions making it possible to find them later. 

Part of the balance is deciding how far down you want to describe each picture.  For example this image, is described as:  Other: Abstract, Other: Colors: White, Photo walk, and Architecture: Doors and Windows.  It also shows that it is from Ybor City in Florida. 

While this one of my friend Harney includes these tags: People:Musicians:Guitar, People:Friends:Harnage

Both of them now will also get the added tag of Other:Photography:EFCubedBlog  as publishing them changes their copyright status and we don't want to use the same ones again. 

Keeping the main branches of the organization simple is important.  The categories need to be fairly broad.  At the top level I have created 4 top level categories

Events—Activities which are related such as Holidays, Work, Sports and Parties

Other—All the things which don’t neatly fit, but which matter to me and I use more than once.  Abstract, Architecture, Colors, Flowers and Nature, Photoshop Projects, and some others.  I had created a top level category called “Things”, but didn’t find it very useful, so I just moved the pieces around.  This is also one of the easy and useful features.

People—The different categories of human beans or at least how I think of them from behind the lens.  I’ve stacked them as Family, Friends, Musicians, Portraits and Strangers.  Musicians seem like a pretty odd distinction, but I seem to shoot a lot of the Northern VA Folk and Bluegrass events and needed to be able to sort them all out. 

Places—Obviously the locations, but this detail is also available in the METADATA, so I now just confine it to Continent and Country and then things such as Battlefields, Beaches, My House, Wineries and Zoos.   I have a lot of winery photos—who would have guessed that?

Roger and I have completely different approaches to the people category.  He also does genealogy research for his and his wife’s family, so the intricate connections are critical.  I just want to make sure I know who the people are and a very generic relationship—i.e. I think those are my kids or cousins, etc.  If you are going to try and sell photos for stock, then every detail you can think of should be added.   Young,  male, boy, student, desk, yellow pencil, green chalkboard, etc, etc, because people will search for their specific requirements and you want your photo to catch as many of their search terms as possible. 

The best time to add these tags is when you are doing your initial importing of the pictures.   I always do my first sort, rejecting and deleting any “bad” pictures first.  Then I go back in and add the tags to all the images.   But that is another topic.   If you already have a lot of pictures in your system, it can seem daunting to try and go back and get them all.  It’s just one of those “eat an elephant” tasks, just take them in groups of 20 and eventually they will all get done.  It’s not like they are going anywhere.