Someone on Twitter recently asked about understanding Lightroom’s various metadata fields. I responded by providing a link to our Lightroom, File Management and Metadata post. She wrote back and basically said, ‘Thanks for the information, but what I really want to know is what all of those fields are for…” So I wrote the following. She seemed to appreciate it, and I thought it might be of use to you as well.
Okay, now I understand better what you’re asking. If you read my blog post on metadata and file management, you know that metadata is information ABOUT the image. It looks complicated (or can), but really there are two types of metadata – EXIF and IPTC. EXIF metadata is that added by the camera: camera make/model/serial no, lens information, focal distance, exposure, date, time, etc…
IPTC metadata is information added by the user (or by a software program). We’ll start with keywords, because keywords are metadata but they’re treated a little separately in Lightroom. Keywords are entirely up to you, and their sole purpose really is to provide information about an image or a series of images for use in finding or filtering. You can make them as simple or as complex as you want, you can have keyword hierarchies, groups, etc. but keyword lists are really simple text files. There’s lots of good information out there on keywording. Try doing a search on DAM (digital asset management) or keywording. For myself, I add shoot-specific keywords on import to every image in a shoot, and more specific keywords on images I decide to keep/publish online. With keywords, if I want to find all images of white flowers or images of bicycles shot in March of 2009 I can do so. Keywords are a part of a larger organizational structure which includes where/how you store your images in folders. Again, this is up to you.
Now, other IPTC information you CAN add (remember, what you include is up to you, and you can certainly leave any or all of the fields blank) includes an image title, caption (subtitle), image/shoot location (GPS), name of the photographer, address/contact information, copyright information and usage rights (all original work is copyrighted by default, but if you’re worried about someone else using your work then you need to register your images – this varies by country).
There are more specific options if you’re shooting people and want to add model release information, or if you’re shooting for a stock agency and want to add this image to certain categories, on and on, but if you’re not, feel free to leave these fields blank and ignore them. Some times of metadata like star ratings, pick/reject flags and colour labels aren’t stored with the image but only within the LR catalog itself. If you use a plugin for uploading to Flickr for example, the plugin may add its own metadata like what set to which to add the images, comments made by others, etc.
The easiest way to handle this is to create a metadata preset (I actually use one preset/year because © Copyright (me) 2011 and © Copyright (me) 2012 is different information) and then tell Lightroom to use this metadata preset when you import your images. To create a preset, in the Library module go to Metadata/ Edit Metadata Presets… and fill in whatever information you want, then click at the top of that window where it says ‘Custom’ and select ‘Save Current Settings as a New Preset’. You can tell Lightroom to ignore blank fields with the ‘check filled (fields)’ button.
When you export your images to the HD or upload them to a photo site you can choose what of this metadata information to include on export.
Hope that helps. Remember – the only stupid questions is the unasked one!
Now go out and make some photographs!