Helpful Information on subjects related to handling digital images
Back to Extras
Digital Asset Management & Metadata: What it is, how it works and why you should care
Digital Asset Management: Intro, Overview
What are "Digital Assets" anyways, you might be asking?
Well, really any image, audio and video content that resides on your local hard drives, server or other digital media. Considering that most photos are only existent in digital form nowadays, they are truly assets and should be handled with care.
And what is Metadata?
Metadata might be described as "data about data", and provides useful information that supplements the primary content of digital documents. It brings a standard to describing and administering photographs, and the values in that data can be processed by software. More detail follows below.
Pitfalls and Benefits
As the number of digital assets continues to grow, the necessity to manage them properly becomes increasingly important - for both businesses using digital assets and photographers creating them. Metadata is an integral part of this process, facilitating organisation and searching, amongst other advantages.
Failure to do so can quickly lead to
- considerable mess and confusion
- wasted time searching for assets
- missed deadlines and opportunities
- the need to recreate assets, because they cannot be found, or
- high costs due to not observing copyright agreements, combined with litigation
just to name a few of the possible consequences.
The benefits of a structured approach using metadata on the other hand, are
- considerable time savings
- a greatly enhanced workflow
- scalability with data mining options
- legal certainty
- reduced overall cost and
- better results in reproduction
Why is "Digital Asset Management" (DAM) and Metadata so important?
A smart folder structure and logical file names may be sufficient for your personal archiving up to a certain degree, but this system - by design - is very limited.
Such an approach is bound to fail for business uses, especially as the amount of Digital Assets expands - and when it comes to collaborating with others and distributing photos. Once the file has left your archive, the folder name previously classifying an image won't be there any more and the file name may not have much meaning to the receiver. Furthermore, images are generally far more complex than what can be packed in the few limited characters of a file name. Vital information is simply missing.
In working with images, questions quickly arise, such as:
- Who is involved with this image (who took it, who owns it, who’s in it)?
- Where is this image from, where was it taken?
- When was it created or modified?
- Is it model-released?
- Who owns which copyrights? How may we use this image, in what way?
This is where DAM and adherence to open standards and specifications come to the rescue.
Industry standards now largely established
In the early days of the shift to digital imaging, standards where not well defined and interoperability was limited at best. In the past couple of years though, the core software companies and interest groups finally have realized both the need and benefit of DAM. Then they talked to each other in working groups and subsequently developed a frame work, defined industry standards and created working solutions.
Today then a well thought out system is readily available to anyone using current and suitable imaging tools. If applied correctly and consistently, use of such a system makes it possible for information once entered to stay intact across systems, in processing and to be legible to others who work with the images. EXIF data (generated in-camera) also remains untouched in a proper workflow with the right tools and therefore decompression, printing and reproduction processes greatly benefit from it in a number of ways.
Digital Assetmanagement - How to do it
When I switched to digital imaging years ago, in looking ahead, I quickly realized the need and benefits of proper and effective Digital Asset Management (although the term was foreign to me then). So initially, while still dealing with scans, I programmed my own database - which lead to a dead end though (since the information was not contained in the images and would easily get separated).
As the industry matured, capable and customizable software solutions and strategies have finally been developed to an adequate level in recent years.
Use the right tools and familiarize yourself with the standards
The standard file formats of digital images produced today (such as jpeg, tif, psd, dng) provide a space in the file header for annotating the image in numerous ways. Professional software can read and write in this header in a standards compliant way.
Image descriptions, keywords, ratings, comments, categories as well as infos about the location, author/ creator, usage rights, special instructions amongst many other annotations can be contained in the file header. Using suitable and current tools, a number of steps can be fully automated. Such tools can in some cases even be customized for specific needs of your business and archiving/ distribution system. Much of the current Adobe Creative Suite, e.g. Bridge has such capabilities included already. More comfortable to use and specifically designed to the task are highly customizable solutions such as Fotostation.
Reap the benefits
Not only will you be able to find, organize, manage and distribute your contents in a much faster and far more efficient way, but all the information can then also be easily re-purposed, e.g. in a content management system such as Typo3 (which is what I am doing on this site).
In summary - what this means to you and me
I have taken the issues addressed above into account in my image workflow. My aim is to always provide photos, which conform to all the basic requirements of annotation and so I provide a host full of essential and helpful information contained in the file header.
How you can benefit
To best benefit from me adopting Best Practices, you also need to make use of suitable software - one which is industry standards compliant, current and properly configured. Doing so will greatly facilitate all Digital Asset Management and prove to be very useful whenever dealing with images - whether searching, editing, retrieving, integrating, or distributing.
This DAM/ Metadata approach allows you, and others working with you, to access crucial information. Metadata can be re-purposed easily in various ways. It also adds confidence by providing rights-related information. It enables consistent and accurate color management to improve image quality, and adds consistency to the general handling of photos, greatly facilitating and speeding up most administrative tasks.
What I do for you
Depending on your specific needs and budget, this "tagging" can be provided by me more or less detailed.
Continually staying abreast with the latest development and software, setting up and refining my entire workflow, has been to my own benefit - and to that of my customers. This process continues to require research, time, effort and considerable software and hardware investments, but it is indispensable - and a service to you!
If you have further questions how to improve your in-house workflow, or how you as my customer can benefit and make the most from using metadata, please do not hesitate to contact me for consulting and discussing your needs.
Recommended links for further reading:
On Metadata Standards:
- A valuable resource for photo metadata users; lists and defines the most commonly used fields in key metadata schema and in popular software:
- A very broad and excellent resource on most metadata matters
- Metadata Manifesto from the Stock Artists Alliance
- A general intro from the governing body
- Adobe XMP adds intelligence to media
- Guidelines for Handling Image Metadata by the core industry players
- First international Photo Metadata Conference (where presentations and whitepapers can be downloaded)
- An initiative to keep Metadata intact (by the German picture agency association)
On Metadata Specifications (technical info):
- IPTC Photo Metadata White Paper 2007
- IPTC Standard Photo Metadata, with an in-depth explanation of each field in the IPTC Extension
- The inside scoop from Adobe. This paper is meant for developer
- Real details on the IPTC Information Interchange Model
- Dublin Core Metadata Element Set
- Defining Date and Time (as per W3C recommendations)
Additional excellent info:
- “Persisting Technical Photo Metadata” - an excellent discussion regarding the benefits of keeping technical metadata
- A very good forum on DAM
- Controlled Vocabulary - excellent recommendations on keywording, captioning, filenaming etc
- Universal Photographic digital imaging guidelines from a broad coalition of experts in this field
- The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers, by Peter Krogh. Support my writings here and get it from Amazon UK or get it in German from Amazon DE
Some simple Metadata tools:
These are primarily for simply reading out data. For more professional tools, please contact me for consulting.
- Jeffrey's Exif/ Metadata Viewer - The most flexible image web-based viewer for easily seeing ALL Metadata in most file types, whether remote or local.
- ExifTool - Is a platform-independent Perl library plus a command-line application for reading, writing and editing meta information in image, audio and video files. ExifTool supports many different types of metadata including EXIF, IPTC, XMP, and many others. ExifTool is also available as a stand-alone Windows executable and a Macintosh OS X package.
- ExifTool GUI for Windows v3.10 - View Exif, IPTC, XMP, Maker Notes and more. This utility takes Phil Harvey's command line ExifTool utility and gives it a Graphical User Interface.
- Microsoft Pro Photo Tools 2. Utility that permits viewing and editing image metadata from within Windows Explorer.
Back to Extras
"... From my side I can only say that I really liked the photos and the cooperation was a good one."
"… wow - super pictures!"