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Keywording Your Pictures

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 14 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Keywording Keywords Iptc Iim Metalogging

Organising your photos in an intuitive sensible way is one of the biggest challenges of digital asset management.

As your archive of images grows, you are likely to find it progressively harder to get to what you need if your pictures are arranged solely in albums or, worse still, in a big pool according to the date on which you took them. In these circumstances, finding the image that you know you have but you’re not sure where can be a nightmare. Keywording is one of the best answers to this conundrum.

Potential Uses

The value of keywording can be illustrated by looking at the scenarios in which it is used. Every major photo agency in the world uses keywords to enable potential buyers to find the images which are of interest to them. Indeed, basic keywording (or ‘metalogging’) can be seen in action when you use any search engine’s image search function. Adapting this concept to serve your own personal purposes is not difficult, and the benefits are huge.

To begin with, you will almost certainly need to find some good asset management software, some examples of which are looked at in another article in this section. Once you have done this, you can start keywording your existing photographs.

When adding keywords to images, it is useful to start by looking at the basic rule of journalistic captioning: the '5 W’s And How'. Using this rule, you should be trying to add keywords covering who, what, where, when, why and how for each of your images. In some circumstances not all of these will apply, but considering each in turn will always lead to a more fully formed, and therefore useful, set of keywords. For example, you might have a picture of your son playing football in the park. You can already fulfil three of the ‘W’s. You might then add a time-based keyword and, depending on the circumstances, you might also add a ‘how’, although this may well not be necessary.

Keyword Choices

Having looked at these six recommended requirements, you should then give some thought to the keywords that you will actually use to fill them. The trick is to be precise enough that you can easily find exactly what you want, but broad enough that you will find something relevant when you are doing a more general search. In order to achieve this, you might well find that you need more than one keyword for each ‘W’ and the ‘how’. For example, ‘football’ might not be enough for ‘what’; you may also wish to add ‘kicking’ or ‘holding’, and so on.

The keywords that you choose, and the system that you use to create them, will be dependent on the purpose for which you are organising your images. Someone keywording images for personal, nostalgic use would keyword differently to a sports journalist sending images to their agent, for example.

However, if you have access to software that supports it, the new IPTC IIM (International Press Telecommunications Council Information Interchange Module) can be of great use even to amateur photographers. This very useful standard for keywording allows the user to assign an unlimited number of words to each of their images. Depending on your software, these words can then be saved for use again at a later date.

Virtually every piece of contemporary digital asset management now supports this standard, and it is highly recommended that you find software that does.

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