Digital Demystified: What is metadata?

What is metadata?

Metadata is data about data. It is the descriptive information embedded inside an image or other type of file.

For example, most digital cameras attach some basic information about a file, such as height, width, file format, and the time and date the image was taken. Think of this whole thing as the old library card catalog system. The DAM is the card catalog and the information on the cards is the metadata, pointing you to the book you are looking for.

Why should I care about metadata?

Metadata is important in this age of digital photos where users are looking for a way to store information with their pictures that is portable and stays with the file, both now and into the future. Metadata is essential to using a DAM because it can help streamline your workflow and organize your files.

Where can I find metadata?

I am going to get technical here for a moment… file information is stored using the Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) standard. XMP is built on XML. In the case of camera raw files that have a proprietary file format, XMP isn’t written into the original files. To avoid corruption, XMP metadata is stored in a separate file called a sidecar file.

Have you seen those xmp files that seem to share the same file name? Don’t put them in the trash! Those xmp files contain the metadataraw file and sidecar

Once you save those raw files in another format (JPEG, TIFF, PSD, and DNG), the XMP metadata is written into the files in the location specified for that data. You might not even work with RAW files. In that case, the metadata is already embedded in the image file itself.

In Adobe Photoshop you can view this information by looking at the “file info” form located under the file menu. This form enables users to insert and edit IPTC metadata in digital image files.

What information should I add to the metadata?

Metadata already contains information as the file is created in your camera, such as image size and date. I suggest adding more information. I always fill in the Description and the Origin sections of the File Info form. In these sections you can add a description (or caption), photographer’s name, location, keywords, copyright information, etc.


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