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Working with, and Adding to, Your Photo’s Metadata in Lightroom 2

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When you take a digital photo, the camera automatically embeds a host of information directly into the photo itself. Beyond that, you can embed your own info into the file. Scott Kelby explians why the ability to do that is more important than you might think.
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Working with, and Adding to, Your Photo’s Metadata

When you take a digital photo, the camera automatically embeds a host of information directly into the photo itself, including everything from the make and model of the camera it was taken with, to the type of lens that was on the camera at the time, to the time and date, and even whether your flash fired or not. That can be very handy stuff (and Lightroom can even search for photos based on this embedded information, called EXIF data). Beyond that, you can embed your own info into the file, and the ability to do that is more important than you might think.

Step One. In the Library module, to see a selected photo’s metadata, go to the Metadata panel located in the right side Panels area (seen here). By default, Lightroom displays the selected photo’s basic metadata, which includes the filename, dimensions, any titles or captions you’ve added (you’ll learn how in a moment), any copyright data you added when the file was imported, any ratings, labels, when it was created, and the data embedded by your digital camera when you took the shot (called EXIF data) at the bottom.

Step Two. Although this is the default Metadata panel view, you can see more of the embedded data (or less if you feel this is info overload) by choosing different metadata views from the pop-up menu on the left side of the Metadata panel’s header (as shown here). For example, choosing Minimal shows you just the filename, rating, caption, and copyright fields—that’s it. But choosing All displays a long scrolling list of everything that’s embedded, and every field where you can embed stuff, too. The EXIF view (shown here) just shows the info the camera embedded, and the IPTC view just shows the fields where you can enter your copyright, contact, and image info.

Step Three. If you see an arrow to the right of any metadata field, that’s a hot link to either more information or a search feature. For example, go to the Metadata panel’s pop-up menu again, and choose EXIF to show just the info embedded by your camera. Now, hover your cursor over the arrow that appears to the right of Date Time Original for a few seconds and a little message will appear telling you what that arrow does (in this case, clicking that arrow would turn on a filter that would then display only photos taken on that date).

Step Four. Now go and choose IPTC from the Metadata panel pop-up menu (in case you were wondering, IPTC stands for the International Press Telecommunications Council) to display just the section where you can add your own information to the file (outside the things you could have added during import using a metadata template—see page 30 for more on metadata templates). For example, one bit of metadata I like to add is the city, state, and country (if outside the U.S.) where the photo was taken (that way, I can search by city and instantly see all the photos taken in a particular city). To add this, just scroll down to the Image section, click anywhere inside the Location field to highlight it, and type in the location, then press the Tab key to move to the next field down to add the city, state, etc. It’s the same process for any of the blank IPTC fields you see here—just click and type in whatever you’d like, and this information gets embedded right into the file.

Step Five. If you have photos where you didn’t apply your copyright metadata preset when you first imported the photos, it’s not too late—you can apply it now. First, select all the photos you want to add this info to, then choose your template from the Preset pop-up menu at the top-right side of the Metadata panel (as shown here). That information is instantly added to every selected photo, and you can see the copyright and contact info now appears in the Metadata panel (as seen here).

Step Six. When you add metadata to a JPEG, TIFF, PSD, or DNG photo, that information is embedded directly into the file itself. However, RAW photos don’t let you embed metadata directly into them (unless you convert them to DNG format, of course). So, with RAW files, any metadata you add (including copyright info, keywords, and even color correction edits to your photo) is either stored in Lightroom’s catalog database, or you can choose to have it written to a separate file that lives right alongside your RAW file, called an XMP sidecar file. This is a separate file from your original RAW photo, and if you were to look at the RAW photo in its folder on your computer, you’d see your RAW file, then next to it, you’d see an XMP sidecar file with the same name, but with the XMP file extension (the two files are circled here in red). These two files need to stay together because one is the photo, and the other is that photo’s metadata. So, if you back up this photo to a disc, or move it, or you want to give the RAW file to a friend or co-worker, be sure to grab both files.

Step Seven. Although you do have to keep track of two files with RAW photos, there are some advantages: (1) Any color correction settings or sharpening you’ve applied, and all your embedded keywords, ratings, and cropping will be recognized by the latest versions of Adobe Bridge and Adobe Camera Raw (both are part of Photoshop). And, (2) if you share your RAW photos with other people, you’ll be able to include your metadata. If you’d like to have your RAW photo metadata in separate XMP sidecar files, then press Command-Option-, (comma; PC: Ctrl-Alt-,) to open Lightroom’s Catalog Settings dialog, click on the Metadata tab, and turn on the checkbox for Automatically Write Changes into XMP. Now, your changes to RAW photos (from edits, to cropping, to keywords, to ratings, etc.) will be written to a separate XMP sidecar file automatically.

Step Eight. The downside of always writing the metadata to XMP sidecars is a speed issue. Each time you make a change to a RAW file, Lightroom has to write that change into XMP, which slows things down a bit, so I leave the Automatically Write Changes into XMP checkbox turned off. Instead, when I need to send somebody a RAW file, at that point I go under the Metadata menu, and choose Save Metadata to File (as shown here). Note: Remember, this XMP sidecar issue only relates to RAW files, not JPEGs, TIFFs, PSDs, or DNGs, which all embed the metadata directly into the files themselves.

Step Nine. Here’s a tip that could really save you some time: if you manually entered some IPTC metadata for a photo, and you want to apply that same metadata to a different photo, you don’t have to type it all in again—you can copy that metadata and paste it on another photo. Start by clicking on the photo where you entered your metadata, then go under the Metadata menu and choose Copy Metadata, or press Command-Option-Shift-C (PC: Ctrl-Alt-Shift-C). This brings up the Copy Metadata dialog (shown here), where you can choose which lines of metadata you want to copy (just turn off the checkbox to the right of any data field you don’t want).

Step 10. Click the Copy button and that info is stored into memory. Now select the photo(s) you want it applied to, go under the Metadata menu, and choose Paste Metadata. Better yet, that copied metadata stays in Lightroom’s memory, so you can paste it tomorrow, the next day, etc. (Basically, it stays there until you copy a different set of metadata.) If you don’t need that long-term storage of metadata, then try this: Click on the photo that has the metadata you want, then Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) on those other photos to select them. Now click the Sync Metadata button (at the bottom of the right side Panels area), which brings up the Synchronize Metadata dialog (shown here). It looks and works almost exactly like the Copy Metadata dialog. Turn off the checkboxes for any data you don’t want synced, then click the Synchronize button to update those other photos.

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