Using Metadata Tags on Photos

By DD / July 31, 2016
Photo metadata
metadata tags on photos

Meta Tags on Photos

Photo Metadata tags can save you a lot of time looking for photos on your computer. If you are doing genealogy or just looking for family members, this is a crucial part of keeping up with the information you find. Originally written by Denise Barret Olson on Scribd and titled “Sharpen your Digital Pencil An introduction to Metadata” this article will get you started organizing your photos digitally. Basically, you can right click on a photo and choose the “Details” tab and put in your own title, tags, star ratings, author and other information.  This will allow you to find it easily later searching for the tags.  It does take a minute or so extra to do, but it can save you a lot of time looking through hundreds of photos for the right one.

Our use of digital technology to support our research efforts has been focused on finding digitized records and building our family tree using applications specifically designed for genealogy. Online archives and genealogy applications have revolutionized genealogical research and made our research efforts much easier. Yet, when it comes to organization and management tasks, we’re still stuck in the paper age. Even when we are using digital tools, we’re performing tasks and using workflows designed for paper systems. Many of us digitize photos, documents and other family ephemera to share our treasures with others and to protect ourselves from disaster. Is your digital filing system organized like your paper system – even to the point of duplicating files so they can be filed under multiple surnames?

Evernote uses tags to quickly organize and retrieve notes.

Introducing Metadata

Metadata is the digital equivalent of that penciled note you would love to find on the back of an old family photo.The formal definition is data used to describe data. In the paper world, a good metadata example is the citation. For a book, it’s the title page. In the digital world, that information is embedded in the item’s file. For example, a digital photograph can have information like date stamps, geo tags and camera settings automatically included in the image file when you take the picture. You can add more metadata information using your photo management software. This includes things like title, description and tags. All this information is permanently added to the image file.Metadata is not only today’s equivalent of the pencil notes on an old family photo, it’s also a very useful organizational tool. Why? Because most search engines – both desktop and online – can search the metadata in your photos and files. So, instead of building cumbersome filing systems and duplicating files in various locations, spend your time and effort adding appropriate metadata to your digitized items. It’s quick and easy. Once entered, that data and your computer’s search function will put that record in your face faster than you can browse to the appropriate folder to find it. And, that same metadata is permanently embedded in the file – and any copies you make – providing provenance along with search ability.
Where do you begin?

You probably already have begun – you just aren’t aware of it. Do you use a photo management app like Photoshop Elements or Photos to add titles,descriptions and keywords to your pictures? If so, you’re creating metadata. It’s easy to add it to other items you create. If you scan documents to PDF, does your scanning app allow you to add keywords and descriptive information in addition to the document title? That’s metadata.

Using File > Properties command displays a nice form for adding metadata. Mac users can add tags (keywords) to files as they are saved.Once you get into the metadata habit, you’ll find your computer’s search function is a lot more . . . functional. In this example, Mac’s Spotlight search feature searches metadata and file content along with file names. You can also take advantage of “smart” folders – virtual folders that appear in Finder (for the Mac) or File Manager (for Vista or later) based on a saved search. Any time anew document is created or added to your file system that fits your saved search’s criteria, it will be automatically included in that smart folder. Features like these allow you to have one physical file and “display” it in multiple places.

You can read the entire article here. Take the time on the front end to tag your photos.  Future generations will find these photos and won’t know who these people are like you do.  Also if you are looking for family, you will want to compare peoples features for family resemblances and to pass information down to your heirs.

About the author


I found my birth family after 40 years of looking for them. I used DNA tests, software to sort DNA match results, family trees, contacting DNA matches and several website tools. We want to provide you a "one stop shop" with all your resources to help YOU find YOUR family.

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