Last week I published the first part of the interview I conducted with Hans Fremuth from Metability Software about image metadata. In this section Hans talked about the current state of the image metadata standard development and in particular about the XMP standard developed by Adobe. In addition, Hans provides insight into how he organizes his own pictures on his computer. This article is the second part of the interview.
What is XMP really?
Question: Photographers have become used with multiple metadata standards: EXIF, IPTC and XMP. I understand that EXIF metadata is produced by the digital camera while IPTC metadata is supposed to be edited by the author of the picture. When it comes to XMP however I don’t really know how it relates to EXIF and IPTC. Is XMP a super set of EXIF and IPTC? On your blog you refer to IPTC as legacy metadata when compared with XMP, why is that?
Over the past decade, Adobe evolved as the major player in the creative software industry, and it realized that IPTC and EXIF had become more and more of a straight jacket. As a result, they put together a new specification that was based on the latest and hottest technology standard, called RDF/XML. RDF (Resource Description Framework) is the brain child of Tim Berners-Lee, who the inventor of the World Wide Web. It is labeled as the foundation of the “Semantic Web”, which will one day make our web browsers about as smart as this one pound of grey mass buried inside our scull bone.
Adobe called this new standard “Extensible Metadata Platform” or XMP. XMP is a subset of RDF/XML and extremely flexible in the way it can hold metadata information.
In contrast to the old IIM and Exif blocks, it is actually written in plain text, very similar to the way a HTML page looks in a text editor. The items inside XMP are grouped in “namespaces”, and it’s easy to add new namespaces and fields for a particular purpose.
Without a doubt, XMP is the future of metadata, for many file formats. A bit of a poison pill is that the past will not go away anytime soon. Many JPEG, PSD and TIFF files will still need to have the old IPTC/IIM as well as the EXIF block inside, because a large number of applications doesn’t speak XMP yet (or with broken accent, meaning: its buggy).
As a result, the fields from the old blocks must be kept in sync with corresponding fields in the new XMP – a daunting task that will surely keep users and software makers busy (scared?) for years to come.
Unfortunately, there is no independent organization that performs objective compatibility tests to see if an application act as a metadata meat grinder (delete whatever it cannot synchronize) or beauty spa (lossless synchronization).
The luckiest users will be the ones that are graced with applications that have outstanding XMP support with solid legacy synchronization across all file formats and metadata blocks. This is rarely the case now, most applications and even Windows 7 fails to offer this.
How do you create good keywords?
Question: What are your rules of thumb for creating good keywords for images? How can one create an efficient controlled vocabulary that they can use to organize their pictures?
This really depends on what you intend to do with your images and how much time you are willing to spend. If you are a serious photographer and plan to sell some of your pictures, go with a predefined controlled vocabulary such as the CVKC from David Riecks (Controlled Vocabulary) and extend it with terms that are relevant for your environment.
If you want to get a grip on your bulging private collection of pictures, I would just build it myself and add keywords for:
- People (or organizations)
- Events / Occasions
- Time / Season / daytime
- Characteristics / Emotions.
Try to stick to the same concept all the time, across all file types (same language, either singular or plural terms etc.). Make sure to maintain a list of the words that you have used so far to avoid different words with the same meaning.
Hint: You can get some inspiration from Getty’s image library suggestions for choosing good keywords. See resources below.
In addition, I would store all files in a hierarchical folder structure that is organized by years, months and occasionally by event. For example the folder named “2009” has subfolders such as “01”, “02” and “02-Bahamas”.
How do you organize your own photos
Question: How do you organize your own pictures on your computer? What software do you use to manage your image keywords?
I only have about 25,000 images that I have collected over the years, and I actually organize them like I described above. I am pretty lazy with the keywords, but very clean with the organization of my folders. Since I was involved with the making of ThumbsPlus since 1994, its naturally my first choice for image management on a Windows PC. For my needs, ThumbsPlus is still the most powerful desktop application out there, and it has a very affordable price tag. The upcoming version 8 will finally
also support XMP, which is very exciting.
- Read part one: The history of metadata standards
- Getty Image Library suggestions for good image keywords.
- ThumbsPlus website from Cerious Software
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