Thursday, July 10, 2008

Eating My Own Dog Food: Photo Metadata Advice

David Marsh had a great comment on my previous blog entry. I'm reposting it in its entirety because I think it is a great tip for anyone trying to manage their photos on their file system.

I did some considerable research to find the best approach for tagging Photos and videos. One concern I had was tagging photos and storing those tags in a propriety format that I would not be able to see my tags on a photo in the future and secondly ensuring that whatever program I used was using current industry standards for tagging. So with that in mind I found out that the XMP format from Adobe is becoming the defacto standard for storing metadata about photos and Microsoft have also adopted this format. The problem with most programs out there is they maintain keywords and tags in a separate database to the actual files. (Picasa does this). That is bad because if I copy all my photos to another computer or have them backed up somewhere else, without the database I have no tags. The XMP format embeds the keywords and tags in the files themselves so they are fully portable and the keywords are never lost and are program independent. So I looked at some of the Adobe photo cataloguing applications but finally chose Microsoft Expression Media 2 because of its great support for tagging photos and then embedding them in the files and also the simple extensible scripting mechanism they have for allowing you to rename and tag your photos in bulk based on the date the photo was taken, or the file name or any other piece of metadata you can think off. Very powerful, and I know my photos are storing all my keywords and tags in XMP format within the photos themselves and it is a standard that will guarantee I can read the tags on computers in 10 years or so. I think the best option at the moment.

Here are some more insights into the topic:

Jon Udell at Strategies for Internet Citizens

and Geoff Coupe's Blog:!6AA39937A982345B!4417.entry

The general consensus is that keeping the metadata with the file is the preferred approach, which makes perfect sense and is in keeping with the rest of my SharePoint-based Information Management plan.

David recommends Microsoft Expression Media 2. It also has an archive feature - the ability to backup to any mounted drive. This would work well with my JungleDisk mounted drive.

The software is $200 but I'm committed to getting organized so I'm willing to pay (a fair bit) for that if it saves me time down the road. More information on Microsoft Expression Media 2 is on the official website here:

There is a trial version available here:

For some reason it doesn't mention how long the trial lasts for. I'll download it today and see.

Has anyone else used Expression Media yet, and if so what do you think of it? If not, what other software would you use to do the job?


  1. One feature that is not immediately obvious in Microsoft Expression Media is the catalogue feature. This allows you to create a catalogue of all or a subset of your photos and store them in a catalogue. What makes this useful is that I can send the catalogue to another person who can use the free Expression Media catalogue viewer (kind of like adobe reader for PDF's) to view all my photos. Why this is different to just sending a group of photos to someone in an email is you get to determine the quality and size of the photos that are stored in the catalogue. So you may only provide 600x400 pixel previews of the photos to keep the size of the catalogue small enough to email. Also the person you send the catalogue to gets to interact with the rich tagging you have placed on the photos and sort and filter the photos based on the metadata. They can also annotate the photos and send the catalogue back to you. Design and print agencies use this a lot to send low quality proofs to clients for review. This might be useful for some people.

  2. That is a good feature. Obviously the requirement to have Expression Media or at least the catalogue viewer means using this needs to be agreed upon in you mentioned probably something that people would use for technical purposes.

  3. The trouble with Expression Media is the meatadata (custom fields) seems to be limited to 15. Not enough for VRA4 Core. Also cannot get repeatable fields (ie you may want 2 or more titles) and what about any integration into/out of Sharepoint?
    MDID2 seems to be a better cataloging tool and its export/import features are more generic to allow use in other apps.


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